Galway at a glance: The STEAM hub of Ireland’s west coast

2 Oct 2019

Galway city. Image: © lisandrotrarbach/

A quick look at Galway’s STEAM-powered success as a centre where arts and culture meet science, technology and innovation.

Throughout October, Silicon Republic is going to embark on a journey through the science and technology ecosystem of Galway and its surrounds.

Nestled neatly into the west coast of Ireland, Galway is often celebrated for its culture – and that reputation is well-earned, from the Gaeltacht and the county’s heritage sites to the city buzzing with music and festivals throughout the year.

As a cultural hotbed, Galway is well-placed for blending the arts with science, technology, engineering and maths as these sectors move from STEM to the even more interdisciplinary STEAM. A great example of how Galway does this with aplomb is the Galway Science and Technology Festival.

For two weeks, this festival celebrates STEM in the region with spectacular public engagement. Started more than 20 years ago, the family-friendly event attracts about 15,000 people to a plethora of free events. Those involved say there isn’t a child in Galway who hasn’t been to the festival, and support from local STEM businesses is plentiful.

When it comes to STEM, Galway has a lot to choose from. Major multinationals such as SAP, Cisco, Fidelity Investments, HPE, Boston Scientific, EA, Medtronic and Avaya have all held long-term bases here. And more are following, with recent announcements including Xperi, Natus Medical and Rent the Runway.

Galway is an attractive investment for international businesses thanks to the educated workforce in the region supported by two major third-level institutions: NUI Galway and GMIT. Along with these education hubs are applied research centres exploring the frontiers of data science, high-end computing, regenerative medicine, marine and renewable energy, and medical devices.

The talent coming out of the region means there are homegrown STEM businesses bubbling up constantly too. Telematics player Blue Tree Systems, for example, was founded in the 1990s and grew to have subsidiaries in the US, Germany and France. In 2017, Blue Tree was acquired by US company Orbcomm and, prior to that, co-founder Karl Lusted had already started a new Galway venture, Aptarus.

As well as talent and culture, sources in the region say that Galway’s position as a key innovation player has evolved through collaborations and support facilitated by local councils, chambers of commerce and enterprise offices. For ambitious natives, they can find launchpads for their STEM business ideas via start-up hubs such as PorterShed and the Galway Technology Centre.

It’s a lot to account for in Ireland’s second-largest county, with a city so small it tests the definition of the term. Its culture, academic achievements and attraction to major industry players puts it on the map as a hive of STEM activity. In fact, it was described by one local industry observer as an “Irish village community at the heart of the convergence of science, technology and medicine”.

Infographic with details on business in Galway, its workforce and its infrastructure.

Infographic: IDA Ireland (click to view full-size)

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.