The Limerick Open Coffee Club is meeting tomorrow at 11:00am in the Absolute Hotel. All welcome. I've been getting some great support and feedback and even a few offers for the Bizcamp and the Incubator, now christened "Greenhouse Limerick" by it's founder, Evert Bopp.
After reading Nev Farell's thought provoking post, I've been thinking. I'm sure the government will get a programme up in Limerick - sometime. To the best of my knowledge, they did an ok job with developing Galway and tech development there, based on larger grants and % claimable, and larger tax benefits on BES (I could be wrong), under the BMW Invesment incentives.
But these incentives were dished out, albeit in higher quantities, through the usual agencies. And these agencies have their hands tied in terms of what they'll support. Even if you meet the somewhat questionable requirements (why emply 15 people over 3 years, whats wrong with 12 per sè?)
Some of the worst ideas
The Tax incentives for building hotels - this was a disaster of an incentive. According to one publication on www.taxwatch.ie, prepared by John Heffernan, shows that "room occupancy levels across all regions were 5% below the 2000 levels in 2004" yet the government ploughed ahead.
This was despite a 2005 report by Indecon, prepared for the Deparment of Finance, shows that" €664m capital expenditure was actually incurred on tax based hotel projects with a further €651m to €1302m likely to be incurred on future projects".
Why couldn't the government put this into developing small business in Ireland? We've known for years the high exposure we've had to foreign multinationals (not they haven't had a great positive influence, we've just been a little over dependent) and to manufacturing industries. How is Ireland supposed to develop it's own? Irish people don't invest in ideas. As one colleague said to me today, about Irish Innovation: "If someone else isn't doing, then we definitely won't". People who do have ideas have nowhere to go, and this is particularly true with the onset of the Credit Crunch.
Even a special localised VC fund of just €50 million would do wonders in Limerick. We could start a multitude of smart, innovative companies. Most companies stray from their original ideas but the original idea gets them started or creates the right set of questions and answers to get it started. We can't reproduce great idea generating in a scientific method but we can grow them by supporting innovative thinkers, sponsoring incubation centres, facilitating networking and providing funding.
Sadly I've heard more bad stories than good but I've also seen quite a few companies become successful thanks to aid. Unfortunately too few. They have strict, rigid meeting and education systems instead of open networking events. It's too much like school, it's too inhibitive.
We need to throw out our tax incentives and start looking inward. We had €70 billion in 2008 in the National Pension Reserve Fund. If we hit 10% or 20% unemployment, whats the point of having a massive retirement fund. Dublin has lots and lots of VC. No wonder the government cannot decentralise. Why can't we put €8 billion into Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Ennis and Sligo, in proportionate amounts, into BUSINESSES, not into hotels, property, roads.
The government and civil servants will not and cannot solve innovation, invention and enterprise growth. Private sector businesses can and need this funding. This funding would create a safe haven for banks to invest in and for the agencies to deliver grants and other inestments. €1 billion invested in Limerick and Cork, say, could help create up to 2,000 companies with 5 employees. That would remove 10,000 people from the dole.
Incubation centres, according to Wikipedia [?], have an 87% success rate even after 5 years. If just 50% of these were successful, and just 1% became big enough to employ more than 500 people, it would be a roaring success. Plus they'd have a base in Ireland, not North America where they currently have to go.