An Irish Smart Economy: Aspiration or Reality ?

The text below is from an invited talk I gave this morning to the COMREG (the Irish Communications Regulator) annual conference in Dublin.

It was deliberately a little provocative,  to catalyse discussion in the audience.


Stanford University,  in the heart of Silicon Valley,  is acknowledged as a source of inspiration for high technology.   Amongst its spinouts its Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) claims are Hewlett-Packard,  Sun Microsystems,  Silicon Graphics,  Cisco and Google.

In Ireland,  there is some considerable discussion about the role of the Irish Universities can play in fostering the Irish Smart Economy,   including in particular the impact of the investment in research and development,  and specifically by the Irish State.   The State Technology Foresight Fund which SFI currently administers was originally launched in 2000 by Minister Harney as a 560Meuro fund,  now at some 635Meuro.   The Irish State has invested much in Irish based R&D.

Let’s take a closer look at Stanford.  Its total operational budget for running the University for fiscal 2008-09 was 3.8Bn$.  Of that,  26% came from endowment income and 28% was sponsored research.    However the royalties from technology licensing were (just) 62.5M$ – about 1.6% of its operational budget.   Their OTL,  which has 30 staff,  notes that on average it takes 10-15 years between an invention disclosure and any significant royalty income.  They have 344 inventions which are paying some royalties,  and only 36 of which generated each more than 100,000$;  3 of which generated over a 1m$ each.   Cumulatively,  since 1970,  Stanford has earned 836M$ of royalties,   and disposed of its equity holdings in spinout companies to the cumulative value of 364M$ – of which its stake in Google alone contributed 336M$.

Let’s look at MIT.  In 2008,  the MIT Technology Licensing Office (TLO) reports that MIT had a 2.3Bn$ operating budget,   of which 1.28Bn$ was sponsored research – about 55% of its income as compared to Stanford’s 28%.   Of the sponsored research,  85% came from the federal government,  including for the Lincoln Laboratory for National Security research.   However royalties in 2005 were only about 89M$,  and cash from equity disposals in spinouts were just 4M$.

Let’s look at TCD,  now number 43 in the world university rankings.  In 2008,  the total operating income was 280M€,  of which 71M€ was sponsored research – about 25% of its income.  Of the sponsored research,  according to the TCD Technology Transfer Office, 84% came from Government agencies and the EU.  The total income from royalties in 2008 was €126,000,  and cash from equity disposals was nil.  100K€ of the royalty income was for a patent filed in 1994 and licensed in 1998.  There were 2 new spinouts,  and a staff for most of the year of 7,  in line with Enterprise Ireland’s technology transfer initiative of a staff member for every 10M€ of research income. So,  compared to the tier one US universities,  TCD has perhaps some way to go.

Let’s consider some more data.  Michael Hennigan,  of Finfacts,  reports: “In the last three years, 25 spinout companies have emerged from publicly-funded research in Ireland from a total spend of €1,977m in the Higher Education sector, giving a yield of 1.26 spinouts per €100m.  In 2009, the target for the national technology transfer system is 26 spinout companies from expected research expenditure of over €700m {source: trend in HERD expenditure, 1996 -2008 (current prices millions euro)}. This equates to a yield of over 3 spinouts per €100m.   This is comparable to spinout activity in some of the world’s leading academic institutes:

  • Cambridge: 2 spinouts per €320m research income (Source: UK HESA HE BCI Survey 2007 & 2005 Unico Metrics Report) equates to a yield of 0.6 spinouts per €100m
  • Oxford: 7 spinouts per €263m research income (Source: UK HESA HE BCI Survey 2007 & 2005 Unico Metrics Report) equates to a yield of 2.7 spinouts per €100m
  • Imperial College London: €294m research income (Source: UK HESA HE BCI Survey 2007 & 2005 Unico Metrics Report ) equates to a yield of 3.7 spinouts per €100m
  • MIT: 20 spinouts per €896m research income (MIT Reports to the President 2007–2008 & MIT TLO Statistics for Fiscal Year 2008) equates to a yield of 2.2 per €100m”

SFI claims 8 spinout companies so far from its funded research, since 2002. As Michael noted above, Enterprise Ireland (EI), which is responsible for support of indigenous firms and has the overall remit for assisting the commercialisation of publicly funded research, says in the last three years, 25 spinout companies have emerged from publicly-funded research in Ireland. In the period, 2009-2013, SFI expects to have 30 spinouts while EI is forecasting 26 in 2009.

Let’s look at some further data.

The population of Silicon Valley is about 2.5M,  with an employment pool of about 1.4M.   About 320,000 were directly employed in high technology in 2008,  in approximately 5,500 firms (of which about 400 were foreign owned),  so an average of about 50 jobs per company.  A further 150,000 were employed in university and federally supported R&D,  and about 50,000 in business infrastructure,  including professional services firms,  venture capital firms,  commercial real estate and so on.   So thats 320,000 direct jobs in high tech,  and about 200,000 indirectly (including academic and federal R&D) – a ratio of about 1:0.625.   Interestingly,  only about 6% of households have broadband access exceeding 10 Mbps,  compared to e.g. Los Angeles,  San Diego or even Sacremento,  where much high penetration rates pervail.

So,  let’s consider this data.  If SFI enables university spinouts of 30 companies in the next five years,  or Enterprise Ireland nurtures 100 such companies in the same timescales,  and if these employ on average 100 people per company (twice as many as the Silicon Valley average,  but let’s be generous),  that’s 10,000 smart economy jobs from new spinouts.   If every such commercial high technology job is matched by one in business infrastructure or R&D (and Silicon Valley has a ratio of about 1:0.625) then we’ld have double the number of smart economy jobs resulting from university spin-outs,  of 20,000.

My colleague on the Taoiseach’s Innovation Taskforce Burton Lee,  of Stanford University,  reported in our inaugural plenary meeting that from 1992 until 2001,  10,530 start up companies were backed by venture capital in the USA.  Of these,  903 were academic spinouts – just 8%.   So,  maybe the good news is that perhaps we should only expect 8% of our venture backed smart companies to be academic spinouts from our higher education sector despite all our State investment in R&D in our academics,  and instead 92% from within our smart industry sector itself.   So,  if Enterprise Ireland does really nurture 100 venture backed start ups from the academic sector,  then might we expect a further 1,150 venture backed start-ups from outside of the academic sector ?  That in turn would create 1,250 companies with say 125,000 directly employed.

If Ireland is going to build a smart economy which is going to be a sustainable foundation for employment and wealth for the nation,  then either Ireland is going to have to do a significantly better job than the US universities and US federal funded research has done to create new companies and new employment in the USA;  or a different approach is needed.

Can we do better than the economic efficiency of the Silicon Valley innovation system ?   I suspect we would all agree that it would be wonderful just to match the productivity rates of the Valley.   So,  as well as getting to these standards set by the Valley,  we also need to create many more smart economy companies,  and many more smart economy jobs,  than are currently in our Agency projections.

How are we going to create an inflection point ?  Do we invest substantially more funds into academic based R&D ?   Do we have the resources to create,  as the TCD-UCD alliance proposed,  300 new smart companies ?  Is 300 going to be enough – won’t we need a 1,000 such companies or more ?   Where are all the founders and CEOs and seasoned executives going to come from ?   Are Irish innovators and entrepreneurs going to stay in Ireland to initiate their smart economy companies,  or will they emigrate and found their companies elsewhere ?   How are we going to retain the smart talent we have,  and attract and retain even more from overseas ?

The starting point might be to understand why entrepreneurs and innovators,  in general,  start new firms in Silicon Valley.   The basic philosophy of the Valley is that you build a company in order to sell it.  While a company can pay you a salary,  and maybe a cash bonus at the end of the year if things go well,  the primary objective is to make it sufficiently valuable to be bought,  and then receive payment for your shareholding.   In 2007,  there were 272 IPOs from high technology companies in the Valley.   There were a further 291 acquisitions,  with an average value of 120M$.  Wealth creation in the Valley is primarily as a result of company exits,  and not from salary and wages.

It is important to understand the culture there:  you start a company to create wealth for yourself,  your co-founders and your other shareholders.   You start a company in order to be able to sell it and get rich.   If your company fails,  well,  you learnt from the experience,  and you go ahead and start your next one.  And if your company is bought for a large sum of money,  you still might start another one;  or if not then at least become an angel investor for the next generation of innovators.

If Ireland is to become a world centre for innovation and one of the best smart economies,  then it is important to understand why Irish innovators and entrepreneurs would want to stay here in Ireland,   and why overseas innovators and entrepreneurs would want to start their companies here in Ireland:  the basic reason is to get rich,  by building a company to sell it.

This appears a different perspective than perhaps many of us,  including I think many in our government agencies,  have taken.   Our enterprise policy has primarily been focussed on job creation,  not wealth creation.   Our enterprise focus has primarily been focussed on building companies to scale,  rather than building companies to have them sold.  Our enterprise policy has primarily been focussed on long term sustainability of companies,  rather than rapid turn-over of human talent and investment.

It really is important to understand why company exits are such a catalyst in the Valley.  Companies are deliberately built to be sold:  investors,  including venture capitalists,  get a return on their money;  founders and innovators make money,  and re-invest either themselves or their money or both into the next technology wave;   the management team’s experience is re-cycled into the next series of start-ups;  and managers are motivated to try their own luck themselves next time around by directly founding a start-up.

It is important too to understand why company exits create large companies in the Valley.   Global leaders such as Hewlett-Packard,  Sun Microsystems,  Oracle,  Google,  Cisco and many others emerge because they are able to augment their core capabilities and markets with well selected acquisitions,  typically on their door step in the Valley,  which then add momentum.   If there were no vibrant pool of young start-ups building the next technology wave,  it would be far more difficult for global champions to emerge and survive.

Failure is expected.  It is critical to fail early – if a particular business proposition is not working out,  then in general it is wiser to close it down and try something else,  rather than prolong the inevitable demise with additional funding.   Failure is common,  but so are retries:  investors and management learn from mistakes and anxious to use this wisdom to become rich by trying again.

In Ireland,  I have been surprised that our agencies do not routinely track the wealth created by our high technology companies.  Arguably it is the most critical statistic.  Sure,  they track State investment;  sure,  they track employment numbers;  sure,  they track R&D spend;  sure,  they track taxes.   But they apparently do not track wealth creation,  and may even perhaps consider it politically incorrect to do so.

In a recent ad hoc study I conducted using twitter and the internet,  I accumulated statistics on the wealth creation from Irish indigenous high technology exits since 2000.   I have managed to track down 72 exits (in ICT and life-sciences),  with an average value of 30Meuro,  and an average life time of 10 years.   I myself wonder whether 10 years of enormous effort leading to a 30Meuro exit is where we should be.    Surely we should aspire to a more vibrant industry,  with a shorter time to exit,  and a higher exit valuation ?

So:  I suggest the basic challenges we have in building a smart economy in Ireland are:  we need many more smart start-ups each year;  we need to attract overseas innovators alongside our own;  we need to build companies to sell them;  we need to avoid those initiatives,  ideas and companies which would be difficult to exit;  we need to shorten the timescales to exit,  and so free up investment and experienced talent for another cycle;  and we need to position Ireland as a place where considerable wealth can be,  and has been, created.

What then should be the primary role of the Irish State in enterprise policy for the smart economy ?  There is clearly a role for a smarter Government procurement policy,  which many commentators have discussed.  But in addition,  I believe we should seek leverage.  I am drawn by the story of Taiwan’s Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation.  TSMC began life as a research initiative within the Taiwanese government’s publicly funded research institute,  the Industrial Technology Research Institute.   TSMC did not innovate new products,  nor services:  fundamentally it disrupted the global semiconductor industry by an innovation in process.   It was spunoff from ITRI by the Taiwanese State and Philips (a 27.5% shareholder),  as the world’s first pureplay semiconductor foundry,  whose business was solely to manufacture chips designed by other companies.   The necessary R&D was how to carefully articulate designs for chips,  so that third parties could specify them, and TSMC could manufacture them to specification.  As a result,  small teams of designers – elsewhere in the Taiwanese economy – emerged as new start-ups offering new own new chips (manufactured under subcontract by the partially State owned TSMC),  and radically changed the global industry.

A smart economy implies smart State investment.  The characteristics of the TSMC initiative were:  to identify an opportunity to disrupt an established global industry;  to co-invest in infrastructure,  in a State controlled joint venture;  as a result, to create a distinct new advantage for Taiwanese companies to rapidly innovate and quickly deliver new products, and thus capturing global market share.   TSMC was not a “me-too” investment by the Taiwanese government,  duplicating an infrastructure into Taiwan that was already available elsewhere:  instead it was a world first,  and enabled a new generation of Taiwanese companies to race ahead and capture a global market.  TSMC fundamentally was an innovation in business process,  not an innovation in product or service resulting from advanced R&D.

Which,  and how many,  of our State investments in R&D have the same potential ?    Can we identify shared infrastructure,  which the State could own under a JV arrangement and which, were it to be available in Ireland,  would disrupt an entire global industry by enabling a cluster of Irish companies to rapidly innovate and quickly deliver new products, thus capturing the global market ?

Ladies and Gentlemen,  if we are going to really build a smart economy in Ireland,  our current trajectory isn’t going to make it.   We need to be much smarter,  and create an inflection point in our thinking and in our execution.  Then maybe one day Ireland really will have a vibrant high technology sector and its own Googles,  Ciscos,  Hewlett-Packards and Oracles..


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About chrisjhorn

https://chrisjhorn.wordpress.com/about/
This entry was posted in economy, Enterpreneurship, innovation, Ireland, TCD, UCD. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to An Irish Smart Economy: Aspiration or Reality ?

  1. Siobhan O Dwyer says:

    Hi Chris,

    Your article puts it up to all of us, that's why I enjoyed it so much!

    I think one of the biggest issues is for Irish businesses to adopt from the very start the kind of business model that delivers a short-term high-value exit. That's a bit of a mindshift from where we are right now. Initiatives such as igap and endeavour are great because they expose startup to this type of thinking and expertise. I do think it would be great to share this beyond the businesses directly involved in those programmes. We need an inflection point in our thinking as well as our future focus.

    Just shared this article on ideagen's facebook site by the way, will be interested to watch the ripples..

    I hope people are listening seriously to what you are saying, it's great stuff!

    Siobhan

  2. Brian O'Donovan says:

    Chris,

    This is a really interesting article. It is interesting to see the Irish investment in R&D put into perspective.

    I wonder if you have any ideas about what infrastructure investment Ireland could make which would have a similar effect as the Taiwan investment in semiconductor manufacturing capability.

    I wonder if there is some form of service which could be provided via a cloud which would give a competitive advantage to the Irish digital media business? I am sure that there are expensive infrastructure items on the wish-list for bio-tech companies (but I don't know enough about this to even guess what this might be).

    Brian

  3. Mary Mulvihill says:

    Hello Chris,
    thanks for that thought provoking analysis. It set me thinking about the need for incentives to encourage an intellectual property boom, snd the differences between research and innovation, and jobs and corncrakes.

    Mary M.

  4. Mary Mulvihill says:

    PS: forgot to include the link to my post:
    http://marymulvihill.net/2009/10/16/research-or-innovation/

  5. Edward Phelan says:

    Chris, I think that a quickie innovation strategy is what’s needed right now to get the ball rolling. The ipod approach, well proven technology arranged in a new and exciting way and flogged to consumers through a state aided outpost in each market across the globe. The Japanese did it in the seventies, the Koreans in the eighties.
    Once the ball is rolling, academic research will then have something to focus on and thereby reinforce the whole process. The quick exit strategy is okay in established industrial countries like the US, but we need some scale first and we need it fast.

  6. chris horn @chrisjhorn says:

    @Siobhain O'Dwyer
    I agree a mindshift is clearly needed, and an insightful inflection point created. I'm musing a lot about various possible inflection points strategies which a government could adopt. Don't yet have a definitive position!

    @Brian O'Donovan
    I have some TSMC like suggestions but I think it is wiser at this point to get agreement on the principles by which such projects should receive any taxpayer investment – global opportunity, not "me too" ie globally unique, probably disruptive to an industry, highly leveragable by Irish based companies, potentially for high return to taxpayer, etc..

    @Mary Mulivihill
    I *love* your quote in your posting relating research, innovation, money and knowledge! Not entirely convinced though that taxpayer money should be used directly to support jobs, although clearly that happens now. Need sustainability,

    @Edward Phelan
    I'm all for urgent action leading to new jobs in the short term. I think we need an inflection point created by a number of national policy initiatives

  7. David Kirk says:

    Chris, excellent, thought provoking analysis.

    In the spirit of generating discussion – I would question a couple of points.

    First. Research at Stanford had little to do with Cisco "spinout" did it? Likewise, Google? I'd been interested in seeing your analysis broken down by those companies whose IP was envisaged or created within a university program verses those companies whose founders happened to be associated with the university.

    Second. The concept of IP from R&D allows appears to be closely tied to patents. I have, and will, argue that patents for software startups are not only a waste of time and money, but actually are counter protective. I think Goigle had $120M of funding before it filled a patent.

    Third. And possibly the most likely to incur argument, I don't see any shortage of ideas (innovation) or talent in Ireland or Northern Ireland. In fact, I'd stack Ireland against many /any. I've challenged many on the question "what is preventing the next Google coming from Ireland". Curiously, the constraint is NOT ideas or people. It's the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

    Again Chris, excellent stimulating analysis.

  8. James Kennedy says:

    Hi Chris –

    Thanks for this excellent analysis. At last someone has pointed out the elephant in the room.

    Entrepreneurs 'start' to create personal wealth. Government bodies are aimed at creating employment. There is often an overlap between those two objectives but in many cases they are in conflict. I consider an ideal business to be one where there is the greatest personal income for the lowest headcount.

    If we really want to support entrepreneurs, we should be helping them how to effectively create personal wealth on a massive scale. This is the true motivation for many, many people. It is perhaps a motivation that is frowned upon here but not abroad. A side product of that motivation will be jobs and wealth for subsequent entrepreneurs whom they chose to invest in. It seems so obvious now that you have called it out.

    James

  9. chris horn @chrisjhorn says:

    @David Kirk

    First point: I don't have any more data (yet) but (i) if only 8% of VC funded startups in the USA are founded directly by academics, that gives some indication; (ii) the level of royalty licenses and/or equity holding in companies, from Stanford and from MIT which I quote also give an indication.

    Second point: I generally agree. However in the lifesciences area it appears completely the reverse – patents are very common and required…

    Third point: I generally agree with this too. Sometimes, in my view, well intentioned government policies towards innovation and entrepreneurship ultimately act against the system..

    best wishes
    Chris

  10. chris horn @chrisjhorn says:

    @James Kennedy

    The dichotomy between wealth creation through company ownership, and general wealth creation through job creation, is there. And in both cases, taxation revenue is needed if weaker members of society are going to be supported.

    Wealth creation via company ownership is one of the key factors to attracting foreign nationals into the economy — and a key factor in retaining Irish nationals in the economy rather than have then emigrate and found their companies elsewhere.

  11. Finbarr McCarthy says:

    Hi Chris

    Thanks for posting the text of your talk. Using job creation (in Ireland) as a primary measurement of success is indeed a limitation, and in my view is very old school.

    I sometimes feel that our mindset hasn’t changed much over the last several decades. It feels like the eighties all over again when we were fighting to hold on to low value manufacturing here.

    Much of the next wave of innovation (and wealth) will fall from the ever increasing adoption of Cloud Computing services. I have no doubt that many new industries and opportunities will emerge directly as a result of this trend. Interestingly cloud computing is not a labour intensive industry and therefore not likely to see much financial support from bodies such as Enterprise Ireland.

    Ireland has some advantages in this market which we should be leveraging – our climate being one, we have a cool climate – ideal for cooling data centres, lots of wind – ideal for generating green energy to power the same data centres. We are also an English speaking country within the E.U. and have a well educated (and available) workforce.

    I also think that there is a cultural barrier in Ireland to business failure – where many people (including financiers) have difficulty separating a failed project with the person behind it. VC's in "The Valley" seem to take the approach that 1 in 10 will succeed, where Banks and "State Support Bodies" here tend to not consider failure as an option. I have seen a few (potentially) good ideas here shelved for the sake of banks looking for iron-clad personal guarantees from proposers.

    The one other point I wish to add is that if we can keep our innovation based in Ireland, does it really matter that much if we off-shore some of the low value efforts?

    Finbarr

  12. chris horn @chrisjhorn says:

    @Finbarr McCarthy

    I guess what I wanted to emphasise was that viewing a company as a means to creating jobs is usually NOT the view that the company founder(s) take, even if our DETE agencies try and incent job creation, rather than wealth creation… And I think this point needs to be reinforced to our national policy makers, particularly if we really do want to make Ireland the best smart economy.

    Cloud computing is possibly an example of a disruptive event that can change an industry — what if Ireland had been brave enough to create the term, and create the first cloud computing centres in the world, say 3 or 4 years ago..

    Mind you, Larry Ellison of Oracle, amongst others, don't view cloud computing as particularly novel – its just computers on a network — see http://tinyurl.com/yaqcfu2

    Being successful is also about failing early, and I agree we need culturally to re-think this.

    We absolutely MUST off-shore low value activities. Because everyone else already is. So, if you want to be globally competitive and take on the best worldwide and win, you have absolutely no choice but to find the best value locations for your activities….

    Thanks for the comments!
    Chris

  13. Mary Mulvihill says:

    Hi Chris,

    Wish I could claim that quote as my own (research turning money into knowledge, where innovation turns knowledge into money)!

    A quick google didn't turn up any source, although an alternative version that might appeal to you with your EI hat on: Science turns money into knowledge. Engineering turns knowledge into money.

    best,
    Mary M

  14. moloned says:

    In order to create a viable knowledge economy the government must make it attractive for experienced engineers and scientists to leave their jobs in middle-management.

    In order to achieve this the government will need to loosen the requirements on the seed-capital scheme which are so restrictive as to make the scheme useless at present for successful professionals as opposed to the recently unemployed.

    Secondly EI has to stop playing at being a VC and taking equity in companies in exchange for investment when the tax take effectively reimburses them for their "risk". The equity is better off in the hands of founders and staff. EI needs to switch to a more project-based model investing in jobs rather than double-dipping.

    The BES scheme is absurd in that the rules prevent founders from taking advantage of the scheme while Joe Bloggs can walk in off the street and get tax-relief.

    Windfalls from things like 3G spectrum auctions should be ring-fenced and reinvested in the sectors that generated them in order to sustain industries through inevitable cycles. As it stands the government has no long-term vision and has abandoned one sector after another with the result that nobody wants to study engineering or science anymore.

    It's tough to build a knowledge without engineers and scientists and without them the government is all talk and no action.

    -David

  15. chris horn @chrisjhorn says:

    @David Molone

    David, speaking as an Engineer myself, I fervently agree that the taxation system should heavily incentivise investment – both personal and otherwise – in the smart economy, rather than traditional activities.

    I strongly believe that there should be excellent personal tax advantages to "rolling over" the wealth created from a successful exit of a smart economy company, into starting ore or more others — this will then help foster real angel investment in Ireland..

    In Israel, companies can have the option of buying out seed equity owned by the Government/State, at cost plus normal (ie standard rates) accrued interest. This is an idea worth studying: Enterprise Ireland may take seed equity positions BUT the company could then buy them back if the company so wished, at cost plus accrued interest…

    Just my 2c worth — these topics are being actively raised within the Innovation Taskforce (of which I am a member) but, of course, no promises…

    best wishes
    Chris

  16. chris horn @chrisjhorn says:

    @David Molone

    PS – I believe that the reason that Enterprise Ireland favour taking equity positions, rather than grants, is that apparently equity positions allow them to get cash into a company "up-front"; for some reasons grant aid would not necessarily get the money into the company immediately..

    So equity positions may be the most effective: but then, they could be coupled with an Israeli-style "buy-back" option to get the equity back again subsequently… perhaps…

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  19. Chris

    The sad part is that your words have to be repeated and repeated over and over. Sadly they will go over most of the decision makers heads, just as the idea of teaching entrepreneurship in a formal system is an illusive goal.

    Silicon Valley is likely the product of its own success by the fact that it continues to deliver successes while acknowledging that failure happens, but is the cost of education on what not to do on the next project.

    The mind-set is as much to do with a sales person being knocked back so many times but each time realising that each “no” is one step closer to a “yes”

    Entrepreneurs (who may not even realise they are entrepreneurs) tend to be a contradiction to formality and in order to push the boundaries and stay at the ‘B’leading edge of technology they face greater risks than me too job creating enterprises.

    Entrepreneurs are in fact scientists who should be allowed to try and fail on multiple experiments. Celebrate the successes, but accept failures are a natural progression to that end goal. And the end goal is success. Wealth is created by default on each success and not the goal itself.

  20. Chris, we had a great chat at OpenCoffee Limerick yesterday about this article and brainstormed what established global industries this country might go about disrupting. We didn’t come to any conclusion.

    And then, today, I was reading an article in today’s New York Times entitled, “Virtual Classrooms Could Create a Marketplace for Knowledge”, when the old “Island of saints and scholars” label started ringing in my ears.

    I myself am involved in a startup which is building virtual world for education so call me biased but that article is particularly inspiring and ties in neatly with stated aspirations for an International Content Services Center.

    We’ve done it before, some 1,500 years ago. I think it’s time for us to do it again.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/07/us/07iht-currents.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2&partner=rss&emc=rss

  21. chrisjhorn says:

    Wish I could have joined you all in the discussion at Limerick today…

    I am convinced we should try and play to our strengths, our heritage and culture – what sets us apart can help us spot to view the world differently, and thus identify what others have not yet seen, thus potentially disrupting the market…

    I’m trying to imagine my 13 year old e-learning with her peers in a physical or virtual classroom, and wondering what content and online social structures would keep her sufficiently engaged to learn her geography, history, spanish, maths, science, etc without the discipline that a teacher’s physical presence brings to a class of 28 or 29 13 year olds…

    But on the other hand, learning is about not-knowing, and becoming aware of one’s self, ability and limitations. When people think they know, they are difficult to lead; when they know that they don’t know, then they can find the way – from Lao Tzu..

    Perhaps my post http://tinyurl.com/ycnfkgt on “educators and technologists – how can we best to change Ireland” is of interest….

    best wishes
    Chris

  22. Chris I’ve finally had time to read that post and I must say it’s another inspiring article. Now that I’ve been using Google Wave for a while though I’m inclined to think that it might hold the key, as a next-generation multimedia wiki, for the solution you speak of.

    Myself and a group of Irish educators are discussing this at the moment on a public Wave entitled “Wave in Irish Education”. We’d be delighted if you could join us.

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