The Innovation Task Force was appointed to advise the government on how to turn Ireland into an international innovation hub and to support the development of a smart economy. It’s easy to be cynical but better to be constructive. The ITF has issued a call for submissions on its terms of references:
- to examine options to increase levels of innovation and the rates of commercialisation of research and development on a national basis with a view to accelerating the growth and scale-up of indigenous enterprise and to attract new knowledge-intensive direct investment;
- to bring forward proposals for enhancing the linkages between institutions, agencies and organisations in the public and private sectors to ensure a cohesive innovation and commercialisation ecosystem;
- to identify any specific policy measures which might be necessary to support the concept of Ireland as an International Innovation Development Hub including in the areas of legislation, educational policy, intellectual property arrangements, venture capital and immigration policy.
Here is my draft submission. All comments welcome. I’ll acknowledge your input by something like “A draft of this submission was posted at www.irisheconomy.ie and substantially improved as a result of the discussion there. Comments by Malle Appie were particularly helpful.”
High wages require high labour productivity. High productivity requires excellent skills and creativity. Ireland can only maintain its position at the forefront of economic development if it fosters innovation and commercialization. Innovation is a creative process, however, and therefore cannot be mandated by government policy. The government can only create the conditions under which innovation and commercialization are likely.
Excellent education is at the heart of any innovation policy. Only a small fraction of workers will ever be involved in actual innovation. The majority of workers take advantage of the innovations of others, but excellent skills are needed to take full advantage.
Higher education is the focus of innovation, but higher education thrives only when it builds on excellent primary and secondary education.
Excellent education requires excellent teachers. While teaching introductory courses requires didactic skills, teaching at the advanced bachelor’s, master’s and PhD level requires a true understanding of the subject matter. Only researchers who have moved the knowledge frontier can teach at the frontier of knowledge; and only professors like that can give students the skills, self-confidence and inspiration to innovate. Top people are rare and in high demand. Universities abroad offer senior positions with few management and teaching obligations. Ireland can only attract and keep top researchers if it offers similar conditions. This automatically creates a body of curiosity-driven (or fundamental) research.
There are pockets of research and teaching excellence in Irish universities, but the overall level can be improved. Funds are allocated on the basis of student numbers. This should be adjusted for the quality of the graduates, for instance as measured by their incomes twelve months after graduation. Research funds should be allocated on the basis of the number of publications and the number of citations. Faculty pay is currently based on seniority. University pay scales should be reformed to reflect excellence in teaching and research.
Science Foundation Ireland should be expanded to finance all fundamental research. At present, SFI funds research in selected topics only. These topics were selected by politicians, who have no particular expertise in this area. Fundamental research is a global public good. Ireland should contribute its share. Ireland would contribute more if available funding is given to the best proposals, rather than to the best proposals in politically-favoured areas.
Problem-driven (or applied) research draws on fundamental research from around the world. The particular area of fundamental research in Ireland is therefore less important than its quality. Furthermore, it is very hard to predict future growth industries, or what research is needed to foster such growth. The government should therefore create the conditions for applied research, rather than define its area. This is all the more important as policy makers tend to focus on the “new” economy. By definition, the “old” economy is much larger. Although innovation tends to be slower in the old economy, it is much more effective in creating economic growth and new jobs.
Commercialization should be left to businesses. The role of government is to protect patents, trademarks and business secrets, the main instruments to reward commercial research. Tax breaks for R&D mean that more R&D activity is located in Ireland, but there is no reason to believe that profits or jobs that are spun out would be located in Ireland too. It should be noted that R&D per se employs only a limited amount of people, and wages are not exceptionally high.
Government has a larger role to play in pre-commercial applied research. As with fundamental research, excellence is key. Mediocre research serves no purpose. Rewards, however, should not be solely based on academic criteria such as publications and citations. This type of research is best co-funded by a coalition of organizations who potentially have a commercial stake in the result.
Universities could play a larger role in applied research than they do at present. In comparison to other countries, Irish universities are largely closed. It is exceptional for people to move from academia to policy and back. If this were as common in Ireland as it is in the USA, policy making would gain in quality and university teaching would gain in relevance. Joint appointments are rare. In other countries, Germany for example, it is common for senior staff at research institutes (of the government) and research departments (of companies) to share an appointment with a university. Such “personal unions” generate a steady stream of ideas, funds, and people in both directions.
Universities should also have a stake in successful commercialization. In Ireland, an academic-turned-entrepreneur is a loss to the university. In other countries, university staff who have an idea for a start-up company are allowed to work part-time, with a guarantee for a full-time job in case the company fails. This takes away part of the downside risk for the entrepreneur, thus increasing the number of start-ups. These start-up companies rent office space and other university facilities, paying in shares. The university would thus operate as a venture capitalist, and would actively support commercialization.
Given the level of public investment in research and higher education and its alleged importance for future economic growth and employment, it is imperative that a framework be developed to evaluate specific investments. Too much of the debate on research investment is clouded in vague generalities. The research to develop such a framework would take only a small fraction of total research funding. The framework should be tested with an ex-post evaluation of past research spending.
Past and current research funding has been concentrated in the natural sciences and, by implication, product innovation. The research recommended above should also evaluate whether this focus is appropriate. The service sector has made a significant contribution to economic growth and is likely to continue to do so. The service sector disproportionally employs people with an education in the social sciences; and technological progress is primarily driven by process innovation. Research support in these fields may be warranted.
Innovation is a creative process. Some observers claim that creativity is “our” main competitive advantage over the large numbers of highly skilled engineers and scientists in Asia. Ireland has a considerable international reputation in the creative arts. This certainly makes Ireland a more attractive location for foreign investment. However, emulating recent developments at Princeton University, it should also be investigated whether and how the apparent creativity of the arts can be mobilized to promote creativity in the sciences.
In sum, Ireland’s policy on public support for research should
- create an environment that enables and rewards innovation and commercialization
- focus on objectively measured excellence
- be inclusive of all forms of research and all types of innovation
29 replies on “Draft submission to Innovation Task Force”
It is an interesting piece. My suggestions for what they’re worth:
I think that maybe we could mention how the business faculties of universities could be tapped to assist in doing business analysis and business plans for commercial applications of innovation. A nationwide competition with prizes for faculties, mentors and participants and requiring multiple disciplines (particularly business) to be represented might be worthwhile.
Apart from the help that business graduates can give we need to get the service industries to identify areas where innovation is needed. People studying environmental science might see where new software would be useful for regulatory compliance and so on.
It would be great if a structured framework for people to link up with technology experts and other experts would be good. A good searchable database of graduates and under grads could be set up with people indicating their enthusiasm for being involved in innovation projects.
One of the big disincentives for students and postgrads to innovate in the universty environment is that there is no clear framework of how their idea will be protected for them. There needs to be a mechanism where people sign up to confidentiality to inspire trust and co-operation.
Faculties and undergrads might assist in prototyping and market surveying as far as possible. Students and postgrads themselves might be the best arbiters of which projects they want to be involved in!
The cost of doing patent searches and industrial design searches needs to be looked at. The Govt need to set up access to patent databases for universities. Is that already there? It certainly costs a fortune to do an EU trademark search.
I’m afraidd I’m not at all qualified to comment on the substance of your submission, but I found it very interesting, thought provoking and insightful.
I was particularly delighted by your reference to the importance of research funding for the Arts & Humanities, as I think this area is ignored by those in charge of research funding policy despite the obvious connection with service sector employment. Perhaps you might wish to expand on the importance of research funding for A & H disciplines and its long term importance to the development of our economy and job creation?
I was also puzzled by a couple of points, as follows:
“While teaching introductory courses requires didactic skills, teaching at the advanced bachelor’s, master’s and PhD level requires a true understanding of the subject matter. Only researchers who have moved the knowledge frontier can teach at the frontier of knowledge; and only professors like that can give students the skills, self-confidence and inspiration to innovate. Top people are rare and in high demand. Universities abroad offer senior positions with few management and teaching obligations. Ireland can only attract and keep top researchers if it offers similar conditions. This automatically creates a body of curiosity-driven (or fundamental) research.”
I’m not sure I fully understood your point here: if only researchers who have ‘moved the frontiers’ can inspire students to innovate, then how does that square with Ireland only being able to attract and keep top researchers if they have few teaching obligations?
“There are pockets of research and teaching excellence in Irish universities, but the overall level can be improved. Funds are allocated on the basis of student numbers. This should be adjusted for the quality of the graduates, for instance as measured by their incomes twelve months after graduation. Research funds should be allocated on the basis of the number of publications and the number of citations. Faculty pay is currently based on seniority. University pay scales should be reformed to reflect excellence in teaching and research.”
I’m not certain how measuring the incomes of graduates 12 months after graduation would be any improvement on the present system, given that unemployment rates among graduates may continue at a high level and employment opportunities may be restricted for quite some time to come in the current economic climate?
Overall, I think you may be swimming against the tide in advising that politicians and their propensity to select ‘flavour of the month’ areas for research funding may not result in the best choices. But I think you’re right!
Sorry but time constraints disallow a fully worked out response. I would like to pick up on some points:
1. “University pay scales should be reformed to reflect excellence in teaching and research.”
We have debated this before. You and others have also written a lot about publications data can be used to look at researcher productivity. Measuring excellence in teaching in a way that would impact on pay decisions is really hard though. In some senses this is a tragedy as really excellent teachers are definitely under-appreciated.
2. “Funds are allocated on the basis of student numbers. This should be adjusted for the quality of the graduates, for instance as measured by their incomes twelve months after graduation.”
Using graduate pay is full of flaws and it would be worth going through them at another juncture. The main flaw is the extent to which you can assign the pay increments to the effect of quality of teaching.
3. You have mentioned the economic impact of the arts on a number of occasions. You need to elaborate at least somewhat on this. What channels do you have in mind. Even in rough terms, what kind of economic contribution do you have in mind?
4. Joint appointments between universities and other groupings is something worth talking a lot more about. You talk particularly about the type of arrangment whereby somebody lectures while working in a research institute. Adjunct appointments whereby somebody from government or private sector maintains an active role within a university is something that should be looked at a lot more. Also, the role of institutional research officers in various organisations should be examined more.
5. Is there a sensible test for the proposition that more research active professors are better teachers in terms of having a causal impact on many of the outcomes of their students? You and others have looked at this from a publications spillovers viewpoint but this is less relevant for undergraduates. My prior has always been that there is a lot of value in the spillover from top professors to bright undergraduates. Its less clear how this could be tested. Its also worth thinking more about how top professors and potential student innovators interact. I have looked a lot at the literature on research internships and these are well under-utilised in Ireland in my opinion. We regularly host interns here from the US and many of them come here from third year undergrad 100 per cent confident in all aspects of what we would consider normal research processes. There are social as well as intellectual aspects working here and I fear in Ireland we might be failing people who are shy but really bright by not giving them proper advice and access to professors.
I have other comments Richard but less time so will get back at a later stage
It takes considerable effort to compose – and often the extent of the effort is overlooked by critics who lock-on to minutae. I’ll try to focus on some large-scale issues.
1. Energy: No energy, no growth. The current economic paradigm is, unless I am seriously mistaken, based on some sort of regular growth – with some cyclical interruptions. Thus the economic Model-in-Use is, Permagrowth. My own economic Model-in-Use is Perma-decline.
2. There is a slowly emerging energy crisis. A real problem for the Permagrowth model. Its called the Export-Land Model of liquid fossil fuel depletion (both of production and availability). This emerging shortage (and it is 100% inevitable!) will capsize any innovation proposals that are base on ‘growth’ as we have known it.
3. Our innovation ideas have to be grounded in an Irish economic scenario that is 1930s-based – the innovations should be related to a rural-based population with an agricultural economy. Since we, the current generation, have little experience of this this type of economy we have to re-orientate our thinking. This is a fearsomely difficult task. Some of you may dismiss this idea that we will retreat economically as Luddite gibberish – but if you do not know about the Export-Land Model and its consequences, please read up about it at this web site: (www.theOildrum.com).
4. In respect of teaching/research at third-level. Teaching and research are two, completely different practices: think of GPs v Consultants. Researchers are not trained to teach, and have no business in undergrad classrooms – except on an occasional basis. You want innovators. Then make sure the PhDs are kept away from undergraduate programmes where the unfortunate students are required to re-gurgitate the PowerPoint presentations. Mind you, you need a solid technical education, but please ensure that there is a significant, mandatory ‘humanities’ component included.
5. Proposal: Set up a long-term, joint research/development project, involving humanities, science, engineering and built environment undergrads. Put them into a situation – (a Crannogh) – where they have only a strictly rationed supply of liquid fuels. Detail them to construct a model of living under this restriction. Now, you just might get some interesting and useful ideas. They can have electricity, TV, PCs and their mobile phones!
As a matter of interest, is it possible for you to establish a section on this site which would detail and debate the relationships between the use of fossil fuels and economic activity? Appropriate links to theOildrum would be most useful.
I am sincerely delighted to see you taking a lead, and opening a discussion thread on suggestions and input to the task force, of which I was asked to be a member.
Much of what you have commented above in your piece resonates, I believe, with the views of certainly some of us on the task force.
Can I ask for your thoughts, and those of those who comment on your posting: in your view, what should be the overall measures of success ? What in Ireland are we trying to achieve with a smart economy ? Is it (sustainable ? new ?) jobs ? Is it patents ? Is it level of exports ? Is it new start ups ? Is it number of refereed papers ? Is it license revenue/euro invested in universities ? Is it GDP/capita ? Is it labour efficiency/productivity ? Or something else ?……
Its obviously possible to put together a weighted sum of a number of metrics for success. But I do wonder whether there is one key metric of success, easily measurable, politically explainable, from which the others follow… If there were such a measure, it would then provide a focus for the structures and processes which we (Ireland Inc) should put in place to enhance our innovative economy.
There are some suggestions for such a metric being discussed within at least two of the task force working groups, and I have strong views myself: but rather than bias your own thinking a priori, I would be keen to hear your suggestions and views on this topic.
With all best wishes – and sincere thanks
I guess the operative word in “few teaching obligations” is “few”, rather than “none”. The point I’m trying to make, though, is that fundamental research comes with excellent teaching. Others have argued that Ireland should not be involved in basic research at all.
Graduate unemployment may be high, but it is not 100%. I carefully used the word “income” instead of “salary”. Good kids from good schools and valuable courses still find jobs. The average income of others may indeed be close to social welfare, but that is exactly the point.
Liam and others are right, though, that the “output quality” of the university should be corrected for the “input quality” of at A levels.
I think the aim of all public spending should be to increase Gross Domestic Happiness (however you may want to define that).
Papers, patents, exports, jobs, competitiveness are means to an end, but not ends in their own right.
Alot of what you have here are blank sheet proposals that ignore the ‘gravity’ of current or historical working practises.
Remembering back to my IRCHSS post grad application years ago, it was an exhausting process. If I were to do it again, I am sure that I could plant all the buzz words, etc, to turn my coal to diamond!
But I doubt it would have made my research any better!
And if your proposal was adapted I am sure we could operate under the paradigm, but would the research be any better. We could all talk the talk, but would it be anymore?
If we are looking for examples of Irish elite innovation and performance, then we should look to the amateur boxing example for reference points:
Chris, again just some relatively scattergun thoughts that I will expand upon in my own submission.
Certainly the capturing of the term innovation to just mean direct industry involvement needs to be corrected by the taskforce. For example, the blanket use of industry involvment as a criteria for funding is silly and should be changed to recognise that some innovation (e.g. a new school curriculum, better public health services, some medical technologies) may not necessarily be best delivered through the market but still needs proper research. Also, there is a real danger in the way that patenting and licensing metrics are currently being use that they will lead to resources being squandered to meet arbitrary targets. If these are being used as metrics, then somewhere behind the metrics form filling, there needs to be people with common-sense who can see if a system-error is being built up.
Also, there needs to be more effort to focus on positive aspects of scientific and technological innovation. The spin about being in a jobs war with China may be designed to create a sense of urgency but all it really creates is a sense of fear and risk aversion. Students need to be leaving the schools and universities with a smile on their face ready to go at the world and psychologically robust enough to accept some failure. Evangelists for technological start-ups and people who are able to power people with enthusiasm should be having more of an influence on this debate than fear-mongers.
I am sure the taskforce are all well aware of standard metrics for innovation like those produced in the innovation scoreboard and so on. Its hard to argue with a lot of these metrics, and whatever your worldview, most people would like to see an efficient transport network, better broadband access and so on. However, they would also like to see lower psychological distress among children, lower infection rates in hospitals, better outcomes following chronic illnesses, less people of the 30,000 people who die every year dying in conditions that we would all agree are not fitting for humans (see Eamon O’Shea’s work on this). Innovation should apply to changing these things also, whether they are changed through patents/licenses or not.
As an aside, I agree fully with Zhou-Enlai (though it is always somewhat surreal to be replying to a former Chinese ruler but at least better than replying to the Zoroastrian god Mazda who sometimes visits here). The development of a cleaner system whereby students could get some experience in research labs (broadly defined) across the different colleges would be a very good development. Of course, one could use things like recruitment website and so on. But a portal where students and researchers could post their details and a facility for promoting these interactions would be good. In the past, students subject to a means-test could use the student-summer work scheme to get paid less than dole to work on non-commercial research in some contexts. These types of options should be looked at again. Again, my experience with the american students from good universities is that their internship experiences make them extremely good researchers and also mature about whether they actually want to do a PhD. We have been replicating various versions of these schemes and there are a number of groups in Ireland who do the same. I think this would go a long way to Richard’s view of top international researchers leading to spillovers to local students.
Actually, sorry one correction to my last post. “local students” is a bad phrase. All of this of course also applies to students from outside Ireland (approximately 10 per cent of current group) who come to study here. In fact, international spillovers created from having bright students here is something that merits discussion in itself.
Another point that always bothers me is that we need to look at courses where students whose academic record (Leaving cert) indicates that they should be capable of meeting the grade are dropping out because curricula are so off putting. For example, I believe some of the modules thought to first year science, computer science and engineering students are mind numbing. In many instances we may be losing the potential innovators before second year!
One other suggestion that always leaps out at me is that we could use computers much more in the secondary school honours maths curricula (Junior Cert and Leaving Cert) to demostrate practical applications of mathematical concepts in finance, science, engineering, economics and even business administration. Those who love maths for its innate beauty will hardly complain. I was always enjoyed maths hugely but I am disappointed that it is only later in life when my reading has expanded that I have come across many of the practical applications. I would have liked to known more while I was actually using the skills in secondary school. On leaving school I had little knowledge which career or course would allow me to use maths in a way I would enjoy.
Without wishing to distract the thrust of Richard’s post (great inititiative, IMO), I have to query points made by
“Our innovation ideas have to be grounded in an Irish economic scenario that is 1930s-based – the innovations should be related to a rural-based population with an agricultural economy. Since we, the current generation, have little experience of this this type of economy we have to re-orientate our thinking.”
Without having looked at your reference to (www.theOildrum.com), I think the suggestion to an agricultural economy leaves something to be desired. Apart from Bord Na Móna’s development of peat harvesting machinery (then or post WWII?), what is to be learnt from Irish experience of innovation during the 1930s?
Although the Geological Survey published an excellent survey of the Mineral Resources of Ireland in the early 1920s, there is very little evidence of any innovation in the development of these resources.
If you really want to look at the agricultural aspects of our productive potential, I suggest that there are far more lessons to be learnt from the 1950s with the setting up of the An Foras Talúntais/Agricultural Institute – funded with post-WWII Marshall Aid.
Why was it set up outside the third level system, as was E(S)RI and the Institute for Industrial Research and Stanards? Why were the technology based institutes effectively abolished by being merged into organisations run in the mode of the generalists culture of Irish public adminstration?
I suggest that more recent experience of Irish innovation in the agricultural area might be instructive . I gather that the research done for Bailey’s was actually carried out in UK industrial laboratories. Why?
During the late 1970s/early 1980s, Kerry Foods did set up a bio-technology research group but wound it down later, as far as I know. Why? Perhaps a refocusing of the business to grow by acquisition of food ingredients business? Kerry displayed innovation with this development as it did when it became the first Irish dairy co-operative to get a stock market listing.
That said about agriculture and land-based resources, why ignore our marine resources (some of which are energy-related) – which take in an area far greater than our land mass?
What’s the contribution of the arts and humanities to economic growth?
Arts and humanities have a large number of students. Most of these end up in the service sector, which is the larger and faster-growing part of the economy. Ergo, any R&D-for-growth strategy that ignores arts and humanities / services is bound to be less effective.
I was thinking, actually, of the fine arts. This is, in its way, an export industry (think Cecilia Ahern, U2, Riverdance). Moreover, the fine arts combine creativity with skill — innovation is a daily routine.
So far so uncontroversial. I make the leap of faith that artists have a way to bolster and stimulate their creativity, and that this can be transferred to other disciplines. I’m strengthened in my faith by the current strategy of Princeton University.
With respect, Richard, celebrity-name chick-lit is not literature; it’s mass marketed formula writing. Bit like saying that a McDonalds hamburger is the same as haute cuisine.
We have a fine tradition of literary achievement in this country between Nobel prize winners such as Yeats and Heaney in poetry for example. Then there’s Becket and Joyce, who had to ‘self-publish’ to get started. More recently we’ve had three or four Man Booker prize winners – and yet another in the current long list for the next prize – none of whose books sold particularly well in any market before they made it to the prize category. If anything, the chick lit phenomenon of recent years has piggybacked on the reputation of Ireland’s literary giants and in the process has destroyed publishing opportunities for non-chick lit authors and alienated a whole section of the potential market for quality writing in Ireland. The net result is come the recession, the Irish publishing industry finds itself in deep trouble! Personally, I would hope nothing would be done to encourage more sub-standard output in this area.
We’re getting side tracked. Fact is, Ireland has a strong tradition in writing and other arts, with a mix of commercial and artistic successes.
We should learn from those successes and build on them.
Whatever you may think of her products (or her family), Ms Ahern is quite an entrepreneuse.
Apologies for going off topic! And genuinely, best of luck to Ms. Ahern and all the rest of them who’ve made a few bob through this genre. An acquaintance of mine and a former journalist is making a small fortune out of writing chick-lit novels using this grandmother’s maiden name, which greatly amuses me every time I think about it.
My concern is more strategic – we have a publishing industry that’s now on the flat of its back, partly through its concentration on a formulaic ‘quick sale’ product that requires little creativity and even less innovation. Yet we have a worldwide reputation for literary prowess and thus a USP for commercialisation of quality writing output that could fill a niche in the global market. That’s where I’d like to see any available investment being directed.
We would have a better chance is we could attract more top quality people into science and technology courses.
We (seriously) need to look at those courses which attract one sex ahead of the other sex with consequent lack of social interaction and social satisfaction.
This makes those courses unattractive and also makes it unattractive to persist in disciplines where workplaces are dominated by one sex. I think the competition idea I mooted earlier could help if the right mix of participants was organized.
We also need a PR effort to promote and explain the achievements of not only entrepeneurs but all the people that work in technology companies. There is something profoundly depressing about doing a job that you cannot explain to others and for which you are not given due respect.
It is my view that politicians and economists (!) want loads of engineers and computer scientists so everybody else can share in the wealth they generate. No concern is given to the personal satisfaction or job security of the individuals. This in turn makes the courses and career paths less attractive for the intelligent and multi-talented people we need in these roles.
Essentially, you argue that there are capacity problems in the publishing industry that mean that short-term profits crowd-out long-term viability.
That may or may not be true. I’m not sure that it is problem that requires government intervention.
1 “These topics were selected by politicians, who have no particular expertise in this area”
Probably selected by academics, or experts friendly with an assistant secretary in the dept … and if this is so ….. Ireland is a very informal country, lots of contacts
2 Use thesaurus for “excellent” and use it less except for rhetorical effect?
3 Design a test to exclude those who are not innovative. Weed out the weeds!
4 Tax breaks are not worth as much as grants if tax is paid at 12.5% ….
5 CSIRO in Australia is known world wide as a research organization. Centrally funded. Should be a role model for Ireland? They specialize in supporting and exploiting Australian innovation and exploitation.
6 The crisis is an opportunity. Allow extra credit twards an MSc for time spent during or after a bachelor, in a local industry relevant to the science or arts course. This would mean a 5 year stay for most. It reduces unemployment figures and starts that relationdhip which you identify as necessary.
7 Germany is premier in metallurgy. Their exprtise goes back 400 years or so. They insist on vocational training of a very rigorous nature. Their skills are high as a rsult. Irish building standards are a joke. If we only could start there, we could create an industry to export kit buildings around Europe as well as here. But we keep the builders and their income at home! FAS would need to be gutted?
8 We should ask Irish based industries what they would like access to by way of applied scientific skills? A trouble shooter team. Purely commercial but over qualified. Their feedback within commercial parameters for secrecy and know how protection, would direct industry relevant research. This actually should be Uni/Institute based and apply only to local industries. It might just start out as local consultancy work, but no limits on the extent?
The Australian references are interesting – it is an interesting comparison. They have a lot of resonance for here given the nature of the system there and the debates on funding and indeed on innovation in recent times. The Oz version of the Irish Universities Association has an interesting report on the topic – actually very well written as these type of report go, and with good understanding of the literature. Perhaps more interesting is the discussion by Andrew Leigh of the report at http://cite.org.au/store/catalog/ideaCheck_04.09.pdf. Andrew points out
“Public returns from university research: Reviewing 21 studies, the report concludes that a ʻconservative estimateʼ of the rate of return to publicly funded research is 20%. But when your rate of return is nearly twice as high as Bernard Madoffʼs, itʼs worth pausing to check the numbers. It turns out that the studies on which the report relies are generally based on scientiﬁc research, such as on tomato harvesting or cardiovascular disease. The problem with extrapolating these studies to all university research is that they are not necessarily characteristic of what the typical university faculty does.”
@Donal ‘OB My harping on about energy is directly related to the causal relationship between energy consumption and economic activity and output: directly proportional and positive. Hence any and all who use the term ‘growth’ in any proposal MUST consider the current, and developing, situation with respect to energy availability – with specific reference to liquid (transport) fuels. Its ominous.
The Export-Land Model postulates a significant decline in the nett availability of liquid fossil fuels due to; (a) declining production in exporting states, and, (b) increased domestic use of liquid fossil fuels in these exporting states. The current data on the total world liquid fossil fuel discoveries show that they are less than the depletion rates and increased rates of domestic use in exporting states. The current global economic downturn is masking the steady decline in nett liquid fossil fuel exports. The spot-price of crude will indicate what is happening. Right now its bobbing around. Keep an eye out for a slow, steady increase – say approx one dollar per week. Once you see this trend developing we are heading into real serious economic trouble. Stay alert. Be patient.
In Ireland we have some useful natural resources. It is these we need to concentrate on. Agriculture is just one I chose as an example.
A really major problem is the lopsided population distribution on this island. This must be changed. We are over reliant on chemical fertilizers. This must be changed. We are despoiling our freshwater resources. This must be changed. We are almost totally reliant on road transport. This must be changed. We do not have enough land under forestry. This must be changed. We import un-necessary amounts of foodstuffs. This must be changed.
Seems to me that we have quite a large canvas for innovation. We have enough bright and intelligent young people – who want to work in the FIRE economy rather than on the farm. The FIRE economy is finished. Its back to the ‘farm’.
With all due respect, I don’t think your arguments have any basis in fact.
@ Pat D
“Irish building standards are a joke. If we only could start there, we could create an industry to export kit buildings around Europe as well as here. But we keep the builders and their income at home! FAS would need to be gutted?”
Pat, I think you have pointed out something important here.
Not only have we a property crash, we have a crash based around a building product of dubious quality and alot of them rushed to be completed before the improved building regulations came into effect.
It is pure folly that we rushed to commodify land, maximise its value through constructions but with the minimal application to innovation and efficiency. At least in Germany they built mercedes, which seem to be holding their value more than our property.
Maybe we should make autos???
@ Brian Woods
Your ideas sound interesting
Have you heard of the Khmer Rouge?
“The cost of doing patent searches and industrial design searches needs to be looked at. The Govt need to set up access to patent databases for universities. Is that already there? It certainly costs a fortune to do an EU trademark search.”
All of these searches are available to the public and free
Patents – ep.espacenet.com
EU TM’s and designs – http://www.oami.eu
Perhaps the government needs to do less and individuals more. A simple call to the Irish Patents Office or visit to their website would have answered the question.
In general, Richard’s proposed submission contains many valuable points. I’ve just come to this post, so I’ve only done a quick scan. I hope my comments below won’t repeat too much of the above.
1. Simple definitions of innovation:
>> To the person in the street – something new
>> To the scientist – creating or discovering something new
>> To the economist or business person – doing something new that adds value to someone.
The last definition is the one that is relevant to the terms of reference of the ITF.
2. Most innovation is not based on new science or technology. In fact, much innovation is not based on any S&T. In fact, nearly all successful innovations MUST start with the user for their motivation and justification.
3. Doing something new requires creativity. Doing something new that will add value to someone requires empathy and understanding as well. In a business context, these are usually encapsulated in the Marketing and (creative) Design functions. Once we start thinking about empathy and understanding people, then we’re firmly in the domain of Arts and Humanities, which are undoubtedly essential competencies for innovation development.
4. More and more, innovation is networked process. So, I would remove the emphasis in Richard’s proposal: “Only a small fraction of workers will ever be involved in actual innovation.” In fact, this is wrong, at least for the future.
5. I agree with the emphasis on excellence. However, it should not be forgotten that we need excellence and creativity at all levels, not just at professorial level. It’s hard these days to get an excellent, creative plumber! Such plumber would be able innovate (in the economic sense) elegant and valuable solutions to his/her clients.
6. A really worthwhile point, which I have often made myself, is: “It is exceptional for people to move from academia to policy and back.” Lack of mobility around the ‘Triple Helix’ of Academia/Government/Industry is one of the biggest barriers to collaboration and networked understanding.
“Only a small fraction of workers will ever be involved in actual innovation. In fact, this is wrong, at least for the future.”
Facts for the future?
I’ll soften the language, although I guess only a minority will ever be creative, and a minority of that minority will be creative in their job.
That’s not the point I want to make, though. Even if there are few innovators only, the rest still needs excellent skills to fully exploit the available innovations.
For ‘future’ read ‘currently developing trends’.
Also, more significantly, I don’t believe many “innovators” exist or operate as individuals. Modern innovation is best understood as a process driven by entrepreneurs or managers (depending on the circumstance). The process has contributors from many functions and at many levels, requiring appropriate skills and creativity.
Sadly, I’m inclined to agree with you about the minority being creative in their jobs – not that there isn’t opportunity for same. However, this current deficit represents an excellent opportunity for education at all levels to address.