So, there I was standing in a supermarket when the whole futility of the Irish government's strategy to create enterprise finally imploded around me and I just pulled out my phone and started to photograph the evidence, like a cop at the scene of a grizzly murder.

Having grown up in Ireland and leaving it during my formative years, only to return to it during the nightmare of the "Celtic Tiger", I was well used to living in a country that did not espouse the entrepreneurial spirit very well and praised shoddy practices as good business decisions. "Did you hear what yer man got away with?" These people would be put on pedestals while anyone with vision was ground into the mud. "D'ya hear yer man, dreamin' up how he's goin' to be the next big thing?" Where did this lead? People buying properties so dangerous they can't live in them and a rip off culture in the hospitality industry that helped to drive the prestigious web summit from the Emerald Isle.

WP_20151005_001This type of short term thievery was always coupled with looking to foreign direct investment to create employment that stank of an inherent inferiority complex coupled with the culture of backhanders and pork barreling only seen in the cinematographic work of Martin Scorsese. The answer to any local employment problem was to bring in a foreign manufacturing plant, lured with talk of grant aid, tax breaks and a cheap, compliant educated workforce. This has led to many multi-nationals opening gleaming buildings in Ireland, pregnant with the promise of new jobs for the educated masses lucky enough not to be joining their alumni on the emigration trail. A lot of these jobs merely amount to call centre positions; the "dark satanic mills" of the twenty first century. Due to this policy, Ireland now finds itself in the unenviable position as the tax avoidance capital of the developed world, as it's exchequer misses out on all the lost opportunity from the earnings of these global giant's so-called operations being "directed" from their bases in the country.

WP_20151005_005So, let's cut to the problem in hand. In the dark days of the recent economic unpleasantness which saw the banking crisis in Ireland cutting swathes through the Irish economy (but that's another story), a plot was devised to encourage local entrepreneurship and enterprise. This culminated in a strategy laid out in the "action plan for jobs" which trickled through the newly established state department for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, through a network of Local Enterprise Offices, social welfare offices and regional development organisations coupled with the academic support of institutes of technology. The aim was to help local Irish people start, scale and grow their business ideas into real job creating enterprises. Hurrah!, said those of us who saw the need for local indigenous industry as the driving force for a healthy diverse economy. But then! along comes the top heavy bureaucracy and lack of local decision making, mixed with a centralized policy making unit and, once again, all the creativity is stifled out of any individual wishing to set up any type of disruptive, innovative industry. As Solutions Consultancy Ireland sailed through the choppy waters of this new inventive economy, we found a complete fixation on tech and pharma start ups with intellectual property which could be sold to multi nationals at a knock down price. We also found a complete distaste of anything from the service sector of the economy and a wish to only engage with people who had reached a certain level of success prior to the state support agencies becoming involved. The latest decision that has come from on high and is blindly being followed by the lemmings at local level, is to encourage a plethora of "artisan food" start ups, with a gamut of back ups including the use of state sponsored industrial kitchens, marketing advice, scaling and even placement on the shelves of a chain of nationwide supermarkets.

WP_20151005_004Soviet centralist economic disasters spring to mind, such as the factory that reached it's shoe quota by only making left shoes, as I was left wondering what filtration system was in place to evaluate the viability of these start ups. It seems like a strait jacket of lack of true innovation and creativity was applied to any idea a prospective food producer would have and that a range of certain food criteria was only deemed worthy of this state intervention. One day in a retailer, I noticed two brands of Irish rapeseed oil. The same day, on entering another supermarket, we were accosted by the latest graduates of the "food academy" with their rapeseed oil, desperately trying to interest us in a homogeneous product, while trying to differentiate it as being local. I looked at the shelves to see another two "local" varieties to add to the original two I had noticed earlier. My heart sank as I thought of the bright, hopeful desperation on the faces of two of the new class of entrepreneurs, doomed to failure in a world of missed opportunity, lack of creativity, empowerment and innovation.

So, what about the jam? The next time I visited the same supermarket, I approached the shelves of products displaying the output of the latest batch of scale-able artisan food products encouraged by the department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, to find a cornucopia of jams. Similar packages and recipes jumped from the shelves in a maelstrom of "me too". No originality, no thought even on differentiating the packaging. I thought of how many different uses of fruit pulp there could be, if these people were only to apply real design thinking and be encouraged to take a leap. But no! Back to the drawing board. Some people are drawing the salaries and consultancy fees  while others are being encouraged to swim against the tide in rapids of similar fruit based gelatinous sticky syrup. It looks like nothing has changed after all.WP_20151005_003

Bernadette Clancy and Dermot O'Reilly, Innovation Specialists at Solutions Consultancy Ireland.


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Start ups Aided by Innovation Consultants

Irish start up companies and micro businesses are being given a boost by being given the tools to apply innovation to their ventures at their development stages. Innovation is not just the remit of large multinational firms, but can become part of the structure of any venture. The team have developed a range of workshops which have been rolled out around the country, with great feedback from participants. To date Solutions Consultancy Ireland has performed workshops in Carlow, Waterford, Tipperary, Wicklow, Meath, Laois, Cork and Limerick and are expanding nationwide in 2017. The good news is that these workshops can be applicable to all enterprises, no matter what their purpose is or what stage of development they are at. Current workshops include: Applying Innovation, Lean, Perfect Pitching and Successful Selling, Build a Brand!, Idea Generation and Testing, Lean Start Up, How to Market Your Business Effectively and Innovative Digital Marketing Planning.




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Bernadette Clancy and Dermot O'Reilly. 

Ireland's Design Thinking and Innovation Specialists

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