Future Track: Dogpatch to train Iarnród Éireann in thinking like start-ups

5 Mar 2024

From left: Liam Kenny, Elizabeth Fingleton and Jim Meade at Connolly Station, Dublin. Image: Flavia Bianchi/Dogpatch Labs

In a bid to innovate in sustainable transport and meet its climate goals, the Irish national rail operator is looking to the start-up community for ideas and inspiration.

Dogpatch Labs is bringing the accelerator model to Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail) in a new annual three-month programme that will see employees of the Irish national railway network be exposed to the start-up state of mind.

Known as Future Track, the innovation partnership announced today (5 March) aims to support Iarnród Éireann’s goal of becoming the backbone of sustainable transport in Ireland.

Much like founders on one of the many mentorship and accelerator programmes based in Dogpatch Labs, employees of Iarnród Éireann will be “immersed” in an entrepreneurial environment with the goal of accelerating ideas into commercially viable solutions.

With access to an extensive network of start-ups and sectoral experts, these employees will eventually present their ideas to the rail operator’s senior leadership during a Demo Day.

“We have big ambitions for rail to become the backbone of a sustainable transport system for Ireland, for both passengers and freight,” said Jim Meade, CEO of Iarnród Éireann.

“To achieve these, we want to further build our innovation capacity, encouraging and developing new ideas that can enhance customer experience and support rail decarbonisation. Dogpatch Labs will give our colleagues an opportunity to bring new impactful innovations to life.”

Balancing sustainability and growth

Iarnród Éireann is one of the most important players in Ireland’s transportation industry.

In response to the ongoing climate crisis, the rail operator that facilitated more than 46m journeys last year has committed to reducing carbon emissions by 51pc by 2030. At the same time, it wants to increase passenger demand up to 80m journeys per year.

“There is so much innovation already happening within the organisation,” said Patrick Walsh, CEO at Dogpatch Labs. “We’re looking forward to adding to this by instilling a start-up mindset in their staff and giving them access to the entrepreneurial community, ecosystem and network to tackle the most pressing sustainability challenges head on.”

Last month, the start-up hub welcomed the founders of five South African companies that won the Irish Tech Challenge organised by the Irish Embassy. These founders networked with Irish counterparts and went on to present their business ideas and expansion plans at a final showcase event.

Earlier in the year, Dogpatch moved its Founders accelerator programme to its second phase after selecting the top eight start-ups from the pool. These start-ups are scheduled to pitch their ideas at an in-person investor showcase next month.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic