Digital Business In Ireland’s Innovation Taskforce Report


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The Irish Innovation Taskforce‘s report was launched by Taoiseach Brian Cowen on 11th March, and has been broadly welcomed thus far.

I thought it would be interesting to create a tag cloud based on the report, and also to look at how the report references digital business in Ireland and other linkages to digital technologies.

Metrics/Targets

The group states the need for “clear metrics for measuring outcomes from State investments and other interventions”, and after referencing the potential for gathering the data via state agencies such as the Central Statistics Office (CSO), on page 90 it states that additional metrics could include “technology adoption and creativity by the public at large (e.g. the number of Irish users of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook; the number of Facebook, Droid or iPhone applications developed for the global market from Ireland).”

The report also highlights ways of measuring academic-industry interactions through looking at “the number and value of academic-industry collaborations; the average number of years of industry experience which academics have obtained; the number and lifetime of academic spin-out companies; the number of new products developed through industry-HEI [higher education institution] collaborations”.

Their key recommendation is for a transparent and objective process that will report on the impact of State funding (on innovation and job creation), but interestingly, the group also recommends that the CSO carry out a survey on “angel funding, venture capital investments, IPOs and other exits by venture-backed companies”.

Sectoral Actions

The report highlights various sectors (food, pharma/bio, medical tech, traded and financial services, ICT, clean tech) and proposed actions for each sector. I will focus on ICT (information and communications technology). Convergence is currently important in the global ICT industry, and Ireland is well placed due to the range of ICT companies currently housed here (“advanced sectors such as Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Life Sciences, which were targeted for inward investment by FDI policy, experienced significant growth through the mid and late 1990s”).

Beyond a reference to Ireland’s ability to focus excellence in sub-sectors such as mobile, e-learning and financial markets, not much is recommended apart from a “holistic” support package to encourage activities across the value chain. In another section of the report, the need to raise Ireland’s level of mathematical achievement is highlighted since it underpins disciplines such as science, technology, business and finance. No mention is given to Ireland’s emergence as a destination for many of the top [Social] Web companies or as an online gaming hub, but the report does indicate that the sectors referenced are not definitive and emerged from consultations with selected stakeholders. Ireland’s strengths in “renewable energy, electronics, software, and waste and recycling” are referenced in relation to clean tech.

Convergence and Inter-Firm Collaboration

Building on the emerging theme of convergence (not just within ICT, but beyond) and success stories like Creganna-Tactx Medical, the report recommends the “establishment of an industry-led convergent technologies network to facilitate collaboration between companies, academics and medical practitioners across the formerly discrete sectors of pharma, bio, med tech, ICT and engineering” and “marketing Ireland’s advantages as a location for convergence focused activities”. The group recommends asking MNCs what areas of convergence they may be interested in pursuing, and later on highlights laboratory facilities that provide convergence between the disciplines of ICT, life sciences and green technology.

Taxation of Intellectual Property

The report states that “Ireland has an opportunity to become the place of choice within EMEA from which to license and exploit IP.” However, competitiveness with other European countries who are offering “targeted lower effective tax rates on profits derived from the exploitation of IP” may be an issue “for mobile [movable] Intellectual Property rich businesses”.

State Investment in R&D

The high quality of research is highlighted through Government agency investments in ICT research groups like CRANN, but the report refers to issues regarding coordination between agencies: “the multiplicity of agencies places limitations on the capacity to ensure sufficient focus, as well as efficiency, coherence and value for money”. The ability to switch funding agencies (e.g. for commercialisation) is referenced, but beyond that, the referred-to limitations are not expanded upon.

In a later section, the report recommend that there be “a single website providing an access point to information on all relevant schemes available from Enterprise Agencies and other research funders”, and that the portal should “assist collaboration between HEIs and enterprises, for example through hubs to link enterprises and researchers”.

Other

Through info boxes scattered throughout, there are some interesting profiles of Irish-based subsidiaries like Citi and PayPal. Citi cite their Research, Development, Innovation and Learning (RDIL) Centre as carrying out innovations in the areas of “digital account management, portal and multi-channel technologies, media and collaboration, mobile technology and analytics”.

Synergies between arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS) and science, engineering and technology (SET) are also highlighted: “Creative industries such as television, on-line education provision, web design, development of assistive technologies and digital content are good examples of areas of economic activity which effectively harness the synergies between AHSS disciplines and those of SET.”

You can read the full report here.

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