BaileNuachtCartlann Aitheasc agus Preaseisiúintí

Enterprise Ireland: IT for Healthcare Business Forum October 4th 2010, Speech by the Taoiseach, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to join you this afternoon in Brussels at this specially convened Business Forum on IT for Healthcare. IT and tele-communications solutions have great potential for developing better healthcare in Europe and around the globe and hopefully the Forum will help to highlight this.

I am pleased to see such a diverse group of stakeholders - from government to industry groups - gathered around the table to investigate ways for cooperation, and to talk about innovation in this crucial sector. This is a fantastic opportunity for dialogue about e-Health and I hope all the participants reap the benefits.

I am strongly convinced, ladies and gentlemen, that e-Health matters to us all. It improves access to healthcare and boosts the quality and effectiveness of the care services offered.

A report commissioned by the Swedish Presidency of the European Union in 2009 produced some interesting results.

It found that, throughout the EU, some 5 million yearly outpatient prescription errors and some 100,000 yearly inpatient adverse drug events could be avoided through the use of specialised e-health systems.

At a time when the EU's population is ageing, and with health care demands and expectations growing, it makes good sense to consider smart and innovative ways to deliver an efficient, cost-effective and safe service.

Ireland is currently going through a severe economic correction as a result of a property and banking crisis. However that crisis is also an opportunity to restructure our economy toward sustainable growth based on higher productivity.

Earlier this year, I published the Report of our Innovation Taskforce which recommended measures to make Ireland an Innovation Hub - by providing the best possible environment to start a new company, commercialise research or locate a fast-growing company.

Indeed, the report cites specific examples of e-Health that we are in a position to develop. The life sciences sector also features strongly in our plans. Irish companies are already involved in almost every sphere of e-Health- from developing sensor platforms, to providing tele health devices, to delivering e-Health solutions to the community.

IT for Healthcare represents one of the fastest growing export sectors within the Irish economy. Through targeted investment in third level research, in R+D funding and the European Union's 7th Framework programme, an active start up sector has been developed, with some incredibly innovative companies delivering solutions in the global healthcare market.

I am delighted to see that some of these companies - S3 Group, Lincor, Valentia Technologies, and Real Time Technologies - are here with us today. What is more important, some of them have proven that collaboration often leads to significant business success.

For example, I am happy to announce that Lincor Solutions from Ireland, together with Nextel and Televic from Belgium, have recently won a major project for in-hospital process automation. More than 2,000 hospital beds in the Leuven University Hospital will be equipped with Lincor's multimedia bed-side technology. This will offer improved patient data management to staff and, at the same time, better communication and entertainment facilities to the patients.

Another example is the cooperation between Valentia Technologies and Ambulance operator Falck Industries. Valentia's solutions for pre-hospital emergency care are installed in Falck's ambulances. By collecting real-time patient and incident data, and transmitting these to the destination hospital, a more efficient, prompt and targeted treatment can be provided on arrival.

These are impressive examples of how e-Health improves care and even saves lives. They are also excellent examples of productive and successful cooperation and I hope that we will can work together to establish even more projects like these over the coming months.

I invite you all to discover the innovative solutions that these and other Irish companies can bring to the IT for Healthcare arena.

On the wider economic front, it is worth emphasising, despite the exceptionally challenging environment of the past two years, Ireland's exports generally have held up very well and are now showing significant growth again. This is encouraging. It means that the improvements to our competitiveness are bearing fruit.

The government is determined to emerge from the international economic crisis with a strong and sustainable economy. We are dealing with a uniquely complex set of circumstances in a serious and determined way.

Last week, we provided certainty on the final costs of repairing our banking system. The costs involved are serious, but they are manageable. Getting banking back on track is an indispensable step in Ireland's journey to economic recovery.

Restoring sustainability to our public finances is equally important. We have already made significant adjustments in spending.

We are now preparing a four year plan which will be published in November, setting out the measures necessary to ensure that we meet our target of bringing our deficit below 3% of GDP by 2014.

Ireland's future is based on developing to the full our potential for sustainable growth. Addressing our public finances and banking situation are important ingredients. But there are many others, not least the quality, skills, flexibility and resilience of our people.

One of our continuing strengths is our young population. They are bright, innovative and well-educated, with record numbers now attending third-level colleges. These are the generation that will shape Ireland's future.

Our extensive indigenous company base is another important strength. In key developing sectors, including those represented here today but also in other important sectors from food to pharmaceuticals, we have a strong enterprise base whose export performance, even in these difficult times, has been world-class.

Through investing in our infrastructure, strengthening our R&D capacity and continuing to create and provide excellent conditions to establish and grow businesses, we can face the future with confidence.

Our future remains firmly in our own hands. On the evidence before me today, I have every confidence that our business community will grow and prosper once again, as it offers products and services of the highest quality, and at prices driven by a competitive and cost-efficient environment.

I would like to commend Enterprise Ireland for organising this Forum and I wish you all every success with your businesses and projects.

Thank you.