Written answers

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation

Departmental Reports

9:00 pm

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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Question 92: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation if he is satisfied with the progress in implementing the recommendations of the innovation task force. [2575/11]

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Question 110: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the position regarding the implementation of the report of the task force on innovation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45952/10]

Photo of Conor LenihanConor Lenihan (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Dublin South West, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 110 together.

I have to date chaired four meetings of the High Level Implementation Committee which was established to oversee implementation of the recommendations in the Report of the Innovation Task Force (ITF). The Report provides a road map for positioning Ireland as an international innovation development hub and I am very pleased with the progress we are making in realising this objective. At the inaugural meeting of the Implementation Committee on 1 June, we identified the issues where we could move immediately to implementation; the need, in the first instance, to constitute and deploy expert working groups as specified by the Task Force; and the requirement for close engagement with agencies and other Government Departments to progress implementation.

Following this first meeting, Minister O'Keeffe appointed an Intellectual Property Implementation Group charged with developing and realizing the intellectual property related (IP) recommendations of the ITF Report and of a detailed IP review conducted by Forfás for my Department. The development of an IP Strategy will help Ireland maximise the return on public investment and support the commercialisation of Irish research and development. I expect to receive the Group's findings later this year.

At our second meeting on 20 July, Minister O'Keeffe briefed Committee members on the significant progress that had been made in implementing two key recommendations in the ITF report, namely:

· The €500 million Innovation Fund-Ireland, which had been announced by the Taoiseach on 12 July, which is targeting the development of a vibrant venture capital community in Ireland through attracting top international venture capitalists; and.

· Together with the Taoiseach, Minister O'Keeffe had launched Cycle 5 of PRTLI on 16 July, a €296m investment supporting third level research and leveraging €63m private investment.

Secretaries General of Government Departments and Chief Executives of agencies provided detailed updates on the implementation of recommendations for which their organisations has lead responsibility. In the light of these detailed reports and the ensuing discussion, the Committee agreed priority areas on which future meetings would focus. The private sector members also agreed to engage with an area where their expertise would be most valuable and to work closely with the secretariat and the Departments/agencies concerned to advance those goals.

Accordingly, the Committee's third and fourth meetings, which I chaired on 19 October and 15 December respectively, focused in depth on a number of the agreed priority recommendations. The outcome is that we have implemented, or are in the process of progressing to implementation stage, a number of the priority recommendations as follows:

· Recommendations relating to the availability of venture funds and venture capital are being implemented and the development agencies have developed schemes to provide enhanced start up and seed funding to innovative companies in accordance with the ITF's recommendations;

· The ITF recommendation to introduce incentives to encourage greater take up of higher level maths has been implemented by the introduction of a scheme of bonus points for students who sit higher level maths. The scheme is to be introduced for a four year pilot period commencing Leaving Certificate 2012 and will be reviewed in 2014. This initiative complements the recommendation to roll out Project Maths - an initiative designed to place greater emphasis on the understanding of mathematical concepts and the application of mathematical knowledge and skill - which is also being implemented;

· Proposals are being developed on the potential for an International Innovation Services Centre in Dublin for global IP management, licensing and IP trading services, and for ancillary activities. I anticipate that the Committee will be able to review this proposal in the near future;

· The Committee had a very informative exchange of views on how it could identify potential flagship projects which can align procurement with strengths in specific products, services and R&D capacity. We agreed that a proposal for a pilot flagship project, drawing on the work that is currently underway as part of the wider "silver technology" initiative (the application of new technologies to healthcare for the elderly), would be developed and submitted for further consideration;

· The Committee noted two initiatives taken to date to progress the concept of convergence (this entails the development of new products and services across the boundaries of formerly discrete technologies and sectors). These include (i) the development of a device prototype and commercialisation centre aimed at providing services on a commercial basis to assess, develop and commercialise medical devices; and (ii) the development of a national healthcare innovation hub. In noting the significant potential for future growth in the area of convergence, the Committee endorsed the further progression of the two initiatives in consultation with the HSE and agreed that the Committee should revisit the governance of convergent technology policy and initiatives later this year;

· Members of the Committee had a very informative exchange of views with the Department of Finance on the tax recommendations from among those in the ITF Report which they i.e. the members of the Committee, regard as priorities in the context of Budget 2011; and,

· At our December meeting, Minister O'Keeffe outlined how the increased funding secured for the R&D activities of Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland in the context of Budget 2011 would enable us to retain the science base we have built over the past decade, attract further R&D FDI, strengthen collaborations between researchers and enterprise, provide additional company R&D grants, and ensure the best use is made of research with commercial and market potential.

The Committee's next meeting is scheduled for 24 February.

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