The success of the “Celtic Tiger” in the 1990s was remarkable, especially in comparison with other member nations of the European Union. In 1987, Irish GDP per capita was 69% of the European Union average, but by 2003 it had reached 136%.a Ireland’s unemployment fell from 17% to 4% over the same period. How did Ireland go from being one of Europe’s poorest nations to one of the richest? First, Ireland aggressively courted multinational corporations and maintained a business-friendly 12.5% corporate tax rate.b Most of the world’s top pharmaceutical, medical device, and software concerns now have operations in Ireland.c Second, the government placed a strong emphasis on secondary and higher education, and tuition has been free since 1996. Participation in Irish higher education surpasses the OECD average. Today, Ireland is focused on increasing its public R&D spending and production of scientists and engineers to complement strong growth in R&D performance by foreign multinational corporations. The goal is to increase total R&D intensity in the economy from 1.4% of GDP in 2002 to 2.5% by 2010.d
Singapore is continuing its long history of active government involvement to promote innovation. This includes a major investment in Biopolis, opened in October 2002, which Singapore intends to be a world-class biomedical sciences R&D hub for Asia.a It is backed with a portfolio of scholarships, fellowships, and grants to attract students and researchers from around the world. Another initiative is the Standards, Productivity, and Innovation Board,b which combines incentives and other help to increase the number of Singapore’s small and medium-size high-technology and e-commerce businesses, improve national productivity and entrepreneurship, and expand the nation’s position in retail markets.