And Ireland is a true example of this and a model others want to emulate, he said.
However, he warned against complacency and said that if Ireland wanted to stay one step ahead it would have to invest in the culture of research and development at every level.
Addressing the Cork Chamber of Commerce monthly business breakfast briefing in association with the Irish Examiner, Dr Harris said going from a low cost economy to Ireland's current economic success was the easy bit, but staying at the top would be hard.
To stay competitive and at the top Ireland must reinvent itself, like the US did in the 1950s, and invest in research and development, he said.
The country must do this through the universities and institutes of technology. But he stressed that third level institutions would have to cooperate with each other to prevent duplication and maximise the benefits to industry.
"By leveraging these investments through a collaborative approach to research, Ireland can compete on a global level," he said.
Dr Harris said Ireland was already attracting the big names from the world of science and technology, but he would be happy when Ireland was competing with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard and Cambridge for personnel.
Science Foundation Ireland, he said, has the potential to create in Ireland what the National Science Foundation achieved in the US.
Through SFI, Ireland joins the growing number of countries that recognise that investment is required to keep modern economies competitive.
Over the first few years of its operation SFI has created a strong portfolio of grants and awards, begun funding outstanding researchers, initiated its collaborative approach, and established the strategic basis for the years ahead.