Can Ireland be the innovation centre of Europe?
Can Ireland be the innovation centre of Europe

Does Ireland have the gusto to grab European innovation, drive it effectively and execute a global transformation?  

As the media dwells heavily on the condition of the Irish economy, something extraordinary is brewing.

Ireland has a proven track record in progressive and significant change. Once known to have a strictly agricultural focus, Ireland diversified, sped up and took their slice of the modern industry pie.

Does this ability to quickly evolve as a country make Ireland a perfect leader and part of the solution to the European Union innovation paradox?

Can Ireland take the reins of a European Union innovation revolution?

On the 27th of September 2010 leading authorities on innovation, business and academia met in Dublin and thrashed it out at the 'Making Ireland the innovation capital of Europe' forum sponsored by HP, Avaya, Rio Tinto and blackswan.

blackswan, global leaders in business and innovation transformation, hosted the forum attended by at least 50 representatives from the Irish government, major business leaders and members of the European Union. Maurice Duffy, CEO blackswan, moderated the debate and the attendees heard keynote speeches from: 

  • Ian Vance MBE, former President of Nortel Networks

  • Darrell Mann, CTO blackswan

  • Dr Liz Mellon, Executive Director of Duke Corporate Education

  • Professor Frank Gannon, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland.


Duffy shared his point of view, cultured from 30 years of observing companies thrive, grow, fall short and in some cases fail, through a frustration of witnessing huge waste as companies invest in useless or disconnected programmes.

“We are entering a new era, where the old way of doing things no longer work. Where I see the old order disappearing, I have seen the gloves coming off and now I see business becoming truly global.”

He continued,

“The rate of change is exponential. A key question for us, is Europe in decline? The emerging nations have increased the pace of the game. They have little respect for history or little respect for the old rules or the old order.”

The message was not to watch out for what the US would do next, or even the BRIC nations but to keep a watchful eye on some of the other emerging economies. If unaware, these said nations could move swiftly past on the inside track and rise above the US, Europe and the BRIC nations.

Europe has not lost yet though, he protested.

“Europe has an enigmatic leader in President Barroso. He recognises the European paradox problem and has a vision!”

Maurice Duffy is not of the belief that innovation is a cure all but simply an occurrence,

“Central to the European challenge is not innovation the noun, but innovative leaders, enabled cultures and unrestrained people.”

These are the people who Duffy deems necessary to “turn this ship around” and “effect the transformation needed.”

He considers Europe to have the vision and ideas on how to make this transformation happen, he also feels the maturity and capability is there; it just needs somebody to spearhead it.

Turning to the words of President Obama he applied some inspiration:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Back to the burning question.

“Is Ireland uniquely placed to ignite the strategy to deliver for Europe?”

Duffy felt there were 3 key questions to address:

  1. How do we build innovation leadership that drives economic growth?

  2. How do we lead the world on innovation and thereby secure the future economic powerhouse that is Europe?

  3. What is the recipe for innovation?

There was, in addition, a notable emphasis put on the need to address translating R&D spend into jobs and wealth. Government support was laid down as a must for innovation to prevail and allow for radical technological advances.

As President Barroso has stated, a union is crucial, there needs to be improvement in innovation across the board; from science and academia, through research to retail.

Duffy described an ultimate recipe for innovation as follows:

  1. R&D

  2. The talent to staff it 

  3. The innovation organisation, or the institutional elements where talent and R&D connect and transform the research into development into the market and then into profit.

  4. And, of course, a customer who will buy it!

Duffy, as a member of the Irish Diaspora, shared that he has no reservations that Ireland can be at the heart of this agenda but not without change and support.

“In the last couple of years I have felt we have lost our way a little, as a nation, and we need to re-ignite that sense of humour and also that willingness to be bold, brave and 'tigerish' in our drive for success and freedom.”

Having set the scene, Duffy handed the debate across to the keynote speakers.