Irish Technology Sector Has Overtaken Agriculture
With 130,000 people now employed, the technology sector has overtaken agriculture as Ireland’s largest industry, according to Ken Finnegan (pictured above), formerly Chief Technology and Research Advisor for IDA Technology Ireland and now Director of Technology & Innovation for the about to be opened Harbour Innovation Campus at Dún Laoghaire. About 15,000 of these tech workers – 7.5% of the total – are directly employed in in-house RD & I.
Because of sustained State support for innovation, including the fostering of a talented and skilled work-pool, Ireland has become an affordable and attractive place for the world’s leading technology and innovation companies to locate. For example, IBM now employs 2,000 software engineers in Ireland and Microsoft, with support from the IDA, recently opened its new 34,000 sq m campus, One Microsoft Place, at Leopardstown in County Dublin following investment of €134 million.
Ken Finnegan was a keynote speaker at the recent 2018 Research & Innovation Conference & Exhibition held at Citywest in Dublin. His presentation – ‘Ireland and Innovation’ – detailed how Ireland is winning in the Innovation space, the infrastructure and support available for companies and examined the impact of technology and trends.
“Innovation is the commercialisation of an idea,” he commented. This process encompasses four main areas: product innovation; services innovation; process innovation (making products faster, better and cheaper); and experience innovation. Of the latter, he explained: “Younger people now want to experience something rather than own it.” An example of this is the major tourism success being achieved by the Wild Atlantic Way, by using clear marketing to promote the experience it offers to visitors.
Ken Finnegan identified a number of key technology trends, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), digital transformation and design thinking, which will impact on businesses of all sizes as non-technology companies increasingly adopt new operating methods and emerging technological innovations become mainstream.
“AI will affect every industry,” he pointed out, “and AI skills are now a top requirement for companies.” To help meet this growing demand, Ireland’s first Masters in Artificial Intelligence (AI) course has been introduced. Developed by Skillnets, the national agency working with businesses to address their current and future skills needs, in collaboration with IDA Ireland, the programme will run in the University of Limerick from September 2018.
Another new development to support Irish business is the Harbour Innovation Campus, which Ken Finnegan will head. The newest innovation campus in Ireland, the facility is located in the former ferry foot passenger terminal on St Michael’s pier in Dún Laoghaire. It will offer its 1,000 members the opportunity to collaborate with like minded founders, freelancers, innovators and entrepreneurs in 75,000 sq ft of beautifully designed co-working space with dedicated areas to meet colleagues, clients and customers. The Harbour Innovation Campus will open shortly.