News & Events

Speech by Minister Breen at the Irish Times Innovation Awards

20th November 2018

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

Firstly, let me say what a pleasure it is for me to be part of this wonderful event this evening. I would like to thank Liam Kavanagh and his team at the Irish Times for inviting me to be part of the celebration of the very best of Irish innovation.

And good innovation is certainly something worth celebrating. In my role as Minister, I am acutely aware of the importance of innovation and its contribution to economic growth and the development of societies.

Innovation leads to higher productivity, where greater outputs can be achieved from the same inputs. And of course higher productivity growth brings vast benefits for consumers and businesses.

A country with an open economy like ours is particularly vulnerable to the ebb and flow of international trade. As everyone knows, much has been said about Brexit and the potential it has to negatively disrupt Irish enterprise and this is certainly a concern. This, and other global developments, remind us of the need to take nothing for granted.

We must ensure that we remain vigilant to threats to the economic wealth we have enjoyed in recent years. Our economy needs to continue to embrace innovation if it is to remain resilient and continue to perform well in global markets. Ireland’s ability to be innovative and to embrace technological change will be key to allowing us prepare for the challenges ahead.

As Minister with responsibility in Ireland for the EU Digital Single Market strategy, I am aware of the pace of technological change and for the need for businesses, of all size, to ready themselves for the challenges ahead.

As I regularly say on occasions such as this, those businesses that don’t innovate, will evaporate.

To maintain a competitive advantage, Irish companies must develop cutting edge products and services that are better performing, more efficiently delivered and more effective for their customers.

Government Supports for Innovation

The Government is committed to supporting innovation, and has put in place a number of policies aimed at equipping Ireland to become a Global Innovation Leader.

And these policies are working.

In June this year Ireland rose to 9th place in the 2018 European Innovation Scorecard (EIS). Ireland has also retained its position in the Global Innovation Index, and is ranked 10th out of 126 countries.

A key objective of my Department is to support our researchers and innovators and deliver the targeted funding and supports necessary to keep Irish businesses at the frontline of technological development – turning good ideas into innovative products, services, and ultimately, jobs.

These days, our businesses will not only be impacted by global challenges, including Brexit, but also by the rapid advances in disruptive technologies and digitisation.

Disruptive technology has the potential to significantly alter markets and their functioning and to alter the way that businesses operate. Each company’s capacity to innovate and respond to changes in technology and digitisation will ultimately determine their future.

And the Government’s recognition of the future role of innovation is supported by a number of schemes that are delivered through my Department and its agencies.

Let me take a moment to mention a very significant opportunity delivered through my Department in the form of the €500 million Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund - one of four funds in the National Development Plan 2018 – 2027.

This is a very significant initiative in developing Ireland’s innovation ecosystem and responsiveness. My Department is managing this fund in conjunction with its agencies – IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland. We have received over 300 Expressions of Interest in the first Call, with successful participants to be announced next month.

Separately, Enterprise Ireland also supports innovation though a range of programmes, including in-company R&D funding and by providing Innovation Vouchers worth €5,000 to small businesses, that allow them to see the benefits of innovation.

Enterprise Ireland also administers a scheme directed specifically High Potential Start Ups. These supports include the Innovative HPSU Fund, the New Frontiers Programme and the Competitive Start Fund.

Another Enterprise Ireland programme that has a role to play in supporting innovation is the Innovation Partnerships Programme. This programme helps industry engage in collaborative research projects with Irish Universities and Institutes of Technology, to develop new products and services.

The Technology Centres and Technology Gateway Programmes also have a key role to play in supporting innovation in Ireland.

Also through Enterprise Ireland, the Government has invested over €50 million in a national network of business innovation centres and specialist bio-incubation centres, which house around 350 companies, employing in the region of 1800 people. Campus Incubators now exist on every university and institute of technology campus in the country.

And there is also assistance available from the European Union. Horizon 2020 is the instrument that supports collaborative R&D in Europe. Irish companies that compete successfully for funding from Horizon 2020 will boost their innovation capability and competitiveness which in turn will deliver strong national economic impacts, including job creation.

Ireland has secured over €630 million in research funding through the current programme and remains on course to achieve its ambitious target of €1.25 billion in research funding by the conclusion of the programme.

Irish SMEs have been particularly successful in securing this highly competitive innovation funding – they have secured more than €100 million in funding under the Horizon 2020 Programme to date.

We may be in challenging and uncertain times – but there are real opportunities for Irish companies who are willing to embrace innovation and technology.

But getting back to the purpose of the evening, I would like to acknowledge the very special status of these awards and the role they play in promoting innovation. This award ceremony is now in its ninth year, and the quality of applications that have been submitted remains extremely high. I would like to congratulate the Irish Times team, particularly Tania and Janet, for their superb organisation of tonight’s event.

And as for the participants, all of them should be extremely proud of their achievements and the contribution they collectively make to Ireland’s economic well-being. I wish them every success for the future.

Thank you.