Despite the current negative economic climate, there is nevertheless an opportunity for the whole island to create a positive identity for itself on the global investment stage.
A recent InterTradeIreland Mapping Study which examined Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, identified 222 separate Research and Technology Development Centres across the island. What we do not yet offer though is an integrated framework, on an all-Island basis, that connects and integrates the already excellent research and development taking place here, with the complementary knowledge generated worldwide.
A concept currently being developed (known as the International Centre for Innovative Developments) envisages establishing a key piece of knowledge infrastructure for the island of Ireland which would match local and global knowledge resources with the needs of our indigenous and overseas firms. It would thus act as a window on technological and commercial know-how for firms needing it to prosper in an increasingly competitive and complex environment.
The concept has received strong support across the island from industry leaders such as Sir George Quigley and Eoin O’Driscoll, both of whom have already made similar proposals in influential policy reports, in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland respectively.
There is an opportunity through such an integrated innovation approach to put down a marker to the global investor community about the type of investment location the island of Ireland and its constituent economies aspire to be. An island at peace with itself, “looking outwards” through the eyes of the innovation community at home, and seeking to develop novel ideas, create new businesses and forge strategic alliances across the globe. This offers a vision of a virtuous circle of economic prosperity that inspires and generates ideas and wealth for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and would put flesh on the slogan Cooperating locally to compete globally.