Is Northern Ireland less innovative than the Republic?

It seems we in Northern Ireland aren’t doing so well when it comes to innovation, at least according to InterTrade Ireland. Simon Hamilton tweeted this announcement from one of his party’s ministers yesterday:

“Arlene Foster reveals only 1 of 18 nominations in InterTradeIreland awards from NI & this is a trend. Does ROI have monopoly on innovation?”

Adds: Matt has a great post here. [H/T Andy]

Perhaps not a monopoly, but the Republic has a scale and a more vibrant private sector. But I should add that in my experience of dealing with Enterprise Ireland and Invest NI is that the former is much more open and creative in its approach and sells itself with a great deal more conviction.

And they have a wider culture of having to compete unmediated in a difficult climate. That’s not to obscure the fact we have innovative risk takers. But perhaps their virtues are not sufficiently in the public domain?

  • cimota

    I’m glad that our government has settled on such a simple measure for innovation. Saves a lot of research and studies.

    Low numbers on the IntertradeIreland Awards from Northern Ireland indicates several things to me but I’d rather marry this with facts.

    Decades of societal segregation works. Response to competitions and programmes run by the UK Technology Stratgy Board, by NESTA and Channel 4 “4IP” were incredibly low as well.

  • Foster responses to Hamilton and other queries in the Assembly yesterday.

    2. Mr Hamilton asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment for her assessment of the Irish Times and InterTradeIreland innovation awards. (AQO 1226/11-15)

    Mrs Foster: InterTradeIreland (ITI) has been involved in the Irish Times InterTradeIreland all-island innovation awards for the past three years. During that time, ITI has promoted and encouraged companies in both jurisdictions to engage in and involve themselves in innovation. I understand that 18 companies have been shortlisted across six categories: organisational system process innovation; product innovation; service innovation; application of R&D; green-tech innovation; and public service innovation. However, I am disappointed that only one Northern Ireland company has been shortlisted.

  • DT123

    How many Northern Ireland people were involved in creating the “short list”?

  • Matt has an interesting response here:

    I do wonder what “innovation” has to do being represented in an awards show. Does a panel from IntertradeIreland actively search for innovation and inspiration or is this yet another nomination exercise? Someone, maybe even the MD of the business, fills in a form, tells a story and enters a dog’n’pony show?

    He also says:

    most businesses I talk to are unable to spend days filling out forms for grants because they are paying the bills and when they’re not working their butts off to pay the bills, they’re trying to build the next big thing on their own time; time, according to Invest Northern Ireland, is worthless.

    From my own experience in the startup sector, I have to concur.

  • Neil

    How many Northern Ireland people were involved in creating the “short list”?

    Plenty I’d say. First of all the office is based in Newry, so the majority of their ’40 staff’ would likely be local. I googled the first person on their page below,

    http://www.intertradeireland.com/aboutus/ourpeople/

    Liam Nellis. He’s from NI. One from one so far then.

    http://www.businessandfinance.ie/index.jsp?p=612&n=620&a=3028

    Are we less innovative? It would seem so. Our economy is sitting at a 30% public sector right now, down from 37%. Ireland’s public sector was at 20% pre crunch, probably less now. So a significantly larger number of people go out in the morning to work in businesses that generate money. That would seem to me to be as good a measure as any of our innovative abilities.

  • Does this thread highlight a Twitter limitation?

    Consider Arlene’s final reply in response to Phil Flanagan:

    Mrs Foster: The Member’s question and the tone in which it is asked show where the Member is coming from. He is saying, “Do not ever attack InterTradeIreland”, even when there is plainly something at fault in relation to that award ceremony. If the Member thinks that I will shy away from such issues, he has obviously not been around for very long.

    and on Bord Bia:

    I was astonished by Bord Bia’s nomination and shortlisting given what I have said about the protectionist practices of Bord Bia in relation to Northern Ireland food. However, I am taking the matter up with the new chair of InterTradeIreland and its chief executive.

  • cimota

    Would it be unreasonable to provide a link to the Tweet that started this?

  • Old Mortality

    It would be useful to know how many applications came from NI. It’s not Intertrade Ireland’s fault if innovative companies in NI can’t be bothered.
    I’m always sceptical about these awards. It’s only a few years ago that a now failed property developer from NI was given the all-Ireland Entrepreneur of the Year award. When people judging these awards consider property developers to be entrepreneurs rather than cuteheurs, you have to be sceptical.

  • “Would it be unreasonable to provide a link to the Tweet that started this?”

    Simon Hamilton tweet and website.

  • SK

    This has nothing to do with business. Arlene Foster comes charging in as the stereotypical angry nordie, because she knows her voters like it when she whinges about those big evil southerners. Pathetic really.

    Perhaps there were no candidates in NI more deserving of nomination than those selected? Is that completely beyond the bounds of possiblity?

  • Mick Fealty

    Added Matt.

  • cimota

    I don’t doubt that the one company was the best NI company which applied or that there were ten times as many companies applied from the South as from the North .

    But the nominations process is always one where I feel that awards ceremonies show themselves to be hype at best and nonsense at worst. If you’re going to have awards then you have to avoid self-nomination, nepotism and pay-to-play awards. Unfortunately these exist in spades.

    I don’t have any truck with awards ceremonies. Except when forced by my employer which is, thankfully, rare.

  • ayeYerMa

    Why would a UK company care about some parochial “InterTrade Ireland” awards anyway?

  • “I don’t doubt that the one company was the best NI company which applied or that there were ten times as many companies applied from the South as from the North”

    The detail of the latter is provided in the Assembly link at 10:26 am:

    out of 155 applications, only 24 were from Northern Ireland companies

    As for, er, ’50/50′ judging:

    When I asked who was judging the awards, I learned that, apart from InterTradeIreland staff, all the judges are from the Republic of Ireland. That causes me grave concern, and I am writing about it to InterTradeIreland’s new chairman.

  • Neil

    When I asked who was judging the awards, I learned that, apart from InterTradeIreland staff, all the judges are from the Republic of Ireland.

    That means, literally, nothing without further information. How many judges were there and how many were staff of Intertrade Ireland? You could shoehorn just any figures you fancied into that vague phrase above.

  • cavanman

    This blog post sums up the entire Slugger site when it comes to discussing the South. Snide remarks and an utter lack of generosity from the Unionist community when it comes to any perceived achievement down there.

    Why would anyone contribute to this site when it reads as 20-25 people trying to one up each other in negativity?

  • SK

    “Snide remarks and an utter lack of generosity from the Unionist community when it comes to any perceived achievement down there.”

    _

    That is it in a nutshell. The acrimony is an entirely one-way street and gives the impression that unionists are as nasty and entrenched as ever.

  • Queen’s is small enough and thanks to DEL wealthy enough to adopt a Collegiate sytem akin to Oxbridge. Not the full monty but a scaled down version yet still retaining say six different colleges each with their own communal facilities. This would allow students and academics across subjects and across years groups, and from different cultures and countries to meet regularly and share ideas. T

    .

  • World_Watcher

    As someone who has worked in all-island business organisations and advised start up businesses for Enterprise Ireland I can categorically say that the level of innovation is well ahead in the South than in the North.

    The level (and quality) of innovation is strongest in the larger cities of Dublin and Belfast. The scale of innovation around Dublin, particularly in new wave technology, is light years ahead of what is coming from Belfast.

  • HeinzGuderian

    That is it in a nutshell. The acrimony is an entirely one-way street and gives the impression that unionists are as nasty and entrenched as ever.

    …………………………………………………………………………….

    This made me chuckle 😉

  • Congal Claen

    With all this innovation about can anyone think of any innovative product/service produced North or South?

    And there was me thinking the road to riches was to lower corporation tax to allow other innovative countries to launder their money through us…

  • George

    I assume being globalised is considered innovative and Ireland (Republic of) has now moved ahead of Singapore to be the second-most globalised economy in the world behind Hong Kong, according to Ernst and Young.

    So this means it must be a world leader in the areas of trade, capital movements, technology exchange, labour and openness towards economic migrants. Is that innovative or just a capitalist lackey?

  • Congal Claen

    Hi George,

    I don’t buy the globalisation angle. You only have to watch the Antiques Roadshow to see that global trade has existed for quite a while…

  • Alias

    “Is that innovative or just a capitalist lackey?”

    Neither, since Ireland doesn’t make those decisions. 95% of its exports are foreign-controlled, and those decisions are made outside of the state. Unfortunately, those who do make those decisons don’t decide to export from Ireland to economically growing countries. China and India, for examples, hardly rank in those export figures.

  • New Yorker

    Congal Claen raises a good point – where is the real innovation? Ireland is not known internationally for innovation and invention. There may be some tinkering about, but does anyone think Ireland, North or South, is or was a place of major innovation. There was the pneumatic bicycle tyre but that is a good while back. Estonia came up with Skype and implemented a flat tax. Can anyone think of innovations on that scale for Ireland?

  • The yokel

    Northern Irish innovation? The design of the IEDs deployed by Martin et al during the armed struggle were greatly admired by the British Army and international terrorists alike.

  • john

    New Yorker I think your being harsh Ireland is responsible for modern chemistry, missile guidance, radiotherapy, rechargeable batteries, portable difibrillator there is also a lot of medical and pharmaceutical research going on at the moment with some promising developments especially in the field of oncology.
    Im suprised no-one mentioned the inflatable dart board yet!

  • Mick Fealty

    One clear advantage the south has over the north is the Regional Technology Institutes. And the coalition is now getting ready to float a new tranche of Technological Universities.

    In most other respects they both similar problems in the sense that at the top of the educational pyramid stands the twin towers of A levels and Leaving Certs which assume a common destination, ie the traditional university. In the case of the latter, parents are paying through the nose to grind schools to make sure their kids get to jump through the hoops and get into college.

    That may be good for longer term standards, but it doesn’t cater for the creative needs of a market place that’s becoming more and more unpredictable. Stephen Kinsella in his ‘history of the future’ Ireland in 2050 noted in a very critical section on education:

    Intelligence is diverse. Intelligence is visual , auditory, kinetic, dynamic and interactive. If the cahllenges we will face in the future are dependent on harnessing new ideas, then the people with the best new ideas will command a wage premium in the international market place for jobs. It is an economic and social imperative that we should wish to foster intelligence, to let someone’s abilities to grow and develop.

    If there has been a shortfall in NI, I don’t for a moment think it is the fault of start ups. But culturally we are behind the curve in understanding what we have to do join an era in which innovation is going to make or break us as a micro economy.

  • Mick Fealty

    Was it something I said?

  • aquifer

    Maybe you dropped a big lump of hopeless truth on us.

    Lets make it a big pile.

    Much easier to make it when markets are large like the US, when the private sector is making the running, when judgement is suspended, when the spirit is stimulated by culture and diversity, when successful industries spin off skills and confidence, when human capital is accumulated not exported, where evidence trumps ignorance, where the salariat are a service not an overclass,.