One of the emerging areas of innovation that will help Ireland to recover from the recent global recession is the Green Economy. The Irish economy was one of the hardest hit by the recession. With unemployment figures reaching 15% in 2012 and the austerity cuts, there are still serious doubts that the presently recumbent Celtic Tiger will be able to bite back in the next ten years or so.
Despite the undoubted challenges, an attempt to meet the need for growth head on is being taken seriously by the Irish government, looking to innovation as the main driver in developing the economy again. Key strategies are being developed to focus on the economy in areas the government see as critical in transforming the business sector over the next years of recovery.
The Green Economy
The Green Economy encompasses activities across many sectors that have a common objective of providing services and goods sustainably, which in turn reduces impact on the environment. These sectors include energy efficient products, renewable energy, efficient production methods, recovery, recycling, and re-use of waste, low carbon vehicles and water management. The Green Economy estimated to be worth around €5 trillion is expected to employ 36 million people worldwide by 2015. It makes perfect sense then that Ireland is focusing on this growth area.
How will Ireland Capture some of the Green Sector?
There are clues to be found in the recent policy statement by the Government “Delivering Our Green Potential” the subject that is employment and growth in the Green Economy. The document lays out how Ireland is best positioned to capture a small but nevertheless significant slice of this growing and important sector.
The document defines Ireland as having significant advantages and strengths to be used to exploit Green Economy business opportunities. Ireland has plenty of renewable energy resources opening up the prospect of Ireland exporting clean energy resources to the UK. There is also a strong base of research, which is highly relevant to be tapped for new opportunities in the sector.
The natural resources that Ireland has are excellent. Clean water, land, and air support sustainable economic development within a natural environment second to none. This rich bio-diversity will help to develop green tourism and related activities. There are already a number of organisations and companies that have international credibility and proven record of accomplishment in the Green Economy.
The Government’s commitment to real action means green policies will be pushed forward. The Government already has an established renewable energy policy to develop further ocean, wind, and transport energy, research and development, bio energy and energy infrastructure. The objective is to reduce public sector energy usage by 33% by 2020.
Green Economy Financial Services
The fact that the green economy can be applied across all sectors means the Government has engaged in growing a green financial services industry that supports the financing, development, and promotion of a low-carbon economy as a key niche.
The global investment in this sector alone is estimated to have fourfold growth to over €700bn by 2020. The aim is for Ireland to develop reputation as a global green financial management hub. Green assets in Ireland have tripled in the past four years.
Commitment to supporting green innovation through facilitating and encouraging collaboration between the business sector and university sector by prioritising research in areas such as smart grids and smart cities, sustainable food production, marine renewable energy and smart cities and smart grids.
For example, the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC), is collaboration between government departments, state agencies, government departments, industry partners and higher education institutions led by University College Cork. IMERC aims to use the experience of teachers, researchers, and naval personnel in the development of an ‘ecosystem of innovation’ in the maritime sector underpinning Ireland’s leading position in the ocean energy sector.
Demand for Skills
Demand for skills is increasing and within the sector, there are jobs with specialist skill sets but also for support staff in more general areas. Expertise is required in mathematics, engineering, science, and technology. As a result of this policy, there is opportunity for jobs growth and further education colleges and universities are being encouraged to align courses and teaching with the requirements of companies in the green sector.
This policy statement should give plenty of encouragement to those seeking work and those looking for a long-term career in a growth industry. There are many ways to achieve this objective. Foundation courses at a further education level could be the platform from which to step onto a ‘green career’.
While Ireland has a long way to go to become the Celtic Tiger again, at least there is a strategy to grow the economy in a globally important sector over the coming years.