Country Profile: Ireland
Political, institutional and economic framework and important actors After a period of remarkable economic growth, the Republic of Ireland has reached a level of GDP per capita which exceeds European average. Ireland has become the second biggest high-technology exporter of Europe. But Ireland’s research intensity has remained at 1.20% of GDP in 2004, below EU average. In 2003, the business sector financed 59.1% of R&D expenditure (EU average: 54.3%). Ireland has an ‘open’ economy which is characterised by a high share of foreign direct investment and an external trade approximately equal to GNP. Foreign sources account also for a considerable portion of R&D expenditure. Further characteristics which influence the National Science and Innovation System include a considerable disparity of the economic performance and structures of regions and the need to develop the innovation capacities of indigenous enterprises.
In 2004, one-third of foreign affiliates in Ireland (300 enterprises) were active in R&D. They accounted for two-thirds of all business R&D. Of these, 50% spent less than €500,000 annually. Nineteen foreign affiliates spent more than €5 million annually and accounted for two- thirds of all R&D performed by foreign affiliates in Ireland. One-third of indigenous enterprises (1,000 enterprises) had some expenditure on R&D, with 85% spending less than €500,000 per annum. Only twenty six of the 1,000 indigenous enterprises had expenditure of more than €2 million annually1. A recent core policy document summarises the challenges which this situation constitutes:
“Ireland is vulnerable in the growth sectors of the knowledge economy as the R&D capability to underpin success in these sectors is not well developed in the public and private sectors. Sustainable economic growth will be dependent on the success of knowledge driven companies being able to access high skills and new technological developments. Increased R&D performance is essential to develop Ireland as a location for high-tech and knowledge based industries, to embed the existing multinationals here and to create the “new” indigenous industries of the future2.”
In recognition of these challenges, the Irish government has raised the level of research funding considerably and invests in research and innovation support structures. In the course of this development, the stimulation of R&D expenditure by foreign investors (which had invested mostly in other areas in the past) plays an important role. As a result, research intensity has grown at an average annual rate (in real terms) of 7.3%, well above EU average.
The guidelines for research, technology and innovation policy in the Republic of Ireland are provided by the National Development Plan. The necessary governance and organisational framework for its implementation is defined by the Overarching Framework for Research Policy in Ireland. Its major constituents are depicted in Figure 1.
Political, governmental authorities and advisory bodies
Research policy decision making takes place in a complex organisational framework, involving the following Public Sector decision making and advisory bodies:
In the Irish parliament, a joint and a select Committee on Education ad Science deliberate on research and education policy topics and prepare relevant parliamentary decisions. 1
Sources of data in the first two paragraphs: European Trend Chart on Innovation, Annual Innovation Policy Trends and Appraisal Report Ireland 2004-2005; Eurostat News Release STAT/05/156, December 6, 2005; Building Ireland’s Knowledge Economy; the Irish Action Plan For Promoting Investment in R&D to 2010, Report to the Inter Departmental Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation, July 2004.
Source: Building Ireland’s Knowledge Economy; the Irish Action Plan For Promoting Investment in...