|Dublin, Wednesday 28 April, 2010: The Government announced Science Foundation Ireland funding of €25million for 27 “high-potential” research projects over the next five years, enabling 139 researchers to carry out "cutting-edge" work that will generate new jobs in the ‘smart’ economy. Making the announcement was Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe TD, pictured with research grant recipient Dr. Evelyn Murphy, University College Dublin (who is undertaking extensive research in the area of inflammation), and Professor Frank Gannon, Director-General of Science Foundation Ireland. |
The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe TD, is to "lead the drive" to create 117,000 net new Irish jobs in innovation over the next 10 years by implementing the report of the Innovation Taskforce.
Announcing the membership of a high-level implementation group of "top industrialists" and public servants Monday, O’Keeffe described the appointments as "high-calibre and target-driven."
The minister himself has no business experience, never mind any exposure to innovation; most of the new group have been drawn from the Innovation Taskforce which published a flawed report last March, that guessed between 117,000 and 235,000 jobs could be created in the high technology and biotech sectors over the coming decade. The targets are fanciful and are extrapolated from the experience of America's Silicon Valley where a tech company has a 25% chance to survive 7 years and where the biotech industry made its first profit after 42 years, in 2008 -- the 3 biggest firms were responsible for the lion's share of the earnings.
One of the first high tech clusters in Europe was in the UK county of Cambridgeshire, the location of Cambridge University. It is called Silicon Fen and has five times more research and development jobs than the UK average. There are more than 30 leading research institutions across the East of England, and the area is said to be characterised by a culture of science-based start-ups and university spin-outs.
However, a comparison between Cambridgeshire and Santa Clara County in California (the Silicon Fen and Silicon Valley) has shown that although they are the same geographic size, economic output in Silicon Fen is six times smaller and average earnings less than a third of US counterparts. After 30 years, Cambridgeshire has about 30,000 jobs in technology companies and the majority of firms employ less than 10 people.
Direct jobs in foreign-owned companies, supported by IDA Ireland, the Irish inward investment promotion agency, will fall to 118,000 this year - - the same level as in 1998.
So what is Batt O'Keeffe's strategy to create as many new net jobs in high tech in the next 10 years that took 54 years to create in the foreign-owned sector?
He ignores criticisms of the flawed report; appoints 6 of the 9 members from the group that produced the report; 2 of the 15 are entrepreneurs; 3 are multinational company managers, including a banker; the taxation partner of accounting firm KPMG has been held over from the Innovation Taskforce and 8 are from the civil service and public bodies.
The vast majority of the group have no background in start-ups, entrepreneurship, innovation; running a business or developing markets. Most of them have no overseas experience: whether working there or opening new markets.
It may even surprise many of them that the most important customer segment for high tech firms is the public sector, at a time when procurement spending will remain tightly controlled over several years.
The State is being asked to allocate about 10% of annual tax revenues to research on the basis of a very thin prospectus. Meanwhile a New Zealand dairy company controls more than one-third of international trade in dairy products, while Ireland's biggest dairy company, Glanbia, plans to hive off its international business, leaving little valued added in Ireland.
Batt O'Keeffe said today that the task facing the implementation group is to determine "the strategic direction the country takes over the next decade and our more immediate prospects for economic recovery."
He said the Innovation Taskforce report, published in March, focused on driving innovation by supporting ideas, technology and processes that have commercial potential.
O'Keeffe added: "We must now move on implementing the recommendations of the Innovation Taskforce which could create about 117,000 new jobs by 2020.
"In driving the work of the committee, I will be drawing on the expertise and experience of the members whose backgrounds are in the private and public sectors.
"We want to make Ireland the best place in Europe to turn research and knowledge into products and services and the best place in Europe to start and grow an innovative company.
"We want Ireland to be the home of scalable small-and-medium-sized enterprises and the best place in Europe for research-intensive multinationals to partner with clusters of smaller firms.’
Taoiseach, Brian Cowen TD, said: "The Innovation Taskforce has identified an ambitious set of recommendations to transform Ireland into a global innovation hub and drive job creation in innovative export-focused sectors.
"The committee, led by Minister O’Keeffe, will have my strong support in driving implementation.
"I have asked my ministerial colleagues to prioritise the implementation of recommendations from the Taskforce Report for which they are responsible."
Finfacts article, Mar 2010: Innovation Ireland Taskforce's aspirational report; US banks / credit-card companies contribute most money for start-ups - - not venture capital companies
Finfacts article, Dec 2009: The challenge of creating 160,000 new Irish jobs
The members of the high-level implementation committee for the Innovation Taskforce are:
Batt O’Keeffe TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation [Chairman]
Lionel Alexander, Member of the Innovation Taskforce, Chair of Enterprise Feedback Group, Vice-President and General Manager, Hewlett Packard (Manufacturing) Ltd
Aidan Brady, CEO, Citibank Ireland
Ned Costello, Member of the Innovation Taskforce, CEO of the Irish Universities Association
Aidan Fitzsimons, Member of Enterprise Feedback Group, Dairygold Cooperative Society
Chris Horn, member of the Innovation Taskforce, Co-founder and former CEO of Iona Technologies
Brian Kelly, Member of the Innovation Taskforce, Founder and CEO Celtic Catalysts
Bryan Mohally, Member of the Innovation Taskforce, Vice-President Supply Chains Operations Europe, Johnson & Johnson
Dr Cian Ó Mathúna, Head of Microsystems Research, Tyndall National Institute, Cork
Anna Scally, Member of the Innovation Taskforce, Partner, KPMG
Kevin Cardiff, Secretary General, Department of Finance
Seán Gorman, Secretary General, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation
Dermot McCarthy, Secretary General, Department of An Taoiseach
Brigid McManus, Secretary General, Department of Education and Skills
Aidan Dunning, Secretary General, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
Jane Williams, CEO, Forfás
The chief executives of relevant agencies and other Departments will be invited to attend as required.