Building on a wealth of knowledge – The Irish Times – Thu, Mar 11, 2010.
From the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government, Professor Patrick Cunningham.
Ireland’s growing investment in science and technology is unashamedly a part of our economic policy. In fact, two-thirds of this investment is made by business firms. The one-third that is public investment is a strategic support for that.
The economic justification of this public investment rests on two realities. The first is that most of the wealth of the country rests in its intellectual capital. A formal study by the World Bank a few years ago estimated that just 3 per cent of the wealth of Ireland lay in its natural resources, primarily its farmland. A further 14 per cent is the capital that we inherit from previous generations – such as roads, railways and buildings. The remaining 83 per cent is in the knowledge and skills of our citizens, and the collective knowledge, competence, experience and memory contained in our institutions. In other words, in our knowledge economy.
The second justification is that the broader goals of society are only achievable if we have the resources to deliver them.
Will Hutton notes that the recent budget in the UK is aimed at enhancing innovation in the UK. We should not forget that we not are the only one country in this game.
The raft of measures added yesterday is beginning to put Britain on the map (if still far short of what the South Koreans, Swedes, Canadians, Germans and even Americans have done). But it is the first serious effort to support innovation and investment since the war: institutions modelled on Germany’s Fraunhofer organisation are to be created to translate scientific ideas into commercial propositions; there is to be a £4bn UK Finance for Growth fund; income from patents will be ringfenced from taxation; there is to be a green investment bank and a strategic investment fund; Lloyds and RBS are to lend more than £105bn, with bonuses depending on achievement; and a policy will stimulate energy investment with a carbon price floor. Ideas like these have been cordially ignored since 1997, those who advocated them being cast as anti-business or anti-City. Now, at the very last, they are being embraced.