Global thoughts

Maybe like you, I was not invited to the Global Irish Economic Forum held in Farmleigh last weekend. I think many of the other university presidents were present, so maybe there’s a hint there somewhere, or maybe those organising the event simply made a rational decision. But seriously, the Forum (which, overall, was a good idea) produced some interesting comments which merit further attention.

From a higher education point of view, the most significant address at the Forum was delivered by the former CEO of Intel, Craig Barrett. According to the Irish Times, this is what he said:

‘Former Intel boss Craig Barrett had some harsh words for Ireland’s record in research and development when he addressed the forum in a closed session on Friday, according to those present. Dr Barrett is reported to have told the conference that many of the reasons why Intel came to Ireland in the first place no longer applied, and that spending on R&D was only half the level it should be.’

I’ll come back to that in a moment. But again according to newspaper reports, one other participant, Professor Martina Newell-McGloughlin of the University of California at Davis, said that Irish universities were ‘a bunch of ivory towers’ with no joined-up thinking. And she added: ‘We need to get past the tribalism that exists in Ireland and make sure we don’t become risk-averse.’

There are some messages in all this that we need to consider further. Whatever we may want to think about the accuracy or fairness of critiques made of our national performance in research and development, there is clearly a view held in influential circles overseas that there is a problem here, and moreover a problem that could have an economic impact. Dr Barrett implied, as we are told, that the expectation of significant R&D activity and funding in Ireland influenced Intel’s investment decisions here. Secondly, it appears that the universities themselves are still seen with suspicion by some key opinion formers.

It would seem sensible to me to do a follow-up to this forum and to explore in more detail how we can, both as a country and as a higher education sector, address some of these issues and resolve the problems. Maybe that needs to be the next step.

Explore posts in the same categories: economy, higher education, university

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2 Comments on “Global thoughts”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Come now, let’s be realistic here. Intel and the rest of them came here to get behind the bloody great tariff barriers of the EEC. That it was Ireland rather than the UK came from the tax windows and cheap labour. And any R&D done in those days by the NUI or DU was largely subsets of major study elsewhere.
    As to the comment by Prof Martina, at least we in our greed binge over the last few years would never thing of handing out ebook tablets to highschoolers because the exchequer could not afford books. Did the ivory towers of the UCAL system take a cut big enough to ease the problem.

  2. Sarah Says:

    Two things
    1. Intel – The IDA got Intel interested in Ireland when the put together a package of hundreds of CVs of Irish people working in the semi-conductor industry globally with a note that they’d all move back to Ireland if Intel moved there. Intel realised that there was an experienced work force ready for them and that’s what got them to start visiting Ireland. I’m sure the tax breaks were crucial but the CVs got them to put Ireland on their list.
    2. UCAL lady – I was present for her remarks. What she was getting at was that UCD/TCD and DCU need to work together on a combined strategy rather than competing with each other. She was full of praise for Hegarty and Brady but clearly felt that a more strategic approach would be more useful.

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