In spite of major advances in networked information technology (IT), innovation still requires face-to-face contact in order to be successful, especially in its earliest stages. Survey respondents say brainstorming is the most popular innovation technique, while interviewees emphasise the value of face-to-face contact to build trust between potential collaborators, maintain the momentum of innovation efforts and invest each project with the passion necessary to bring it to fruition.The same point was made by Paul Graham, founder of y-combinator, in this fascinating interview about his experiences of launching tech start-ups in California (read his funding application criteria here, one condition is that you move your company to the Bay Area). The problem, of course, is that emigration means less opportunities for 'face time' with the key parties necessary to build collaborative trust for enterpreneurs and innovators based in Ireland. Virtual solutions help - to a degree. And maybe the McWilliams/Farmleigh Diaspora networking strategy can play a part too (in shortening the 'trust building' process - as noted in this excellent Ireland Fund report on diaspora strategies).
But the challenge is enormous. As we look ahead to 2016 and the centenary of the Easter Rising then we must avoid the loss off another generation to emigration. The chart below shows the change in the forecast numbers in each age group between 2009 and 2016. I've simply applied the CSO's M0F2 projections to the latest 2009 population estimates (taking my cue from Kevin Denny's comment on my last post). This shows what will happen if there is zero net migration - with immigrant numbers matching emigrant numbers. A switch to net emigration would make a bad situation (falling numbers of 20-somethings due to falling birth rates in the 1980s and 1990s) even worse.
The 2016 Generation deserves better.