Yesterday morning I was able to attend an event organised by Dublin City Council, focusing on the potential of an innovation culture as a way of generating new economic growth and prosperity for Dublin. The keynote speaker was Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science. As one might expect, she produced an exceptionally well argued and eloquent case for knowledge-based innovation with structured collaboration across Europe.
She also stressed the importance, in terms of global competitiveness, of achieving our goal of spending 3 per cent of GDP on research and development, as well as the desirability of commercialising European discoveries in Europe (rather than elsewhere in the world).
Right now in Ireland, we are talking the talk but we are certainly not acting accordingly. Despite the government’s commitment to the 3 per cent R&D spending target, our actual investment is half that or less and going down. There are now signs that we are losing some of our key scientists as they move to other countries where the research environment is less hostile. We have still not managed to develop proper careers for full-time researchers.
We must listen to the Irish Commissioner, and we must act as she advises. Ireland’s ability to restore its international reputation for innovation depends on getting this right.