Thoughts from a Minister – Eamon Ryan, Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources

The Minister set out a bold strategy for how Dublin can move out of the crisis it currently faces and find new ways of creating value. He said that the new approach began two years ago in the depths of the global financial crisis. The Government created a SMART plan that was based on a similar approach to Finland which protected and prioritised the importance of funding education, enterprise and Research & Development even in the depths of a crisis. Eamon Ryan is focusing on two critical sectors for Ireland and the contribution that they can make over the coming years: ICT & Communications and Energy. The Minister pointed out the fact that Ireland has a huge comparative in terms of its wind and wave resources which could form the core of a transformed economy. This has big advantages. I would point out though that harnessing these technologies is quite challenging and will eventually require a Europe Wide energy grid that is able to overcome the intermittance of renewables and allow the energy generated to be used efficiently. In the context of these remarks it was great that one of the Researcher Competition nominees was working on large-scale energy storage to get around exactly this problem!

As well as harnessing the power of the wind and oceans, Ireland’s government is also exploring other ways to actually get things moving. Ireland has built an enviable reputation for the many gracious, highly skilled and imaginative people and companies working in Software and Services. In this vein, there is the intention to roll out a network of electric-car charging stations across Ireland. The cars themselves will be imported but Ireland stands to contribute hugely in terms of developing the smart software solutions that will be required to power the charging stations and the associated move to Smart Grids. An interesting part of this work is that Eamon Ryan pointed to the importance of understanding human behaviour and motivations with respect to the operation of Smart Grids. this is often overlooked and Ireland stands to take the lead on this. The core point is that Ireland stands to gain by positioning itself as an experimentation platform for the intersection of Cutting Edge ICT expertise and technology intertwined with its huge renewable energy advantage. Ireland is a hugely resilient country that has proved itself capable of being a hub for collaboration and inventive partnering between the public and private sector. It was pleasing that the Irish Government  is taking a proactive approach that seems to be backed up by concrete actions rather than a washy, unsubstantiated abstract strategy that will do nothing to improve things for Ireland in the medium term.

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