Address by Mr. Brian Cowen TD, Minister for Finance,
at the official opening of a new facility for
Seabrook Research Ltd in Cork
14th January 2005
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here today to officially open this new Technology Centre of excellence which is geared towards the expansion of the three main companies in the Seabrook Group: Seabrook Research, Enterprise Quality Specialists and Seabrook Payroll Systems. I would especially like to thank Mr. Seán O’Sullivan, Managing Director of Seabrook for inviting me. Seabrook was established in 1989 at a difficult time for the economy and it must be recognised that it was through the determination and resilience of a very strong and focused management team, led by Seán, that Seabrook has become the very successful company that it is today.
As an avid sports fan I should also congratulate Seán on his successful and erudite commentary for RTÉ on the basketball competition in last summer’s Olympic games.
Seabrook operates in a very competitive business environment and competes successfully with some of the world’s biggest software companies such as Oracle and SAP. It is a widely respected company and well regarded as experts in the provision of manufacturing software solutions serving both multi-national and indigenous companies in
I congratulate Seabrook on the opening of this Technology Centre today; it is testament to the expertise and skill the company has built up over the last 15 years in the technology sector. Seabrook’s services further enhance
We have a number of enterprise development Agencies including the IDA, Enterprise
The Government also aims to assist companies at a stage in their development where funding is vital. In this regard, I was delighted to secure recently European Commission State Aid approval to make available up to end 2006, two important tax based schemes, the Business Expansion Scheme (BES) and the Seed Capital Scheme (SCS) which are an important source of finance for start up companies and for small and medium enterprises in
While the availability of Capital funding remains a key critical success factor in the future development of industry, this Government has recognised that in a rapidly changing market place, new ventures such as this can face pressures on a number of fronts. This Government has, therefore, carefully nurtured a stable enterprise environment down through the years.
Since the 1990s, we have continued to invest in education. We committed
I assure you that this Government will continue to maintain a business environment conducive to investment and to taking action to address both the shorter and longer-term competitiveness issues, which have been identified by both the National Competitiveness Council and the Enterprise Strategy Group. ‘Ahead of the Curve’ is where we want to be.
The approach taken in my budgetary policy is grounded in my conviction that we must protect our competitiveness and that one way to achieve this is to avoid adding inflationary pressures which give rise to wage demands and set in train a vicious circle for the economy. Our efforts to reduce inflation are bearing fruit; inflation fell to an annual average of about 2.2% in 2004, compared to 3.5% in 2003 thus reducing dramatically the inflation differential between
There are some broad risks facing our economy however and we will need to maintain sufficient flexibility to deal with them. These risks include the possibility that increases in oil prices will be sustained at current levels and that the world economy might slow significantly this year. Countering these risks requires us to focus on domestic factors over which we have some control. Any sharp appreciation of the Euro vis-à-vis the Dollar is always a challenge to the economy as a strong Euro reduces the competitiveness of the exporting sector. In this regard, it is important that businesses take necessary measures to cope with currency fluctuations, such as hedging against these risks as well as enhancing their flexibility to cope with currency movements. Keeping pay increases in line with the terms of the current national wage agreement is important in this regard.
As shown in my recent Budget, the Government is continuing the policy of prudent management of public finances and we aim to ensure that spending on public services is kept at a sustainable level into the medium term. Within this framework, we are continuing to provide targeted resources for key priorities.
Moreover, I am determined to get better value for money for the major levels of expenditure we are providing. We are seeking to maintain capital investment at a high and sustained level to accelerate the provision of much needed infrastructural development and to sustain our potential for continuing economic growth into the longer term. We are continuing to focus on developing high quality transport links, linking our environmental infrastructure, and upgrading our communications networks. All these are necessary for continuing enterprise, social and regional development.
Looking at the global picture,
As part of this Government’s strategy to develop Ireland as a knowledge and innovation based economy, the Government has allocated €2.5 billion to Research, Technological Development and Innovation across a range of sectors under Ireland’s National Development Plan 2000-2006. The funding includes:
· €698m to be invested through the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI). This funding is directed to world class research being carried out in Universities and Institutions of Technology
· €646m to be invested through Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) in the strategic fields of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Biotechnology. At end 2004, SFI already had funding commitments amounting to €396m allocated across 360 projects with commitment to support more than 1038 individuals, research teams, centres, and visiting researchers. Some €130m has been provided to SFI in 2005 to expand its support for research;
The introduction of the generous tax credit of 20% for R&D is a further indication of our commitment. This tax credit will help to enhance our competitiveness as a location for new internationally mobile, research-related investment, and will encourage existing overseas and indigenous firms to add research functions to their operations in
Clearly substantial progress has been made towards making research a core pillar of our national enterprise policy but there is more to do. Building Ireland’s Knowledge Economy - the Irish Action Plan published in 2004 for promoting investment in R&D to 2010 sets the Vision that
· in the higher education and public sectors should increase from €422m in 2001 to €1.1bn in 2010 and that
· Business investment in R&D should increase from €917m in 2001 to €2.5bn in 2010. This will entail doubling the number of companies with minimum scale R&D activity and a quadrupling of the number of enterprises performing significant R&D.
These are very challenging targets but the R&D Action Plan is a very positive signal that stakeholders are willing to come together to develop the agenda and set clear goals. The new Cabinet Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation and the structures underpinning it, as well as the newly appointed Chief Science Adviser, have a central role to play. If our business sector is to continue to thrive in the face of international competition, then we need to see both our indigenous companies and our Multinationals rising to the innovation challenge and instilling R&D into the core of their activities.
Finally, it is left for me to formally open this new facility and to wish every success to Seabrook Research in this Business & Technology Centre. I look forward to hearing of positive results emanating from here in the future.