Posted tagged ‘Maire Geoghegan Quinn’

Just a little bit of hope?

April 24, 2010

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.

Ireland’s EU Commissioner: Research, Innovation and Science

January 17, 2010

The European Commissioner-designate for Research, Innovation and Science, Ms Máire Geoghegan Quinn, had her confirmation hearings before the European Parliament last week, and by all accounts acquitted herself very well – the Irish Times described her as ‘unshakeable in her self-confidence’, which perhaps is the more remarkable as this is a new area for her. But she was clear and emphatic in her views, by all accounts well informed, and she drew a favourable response from the MEPs present.

However, her views are also reported to have created some tensions between Fianna Fail and the Green Party back in Ireland. The Commissioner designate does not of course represent Ireland at the Commission, much less the government parties, but of course she was nominated by the Taoiseach and to that extent what she says can have a political dimension back home. At the confirmation hearings she is reported to have expressed support for research into nuclear energy and genetically modified crops, both of which were rejected by the original FF/Green programme for government, presumably at the instigation of the Green Party.

If the reports of her statements at the hearing are correct, I think it is important to express strong support for the Commissioner designate. As I have mentioned previously, I am extremely uneasy about a commitment (for whatever reason) not to undertake research on something: rejecting additional knowledge for ideological reasons is not a respectable position and should not find its way into anyone’s programme. In fairness, individual Green politicians have been open to research and debate on nuclear power, while however still declaring that they will remain opposed to its use. I am not aware of any similar openness to a GM foods debate.

It would be hugely damaging for Ireland to be seen as a place that is hostile to innovation and research, and these elements of the programme for government always seemed to me to be counter-productive in our current ambition to develop an effective knowledge economy. I hope that Ms Geoghegan Quinn’s strongly stated views have an impact back in Ireland and that they prompt us to redouble our efforts to provide ethically aware research leadership in all areas, even those that make some of our politicians uncomfortable.


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