The first meeting of the Taoiseach’s Innovation Taskforce took place yesterday at Government Buildings from 10am to about 4.30pm.
As has been noted elsewhere, the taskforce is relatively large. There are representatives of various Government agencies and Departments, and the presidents of TCD and UCD. In addition there are a number of individuals who collectively have personal experience in innovation, enterpreneurship, start-ups, multinationals, academia, and venture financing. The taskforce is chaired by Dermot McCarthy, Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach.
The meeting was opened by the Taoiseach, Junior Minister Lenihan, and Dermot McCarthy, confirming the terms of reference and duration of the taskforce. The Taoiseach then withdrew, but Minister Lenihan stayed for the full meeting. It was followed by a presentation by Sean Gorman, Secretary General of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, on a summary of the progress and results to date from the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, initiated in 2006, and issues which he perceives at this point. There then followed a joint presentation by Hugh Brady and John Hegarty, from TCD and UCD respectively, on the TCD-UCD Alliance and the aspirations for their Innovation Academy. Next there was a presentation from Burton Lee, from the European Entrepreneurship and Innovation programme at Stanford University, on his perspectives and observations on innovation in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe, as compared to the US and particularly to Silicon Valley. Finally the meeting concluded with assignment of work for the next plenary meeting of the taskforce in September.
The atmosphere was informal, participatory and collegiate. The line of questioning and dialogue was always professional, if sometimes tough.
During the concluding session, four working groups were identified. Further working groups may be needed in due course, and each working group may not be needed for the full term of the taskforce. Every member is assigned to one working group, but is free to participate in others should she or he wish.
The initial four working groups have been asked to submit a summary of their analyses and initial recommendations to the September plenary. The groups are:
- Incentives, intellectual property and venture capital: identifying measures to increase innovation, commercialisation and entrepreneurship including changes to incentives, venture capital arrangements and intellectual property strategies. This group is chaired by Anna Scally, an IP expert at KPMG;
- Commercialisation, technology transfer and converging technologies, including examining institutional structures for R&D funding delivery, how to maximise commercialisation of research, increase technology transfer and promote innovation in converging technologies: chaired by Mark O’Donovan, of Raglan Capital (and I am a member of this group);
- Achieving the Innovation Island – how to position and promote Ireland as the innovation island including attracting entrepreneurs, FDI, international start-ups and private sector R&D investment: chaired by Bryan Mohally, of Johnson & Johnson;
- International Innovation Development Hub (Dublin) – supporting the development of the TCD/UCD Alliance including identifying necessary supporting policy measures: chaired by Steven Collins (ex-Havok).
Several of us collectively promoted an open and proactive engagement with the innovation community, both Irish and internationally, and the general public at large. It is likely that a web site will be put in place soon [post script: the web site is operational as at end of July here; in addition the Twitter stream #itaskforce is also now active], which will include all presentations and submissions to the taskforce (including yesterdays). Further, each working group can invite submissions from interested parties, and also has the right via its Chairperson to co-opt additional individuals who can actively contribute to the work. Finally, each member of the taskforce can discuss, at the same time respecting a collegial work ethos and private confidences, the work of the taskforce with the public and media, as appropriate, to ensure the best possible outcome of the work.
I naturally invite any comments, suggestions and submissions via this blog (or directly to me) and will forward them into the taskforce as appropriate.