13/11/2001

Empey welcomes Regional Innovation Strategy development

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment Sir Reg Empey has welcomed a statement from the NI Economic Council (NIEC) on ‘Developing a Regional Innovation Strategy for Northern Ireland.’

The Minister said: "Innovation is central to a competitive and knowledge-driven economy and that is why the Programme for Government includes a commitment to draw up an Innovation Strategy for Northern Ireland. This commitment is currently being taken forward by an Interdepartmental Working Group and the NIEC Statement makes a timely and valuable contribution to that process.

"The NIEC Statement contains a comprehensive list of recommendations and the Working Group which is preparing the Strategy will be studying them very carefully indeed. I am most grateful to the Council for producing a very informative study on a key economic development priority."

With the importance of innovation identified by all levels of government ranging from the European Union to the Northern Ireland Executive, the NIEC argues that an innovation strategy is essential if the Northern Ireland economy is to maximise the value of science and technology as well as “diffuse skills and capabilities throughout society”.

Working closely with the Industrial Research and Technology Unit (IRTU), the NIEC selected three leading academics to carry out a study to assess the potential for developing a Regional Innovation Strategy (RIS) for Northern Ireland. This study would also be making policy recommendations regarding the development and effectiveness of a RIS.

Commenting on the statement, the Chairman of the Economic Council Janet Trewsdale said, “For a step change in economic performance in Northern Ireland a Regional Innovation Strategy must be implemented. This statement provides the key principles and guidelines to shape such a strategy.

“It must be stressed however that a Regional Innovation Strategy is only one element within a broader strategy for the development of the Northern Ireland economy and therefore cannot be pursued in isolation.

The NIEC chairman added that the Economic Council had advocated five key strategic objectives as the basis for an economic development strategy: productivity; innovation; capabilities; entrepreneurship; and outward focus.

In the statement, the NIEC highlighted the principal finding of the study stressing the importance of collaboration at many levels: co-operation between firms; between firms and university research institutions; and the co-ordination of policy by government agencies.

In all the statement outlined 22 specific recommendations drawn from the research which aimed to provide a framework for the RIS, which also illustrated specific challenges for both policy-makers and the private sector. (SP)

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