Embracing innovation is essential to ensure that we build a resilient enterprise base and support a sustainable economy that can withstand significant challenges such as those posed by Brexit. Innovation drives productivity through new, higher value-added products and services and more efficient business processes and is an integral part of any business wishing to continue to grow and expand.
Ireland continues to perform strongly in terms of innovation. The annual European Innovation Scoreboard, published in June 2019 by the European Commission, shows that amid increased innovation performance across the EU, Ireland remains a Strong Innovator and, in 10th place, remains one of the most innovative Member States, above the EU average.
Ireland performs well in converting our research, development and innovation efforts into high quality jobs, sales and exports, as demonstrated by our top position on the European Innovation Scoreboard for employment impacts and sales impacts. In fact, Ireland has been the overall leader for the employment impacts of innovation for the past number of years.
Year on year the Government is increasing its support for and investment in innovation, research and development. At €3.7bn or 1.6% of GNP, public and private R&D investment is strong in Ireland. Through its agencies, my Department is driving greater engagement in research, development and innovation by both Irish and foreign owned enterprises and by both SME and large-scale enterprises.
Enterprise Ireland’s (EI) Annual Business Results Survey 2018 shows that companies that invest in innovation are higher performing in terms of employment, export sales and are more sustainable through recessionary and other economic shocks such as Brexit.
EI provides a wide range of supports to companies to support innovation, competitiveness and market diversification. Examples include EI’s Agile Innovation Fund – which gives fast-track access to innovation funding and EI’s Market Discovery Fund, along with the Brexit Loan Scheme and the Future Growth Loan Scheme.
Science Foundation Ireland are also leading major elements of Ireland’s innovation agenda. Examples of the initiatives being taken include building large scale centre investments which leverage significant non-exchequer funding, challenge-based funding, support for talent and training in key areas such as AI, digital, collaborative partnerships, recruiting outstanding researchers to Ireland, cross-border collaboration and enhancing international engagement as part of building Ireland’s global footprint.
Direct Government support through IDA Ireland for applied RDI investment in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) companies can be a key factor in winning buy-in from company HQ to maintain the Irish operation. FDI will continue to require and avail of innovation, technology and EU support and while external factors such as Brexit may have an effect on job creation performance, IDA Ireland expects that the trend of job creation achieved in the past number of years will continue in the future.
Under the Future Jobs Ireland (FJI) strategy, launched in March this year, the Government is building a framework to ensure Irish enterprises are prepared for all future challenges and opportunities. The first Pillar of FJI, ‘Embracing Innovation and Technological Change’ , will build on progress made to date by focusing on securing the quantity and quality of skilled workers required in light of increased automation and digitisation, improving the capacity of enterprise to absorb technology and exploit its advantages and opportunities; and encourage greater RDI activity to keep Irish enterprise at the frontier of innovation. It also calls out measures to promote indigenous entrepreneurship and encourage clustering and stronger links between domestic and foreign owned companies. Achieving the Innovation 2020 vision of becoming a Global Innovation Leader is recognised in FJI as being key to fully embedding resilience and ensuring long term sustainable growth.