Navigation – Plan du site
Le rôle des pouvoirs publics dans les systèmes d’innovation des îles Britanniques

Public Innovation Policies in Ireland

Les politiques publiques en faveur de l’innovation en Irlande
Valérie Peyronel
p. 189-205

Résumé

En dépit d’un progrès économique notoire ces dernières années, la République d’Irlande et l’Irlande du Nord sont confrontées à plusieurs difficultés et défis identiques, au nombre desquels un niveau d’innovation relativement faible dans un contexte de concurrence internationale croissante. Des réformes structurelles ont été entreprises au nord comme au sud de la frontière pour s’attaquer au désavantage comparatif dont souffre chacun des deux territoires. Les deux systèmes publics d’innovation sont maintenant plus convergents, mais la coopération transfrontalière, pourtant un sujet politique et économique majeur, demeure modeste dans ce domaine, principalement en raison des priorités nationales et des effets de réseaux.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

1Geographical proximity, the ongoing debate on the possible reunification of Ireland, as well as the increasing need for links in a context of fast-moving global competition are among the elements which have fostered cross-border economic cooperation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Both economies have undergone major transformations since the 1990s and made marked progress, partly thanks to their conversion to fast-moving technological sectors, which are indeed booming, but where innovation must play a key part.

  • 1  M. Porter and S.Stern, The New Challenge to America’s Prosperity: Findings from the Innovation Ind (...)

2There are of course many possible definitions of the term innovation, but the one retained for the present analysis, which essentially deals with innovation in the manufacturing sector, is “the transformation of knowledge into novel, wealth-creating technologies, products and services”1. The question raised by this definition, however, is how this transformation can occur, and, in particular, what part public structures can play in this ultimately consumer-oriented, and thus predominantly business-like process.

3This article therefore proposes to analyse the degree of innovation in the respective economic contexts of the Republic of Ireland and of Northern Ireland, to examine the convergences and divergences in the models of public policies implemented in favour of business research and development and innovation and to assess whether cross-border cooperation in this field has been fostered by these respective public structures.   

The economic context north and south of the Irish border

4Over the last decade, that is to say since the mid 1990s, both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have experienced noticeable economic progress, despite more bearish trends in the last two or three years, and compare very favourably with average Eurozone or OECD figures.

Table 1. Real GDP growth, in percentage

2003

2004

2005

RoI

3.7

5.5

5.5

UK

2.2

3.0

2.6

NI

2.5

3.0

3.0

Eurozone

0.5

1.8

1.6

OECD

1.8

3.2

2.7

Source: First Trust Economic Outlook, March 2005.

5Beside the generally favourable international context which predominated at least in the industrialised world throughout the 1990s, a number of reasons, either common or specific, account for this success.

  • 2  Objective 1 is a European Structural Funds measure which aims to support development in the less p (...)
  • 3  On 28 July 1995, the Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation was launched in Northe (...)

6For both territories, the most frequently quoted and most obvious one is the financial support derived from Ireland’s and the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, and in particular the classification of both Northern Ireland and part of the Republic of Ireland as Objective 1 regions2, a fact which has provided both territories with substantial regional aid and has opened up large opportunities in terms of access to European markets. However, while both the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom acquired European membership on 1st January 1973, the economic boom which earned Ireland the qualification of “Celtic Tiger” and has finally come to remove Northern Ireland from the list of Objective 1 regions from 2006 onwards (except for the continuation of the PEACE programme3), only started in the first half of the 1990s. European financial support, therefore, though non negligible, is but one of the explanations for recent economic growth north and south of the Irish border.

  • 4  UNCTAD, World Investment Report 2003.

7In the Republic of Ireland, the most prominent elements seem to have been the favourable demographic trends, the availability of a well-qualified workforce and interventionist government policies aimed to favour investment. In demographic terms, Ireland indeed boasts a comparatively young working population as a combined result of demographic growth in the 1960s and the 1970s and the reversal of migration trends. This provides the country with a workforce reserve, and the younger working age groups tend to remain in Ireland rather than look for job opportunities abroad as they used to do when unemployment was soaring in Ireland. An ample workforce, though, does not foster economic progress unless skills are also developed. Voluntarist government policies were implemented in the 1990s in order to foster the supply of a local skilled workforce: the most noticeable lines of this strategy were the free access to Higher Education, as well as the development of Further Education Colleges. Finally a favourable tax policy has been designed by the Irish government to boost investment and to develop business activities. The tax burden was reduced both on individuals to encourage consumption and on enterprises to promote investment. Personal income tax rates have dropped from a 35 % to 60 % span in the 1980s to a current 20 % to 42 % span. The 10 % corporate tax rate for manufacturing and a limited range of internationally-traded services introduced in the 1980s was increased to 12.5 %, but this rate now also applies to all other business and manufacturing activities formerly subjected to a 25 % rate. Finally, since 1998, the capital gains tax rate has been halved from 40 % to 20 % in order to encourage fund release for investment. As a result of the favourable conditions mentioned above, there has been a massive inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI). FDI amounted to an annual average of $ 140 million in the 1980s and rose to an annual average of $ 2,700 million in the mid 1990s. In 2002, therefore, the total stock of foreign direct investment in Ireland reached $ 157 billion, the second best in the world (in per capita terms, after Hong Kong)4.

8In comparison, Northern Ireland can also boast a proportionately young, educated and cheap available workforce and though the corporate tax rate is much higher than the Irish one (30% as compared to 12.5 %), the UK Tax Misery Index5 ranks second after Ireland in the EU15 zone. However, the spectacular and unexpected economic boom experienced in the 1990s (82.3 % nominal growth since 1989 compared with the UK figure of 71 %)6 while, until the early 1990s, Northern Ireland had been desperately lagging behind the other three British regions, is largely accounted for by the improved political context resulting from the current peace-process. Consequently, Northern Ireland manufacturing output growth outperformed the UK’s in the 1990s (+ 47.7 % between 1990 and 2000, as compared to + 8.7% in the UK over the period)7, seasonally adjusted employment increased (by 17 % between 1990 and 2000) thus boosting consumption and investment. The more favourable economic and political context also attracted FDI, which increased by 45 % between 1998 and 2003.

9But in spite of this positive general context, both the Republic and Northern Ireland remain confronted to major challenges.

10First of all, as a consequence of both their economic recoveries and European enlargement, the Republic and Northern Ireland are to lose their Objective 1 status from 2006 onwards. This will mean a reduction in European funding, added to the competitive disadvantage brought by the re-direction of European funding to new member countries and by the unfavourable gap occasioned by the national policies implemented by at least some of the new member-countries in order to gain competitive advantage: low labour costs, low tax rates, export incentives. This new context is all the more worrying as both Ireland’s and Northern Ireland’s respective indigenous industries are still fragile and largely dependent on foreign capital and exports.

  • 8  James Gillan, “Structure and Growth”, NI Economic Bulletin 2005, 34.    

11Furthermore, in the specific case of Northern Ireland, entrepreneurship is challenged by the persisting predominance of the public sector. In 2002, the public sector in Northern Ireland (Public Administration, Health and Education) represented 27 % of the Gross Value Added (GVA), as compared to 18.1 % on average in the UK and 13.9 % in the Republic of Ireland8.

Innovation in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland: achievements and challenges

12Considering the previously described economic context, industrial innovation is particularly important to both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In both regions, cut-throat international competition in increasingly sophisticated and fast-moving domains prevails. Both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are engaged in those fields of manufacturing activities where innovation plays a key part (computers, electrical machinery, chemicals and the pharmaceutical industry in the Republic, electrical and optical equipment, and transport equipment in Northern Ireland). Innovation is also a sine qua non conditionfor both territories to strengthen their capacity to diversify their activities and reduce the weight of traditional less profitable and less promising sectors in their respective economies, like food and textiles for instance.

13Furthermore, in recent years, both areas have been confronted to cost increases, in the South as a result of rising wage levels and energy prices, and in the North as a combined result of the removal of long-standing relief on business rates for industrial and transport concerns, new charges for water and sewage services, shocks in the insurance sector. This simultaneous rise in cost bases implies for both territories the need to innovate, either to offer better value for money or to or to reduce costs while increasing productivity to remain competitive.

14However, while there is an urgent need for more innovation, both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland figures remain unsatisfactory by European standards.

  • 9  European Commission, European Innovation Scoreboard 2003, Cordis Focus, November 2003.
  • 10  Enterprise Strategy Group, Ahead of the curve: Ireland’s Place in the Global Economy, Dublin: Depa (...)
  • 11  Enterprise Strategy Group, Ahead of the Curve, op. cit., table 2.1, 30.

15In the Republic of Ireland, public and business expenditure on Research and Development (R&D) in 2003 respectively amounted to 0.37% and 0.87 % of GDP, thus totalling 1.24 % of GDP as compared to an EU15 average of 1.99 % (respectively 0.69 % in public expenditure and 1.30 % in business expenditure) and far from the 3 % target set in 2002 for 2010 by the European Council, or the 2.7 % figure in the United States9. Even the prominent Irish manufacturing sectors (electrical and electronic equipment, pharmaceuticals and instruments) underinvest in R&D: in 2001 Business R&D in these sectors respectively represented 1.4 %, 1.3 % and 1.3 % of the output as compared to OECD averages of 5.6 %, 11.5 % and 7.0 %10. Other indicators like scientific publications, European patent applications or the number of researchers also show Ireland’s relatively low level of implication in R&D as compared to the EU average11.

  • 12  European Commission, European Innovation Scoreboard2003, op. cit.
  • 13  In UK Regional statistics, inter-regional comparison is based on GVA as regional GDP figures are n (...)
  • 14  Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, NI Research and Development Statistics 2003, Belf (...)

16The United Kingdom as a wholecompares favourably with the Republic of Ireland, with R&D spending reaching 1.84 % of GDP, with respectively 0.65 % for public expenditure and 1.19 % for business expenditure12. However, within Britain, Northern Ireland’s innovation capabilities lag behind. An indication of this particular regional weakness is provided by the Northern Ireland Research and Development Statistics 2003 survey, which assesses the implication of UK regions in innovation by comparing R&D expenditure to Gross Value Added figures13. In 2002, R&D expenditure in Northern Ireland represented 0.73 % of GVA, as compared to an average British figure of 1.42 %. This means, for instance, that Northern Ireland businesses would have needed to invest an extra amount of £142 million in R&D to reach the UK average rate14.

17There are a number of explanations for this low rate of investment in R&D as identified in two recent research works, namely a review by the Enterprise Strategy Group of the Irish Department for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Ahead of the Curve, published in July 2004, and a Northern Ireland Economic Council monograph, Developing a Regional Innovation Strategy for Northern Ireland, published in March 2002.

  • 15  Enterprise Strategy Group, Ahead of the Curve,op. cit., 11.
  • 16 Ibid., 30.
  • 17  Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, Northern Ireland Research and Development Statist (...)

18The comparison of these two documents shows that a first set of reasons is common to both territories. First of all, the manufacturing sector in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland still includes a non negligible proportion of traditional and poorly innovative industries, like textiles or canned food. Furthermore, both economies, though still heavily dependent on the secondary sector, have moved rather swiftly to areas of the tertiary sector (finance in the Republic, auditing in Northern Ireland, distribution and transport as well as hotel and catering in both territories), which represent “a relatively sheltered and regulatory environment: as a result, their efficiency and innovativeness are dampened, impacting on the cost base of their customers”15. Secondly, both economic structures include a large share of SMEs, with less capacity or desire to invest in R&D. In the Republic in 2001, the twenty largest firms represented 42% of business R&D expenditure16. In Northern Ireland, in 2003, the ten largest R&D investors covered 46 % of all R&D investment in the region while only 45 % of SMEs in Northern Ireland engaged in innovation activities (as opposed to 76 % of large firms)17.

19The low rate of investment in R&D also tends to be explained by the large share of foreign enterprises in both territories. Indeed, foreign firms mainly operate via branch plants. In such cases, R&D activities are mainly carried out at headquarters level, which means outside the host country. This, in particular, creates a lack of adjustment between the type of research carried out in the Republic and market needs, a gap in so called “market led R&D” as stated by the Enterprise Strategy Group in its July 2004 report:

  • 18  Enterprise Strategy Group, Ahead of the Curve, op. cit., 39.
  • 19  Ibid., 12.

Why Ireland can boast pockets of excellence […] and some exceptional international enterprise successes, a significant proportion of Ireland’s capability is in production and operations which is not balanced by expertise in markets and technology18. This is particularly true of the foreign-owned sector, which accounts for most of our exports and which, for the most part produces goods that were designed elsewhere, to satisfy market requirements that were specified elsewhere and sold by other people with whom the Irish operation has little contact and over whom it has little influence19.

  • 20  Nathalie Greenan et Yannick L’Horty, La Nouvelle économie irlandaise, Noisy le Grand : Centre d’Et (...)

20However, the argument against foreign firms and the branch plant economy can be contradicted by the fact that these firms do contribute to local R&D expenditure both in the Republic and in Northern Ireland: foreign firms accounted for 65 % of total business R&D expenditure in the Republic in 2001 and for 53 % in Northern Ireland in 2003. But in turn, in the case of the Republic of Ireland, this more positive view is weakened by another analysis20 which underlines that Ireland’s low tax rates encourage the “warehouse economy”: multinationals transit their goods through Ireland in order to benefit from favourable transfer prices when the goods are re-exported after transformation. These light transformation activities imply little R&D investment. The transformation of cola-based beverages, software reproduction, basic and organic chemicals, computers and electronic components, which, all together, represent 15 % of the Irish GDP are among the most striking examples of such operations currently practised in Ireland.

The structures of public support to business innovation in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland

21In both the Republic and Northern Ireland, the largest share of financial support to R&D is contributed by business, and not by public funding.

Table 2. A Comparison of Public and Business R&D

EU 15

RoI

UK

NI

Public R&D as a % of GDP

0.69

0.37

0.65

Not available

Business R&D as a % of GDP

1.30

0.87

1.19

Not available

Which means

Proportion of Public R&D

35 %

29 %

35 %

32.2 %

Proportion of Business R&D

65 %

71 %

65 %

67.8 %

Sources : European Innovation Scoreboard 2003, Appendix Table B, for EU, Republic of Ireland and UK figures, and Northern Ireland Innovation and Development Statistics, p. 3, §7 and p. 4, §11 for NI. For NI, the calculation is based on the addition of Government expenditure (4.9 %) and the Government share in Higher Education contribution (56 % of 48.8 %).

22However, since the 1990s, public structures in favour of business innovation have evolved on both sides of the Irish border.

23In the Republic of Ireland, the 1992 Culliton Report had already underlined the need to renovate and modify public support to innovation in the Republic. More recently, the reduction in European funding, the increasing pressure from new potential competitors, the renewed awareness of the vulnerability of a foreign-dependent economy, and the shift of GDP towards the tertiary sector have aroused the Irish government’s awareness of the necessity to define specific public support policies for innovation. Under the aegis of the Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE), an Enterprise Agencies Unit now co-ordinates five industrial development agencies: Enterprise Ireland, Forfàs, Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Ireland, Shannon Development and Crafts Council of Ireland. The first two have been entrusted with a particularly important part to play in the support of innovation in Ireland, with a clear emphasis on a more pragmatic and market-led approach.

24Forfàs is the national policy and advisory board for enterprise, science, technology and innovation. It provides a secretariat and research function to a number of independent advisory councils such as the Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EFGSN), the National Competitiveness Council (NCC).  It is also responsible for the coordination and coherence of the activities carried out by Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). Finally it manages a national science awareness programme called Discover Science & Engineering. Since April 2005, Forfàs has been able to benefit from the advice of the Advisory Science Council (ASC), in replacement of the former Irish Council for Science Technology and Innovation (ICSTI). The Council is intended to be an interface between stakeholders and policy makers, and is therefore meant to foster a better adjustment between the needs of enterprises and government policies in the field of Science, technology and Innovation.

  • 21  Enterprise Ireland, Technology Innovation Strategy 2003-2006, 1, <www.enterprise-ireland.com, cons (...)
  • 22  Entreprise Ireland, Research Technology & Innovation (RTI) Competitive Grants Initiative,

25At first sight, Enterprise Ireland is less research and innovation-orientated. As a state body, it is statutorily in charge of assisting the development of indigenous companies in manufacturing and international trade services. Though not directly engaged in research, Enterprise Ireland clearly state their goal to “help transform ideas into reality by supporting the transfer of commercially exploitable knowledge out of the research community and into companies”21.The aim is to “bridge the gap between a good idea and a profitable place in the market”22, thus addressing one of the identified weaknesses in the Irish innovation system: the lack of market-oriented R&D. The range of actions proposed is very wide and includes support to new product or process development (Research Technology and Innovation Scheme, RTI), advice for the management of innovation in companies (Innovation Management Initiative), tailored R&D support for projects involving more than 3 million euros, support to collaboration with third-level colleges (Innovation Partnerships Initiative and close work with the Conference of Heads of Irish Universities and the Council of Directors of the Institutes of Technology) and, finally, advice on participation in international R&D programmes  such as European Union Framework Programmes, the European Space Agency, EUREKA,  e-Ten, e-Content and Neradiane, an International Fund for Ireland programme for the border counties.

  • 23  Michael H. Best, The Capabilities and Innovation Perspective: the Way Ahead in Northern Ireland, B (...)
  • 24  Further details can be found in Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment’s Regional Innovati (...)

26In Northern Ireland, the structures of public support to business innovation used to be split between three major public bodies: the Industrial Development Board (IDB) in charge of the monitoring of firms with more than 50 employees, the Local Enterprises Development Unit (LEDU) responsible for firms with less than 50 employees and the Industrial Research and Technology Unit (IRTU). While the respective contributions of these agencies to boosting business in Northern Ireland could not be denied, expert advice underlined the lack of synergy occasioned by the splitting of activities. Similarly to the account provided by the 1992 Culliton Report in the Republic, though at a later stage (2000), an audit carried out by Professor Michael H. Best, of the University of Massachussetts Lowell23 at the request of the Northern Ireland Economic Council, concluded on the necessity to re-organise Northern Ireland’s public structure of business support. The IDB, LEDU and IRTU, along with a number of other public organisations, were amalgamated into a new economic development super-agency called Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI). The concentration of public support to innovation, in particular, is therefore even more obvious in Northern Ireland than in the Republic. Invest NI has become the main government body for the delivery of funds to companies who wish to invest in R&D. The funds are granted via a large range of pre-budgeted programmes which companies apply for24.

Convergences and divergences and North/South cooperation

  • 25  Philip Cooke, Stephen Roper and Peter Wylie, Developing a Regional Innovation Strategy for Norther (...)

27The convergences and divergences of the two models of public structures for the support of business innovation in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland can be analysed in the light of the theoretical research work carried out by Cooke, Roper and Wylie.25 The authors define three possible business innovation systems: “localist and associative”, “globalised and non associative”, fully “interactive and associative”. The first one is based on indigenous or foreign SMEs, undertaking small scale local research with little or no dependence on external private or public sources of funding. In the second system, large multinational firms dominate and carry out their R&D internally, with little dependence or interaction with regional public R&D. And the third system implies an R&D and innovation process carried out by all types of firms in the region, on an interactive and networked basis, including with public R&D. Within the framework of these three possible innovation systems, the authors then define three possible public governance systems: “grassroots and bottom-up”, “dirigiste and top-down” or “fully networked and balanced”. In the first system, the public governance or innovation system is largely pragmatic and involves local, rather than regional or national levels of government. The second system implies much intervention and co-ordination at central government level, in co-operation with large firms and public research institutions. Finally, the third system offers a mix of both previous governance models, whereby public and private institutions operate in regional partnerships.

28           Examining the R&D and innovation systems prevailing North and South of the Irish border leads to the conclusion that both business innovation systems mainly fit into the “globalised and non associative” category, but with a marked move, out of sheer competitive necessity, towards the “interactive and associative” category. But governance systems differ. In the Republic, the new impulse given in recent public policies and structures to a better market-oriented R&D process, clearly lays emphasis on the grassroots approach. On the contrary, Northern Ireland, as a region of the UK, is still largely subject to the centrally-coordinated pattern of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) mostly favouring large firms and higher education research activities. However, the reorganisation of agencies, and in particular the centralisation of support to R&D and support to entrepreneurship in the hands of one new single agency (Invest NI), which is supposed to be the interface between public funding and business, paves the way for more grassroots operations, as was recommended by the Northern Ireland Economic Council in 2002:

  • 26  Philip Cooke, Stephen Roper and Peter Wylie, Developing a Regional Innovation Strategy for Norther (...)

The current overall strategic economic vision for Northern Ireland seeks to reduce the grant-dependent business culture […] moving from the traditional bias towards provision of incentives to the creation of demand for services26.

29Public governance structures for business innovation north and south of the Irish border now offer greater convergences. But to what extent is this increasing convergence matched by North/South cooperation in innovation processes and programmes?

  • 27  The Lisbon strategy is an action and development plan for the European Union which was set out by (...)
  • 28  RINET was established in October 2001 with the support of the British Department of Trade and Indu (...)
  • 29  HoL (2003) Science and the RDAs: Setting the Regional Agenda.
  • 30  Paul Rose, “Action for Innovation: Regional Innovation Strategy Action Plan 2004-2006”, in DETE, N (...)

30On the one hand, the North/South issue is of course central to political debates, in particular in Northern Ireland, but economic cooperation is also included in the debate. On the other hand, the European Commission and the European Council, in accordance with the Lisbon strategy27, have been pushing towards a better intra-European transfer of knowledge, in particular among regions, in order to boost European competitiveness on global markets. Neither the Irish nor the British governments can escape this general framework when defining their public policies for innovation. However, and despite the similarity of identified needs and weaknesses, as well as the growing convergence of innovation governance structures north and south of the border, cooperation remains modest, and policies or recommendations sometimes contradictory. As an example, the Regional Innovation Action Plan 2004-2006 issued by the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Industry in Northern Ireland, recommended the development of a cross-border innovation plan with Inter-Trade Ireland “to ensure that mutually beneficial cross-border innovation and networking with businesses, academia, the FE sector and the public sector are exploited effectively”. Cooperation between DARD (Department of Agriculture and Rural Development) and researchers in the Republic was also to be a priority. However, the same report laid just as much emphasis on other innovation linkage opportunities for Northern Ireland outside the Republic of Ireland. The UK remains the primary structure where innovation in Northern Ireland should be anchored, either via the UK Regional Innovation Network (RINET)28 or the implementation of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Report 200329recommending the establishment of a Science-industry Council in every UK region30.

  • 31  An EU Community Initiative designed to support cross-border cooperation, social cohesion and econo (...)
  • 32  European Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties.

31Some cross-border programmes like Tradelinks, by Enterprise Northern Ireland and the Border Counties County Enterprise Partners in the Republic, do target cross-border innovation initiatives, but it takes European funding programmes to offer an indispensable complement, or even an alternative, to the lukewarm national governments’ engagement in co-operative Research and Development. The Ireland/Northern Ireland Interreg III Programme31 and the PEACE II Programme32 thus provide an incentive framework for North/South R&D cooperation. While the latter  uses economic research as a potential contributor to peace in the particular political context of the border area, innovation constitutes a clear economic cornerstone of the Interreg III Programme implemented by the Irish Central Border Area Partnership: “business innovation”, “technology transfer”, “research and development”, “assisting with the growth of innovative business through development and delivery of new training provision, technical transfer, R&D and management capacity” are listed among the objectives of the programme which ultimately aims to “improve the economic climate of the region by assisting economic social development through cross-border activities”.

32While such European programmes may actually boost innovation on an all-island basis, it is quite interesting to note that their implementation actually contradicts the evolution of the respective structures established by the two governments. Indeed European funding is distributed in the form of grants via calls for proposals: the candidates’ bids must fit in pre-determined work programmes established by the European Commission. Therefore, the top-down approach of these programmes contradicts the recent efforts made for a more grassroots operation of innovation both in the Republic and in Northern Ireland.

33Furthermore, these programmes raise the issue of the spatial definition of the term region: while the Interreg II and PEACE II programme define a virtual region made up of Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Republic as a potential framework for linkages and networking to foster innovation, this approach is not necessarily dominant in the respective public policies north and south of the Irish border. An analysis of the terminology used in public documents on both sides exemplifies the priority given to existing geographical and economic entities, engaged in a more competitive than cooperative process:

  • 33 Advisory Science Council, Terms of Reference, <http://www.forfas.ie.asc/index.html, consulted on Ap (...)
  • 34  Enterprise Ireland, Technology Innovation Strategy, op. cit.
  • 35  Enterprise Ireland, Research Technology and Innovation Competitive Grants Scheme, <http://www.ente (...)
  • 36  Science Foundation Ireland, Vision 2004-2008, People, Ideas, Partnerships for a Globally Competiti (...)
  • 37  Ian Pearson, MP, Minister with responsibility for Enterprise, Trade and Investment. June 2003, in (...)

The Government has provided strong leadership in developing Ireland as an internationally competitive knowledge-based economy in according a high priority to investment in R&D under the National Development Plan 2000-200633.
Only by being innovative can companies have the strength and flexibility to succeed in the marketplace and, in particular, in export markets34.
The competitive Grants Initiative (under RTI programme) funds high quality, risk intensive R&D projects, which are essential for companies to establish or to maintain their overall competitiveness35.
To ensure that Ireland continues to benefit from its competitive advantages, the Government, through the National Development Plan 2000-2006 made an unprecedented national commitment to support scientific research, technological development and innovation. By investing in these areas, Science Foundation Ireland promises to significantly enhance Irish science, engineering and economic growth, and bring Ireland distinction for its sustained research excellence36.
Innovation, creating and commercialising new knowledge, fostering enterprise and improving our infrastructure and our skills base are key to the competitiveness and future success of the Northern Ireland economy37.

  • 38  Northern Ireland Statistics Research Agency, Northern Ireland Manufacturing Sales and Exports Surv (...)
  • 39  EU Presidency website,  <http://www.eu2004.ie/>, consulted on July 20th, 2005.

34In fact, the innovating technological segments where both Northern Ireland and the Republic operate and could cooperate, such as electrical equipment for instance, have also constituted, for both territories, major sectors of output and export growth since the mid 1990s. Furthermore, the Republic and Northern Ireland also compete on similar export (or external sales) destinations: Britain represented 45.6 % of Northern Ireland’s external sales in 2003-200438, and 22.1 % of Irish exports in 200239. Consequently, the Irish and the British governments have to choose between gambling on the potential benefits of cross-border cooperation, in a still uncertain political context, and the current competitive advantage illustrated by the rising demand for their respective outputs. For the time being, the second option seems to be prevailing.

35Northern Ireland, as part of a more general UK framework,  and the Republic of Ireland both operate in a common context of global competition, and develop manufacturing sectors where technology plays a prominent part. Innovation, therefore, is key to keeping a competitive edge. But both territories suffer from rather low R&D investment rates, arguably in part due to their branch-plant economic structure, as well as to the large share of small enterprises and the still important proportion of traditional and less innovative industries. Public structures aimed to boost business R&D have therefore been set up on both sides of the border, and successive reforms, carried out on more pragmatic than theoretical grounds, have ended up with rather converging structures which take into account the international industrial fabric prevailing in both territories, but also aim to favour a more grass-roots than top-down approach in order to better adjust research and market needs. Despite this growing convergence, though, cross-border cooperation is still weak, unless it is boosted by European funding, and the respective systems remain firmly anchored in their national frameworks and competitive schemes. However, even regardless of the political debate, the combination of the new threats presented by the EU enlargement, the apparently more pragmatic approach to the relationship between research and market, and the ongoing debate on the opportunity of proximity clusters, may well encourage more all-island cooperation in innovation processes in the near future.

Haut de page

Bibliographie

ADVISORY SCIENCE COUNCIL, Terms of reference, <http://www.forfas.ie.asc/index.html>, consulted on April 10th, 2005.

BEST Michael H, The Capabilities and Innovation Perspective: the Way Ahead in Northern Ireland, Belfast: NIEC, 2000.

COOKE Philip, ROPER Stephen and WYLIE Peter, Developing a Regional Innovation Strategy for Northern Ireland, Research monograph 9, Belfast: NIEC, March 2002.

DETE, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Development, The Northern Ireland Economic Bulletin, Belfast, 2005.

ENTERPRISE IRELAND, Research, Technology and Innovation (RTI) Competitive Grants Initiative, <http://www.enterprise-ireland.com/ResearchInnovate/>, consulted on March 15th, 2005.

ENTERPRISE IRELAND, Research Technology and Innovation Competitive Grants Scheme, <http://www.enterprise-ireland.com/ResearchInnovate>, consulted on March 15th, 2005.

ENTERPRISE IRELAND, Technology Innovation Strategy 2003-2006, <www.enterprise-ireland.com>, consulted on March 15th, 2005.

ENTERPRISE IRELAND, Transforming Irish Industry: Enterprise Ireland Strategy 2005-2007, Dublin, 2004.

ENTERPRISE STRATEGY GROUP, Ahead of the Curve: Ireland’s Place in the Global Economy, Dublin: Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, July 2004.

Ernst and Young GemS/Forbes Global 2004, <http://www.investni.com/index/locate/lc-why-northern-ireland/business_climate/taxation.htm>, consulted on May 15th, 2005.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION, European Innovation Scoreboard 2003, Cordis Focus, November 2003.

GILLAN James, “Structure and Growth”, NI Economic Bulletin 2005, 34.    

GREENAN Nathalie et L’HORTY Yannick, La Nouvelle Economie Irlandaise, Noisy le Grand : Centre d’Etudes de l’Emploi, septembre 2004.

INVEST NORTHERN IRELAND, Think, Create, Innovate: the Regional Innovation Strategy for Northern Ireland, Belfast, June 2003.

Mission statement for Business Development Mission to Ireland, November 17-21, 2003, <http://www.technology.gov/International/Europe/ireland/0307/p_Mission.htm>, consulted on July 20th, 2005.

NIEC-Northern Ireland Economic Council, Council Statement on The Capabilities and Innovation Perspective: the Way Ahead in Northern Ireland, Belfast, December 2000.

NIEC-Northern Ireland Economic Council, Developing a Regional Innovation Strategy for Northern Ireland: A Statement by the Economic Council on research conducted by Philip Cooke, Stephen Roper and Peter Wylie, Occasional paper 14, September 2001.

NIEC-Northern Ireland Economic Council, Implementation of the Capabilities and Innovation Perspective : the Way Ahead in Northern Ireland – Informed Commentaries, Occasional Paper 15, Belfast, March 2003.

Northern Ireland Economic Review 2005, <http://www.nics.gov.uk/economic.htm>, consulted on June 20th, 2005.

NISRA-Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, Northern Ireland Research and Development Statistics 2003, Belfast, Department of Employment, Trade and Investment, November 2004.

PORTER Michael and STERN Scott, The New Challenge to America’s Prosperity: Findings from the Innovation Index, Washington, D.C., Council on Competitiveness, 1999.

SCIENCE FOUNDATION IRELAND, Vision 2004-2008, People, Ideas, Partnerships for a Globally Competitive Irish System, Dublin, 2003.

UNCTAD, World Investment Report 2003.

Websites

Advisory Science Council, <http://www.forfas.ie/asc/index/html>, consulted on April 10th  2005.

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Role of Enterprise Agencies Unit, <http://www.entemp.ie/enterprise/support/role.htm>.

Enterprise Ireland, <http://www.enterprise-ireland.com/ResearchInnovate/>.

EU Presidency Website, <http://www.eu2004.ie/>, consulted on July 20th, 2005.

Forfàs, <http://www.forfas.ie>, consulted on November 10th 2004.

Haut de page

Notes

1  M. Porter and S.Stern, The New Challenge to America’s Prosperity: Findings from the Innovation Index, Washington, D.C., Council on Competitiveness, 1999, 13.

2  Objective 1 is a European Structural Funds measure which aims to support development in the less prosperous regions of Europe.

3  On 28 July 1995, the Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation was launched in Northern Ireland with European Union funding. Initially, the programme was to be established for two successive periods (PEACE I, 1995-1999 and PEACE II, 2000-2004), with a mid-term review.

4  UNCTAD, World Investment Report 2003.

5 Ernst and Young GemS/Forbes Global 2004, <http://www.investni.com/index/locate/lc-why-northern-ireland/business_climate/taxation.htm>, consulted on May 15th, 2005.

6 Mission Statement for Business Development Mission to Ireland, November 17-21, 2003, <http://www.technology.gov/International/Europe/Ireland/0307/p_Mission.htm>, consulted on July 20th, 2005.

7 Northern Ireland Economic Review 2005, <http://www.nics.gov.uk/economic.htm>, consulted on June 20th, 2005.

8  James Gillan, “Structure and Growth”, NI Economic Bulletin 2005, 34.    

9  European Commission, European Innovation Scoreboard 2003, Cordis Focus, November 2003.

10  Enterprise Strategy Group, Ahead of the curve: Ireland’s Place in the Global Economy, Dublin: Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, July 2004, 30.

11  Enterprise Strategy Group, Ahead of the Curve, op. cit., table 2.1, 30.

12  European Commission, European Innovation Scoreboard2003, op. cit.

13  In UK Regional statistics, inter-regional comparison is based on GVA as regional GDP figures are not available

14  Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, NI Research and Development Statistics 2003, Belfast: Department of Employment, Trade and Investment, November 2004.

15  Enterprise Strategy Group, Ahead of the Curve,op. cit., 11.

16 Ibid., 30.

17  Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, Northern Ireland Research and Development Statistics 2003, op. cit.

18  Enterprise Strategy Group, Ahead of the Curve, op. cit., 39.

19  Ibid., 12.

20  Nathalie Greenan et Yannick L’Horty, La Nouvelle économie irlandaise, Noisy le Grand : Centre d’Etudes de L’emploi,  septembre 2004.

21  Enterprise Ireland, Technology Innovation Strategy 2003-2006, 1, <www.enterprise-ireland.com>, consulted on March 15th, 2005.

22  Entreprise Ireland, Research Technology & Innovation (RTI) Competitive Grants Initiative,

<http://www.enterprise-ireland.com/ResearchInnovate/>, consulted on March 15th, 2005.

23  Michael H. Best, The Capabilities and Innovation Perspective: the Way Ahead in Northern Ireland, Belfast: Northern Ireland Economic Council, 2000.

24  Further details can be found in Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment’s Regional Innovation Strategy Action Plan 2004-2006.

25  Philip Cooke, Stephen Roper and Peter Wylie, Developing a Regional Innovation Strategy for Northern Ireland, Belfast: Northern Ireland Economic Research Council, Research Monograph 9, March 2002, 11-15.

26  Philip Cooke, Stephen Roper and Peter Wylie, Developing a Regional Innovation Strategy for Northern Ireland, op. cit., 41.

27  The Lisbon strategy is an action and development plan for the European Union which was set out by the European Council in Lisbon in March 2000. It has since been reviewed and reoriented towards more economic than social and environmental considerations.

28  RINET was established in October 2001 with the support of the British Department of Trade and Industry.

29  HoL (2003) Science and the RDAs: Setting the Regional Agenda.

30  Paul Rose, “Action for Innovation: Regional Innovation Strategy Action Plan 2004-2006”, in DETE, Northern Ireland Economic Bulletin, Belfast, 2005, 111-115.

31  An EU Community Initiative designed to support cross-border cooperation, social cohesion and economic development between the regions of the European Union.

32  European Programme for Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties.

33 Advisory Science Council, Terms of Reference, <http://www.forfas.ie.asc/index.html>, consulted on April 10th, 2005.

34  Enterprise Ireland, Technology Innovation Strategy, op. cit.

35  Enterprise Ireland, Research Technology and Innovation Competitive Grants Scheme, <http://www.enterprise-ireland.com/ResearchInnovate>, consulted on March 15th, 2005.  

36  Science Foundation Ireland, Vision 2004-2008, People, Ideas, Partnerships for a Globally Competitive Irish System, Dublin, 2003.

37  Ian Pearson, MP, Minister with responsibility for Enterprise, Trade and Investment. June 2003, in Invest Northern Ireland, Think, Create, Innovate: the Regional Innovation Strategy for Northern Ireland, Belfast, June 2003.  

38  Northern Ireland Statistics Research Agency, Northern Ireland Manufacturing Sales and Exports Survey 2002/03-2003/04.

39  EU Presidency website,  <http://www.eu2004.ie/>, consulted on July 20th, 2005.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Valérie Peyronel, « Public Innovation Policies in Ireland », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal, Vol. IV - n°1 | 2006, 189-205.

Référence électronique

Valérie Peyronel, « Public Innovation Policies in Ireland », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], Vol. IV - n°1 | 2006, mis en ligne le 26 octobre 2009, consulté le 25 novembre 2017. URL : http://lisa.revues.org/2243 ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.2243

Haut de page

Auteur

Valérie Peyronel

Prof. (Paris XII, France)
Valérie Peyronel is a Professor at Paris XII-Créteil University, where she is in charge of the Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Languages and of the Master’s Degree in Trilingual International Management. Her research focuses on economic and social issues in Northern Ireland and on the economy of the British Isles. She has published several articles and two books : Economie et conflit en Irlande du Nord (Paris, Ellipses, 2001) and Les Relations communautaires en Irlande du Nord : une nouvelle dynamique (Paris, Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2003).

Articles du même auteur

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Les contenus de la Revue LISA / LISA e-journal sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

Haut de page
  • Revues.org