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Minister calls for innovation revolution

Ireland needs an innovation revolution that will transform attitudes and deliver a new economy, the minister of jobs, enterprise and innovation, Richard Bruton, has declared.

Such a revolution would transform the country’s industrial landscape, create jobs and deliver sustainable growth and wealth, he told the Macgill summer school in Glenties, Co Donegal, on 26 July.

His comments provided a glimpse of far-reaching policy changes under development within his department.

Bruton’s economic plan for the 21st century would “seek to chart a course for a transformation of the economy unlike anything we have seen for 50 years or more”, he said.

Work on a redirected research and enterprise policy has been underway since the government assumed office after last February’s election. Bruton and his junior minister for research, Sean Sherlock, have repeatedly emphasised the importance of research and innovation as key drivers for economic recovery, but Bruton’s ministry has a much wider brief that takes in enterprise across all sectors of the economy.

He called not just for a political or a technological revolution but for a “revolution of mindset” that would change outdated thinking and attitudes in all walks of Irish life.

The election had provided a starting point for change and for the abandonment of “failed policies of the past”, he said, citing the success of Finland in developing strong indigenous industries and Israel in commercialising research.

“Adversity and necessity drove the invention and the innovation that transformed these small economies and can do the same here,” he said.

The innovation revolution would fuel a drive towards a higher productivity economy underpinned by enterprise, he said. While “men and women in lab coats” would play a part, it was not only about researchers, business people, bankers or industrialists: it was about taking hold “of our own destiny” and realising the full potential of Ireland’s people and expertise to build a better future.

He expected to deliver his economic plan in the new year after the December budget. He acknowledged there would be stringent fiscal targets but said it would be a “missed opportunity” if the budget did not move the country away from past policies and point it towards the innovation revolution.