Investing in high value knowledge

In this week’s State of the Union address by President Barack Obama, this is what he said right at the beginning of his speech:

The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation.  The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach.  They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth.

This passage was quoted on Wednesday morning by Professor Frank Gannon, Director-General of Science Foundation Ireland, at the announcement by Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Mary Coughlan of five major new research programmes being funded by SFI. It is indeed noteworthy that President Obama has emphasised the role of laboratories and universities in helping to find the way out of the recession. And in fairness to the Irish government, its continued funding of SFI’s research programmes (and other research) even in these uncertain times indicates that this is understood and accepted in Ireland.

It is therefore also important to ensure that the university laboratories are set in a secure environment, in which the academics are encouraged and motivated and the students are supported in their learning. The country as a whole will benefit.

And by way of a postscript, I am happy to say that two of the five research programmes that have been funded are led by DCU.

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One Comment on “Investing in high value knowledge”

  1. david Says:

    As a technology entrepreneur on my 3rd start up and as a veteran of an EI funded research project I feel that as a tax-paying population we are poorly served in terms of the return on our R&D investment.

    Many of the short term programmes such as the innovation partnership are ill-conceived lumbering start-ups with royalties, licensing and University held equity stakes that would be better spent on building the business and motivating the employees through stock-options.

    The longer term projects funded through SFI will fail in the main because the pipeline to market is too long for the system to become self-sustaining. Certainly not in the present environment.

    In the middle we have BES which I have personal experience of and despite investing a lot of my own money in the business as well as not taking a salary for 3 years I find that somebody can walk in off the street and get BES benefits that I as a founder cannot. The obstacle is legislation brought in to placate the social “partners”.

    There is essentially little incentive for seasoned professionals to take the risk of leaving jobs in multinationals and in the present environment where there are losing their jobs there is little support if they want to grasp the nettle.

    The system requires a fundamental overhauled

    1. the seed-capital scheme should not be means tested
    2. BES levels should be upped and extended to founders
    3. De minimis funding up to the EU €200k limit should be provided to companies which are suitably qualified instead of EI constantly looking for equity stakes on preferential terms

    At the present moment EI can have its cake and eat it in the sense that VC and investor money is injected into the Irish economy, and jobs are created but EI still has a substantial equity upside.

    This is not the case in Northern Ireland and soon the economy here will start to feel the effect!


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