E-learning giant creates 450 Dublin jobs – €350m investment in R&D

10 Sep 2008

E-learning global player Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) – formerly known as Riverdeep – is to create 450 jobs at a new R&D headquarters in Dublin, it emerged today.

Riverdeep had its origins in Dublin in 1995 and under the leadership of businessman Barry O’Callaghan became a global brandname in the e-learning business.

In November 2006, Riverdeep merged with Houghton Mifflin bringing together expertise in education textbooks and interactive digital curriculum.

Houghton Mifflin was founded in 1832 and has a long tradition of excellence in publishing including such authors as Mark Twain, JRR Tolkien, and Philip Roth. In July 2007, the company acquired Reed Elsevier’s US education arm, Harcourt Education Publishing.

Through a series of mergers and alliances over the past decade, Riverdeep grew rapidly and now has over 50 companies in the new corporate family known as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The company is effectively the world’s largest and oldest educational publisher with over 100,000 customers, generating approximately US$2.5bn in annual revenues, profits in the region of US$1bn, 50pc market share of the US preK-12 market, the world’s largest education market and approximately 6,000 employees.

HMH is to establish its global e-learning R&D centre in the greater Dublin area, creating 450 high-value jobs over the next five years.

“That HMH has decided to locate its global R&D headquarters for its eLearning capabilities here is a strong endorsement of Ireland’s reputation for excellence and innovation,” said Tánaiste Mary Coughlan TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

“The HMH R&D centre will drive innovation in digital learning for children globally and strengthen the e-learning industry in Ireland, adding further international credibility to an industry that has already gained a solid reputation in world markets.

“This investment represents a further justification of the Government’s decision to invest in the development of a knowledge economy, from the funding of basic research through to the practical supports for innovative companies like Houghton Mifflin,” Coughlan said.

Fiona O’Carroll, senior vice-president, Digital Products R&D at HMH confirmed the Irish Government’s vision to create a knowledge economy by investing in people, research and innovation was a key factor in the company’s decision.

“The new R&D centre will be a focal point for e-learning and educational innovation,” she said. “Employees, partner companies and collaborating universities will be attracted by the quality of research, people, innovation and commercialisation activity in the centre.

“Our decision to centralise all digital development in our R&D centre here in Ireland and create up to 450 jobs is because we believe this centre provides the best hub located uniquely between east and west,” O’Carroll added.

The Centre will involve establishing a globally networked team in Ireland with team members and innovation partners based in the US and around the globe. A robust talent acquisition strategy is already underway.

The company said these jobs should be very attractive to seasoned technology professionals, engineering and technology graduates, highly creative thinkers and innovators in the e-learning space.

The majority of the jobs are highly technical in nature and will require third- or fourth-level qualifications. Project management and operational skills will also be required to support the centre.

“The e-learning industry is a key sector of focus for Enterprise Ireland,” said Frank Ryan, chief executive officer of Enterprise Ireland. “It has demonstrated significant growth and scale in Ireland with many of the leading Irish e-learning companies exporting to the UK, US and Asia accounting for exports of around €250m per annum.

“All of the projects involved in this initiative have been defined as ‘world class’ and involve a high degree of innovation. This level of R&D by HMH reiterates the point that with investment in R&D and innovation, Irish companies can and are achieving global scale and leadership positions,” Ryan added.

By John Kennedy

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