New it@cork chair Caroline O’Driscoll: ‘For Cork, it is now or never’

12 Apr 2017

From left: Former chair of it@cork Ronan Murphy, new vice-chair Anthony O’Callaghan, and new chair Caroline O’Driscoll. Image: Gerard McCarthy Photography

Cork needs to grasp rare opportunities before they vanish in the next three years, urges new it@cork chair.

Caroline O’Driscoll has been elected chair of the not-for-profit organisation it@cork, which represents the interests of about 200 tech companies in the Cork region.

The previous chair, Ronan Murphy of Smarttech, completed two years at the helm and will remain on the board of it@cork.

‘Post-Brexit, we will be the second-largest English-speaking city in Europe. Our time has come’

The AGM also saw the election of vice-chair Anthony O’Callaghan of Johnson Controls, and two board members, Paddy O’ Connell of Berkley and John Drury of Box D Consulting.

O’Driscoll, a tax partner at KPMG, spoke about the opportunities with the IT sector in the south-west region of Ireland. She cited a recent KPMG survey of CEOs, which found that 72pc believed the next three years will be more critical for their industry than the last 50 years.

“For Cork, arguably it’s now or never to capitalise on this opportunity.

“We have a lot going for us. With employment in Cork-based, IDA-supported IT companies growing by 63pc in the last five years alone, the IT sector continues to expand at an incredible pace.

“On our doorstep, we have a hugely talented workforce, world-leading third-level institutions, a pro-business friendly environment and a thriving start-up ecosystem.

“It is also a fantastic place to live – lower house prices, lower commute times, amazing beaches and home to everyone from hurling legends to Olympic champions!”

Leadership needed on issues from STEM to Brexit

O’Driscoll said responsible leadership demands that members of the industry continue to articulate all that is great about the IT sector in Cork.

She urged leaders to get out of their silos and be limitless in their ambition.

“We need to continue to invest in high-quality office space to create viable tech hubs and meet the ongoing expansion demands of our members.

“We must urgently invest in our education system if we are to truly create the talented workforces of the future. Education is not keeping pace with the relentless evolution of technology.

“Companies are working at ways to integrate artificial intelligence solutions into their businesses, but coding is not even on the school curriculum – worse again, science isn’t even compulsory for the Junior Certificate. STEM skills remain wholly inadequate at secondary school level and we must act now to address this.”

O’Driscoll also warned about the upcoming challenges of Brexit but also the opportunities that need to be grasped.

“Post-Brexit, we will be the second-largest English-speaking city in Europe. Our time has come. Yes, it may be now or never for Cork, but we have all of the ingredients to make it happen. It’s time to go bake a cake.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years