David Jacobson: I have been banging on in a number of blogs over the years on the importance of innovation policy, and in particular on the incorporation of non-R&D-based innovation. Innovations can emerge from processes other than research, for example from practice and experience.
While it is entirely appropriate to encourage research and to support expenditure on R&D, expenditure on R&D is an input and what Ireland requires is an increase in innovation, which is the output. Even increases in patents are not outputs, except where those patents are actually implemented into product, process or organisational innovation.
The new government, in developing innovation policies, must be aware of this fundamental difference between R&D on one hand and innovation on the other. It is only with such awareness that Ireland will be able to focus available resources where they will have most impact on innovation, and on the improvement of the national system of innovation. An opportunity cost of providing additional funding for R&D, for example, may be support for programmes to encourage creativity among students at all levels, including the primary level.
Another such opportunity cost might be support for non-research-based, non-patentable innovations in existing companies or new start-ups. Providing all these supports - for creativity, non-research-based innovations, and R&D - is the optimum approach. The key to policy improvement is the integration of the drivers of innovation into a joined-up approach to the evolution of the national system of innovation.
This type of thinking is evident in my new book, Knowledge Transfer and Technology Diffusion, edited with Paul Robertson, just published (2011) by Edward Elgar Publishing.
This builds on the earlier book (2008), Innovation in Low-Tech Firms and Industries, edited with Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen also for Edward Elgar.
David Jacobson is Emeritus Professor of Economics at Dublin City University Business School. He is the Chair of Commission on Industrial Policy in TASC since 2011. He has written and lectured on various aspects of industrial policy and political economy in Ireland. In the 1990s he was an independent member of the National Economic and Social Council. He has also worked in many other countries, most recently Cyprus and China.