Recent statistics present a sobering picture of innovation in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has the lowest proportion of innovation-active firms of any area of the UK outside London. Moreover, a recent assessment suggested that Northern Ireland was one of only two regions lagging the UK average on all elements of absorptive and development capacity.
MATRIX - the Northern Ireland Science Industry Panel - has also highlighted important innovation challenges faced by Northern Ireland including low levels of private sector R&D, low levels of university-business collaboration, skills mismatches and a lack of innovation collaboration with external customers. This suggests that Northern Ireland faces significant innovation challenges.
However, the region also has some important 'innovation advantages'. These include the policy discretion that comes with devolution, which creates the potential for Northern Ireland to develop its own innovation policy agenda rather than follow models from other parts of the UK.
Northern Ireland's other innovation advantages relate to the significant resources available for supporting innovation and a widespread commitment from both the public and private sectors to the 'innovation agenda'.
In this report we draw on international leading practice and suggest concrete steps which could be taken in Northern Ireland to construct a regional innovation advantage. We make four key recommendations building on leading practice from elsewhere. Adopting these recommendations will help to maximise the value of private and public investments in R&D and innovation.