Recently, DCU welcomed a panel of high ranking individuals including EU Commissioner (Research, Innovation and Science), Maire Geoghegan Quinn for the official launch of An tSlí Ghlas-The Green Way. It was an unveiling of Ireland’s first Green Economic Zone.

Founding groups hail from academia, local authorities and enterprise; Dublin Airport Authority, Fingal County Council, Dublin City Council, Ballymun Regeneration, North Dublin Chamber, DIT and DCU.

Other featured panellists included Tony Boyle, Chairman of the Steering Committee for An tSlí Ghlas, DCU President, Professor Brian MacCraith, Lord Mayor of Dublin and representatives from DIT as well as the Dublin Airport Authority. 

The issue of green economy is very much a Global issue which will become an irrefutable cornerstone of our society. The go-green message is being conveyed worldwide, as is the race towards the economic benefits of green-tech. Indeed, such an innovation may greatly enhance the meeting of such Global agreements as the Kyoto agreement.

The An tSli Glas initiative, it was told, emerged following a 2009 report by the Government High-Level Action Group on Green Enterprise. A top priority was/is to encourage and facilitate the link up of the ‘knowledge triangle’; education, innovation and collaborative research. This report highlighted that “Ireland need to develop green zones so as to establish an environment which can support the development of green enterprise and be used to market Ireland overseas.” It is thus intended that the formation of an tsli glas will assist in positioning us; Ireland, as a leader, particularly in the massive growth sector of Cleantech. The intention then is to not only excel in Cleantech research/innovation and enterprise but crucially, to then bridge a gap between business and investment whilst simultaneously nurturing trade partnerships with other international innovation hubs.

Brian MacCraith  discussed how  the aim is ultimately to position Ireland at the center of the clean technology innovation and enterprise. According to McKeown, 2010, the additiona of the green eceonomic zone will likely result indirectly in 10,000 new jobs over the next five years.

Hindsight is 20/20. Research. Plan. Execute. Evaluate. This makes your forward vision 20/20.

The European Commission have developed a plan towards revamping of research funding schemes in a bid to ensure the long term, solid future for European research and innovation.

What they have come up with then is; a “Common Strategic Framework” which is set out in a Green Paper. Here there are two important frameworks covered – the current Framework Programme for Research and the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme – as well as the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, which is designed to link up the three sides of the “knowledge triangle”, namely research, education and innovation. I have heard many calls for collaboration but never had I heard that term “knowledge triangle”. I felt it represented this An tSli Ghlas project excellently.  

I felt pleased that, even considering the considerable the current financial woes, Government and European support is coming in the way of investment and funding.  The Commissioner had made reference to the Europe 2020 plan ( “We need to reach the target of 3% of GDP spending on R&D that has been reconfirmed by Europe 2020”) so I conducted some research. I was delighted to find that this outlines a path towards not only funding but, providing easier access to funding. This, I believe, will be critically important for intensifying innovation in Ireland and across Europe. When discussing such “targeted initiatives” I felt this was an example of Hobson’s choice, i.e. there is no other option. For, I believe, the opposite of innovation, is stagnation.

During a recession, companies often seek to reduce monies spent, particularly on research and development. This has the derived result of stifling opportunity for innovation. This may occur where organizations have less cash flow, of which would have usually been used for re-investment in innovation (I-Ways, 2009). It is the case that across Industry, and indeed Society, that certain curbing of spending is required, especially in light of the Global economic recession. The message here then is that, where possibly, they should not completely stop investing in innovation, because innovation may represent a new invention, which could prove beneficial for the organisation.

It was at another even I attended; a conference named; “Dublin – A City That Works”, where I heard the Commissioner address this 3% of GDP investment into research and innovation and where she addressed the naysayers.

 “With budgets under pressure, Government might view research and development as an easy target for cut backs. Now is the wrong time to remove that discipline,” she said. “Without sufficient investment in research and development from both the public and private sector the potential to develop growth and jobs can’t be realised.”

 Maire Geoghegan Quinn is someone I have great admiration for. She is an excellent speaker, and on that day she really inspired me. She not only set aside the fear which lurks around the Irish economy but she highlighted a clear path back to greener times, greener represented green tech and also an associated economic result.

 She proclaimed; “I am confident that Ireland will recover its fighting spirit and seek out and capitalise on opportunities to build a new economy. An economy built on innovation. The Innovation Union will help you to do this.” Although she stood cool, calm and collected, her speech had the effect on my as would a powerful rallying speech. She discussed regaining confidence. I felt that where we are given a confident leader with a clear strategic plan, confidence can absolutely be restored.

 Listening to her speak I remembered another political speech I had heard. It was that of then Minsiter Batt O’Keefe at the Out on Your Own Event. Here O’Keefe addressed the crowd as though he was regurgitating a self help motivation book. Full of clichés, he lacked in any talk regarding a clear and coherent plan. With this omission, he had lost the confidence of the people, and in my opinion lost a great deal of credibility.

 So yes, Commissioner Quinn did play up to our egos a little when she said “Ireland, its people, its companies and its universities, must not lose the dynamism and optimism they have shown over recent decades. Ireland has faced and overcome adversity in the past, and great challenges have brought out the best in Irish people.” The difference is, I believe her, I believe what she is saying is true, the opportunity is immense. With the further explanation of targeted initiatives she allayed any fears, and she, as a leader was saying, I’m in control. In trying and uncertain times, that’s often what is needed. However, were she succeeded most, in my opinion was were she highlighted the role of each attendee of the event. I was inspired to play a role in Ireland “i-conomy” and the “Innovation Union”.

 Upon entering the Helix, I was already aware of some of the wider details re: An tSli Ghlas after reading various publications and online blogs/forums. The reasons I attended are many; having recently completed a degree in Marketing, Innovation and Technology, I have a genuine interest in policy making which can stimulate innovation. I thus felt my attendance was a responsibility as it is people like me; students, who may be future stakeholders of such an investment. 

I am also proud to say that I am a conscientious individual with a great awareness of and appreciation for Environmental issues. Furthermore, I have had the pleasure of meeting with Commissioner Quinn on four separate occasions (on various science communication projects.) During such occasions, I have always found her as being an outstandingly diligent, knowledgeable yet wonderfully coherent speaker. As I believe in her commitment towards growth generation whilst facing challenges such as; food security, energy efficiency and climate change, I was intrigued to hear how An tSli Ghlas would contribute to these issues. It was these factors which prompted me to attend on the day.

In a recent interview (europa) the Commissioner touched on a topic that is very close to my personal development; the area of Science Communication. She discussed encouraging “extensive and innovative debate, making use of the web and social media.” This area of social engagement in the Sciences is of particular interest to me and I will thus discuss this aspect later in the evaluation section.

As a marketing graduate, I was beginning to wear tired of the term “seen to be green”. This term is a societal trend whereby individuals and corporations long to be viewed as ethical, environmentally conscious entities. It was thus a pleasure to witness clear evidence of practical application of green methodologies.

Soon after attending this talk, I joined the An tSli Ghlas LinkedIn group. It was here that I learned about the Lahti project. Lahti, established in early 2010, is an example of an existing Cleantech Cluster, situated in Finland. This is ranked within the top three world’s best Greentech clusters, according to the International Cleantech Group (USA).

It appears that An tSli Ghlas boasts all the key ingredients that has led to Lahti becoming such a successful cluster. A key point throughout An tSli Ghlas lifetime thus far has been collaboration; for example, collaboration between founding groups and the intention for Industry and Academic interaction and Government engagement. An opportunity exists not only in terms of studying our Finnish counterpart’s success (as a learning experience) but to collaborate in certain key research and innovation projects.

I found this presentation to be excellent. It allowed me to relate with certain areas of interest, for instance;  innovation, technology, green environmentalism and science communication.

As stated , I have a keen interest in Science Communication and thus was interested in seeing the Commissioner.  Prior to the talk, I had read an interview (Euro barometer) which quoted the Commissioner as saying  “A World Cup of science would get even more people round the TV than the football one does”. The quote was in light of the research findings of a Eurobarometer survey which stated that close to 80% of Europeans are interested in science and technological developments.

Yes, in her speech she did hint at a need for social media engagement, but really I feel that the Commissioner should be doing more to engage, especially the average joe soaps and the young minds of today.

The survey went on to discuss how Europeans desire more information on and involvement in science. Over half (57%) complain that scientists do not put enough effort into informing the public about new scientific and technological developments. With relation to scientific decision-making, 29% stated a belief that public opinion should be considered where making decisions about science and technology, and a further 14% called for public opinion to be binding in such scenarios. Only 7% believed that the public don’t need to be involved in scientific decision-making at all.

Elsewhere, two thirds of respondents criticised governments for not doing enough to get young people into science, and three quarters opined that governments should support specific measures to boost the numbers of women in science. Furthermore, many believe that if there were more women in top research positions, this would improve the way research is conducted.

So I took exception to what the Commissioner had said. It led me to believe that she is out of touch with reality. Considering almost every publication of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) scores, university rankings, placements and the uptake of science, technology, engineering and maths by young people sends governments, public agencies, educators and scientists worldwide into a confused and worried state about the hows and whys of encouraging, particularly young people, to follow science as a career for future economic growth, innovation and advancement of society. So are scientists and researchers really doing enough? A world cup of science, I believe, is a great idea, I’m a science communicator. I work to open up public access to the sciences and to help provide a sphere for scientific debate through varied media (not just research papers), for example, exhibitions,  science journalism, blogs, education and outreach programmes. So yes, great idea. But do I believe it would “get even more people round the TV than the football one does”? No I do not. And my fear is that The commissioner may be underplaying the need for science communication as this relates to a clear Global and Societal Issue, which she seems either unaware of or has chosen ignorance instead.

Greentech is very much a Global issue. I have learned that globalization has been accepted and refuted. It has been both celebrated for creating growth and democratizing nations and vilified for exploiting labour and destroying nature. In drawing my conclusion, globalization in and of itself simply means, to me, that the world is becoming smaller and cross border trade is becoming easier. I am an e-commerce student and a disciple of Marketing, Innovation and Technology. My attitude is that, much of this change, is driven by e-commerce.  By connecting even the furthest corners of society to global information networks, IT, generally, has helped in creating a global economy. A global society has thus emerged where workers compete internationally and culture and trends know no borders. The assumed likelihood of my working for/with a multinational IT company is almost inevitable.

In 1997, Business Week magazine introduced the term “New Economy.” This incarnation was a reflection on a fundamental structural change in world economies. Driving this, so called “new economy” where two main forces; Globalisation and notably; ICT. The Module “Digital Economy” asked of me to complete an assignment with this subject in mind. Similarly, the a recent Market Entry assignment allowed me to research China. I learned that Near Field Communication is likely to transform the tickets Industry there. At this point I began to research NFC. Just recently have Google launched details of their NFC initiatives, which will soon launch in Ireland. NFC, I learned could revolutionize the purchasing process. This is of direct importance to me, an e-commerce student. In this instance, my heightened Global and Societal awareness allowed me to be “ahead of the curve” in terms of emerging opportunities/technologies.

The main learning, really, came as a reminder. Research and Innovation should not be halted, even in light of the economic crises. In fact, the opposite can be said that, now more than ever, Ireland should invest in this growth area of green tech in a bid for heightened green portfolio, increase domestic and foreign trade and job creation.

Irelands success at growing a knowledge and skills based economy, in the past decade economy, had prompted “The Economist” to describe Ireland’s “economic miracle” as “one of the most remarkable transformations of recent times.” Similarly, the Commissioner concluded her speech with an optimism that greentech may represent the next Industry which will propel Ireland to the top of International Innovation Leader boards. And with greentech, it is more sustainable, environmental, less reliant on Foreign Direct Investment and will have a long term positive effect of employment. “I am confident that Ireland will emerge from this immensely difficult period and go on to become one of the success stories of the first half of this century”. She said.