Research & Development Group
The work of the American Chamber Research, Development and Innovation Working Group built on the momentum of 2010's extensive research into the competitiveness of the existing investment base among the membership. Together with the other working groups of the Chamber we continued to focus on creating new enterprise. With the Tax Group we inputted to Government on alternative means of incentivising new investments in research or the wider investments in product and service development or in creative new ventures that are designed to bring new value to both the corporate and the country.
These were reflected on our priorities for our work programme;
• Review the effectiveness of Ireland's R&I strategy
• Propose strategies for increasing availability of right skills (jointly with HR group)
• Develop IP and Seed Capital proposals (jointly with Tax group)
The American Chamber participated in the new Government's the initiative to better focus public investment in R&D with the establishment of the ‘Research Prioritisation Steering Group' in the second quarter of 2011. The Chamber reiterated its supports for research and advanced that ‘prioritisation' must select those research investments that can deliver economic value based on their international research leadership, attract private co-funding, achieve critical research capability, and have ability to commercialise effectively.
In its recommendations the American Chamber put forward that investment by the State should seek to consolidate and extend the mandates of the established industrial and service base. This will anchor new Research, Development and Innovation/ Commercialisation and encourage the strategic evolution of the skills base. In turn this will support next generation advanced manufacturing, the development and bringing to market of new technology based products and the establishment of new ‘Irish Based' business/venture activities with deep multinational commercial interests.
Moreover, the American Chamber believes that the investment focus should seek to consolidate and extend the mandates of Irish based FDI subsidiaries. This can only be achieved by investing in Innovation and Technology and supported by an evolution in the skills base within the current operation. This is necessary to attract and locate the next generation advanced manufacturing in Ireland and the development and bringing to market of new technology based products from Ireland.
To this end the development of multi-disciplined teams of scientists, technologists and engineers must be an objective of research and innovation programs in Ireland. The American Chamber would like to see an innovative and integrated internship program which supports graduates and people up-skilling to re-join the workforce. Current workforce activation programs could be used to pilot innovative internship programs where industry and government form an effective partnership in the transformation of Ireland's workforce.
Specifically the Chamber believes that Entrepreneurship is required to drive commercialization and the translation of research. This is a recognised need within existing FDI companies wishing to extend their research mandates and develop full product P&L capability within Ireland. However with Higher Education Institute led RD&I activities this business know-how is not actively sought. We recommended that Ireland rationalise current funding to establish technology clusters around a core set of national semi-independent institutes. This core set of institutes should grow out of the current CSETs, SRC's and competence centres with scale of expertise to have international credibility and strength for each of the represented sectors. The institutes should have affiliation with national universities, but not directly governed by the universities.
The new Institutes should "balance" the investment in research and commercialisation in their nominated area of focus. This would help to reduce the current mismatch between what the state funds in R&D and their investment in company start-ups including high performance start-ups (HPSUs). It is proposed that such Institutes would follow market opportunities, have a greater emphasis on applied research in fewer, but specialised areas, and deliver embryonic technology ventures that are ready for venture capital support. The Chamber acknowledges that under SFI's leadership Ireland has established an international reputation in a number of niche areas. CSETS have helped form invaluable research infrastructure in recent years and caused an increased level of industry and academic collaboration. However despite this success, many CSETS have made little tangible impact in delivering economic outcomes based on this outstanding quality research. The ultimate goal of establishing a strong base of IPR and successful commercialisation has yet to be achieved.
We advocated that one way to ensure on-going research, development and commercialisation is carried out in Ireland is to establish a number State-supported "Flagship Projects" around which industry, universities and government can coalesce. Such flagship projects are beneficial in that they give focus to R&D efforts, they enable real commercialisation, create jobs in the state, build a reputation for R&D in specific areas that will attract world class companies and researchers to the country and can be directed at solving specific societal issues. The American Chamber's Tax Working Group and RD&I Working Group would also be keen to assist in making progress on funding mechanisms for these and related investments. They believe there is latent potential in exploiting existing and new tax-based incentives to make Ireland a very attractive proposition as a leader in process innovation and new technology development in our target industry sectors.Again the mission must be to consolidate the existing FDI and indigenous base by transformation of existing operations, acquisition of new mandates including new investment opportunities rooted in technology convergence and focused on new markets.
Towards the end of 2011 the Group contributed to the first meeting of the Department of Education's ‘Enterprise Engagement Forum' . This is an opportunity for the Chamber to establish a dialogue with the Department and key industry stakeholders on education policy issues, recognizing that the education system underpins enterprise development and competitiveness. The Chamber's main interest in the initial phase of this relationship is to establish a shared understanding that there is a need for new employment bridging mechanisms that allow graduates and post-graduates enter employment ‘work-ready' and supports the continuing competence development of people in or outside of employment through structured and applied internships/apprenticeships with significant industry input in there design and candidate selection process. During 2012, the Chamber will bring forward a renewed analysis of the education and skills development system from a multinational perspective, and intends to advocate for how best to establish and sustain a successful industry-education interface to ensure heightened levels of alignment between skills needs and actual availability.
In 2011 we received tremendous support from the Chamber member firms many of whom were outside of the conventional research, engineering and science community. We look forward to maintaining those links and together tackling the challenges of Research and Innovation in 2012.