I flew back from Silicon Valley last night on the Aer Lingus redeye to make a consultation meeting this morning of the Innovation Taskforce at Government Buildings in Dublin. There were some ITLG folks on the flight, heading up to their event in Belfast on wednesday. The taskforce meeting started at 9.30am, but I arrived a little late straight from the airport just after 10am.
The Chairman Dermot McCarthy and Secretariat had organised today’s meeting to “provide an opportunity for Taskforce members to engage with a range of stakeholders”. Approximately half of the 28 members of the task force attended, including many of those based in Ireland.
The meeting opened with Dr Frank Devitt of NUI Maynooth, whose presentation I unfortunately completely missed due to my late arrival, but whom I understand stressed the need for coaching, mentoring, continuing professional development, and skills development of innovators and entrepreneurs. He was followed by Prof. Patrick Cunningham, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, whose talk I reached late, and who gave an update on the State investment in R&D, including the possible effects of the recent economic downturn.
Brian Hayes of Citibank then gave an impassioned pitch for an innovation initiative in the Irish Financial Services sector. He was followed by Liam Donnelly of Teagasc, promoting the innovation agenda in the agrifoods and associated life sciences sectors. In turn, Pat Moylan, Chair of the Arts Council, gave an eloquent plea for continued State funding for the arts in the context of artistic contribution to the smart economy.
After Q&A, the Border, Midland and Western Regional Assembly, via Gerry Finn and Kieron Doyle, updated those present on the BMW Assembly agenda, urging a need to assist and nuture all firms, regardless of location, in particular sectors. Aidan Gough, of Intertrade Ireland updated us on the desirability of an all-Ireland approach. Then John Tierney, the Dublin City Manager, summarised the initiatives being taken across the four Dublin councils to co-operate on an innovation agenda for our only “international city”.
After further Q&A and (sandwich) lunch, the presentations proceeded further with Barry McSweeney of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on the nature and background to the six specific technology actions being taken by Minister Ryan, which he (Barry) believed are helping internationally advertise and promote Ireland’s innovation agenda. Colin Hunt, Chair of the Higher Education Strategy Group initiated by the Department of Education and Science then presented the current preliminary assessment by his group, which is examining the structures and operations of the entire third level sector, and which he hopes may finalise their work by December next. Jim Breslin, of the Department of Health and Children, presented the work of the Health Research Group, which is advising Government on appropriate research policy in his Department, and whose final report should be available to the public soon. Finally Adrian Devitt of Forfas summarised the work of the Green Economy High Level Action Group, who are also close to reaching conclusions and recommendations.
Overall, the day was clearly very diverse, but at least for me nevertheless interesting and relevant to the aspirations of our Innovation Taskforce. I found it very illuminating to understand the different perspectives and agendas of those who presented: frankly I personally did not always agree, particularly on what should be prioritised :-)
Concurrently to the “stakeholders” who presented today, the Taskforce members are cognisant of the numerous (now approximately 130) submitters to the Taskforce, many of whom – in my opinion – have offered very valuable ideas. Indeed, it was striking to me today just how few of those who presented today had actually made formal written presentations to us. I understand from the Secretariat that most (ie with the respective authors prior permission) of the submissions made to us will be publicly posted at the Taskforce’s website soon.
The next plenary meeting of the Taskforce is later this month…