Innovation in services - A key to economic growth

Innovation in the services sector will be a driver of future economic growth.

That was the message highlighted by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA and Republic of Ireland Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen TD as they jointly opened the 3rd International Conference on Services and Innovation in Dublin today.

The two-day conference will focus on the opportunities presented by the worldwide growth of the services sector and on how innovation in services can build competitiveness and drive overall economic growth. Local and international speakers and delegates from backgrounds in business, policy and research will be in attendance.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, Mr McGuinness said: “The priority for both administrations on this island must be to create high value jobs for our people. The services sector is an increasingly important contributor to our economic competitiveness.

“Companies in the services sector which demonstrate a commitment to innovation will go a long way towards helping this vision become a reality. By continually seeking to identify new ways to meet and exceed customer expectations, local services firms can both improve their profitability and build on their already strong market positions.

“This conference represents an excellent opportunity for services companies to come together and learn from international experts in the field, while establishing connections with each other which could prove mutually beneficial going forward.”

The Tánaiste said: “As a developed economy, Ireland is experiencing a structural shift to an increased concentration of services, alongside our base of manufacturing activities. Almost 70% of the Irish workforce is employed in services activities and almost 40% of our exports are services based. However, as we have seen in the changing profile of manufacturing in Ireland, the future growth of services will depend on higher value, innovation driven activities. Our attractiveness for new service business will lie with our new advantages – our skills, knowledge and creativity.”

He continued: “Managing innovation in services is different from managing traditional R&D led activities. This conference will assist business in Ireland, both North and South, to understand the opportunities presented by services innovation and how to capture them.”

The conference features speakers from both business and policy backgrounds. International speakers, including Joe Macri, Managing Director of Microsoft Ireland & Northern Ireland, Dr Richard Straub of IBM and Bro McFerran of Northbrook Technology, will discuss global and future trends, management techniques and best practice approaches to cultivating and sustaining services innovation.

The first day will focus on the needs of business with practical information and examples on how to develop innovation in services. Day two will deal with policy issues for services innovation and how to develop a supportive and flexible enterprise environment for service providers.

The conference is sponsored and organised by Invest Northern Ireland, Forfás, Enterprise Ireland, InterTradeIreland, IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland.