Sunday, March 24, 2013

Focus cash on research infrastructure

David Dickson in Few would name Ireland as one of the world's largest computer software exporters. Yet it has been this since the late 1990s, partly as a result of investing a significant slice of the development assistance it receives from the EC (European Commission) in the infrastructure required to become a knowledge economy.

This assistance has come through the 'structural funds' provided to the poorer parts of the EU (European Union). Countries such as Greece have invested most of the money received this way in more conventional construction projects, for example roads and airports. In contrast, Ireland has used much of it to build such things as research facilities and high-speed data networks.

There is no reason why developing nations, particularly in Africa, should not replicate Ireland's experience. Appropriate investment in research and innovation infrastructure can help them jump from a pre-industrial to a post-industrial society.

But to achieve this, two things must happen. National governments must genuinely prioritise innovation support. And development agencies must accept that investment in research and innovation infrastructure is as important as funding more traditional infrastructure projects, such as energy and transport systems….

Rock climbing in Cologne, shot by Elke Wetzig (Elya), Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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