In a broadly positive review of the economy, Forfás, in its 2011 annual report, stresses the need for greater focus on innovation; developing the availability of skills; improving the economy’s cost base; increasing productivity; and broadening market access to develop trade.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said: “Ireland’s improved competitiveness performance is encouraging — however we have more to do if we are to realise the Taoiseach’s ambition of becoming the best small country in the world in which to do business by 2016.
“Forfás has done great work through the year, particularly in highlighting the key competitiveness issues that need to be addressed if Ireland is to continue to move up global competitiveness rankings.”
The areas Forfás has identified as having future growth potential include information and& communications technology, life sciences, financial services, agri-food, engineering, and new sectors such as digital games, green technologies, private health, and international education.
The agency recommends improving industry-academic collaboration and improving returns from both public and private investment in research.
Policy recommendations include better aligning education and training programmes to meet future economic needs.
International trade performed well in 2011 but further efforts have to be made to penetrate new markets and high-growth sectors. There has to be greater reforms in the areas of energy, waste, and business services in order to bring down the cost base and improve competitiveness, the report found.
Forfás chairman Eoin O’Driscoll said: “Ireland is addressing its own substantial challenges in the context of a severe and uncertain external environment. We need to remain focused on opportunities for growth and areas where Ireland can compete successfully and the enterprise development agencies have a significant role to play in developing these opportunities.”