Minister of State for Trade & Commerce, Billy Kelleher TD
“One of the key elements of Ireland’s recovery plan is to build a better future by means of a more efficient and innovative economy,” said Billy Kelleher, Minister for Trade & Commerce at a recent seminar on EU Innovation Supports in Shannon.
The seminar, organised by Shannon Chamber and the European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA) in association with Enterprise Ireland, the Enterprise Europe Network in Ireland (EEN) and Bank of Ireland, drew an impressive panel of speakers from the EU and Ireland, and case study Irish companies, who collectively urged the business and academic communities to give increased consideration to using EU innovation funding for their and Ireland’s benefit.
Outlining the Government’s commitment to R&D, Deputy Kelleher said, “Over the past ten years, the Government has trebled the level of investment in Research and Development and is working towards reaching its target of achieving a national R&D investment of 3 per cent of GDP, public and private combined.
“With 45 per cent of all enterprises in Ireland now engaged in some level of innovation activities, the total spend on innovation activities by companies in Ireland was almost €5.3billion in 2008.
“Small and medium enterprises are the backbone of the Irish economy. Over 97 per cent of businesses operating in Ireland today are ‘small’, employing over half of the total workforce in this country.
“The ability of small companies to compete and grow is something that merits a lot of attention as Ireland’s future economic growth relies on the development of our indigenous enterprise sector,” he said.
Commenting from Brussels on the benefits of the seminar, Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn added, “I congratulate the organisers on offering this opportunity to stakeholders in the west, mid-west and southwest. I fully support this type of event, in Ireland and elsewhere.
“The more information we can get across on EU research funding and how to get it, the more applicants we will have and the higher will be the quality of the projects we fund. Ultimately, events like this help boost the contribution of EU- funded research to the products and services of the future.”
Supporting the Deputy Kelleher’s comments, Shannon Chamber president Ian Barrett said that while Ireland faces many economic, fiscal, structural and unemployment challenges, one thing is clear, “Our recovery will need to be jobs led, based on regaining competitiveness and moving up the value curve.
Our challenge as a nation is to build on our excellent people skills, our first rate education system and to engage in more leading-edge research.
“We need to build an economy based on increased specialist knowledge and know-how, an economy with higher rates of innovation and expertise, with increased collaboration both between industrial organisations and between industry and third-level institutions, supported by personal, corporate, national and EU funding.”
According to Jerry Moloney, Enterprise Ireland Regional Director, mid-west region, Irish SMEs have a lot to gain from participating in EU innovation programmes.
“Enterprise Ireland has introduced thousands of small Irish companies to business and research partners across Europe through our role as the national co-ordinator of both the Enterprise Europe Network in Ireland and the €50billion Seventh EU Framework Programme for R&D.
“I would encourage companies in the west, mid-west and south-west to actively seek out opportunities to collaborate with other companies and research institutions in Europe.”
Speaking on behalf of the European Commission, Martina Daly, administrator, SME Unit, EU Framework Programme for R&D added, “As part of the Commission’s strategy for “Europe” 2020” aiming to move out of the crisis and create a smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe, preparation is underway to deliver a new Research and Innovation Strategy which will set out how to achieve an ‘Innovation Union’.
“The Commission sees this as vital for Europe’s growth and job potential and for its role in the world economy, ensuring that innovative companies, especially SMEs get access to funding, and that promising new ideas make it to the European and global markets.
“The Seventh Framework for Research and Technological Development (FP7) offers more opportunities for SMEs than ever before.
“With increasing budgets each year in FP7, now is the time for SMEs to seize these opportunities and apply for funding in upcoming calls which will be published in July. In addition, a new pilot action for ‘demonstration’ projects will be launched this year, specifically for SMEs to take project results to market,” Ms Daly added.