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Foreign direct investment is significant for Ireland and 2019 marked 70 years since the creation of IDA Ireland.
The country has built a reputation for offering global companies access to a stable political and economic environment as well as a highly skilled local labour force to continue to develop their business.
By the end of 2018, employment in foreign- owned companies was at almost 230,000.
Ireland is also coming to be known for the top-class public research available to companies and superior levels of support it offers to global companies wanting to tap into that research base and incorporate local expertise into their R&D activity.
This is borne out by the number of global companies engaging with and benefitting from Irish public research in our universities and institutes of technology.
We know that companies engaged in R&D and innovation perform better and are more competitive.
Firms of all sizes are partnering with Irish research teams in the third level and specialist institutes to address specific business needs.
Latest figures from Knowledge Transfer Ireland indicate there were more than 1,700 agreements signed in 2018 for research and consultancy engagements between companies and public research institutions in the country.
Knowledge Transfer Ireland is the national office that helps business and research-performing organisations to work together to maximise the commercialisation of State-funded technology, ideas and expertise.
There are many supports available to multinationals engaging in R&D in Ireland.
For example, the Government’s Disruptive Technology Fund of €500m is to be awarded to collaborative research projects that bring together multinational firms partnering with Irish SMEs and universities.
The latest round of successful Disruptive Technology Fund projects were awarded funding in December 2019 and included 59 organisations of which 11 are Irish-based multinationals.
These include a quantum computing project led by IBM Ireland as well as an artificial-intelligence project which is led by the Galway-based multinational Xperi Fotonation.
The Innovation Partnership Programme, managed by Enterprise Ireland, is another support available to companies.
The programme can provide up to 80% of research costs to develop products, processes or services or to generate knowhow in partnership with Irish universities, institutes of technology as well as other colleges.
Research collaborations are also thriving across the research centres and technology centres supported by Science Foundation Ireland and Enterprise Ireland with IDA Ireland.
These centres bring together a critical mass expertise in specialist areas from the higher education system.
Companies can also engage directly with these research providers, for example on collaborative projects, by licensing technology or accessing research expertise including supporting research fellows in-house through programmes offered by the Irish Research Council.
With such a wealth of expertise, financial supports and potential research partners available, it can seem difficult to navigate through the system to find the best fit for your corporate need.
This is Knowledge Transfer Ireland’s remit.
It is the only office of its kind, providing tools and resources that point companies to the right research partner; providing guidance on how the relationship will work and helping companies identify the relevant sources of funding.
The relationship between companies, universities and government has never been more important. Ireland has long recognised this and has created a favourable environment to expand.
Alison Campbell is the director of Knowledge Transfer Ireland.