Wednesday, February 20, 2013

20/2/2013: Irish R&D Spend 2011/2012 - Concerns >> Fanfares

CSO has recently published data on R&D spending in Ireland for 2011/2012. That's right: in the days of Big Data, Open Data, etc our 'Knowledge Economy' is operating in the environment where evidence is more than 13 months old. In fact, the reality is even more bleak: CSO data for 2012 covers only actual data on current spending, with capital spending covered by estimates. In brief, Ireland's pro-Knowledge Economy policy formation is backed by old and hardly impressive in scope data.

However, given we have nothing better to go, let's take a look at what the latest stats tell us about the Irish economy's R&D intensities. In what follows, I reference combined time series with both actual and estimated data points.

Overall, Total R&D Expenditure by all enterprises rose 5.49% y/y in 2012 to EUR1.96 billion. That's right, Irish economy is investing just 1.53% of its GNP on R&D activities. In 2009 that number stood at EUR1.87bn amounting to 1.41% of GNP. The miracle of the 'knowledge economy' or 'Innovation Ireland' is really quite feeble. In 2009-2012, therefore, the R&D spending rose 4.99% cumulatively.

However, the above growth is distributed unequally across a number of items of expenditure and types of enterprises:

  1. 2009-2012 Labour Costs associated with R&D activities went up 15.18% (+8.45% in 2012 y/y alone), while total Current Costs rose 12.28% (+7.81% y/y in 2012).
  2. 2009-2012 costs associated with Payments for Licenses on IP rose 356.84% (+0.51% y/y in 2012), while software purchases costs shrunk 47.3% (up 18.22% y/y in 2012). Meanwhile own Software Development costs incurred by all enterprises rose 148.01% in 2009-2012 period (up 0.03% y/y in 2012).
  3. Total Capital Spending on R&D activities has declined in 2009-2012 period by 29.55% and was down 9.24% in 2012 in y/y terms.
In other words, there is some evidence of potential cost shifting via R&D credits onto workforce, away from physical investment, as well as evidence of re-orientation of our exports away from manufacturing toward services.

In terms of enterprises types (Small enterprises, SEs at <50 at="" employees="" enterprises="" large="" medium="" mles="" to="">50 employees):
  1. SEs saw rapid growth in 2009-2012 in Licenses for IP costs (+3,997% and only up 0.87% y/y in 2012), followed by Software purchases (+112% on 2009 and up 29% y/y in 2012) and Software development by the company (+87% on 2009, but down 5.1% y/y in 2012).
  2. SEs overall current spending rose 44.75% on 2009 in 2012 and 9.9% y/y, while their total capital spending rose 328.4% on 2009 in 2012 and was down 8% y/y.
  3. Total R&D spending by the SEs rose 73.0% on 2009 and was up 4.9% y/y in 2012.
  4. In contrast, for MLEs, the largest growth was recorded in Software development by the company (+174% on 2009 and up 1.65% y/y in 2012). There were significant declines recorded in all other categories, with a 86.5% drop on 2009 in payments made for licenses to use IP (also down 11.2% y/y in 2012), 64.9% decline on 2009 and 4.3% decline y/y in 2012 for Instruments & Equipment spending, and a 57% drop (on 2009) in Software purchases, although here there was a rise of 15.3% y/y in 2012. Total Capital spending on R&D by firms with more than 50 employees declined 65.8% on 2009 in 2012 and there was a drop of 10.8% y/y.
The above is consistent with the view that in 2011/2012 there was re-orientation in expenditure to either reduce labour costs and / or support services-focused sectors, away from traditional R&D spend on equipment, software and IP.

Table below summarises relative allocations to specific lines of expenditure by the types of companies:

For SEs I highlighted in color the areas of strength in the new data (green) and weaknesses (red). As can be clearly seen, Irish smaller enterprises are not at the races when it comes to overall investment and spending relating to R&D activities, with 26.5% of the total nationwide expenditure captured by SEa, although the good news is that this number has risen compared to 2007-2008 period. In particular, weak dynamics are present on the labour costs side. At the same time, Irish small enterprises tend to purchase more IP from outside (97.2% of total expenditure nationwide on IP purchases is by SEs) and  tend to develop less software in-house.

The above results show just how much more needs to be done at the SEs levels to drive forward knowledge intensification of the economy. At the same time, overall headline figure of 1.53% of GNP being spent on R&D related investment and expenditures is also a major, system-wide problem. It is even more egregious when one considers the fact that Ireland is the base for European operations of many major multinationals.

I will be blogging more on the analysis of the 2011/2012 figures in coming days, so stay tuned.
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