The Government has launched its plan to boost the economy, detailing a number of measures which it hopes will attract new business to the country

Up to €500m is to be invested in a new venture fund to be known as Innovation Fund Ireland, which will support early stage research and development.

The announcement was made at the launch of what the Government calls 'Building Ireland's Smart Economy: A Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal' .

Under the renewal programme, the multinational community will also be encouraged to engage in 'innovative high value activity and technological convergence' which will provide quality jobs.

Speaking at Dublin Castle, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the Government will be engaging intensively with the Social Partners in the coming weeks and that process would be informed by the end of year Exchequer Returns.

He said it was time that Ireland captured ideas and commercialised those ideas in this country.

Read the speech in full

Minister for Health Mary Harney said the plan required a national effort like that in the mid-1980s when she said the country nearly went under.

The renewal programme also introduces a plan to drive entrepreneurship and business start-ups by introducing what the Government calls 'highly favourable taxation measures'.

These include a three year exemption from Corporation Tax for these new businesses.

The Government also said that 'greening' our economy would help turn it around and that putting energy efficiency at the heart of the strategy will protect us from future rises in energy costs.

The Taoiseach said that the aim of the Government's economic renewal programme is to have Ireland become the world's leading location for business innovation.

Mr Cowen was joined at the launch by the Tánaiste, the Minister for Finance and other Government ministers.

'PR exercise'

Responding to the announcement, business group ISME said it was dismayed, calling the plan 'vague, bereft of ideas; deficient in specifics, measurements and timeframe.'

Fine Gael spokesperson on Finance Richard Bruton criticised the Government’s plan saying: ‘For all the benign aspiration in the document today it is worth recognising that you can’t build a smart economy based on dumb decisions.’

It was also dismissed as a PR exercise by Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore.

In the Daíl this morning Deputy Gilmore pointed to the fact that the announcement was not going to be made in the Houses of the Oireachtas, but in Dublin Castle.

Referring to Transport 21 and the National Development Plan, he said that documents launched in the Castle are not worth the paper they are written on.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said that members have been left without any information on the plan, and that was contemptuous treatment of the House. He said his understanding of the framework is that it is high on vision and low on specific ideas.

The Tánaiste accused the opposition of hypocrisy and said when the opposition launched its national plan it did so in Dublin Castle.

She also said there would be ample time to discuss the framework in the House.

SIPTU General President Jack O'Connor said on RTÉ's Morning Ireland that the Government's framework should provide for a socially sustainable enterprise economy rather than the get rich quick approach of the past 12 years.