For tech companies to stay ahead, innovation is ‘critical’

21 Apr 2023

Leo Clancy, Enterprise Ireland. Image: © Maxwell Photography

As Enterprise Ireland celebrates its 25th anniversary, tech leaders gathered to discuss the success Irish businesses have enjoyed so far and the trends they need to follow in the future.

Having just celebrated the class of 2022 at its annual Start-up Showcase, Enterprise Ireland turned to itself to mark its 25-year anniversary by looking back at some of the amazing success Irish businesses have enjoyed over that time.

From Irish tech unicorns such as Wayflyer and LetsGetChecked to the most recent success story of Cork-based Workvivo being snapped up by Zoom for an undisclosed sum, Ireland has been proudly punching well above its weight.

And in November 2022, Enterprise Ireland was named Europe’s most active domestic VC investor, with 42pc more deals than the second-placed investor.

As part of the Enterprise Ireland Summit, CEO Leo Clancy announced record exports from the agency’s client companies in 2022. In particular, the technology and services exports increased by 18pc.

The value of research

Investment in research and innovation was a key message from the summit with Clancy stating that the agency invests heavily in this area, both within companies themselves but also within the wider research ecosystem.

Tech veteran Martin McVicar is the CEO and co-founder of Monaghan-based manufacturing firm Combilift. Speaking to, he said one of the biggest reasons for the success of Irish tech businesses has been the investment in research and product development.

“There are so many Irish companies that have developed very innovative products that are solution-focused and that has allowed [those] companies to really build marketable products,” he said.

“A lot of companies have focused on niche products, product development for specific market segments and that has allowed Irish companies to be successful worldwide.”

Looking to the future

While there are plenty of success stories among the Irish tech industry, there are plenty of opportunities that should be capitalised on in order to ensure that success continues.

With the growth of emerging technologies, particularly around AI and quantum computing, as well as older deep-tech industries such as semiconductors, it’s vital that the investment in research and innovation continues.

As part of a panel on looking ahead, Ireland’s first AI ambassador, Dr Patricia Scanlon spoke about the importance of having more of a focus on these deep-tech areas.

In conversation with, she added that the AI boom is a great example of where Irish businesses can lean in.

“There’s also the opportunity to actually build deep-tech solutions ourselves, be absolutely in the middle of this revolution that’s happening in AI and invest deeply in it.”

She added that Ireland as a whole is already very committed to research in universities and graduates and said that if that investment in research can be brought more into Ireland’s businesses, “I actually really do think Ireland has an opportunity to lead in this and particularly in Europe.”

Last year’s Big Ideas showcase highlighted the struggles deep-tech start-ups can face. “[Deep-tech start-ups] have a longer route to market, so they’re high risk and high reward,” Enterprise Ireland’s Deirdre Glenn told at the event.

“So actually getting somebody to write that first cheque, that first round of investment, who is willing to invest in this very early-stage start-up as they start on this journey – that’s probably their biggest challenge.”

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Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic