Aaron O’Brien, Director at Cpl, looks at what Ireland is doing right in the race to attract FDI while also assessing what we could be doing better.
The Economist recently published a survey ranking countries by manufacturing output for July 2012. While the magazine points out that manufacturing conditions across the world are “just brutal”, and that the euro zone is at its lowest point since 2009, Chris Williamson (Chief Economist at Markit) observed that Ireland is the only country showing signs of emerging from the downturn with our increase in output being driven by exports.
Our indigenous sectors and SMEs have done an extraordinary job in driving exports over the past number of years and it’s only right that they get the recognition they deserve. It is also worth bearing in mind though that our export and output figures include the activity driven by the large number of foreign multinationals based in Ireland.
“Smart Specialisation” key to success
Earlier this summer, the EuroScience Open Forum – Innovation to Drive Economic Growth and Jobs – focused on the concept of “Smart Specialisation”, i.e. identifying the strengths we have as an economy and using those to out-perform larger, better-resourced economies in the race for jobs.
In terms of “Smart Specialisation” there are some things that Ireland is exceptional at that we can use to build on the 15-month high in output recognised by The Economist.
Two things really jump out at me:
1) While we have learned lessons the hard way in terms of the property and banking sector in Ireland, we can be incredibly proud of the entrepreneurship, competitiveness and resilience in our indigenous business and SME sectors. We continue to see new business form around product and service innovations with great success and great support from our state agencies.
2) We have consistently attracted the biggest and the very best companies and talent from across the world to Ireland to build real strength and depth around ICT, shared services, pharma, finance and services innovation. As can be seen from IDA Ireland announcements we continue to win amid fierce competition for these investments.
Be clear about our strengths
These strengths are what we need to focus our energy on so that we continue to emerge from the downturn ahead of the pack. As we enter into the second week of the Olympics, there are real parallels here. We need to be confident and clear on our competencies and specialisations. We need to hone our crafts and train harder so we are prepared and confident to compete.
There is absolutely no room for complacency for us in our goals either. We need to produce more innovation and compete harder. This means maintaining competitiveness by making sure we have the skills available to employers when and where they need them and at the cost levels they require to invest.