Ireland has achieved significant economic growth that has been characterised by rising high-tech exports and knowledge-based employment. This growth was driven primarily by the presence of foreign-owned multinational corporations in high-tech sectors and its sustainability has always remained a basis for debate. A deeper understanding of industrial change and the technological capabilities that underscore the Irish economy at present is essential. The Government has ambitious plans for moving toward the ‘smart economy’ with high levels of R&D. But does the Government have partners in the private sector in the form of fast growing companies with the organisational and technological capabilities to drive growth and create tens of thousands of jobs? While many Irish government reports describe the post Celtic Tiger growth challenge and set ambitious targets for employment growth in new sectors (such as renewable energy) and increased private sector R&D, they suffer from a common weakness: very little 'coalface' data on business organisation including evolving production and technological capabilities. Industrial policymaking, as well as academic research in Ireland is largely conducted in the dark with respect to disaggregated, internationally comparative, company-level data on indicators of production and technological capabilities.
Therefore, crucial policy questions such as whether the capabilities are in place in Irish industry to allow a transition to a new business model based on endogenous development; whether there is potential for an enhancement of these capabilities through technological convergence that occurs at the intersection of two or more of the technology-based clusters that presently exist; whether expanded funding of HEI research can be an engine of high-tech growth; and whether new sectors can have large employment impact. None of these questions can be answered with currently available data.
To address this challenge to policymakers and academic researchers the ‘Lucerna’ database is being developed at the Centre for Innovation and Structural Change (CISC) at NUI Galway. The project is funded under the EU’s Marie Curie Transfer of Knowledge programme and reflects a partnership between NUI Galway and the University of Massachusetts, USA. The Lucerna database provides detailed information on high-tech companies designed to characterise evolving technological capabilities, deep craft skills, and emerging industry dynamics. The database will assist policy makers and academics to answer key questions, for instance, on the genesis and sustainability of Irish indigenous industry and thus we propose to make it open access to interested parties that may wish to interrogate it.
A Lucerna report on Capability Transformation and Competitiveness highlighting the evolution, dynamics and future competitiveness of high-tech clusters in Ireland will be launched at the event. To demonstrate the power of the Lucerna database we have undertaken preliminary data analysis exercises in two key areas:
1. An examination of the historic emergence, growth, dynamics, and distinctive capabilities of the Medical Technology sector in Ireland.
2. An assessment of the future for Renewable Energy, examining the potential and barriers for this emerging industrial cluster in the Irish economy.
The report suggests that from a capabilities perspective, Ireland has assimilated certain technological, manufacturing and managerial capabilities primarily from the presence of multinationals and supported by HEI investment. The potential of such capabilities, their embeddedness, and the challenges ahead are identified and some solutions proposed.
To debate the above issues and mark the completion of the Lucerna database, a one-day Symposium will take place at CISC on 9th June. This Symposium will offer insight from industry, academic and public policy perspectives.
· The theory behind the capabilities perspective and its applicability in an Irish context will be presented by Professor Michael Best.
· A demonstration on how the database can be interrogated will be provided and potential applications, analytical exercises and expansions illustrated.
· An expert panel debate on the role of technological capabilities as potential engines of economic growth.
The Symposium will be of interest to people from industry, academia and public policy agencies and it will provide an opportunity to network and engage with leading edge research at the Centre for Innovation and Structural Change.