This posting tried to capture the key elements of the debate in Ireland on how best to use pubic funding to incentivise innovation, prior to the launch of the Irish Innovation Task Force Report on 11th March 2010.
An interesting debate has started up in Ireland in the past few months on the justification for Ireland's investment in Science, Engineering and Technology (SET), now more usually called Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) to emphasise the importance of the potential exploitation of the results of research by relevant industries.
This page aims to catalogue some primary inputs to this debate, and does not of itself espouse a particular position. For that see other articles I have published on Ireland and STI. This blog does not have comments enabled, so if you wish to comment please email me at mofoghlu attt tssg.org -- I am happy to add additional content as long is it available publicly on-line.
Last Update: 201-06-27 @ 19:55
This is a thought provoking discussion of alternatives to economic models with a continuous growth assumption.
In a cellular economy, key metrics change. GDP growth is less important than GDP regeneration. Successful growth takes into account the sustainability of that growth.
The most profound change in a cellular economy is the devaluation of the transaction. Today, economic value is determined primarily by the value of the transaction. To grow (even just to survive), we must keep trading, keep consuming--no matter how wasteful the process becomes--because success is creating more transactions. This keeps us locked into a linear, growth oriented paradox.
It is interesting to read that Boston is only now changing towards a newer type of innovation culture (if this blog post is to be believed) given that it is famous for it's Innovation Corridor on Route 128 The Cultural Revolution: Which Side Are You On? - Innovation Economy - Boston.com
I have been wondering for some time now whether what Ireland needs is to foster Research Institutes (RIs), that are co-funded by public funding and by industry, and independent of universities (or other Higher Level Institutions).
The idea of the RIs is that they would employ people who had a focus on building successful research outputs that could be used by industry, rather than trying to balance traditional academic goals with this aim, and instead of only employing post-doctoral researchers and PhD students, as pretty much all Irish research centres do today. Thus the RIs could act as a real bridge between academia and industry, acting as a cultural bridge as well as a new place for applied/industry-focused research to take place. I feel strongly that academic faculty, post-doctoral researchers and research students (who make up nearly 100% of the work force employed by the Irish research funding system funded by the HEA, SFI and Enterprise Ireland), will always place a higher priority on the academic issues, such as academic publication, and doing what is needed to get a PhD, rather than on the industrial linkages. If you really want industry linkage to be the main driver and the primary focus, new structures and institutions might be required. If RIs depended on industry for 25% of their funding initially, perhaps 50% after 5 years, then they would be forced to place an equal weighting on the applied research outputs that were of value to the industry that was contributing. Chris Horn has commented on my suggestion (via twitter tagged #itaskforce) that this could well be the problem, getting industry to fund part or all of such enterprises would never be easy, and especially not in the current economic climate; yet relying on public funding is a recipe for longer term failure, as such an RI would be likely to eventually merely replicate the pure academic culture of the existing system.
I am certainly not the first to make this observation about the Irish research and innovation setup. Cogan and McDevitt alude to the defict here:
“The country missed out on institutions such as technological universities and industry laboratories that are a feature of the industrial landscape in most European countries. In addition, Ireland’s chosen path to industrialisation, i.e. following the FDI route, masked until very recently this deficiency in the research infrastructure, and in the intermediaries that help bridge the gap between enterprise and the research base."
(Cogan and McDevitt, 2003, p. 27)
Of course, I have huge respect for my academic colleagues, and their academic work, and indeed there are some very good success stories of successful industrialisation from the existing investments that have been made in Ireland. My point is a structural one, not a criticism of any individuals or existing research centres. Also, the argument I am making is not an argument for not funding good basic academic research as well as good industrially relevant research. The argument is really about all the pieces that have to be in place for a "National System of Innovation" (NSI) to function properly, the theory of NSI being heavily promoted in the 1990s in Ireland when the increased R&D expenditure was proposed, but has been much less studied since that investment has started to be made (from the late 1990s with HEA PRTLI and from early 2000s with SFI, and in the general raising of the levels of funding given out by Enterprise Ireland for academic-industry linked research).
Perhaps the best example of Research Institutes of the type I envisage are in Europe, such as the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany, e.g. FhG FOKUS in Berlin that we work very closely with in the TSSG. They are required to raise 50% of their funding directly from industry, and get the remainder from the German federal and state coffers, and from EU research project funding - so we are partners with them in many EU funded projects. FOKUS is famous for helping foster innovations such as MP3 and SIP (that underlies most of the Voice over IP world).
What we're trying to do in the TSSG, in effect, is to build such a group inside a Higher Educational Institution (HEI), Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). We are almost unique in Ireland in being given the freedom to employ non post-doctoral researchers as our primary research staff - our pure academically focused staff are in a minority. We have around 150 staff, 20 of whom are full time PhD students, 14 of whom are post-doctoral research fellows, 4 of whom are full-time faculty, and the rest are various other forms of professionals - software developers, project managers, and other types of researchers (who don't necessarily have a PhD). We also have some administrative staff, and some technical support staff, but these add up to just another 10 people as a maximum. Our argument is that to make an impact in ICT (Information Communications Technologies), what you need are good programmers who can produce high quality code that actually has an economic value in itself - the code base can then form part of the licences granted to industrial partners to exploit these results, whether these be spinout or spin-in companies, or other external companies. Thus our argument has been, since we were founded by Willie Donnelly in 1996, that we should have a balance of a critical mass of sustainable funded research programmes that are (i) basic research programmes - traditional academic research (ii) applied research programmes - focused on industrial problems and industrial partners and on building working prototype solutions and (iii) commercialisation activities - trying to create economic value based on the outputs of the other two areas. We have achieved the balance in that (i) is funded by HEA PRTLI and SFI, (ii) is funded by EU FP4, 5, 6 and 7 and (iii) is funded by Enterprise Ireland. We've brought in around €60M over the past 13 years, most of it in the past 5 years (TSSG Projects). We've launched 13 spin-in and spin-out companies since 2000, most in the past 5 years, employing 55 additional staff (TSSG Companies).
This article is my own personal opinion, and may not be officially endorsed by the TSSG or by Waterford Institute of Technology.
Cogan, Joe and McDevitt, James  Science, Technology and Innovation Policies in Selected Small Countries. VATT, Government Institute for Economic Research, KNOGG Deliverable D2, Finland. (KNOGG, BIBLIOGRAPHY 176 Knowledge, Growth and Globalisation, the Role of Science and Technology Policy in Small Countries, EU Project STPN-2000-00104), URL http://extranet.vatt.fi/knogg/Reports/VATTtutk96.pdf.
It is good to see Ireland's now strategy for software embracing software as a service and open source, and recognising the dynamic SME sector Now we just need to figure how to link research and industry in this sector -- and even though I'm in Higher Education, I do not think it's about more PhDs in Computer Science as the SSTI seems to do.
The Tánaiste made the announcement at the launch of Enterprise Ireland's four-year strategy for the Irish software industry. The strategy aims to drive the sector's revenues to over €2.5bn by 2013 by capitalising on changes in the global software market. Research undertaken by Enterprise Ireland, in association with international industry analysts IDC, identified a New Software Economy, driven by the growth of the Internet and changes in end-user demands. The New Software Economy is characterised by demand for greater flexibility, global delivery and cost-effective solutions*. The unique profile of Ireland's software sector with its strong base of small flexible companies is particularly suited to these emerging trends. The strategy aims to position the Irish software industry to maximise its potential in this new market environment. Launching the strategy, the Tánaiste said, "Building Ireland's Smart Economy is about establishing Ireland as an innovation hub. It involves building the innovation or ‘ideas' component of the Irish economy and developing a high-value, research-intensive, multinational community alongside thriving innovative Irish companies." "Enterprise Ireland's new Software Strategy, reflecting the Government's Smart Economy blueprint, sets out to achieve that precise model for the software sector. I am confident that this strategy will ensure Ireland's software industry meets these new market opportunities delivering more highly skilled, sustainable and well paid jobs in our economy."
The Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) won the Enterprise Ireland (EI) Informatics Commercialisation Award 2007.
The award was presented by Micheal Ahern T.D, Minister for Innovation Policy to Barry Downes, Commercial Director of the TSSG, at the Enterprise Ireland Technology Showcase which took place today (3rd October) in the Radisson Royal SAS Hotel in Dublin's city centre. "The TSSG has been pursuing a range of spin-in opportunities, where we attract companies to locate in Waterford to collaborate with us, and spin-out opportunities where we establish a new companies to commercialise our success. This award recognises our achievements to date in acting as a catalyst of ICT innovation in the south east of Ireland," said Barry Downes upon receipt of the award.
The showcase event focused on eight technology products and services that have been developed by academic researchers which are ready to be snapped up by investors in the advanced technology industry.
In addition to these pitches, a targeted attendance of investors, entrepreneurs and technology trend-watchers also met with senior researchers from nine third level institutes who between them demonstrated a further thirty technologies with commercial potential at the showcase.
Presenting the award, Minister Ahern said "the TSSG are to be congratulated on this success, not just in winning the Commercialisation Award, but for bringing the fruits of their research to the marketplace. The TSSG at Waterford IT have demonstrated real innovation in the commercialisation space through their formation of a true joint venture with an entrepreneur to create the new company Hash 6 which is now contributing to the local economy of Waterford. This innovative spirit is one of the core pillars of the Governments Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation."
The TSSG prides itself on the dynamic linkages it maintains between research and commercialisation, across the research and innovation spectrum. "The TSSG is unique in Ireland in placing equal value on commercialisation, applied research and basic research," said Mícheál Ó Foghlú, Research Director of the TSSG, "This award demonstrates that we have already begun to make an impact with our commercialisation strategy. Our recent success in the European Seventh Framework, with 6 new funded projects, the biggest success in Ireland, demonstrates that our applied research strategy is winning; our recent success in the HEA PRTLI Cycle 4 announced by the Minister of Education Mary Hanafin in August, demonstrates that our basic research strategy is winning."
Two TSSG companies presented at the EI Informatics Showcase:
From John Battelle's weblog John Battelle's Searchblog: Internet Revenue Breaks $4 Billion.
Online revenues hit $4.2 billion in Q3, up 2 percent over Q2 earlier this year ($4.1 b), Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP announced today. This quarter is also 33 percent higher than $3.1 billion in Q3 2005.
Sheryl Draizen, SVP and General Manager of IAB, notes, "Marketers are experiencing how this medium enhances their ability to target and engage the audience that matters to their brand and then measure its effectiveness in ways no other medium provides."