Innovation is a key source of competitive advantage and again, Irish companies have a leading position worldwide with the European Commission’s 2017 Innovation Scorecard ranking Irish SMEs number one for innovation. This is because they have a strong record of in-house R&D, introduce more innovative products and create more knowledge-intensive jobs compared with SMEs in other member states. Customers of Irish companies worldwide are leveraging this innovation to improve operational efficiency and productivity as well as enhancing their own product portfolios.
Building on two decades of investment in science and technology, the Irish Government is continuing to put innovation first and is currently implementing a strategy called Innovation 2020. One of its main aims is to ensure that companies based in Ireland outperform their competitors in international markets. A key target of the strategy is to grow the number of research personnel in industry by 60% to 40,000 by the end of the decade.
Research collaboration between the Irish state and industry is unparalleled. Last year, academic researchers supported by the Irish Government recorded 1,036 collaborative projects between companies and Higher Education institutions, including 372 projects approved with Enterprise Ireland’s Technology Gateways at the Institutes of Technology. This, as well as state funding for research by the companies themselves and significant R&D tax credits, means that Irish companies treat innovation as a central strategic activity.
Ireland achieved a world ranking of 10th for the overall quality of its scientific research in 2016, according to Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) annual report for that year, which was published in July. This represents an increase of 26 places in only 13 years.
Enterprise Ireland’s 14 Technology Centres, 15 Technology Gateways and the 12 national SFI Research Centres focus on cutting-edge areas such as big data, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, digital content, nanotechnology, sustainable food, smart technologies and marine renewable energy. At each of these centres and gateways, scientists and engineers are working in partnership across academia and industry to address crucial research questions.
The nature of Ireland’s ecosystem makes it easy for all of the key people involved in specific areas of innovation to easily interact and cross-pollinate ideas and research. In particular, Ireland boasts a unique entity – Knowledge Transfer Ireland – that is responsible for helping industry navigate the research system and access the research it needs.
Ireland has globally renowned clusters in areas such as life sciences in Cork and medical technology in Galway as well as a primary European tech hub in the Silicon Docks area of Dublin.
In these clusters, multinationals are located alongside Irish companies and knowledge transfer activity between universities and industry has become the norm.
In fact, a European Commission review of technology transfer ecosystems has rated Ireland first in the EU for getting economic value out of its research.