30 incredible Irish people leading a European invasion

14 Dec 2016

Image: Kalamurzing/Shutterstock

Our look at the top Irish names in sci-tech around the world continues with a tour of Europe.

Sci-Tech 100

From entrepreneurship to e-commerce, innovation to investment, digital infrastructure to digital media – by now you will have noticed the broad spectrum our Sci-Tech 100 covers.

So far, we have concentrated heavily on the big names Stateside, but now it’s time to look closer to home. London came calling for many on this list, but we have renowned representatives in Germany, Spain, Switzerland and more.

Our great Irish emigrants in Europe are found in the farthest-reaching branches of science and technology, putting the A in STEAM with their work in creative industries, as well as the more traditional sci-tech environment.

Inspirefest 2017

Anne Ravanona

As the founder and CEO of Global Invest Her, an online platform focused on funding for women entrepreneurs, Anne Ravanona advocates for women on a daily basis. Based in Paris, she is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and was a speaker at the 2015 TEDx talks.

Siliconrepublic.com has previously recognised Ravanona for spearheading change in tech investment, and she made our Women Invent 100 list in 2014.

Neil Costigan

Based in Luleå, Sweden, Neil Costigan is a fintech veteran and the CEO of Swedish biometric firm BehavioSec which verifies the identity of users by analysing the unique patterns in their interaction with technology. The company is emerging as an important service provider for large financial institutions.

A software developer by trade, Costigan holds a PhD in cryptography. He previously was vice-president of R&D at smart card maker Gemplus.

Sonia Flynn

Sonia Flynn is international vice-president at Berlin-headquartered SoundCloud, a platform for musicians and podcasters. She previously managed Facebook’s rapid growth in Dublin to become a base for up to 1,000 people.

Previously, Flynn was also part of the management team that established Google in Ireland. Prior to Google, she worked at Modus Media and Taxback.com.

Sci-Tech 100: Sonia Flynn

Sonia Flynn, SoundCloud. Image: Luke Maxwell

Flynn has a master’s graduate in German literature from Queen’s University Belfast and applied languages from the University of Ulster.

Mark MacMahon

Mark MacMahon is a Berlin-based software engineer who, in 2014, sold his mobile location platform LocalStream UG to German mobile CRM player Linko.

A year since selling his company to Linko, MacMahon has been working as a freelance software engineer with German publishing giant Axel Springer SE.


Mark MacMahon (back) and the Linko team. Image: LocalStream

MacMahon has worked with a number of well-known Irish tech companies including Iona, Daon and Norkon before working with Nokia in Berlin on Nokia Maps.

Brian Daly

After joining Techstars in 2014, Brian Daly relocated to Berlin the following year, where he now works as European marketing manager for the start-up accelerator.

What a lad! ? Great to see you this weekend @lorenzschimik #getmimo

A photo posted by Brian Daly (@dalynewspaper) on

A champion of start-ups, Daly previously worked as community manager for the Web Summit in Dublin. He was recently featured on Siliconrepublic.com, where he advised other budding entrepreneurs to “have a big vision but a narrow focus”.

Paul O’Connell

Paul O’Connell is the brains behind Uprise Festival, a two-year-old start-up get-together in Amsterdam. Such has been the success of the events run thus far, it branched out and had a Dublin show earlier this year, as O’Connell’s significance in the start-up community grew.

Sci-Tech 100: Paul O’Connell

Paul O’Connell, Uprise. Image: John Kennedy

A graduate of Limerick Institute of Technology and Dublin Institute of Technology, O’Connell has founded several businesses to date, spending seven years in Amsterdam after struggling to find a start-up ecosystem in Dublin.

Colman Deegan

Colman Deegan is the CEO of Vodafone Turkey, appointed in September of this year to replace Gökhan Ögüt.

Instrumental in developing fibre networks and ICT in Turkey, Deegan is committed to retaining the company’s presence in the country, in spite of recent political unrests.

Deegan is the former CFO of Vodafone Italy and Vodafone India, and preceded those roles with a position as M&A director. He has been with Vodafone since 1998.

Anne Morrison

Anne Morrison is a Belfast-born former BBC executive, former chair and now deputy chair of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) from her London base.

Spending more than three decades at the BBC, her time as controller saw her fingerprints on the likes of Top Gear, The Queen’s Golden Jubilee and Dunkirk.

Among her various titles, Morrison is governor of University of the Arts London and a patron of Medical Aid Films.

Ciara Hunt

Ciara Hunt is the managing editor of The Net-A-Porter Group, splitting her time between Munich and London.

A graduate of Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Hunt’s career has taken her from Condé Nast, to Time Inc in the UK and CBC in the US, before heading to Net-A-Porter in 2015.

Hunt got her big break after an Ibec marketing programme, recently telling The Irish Times that people starting a career should “make the most out of work experience”.

Elizabeth Aston

Elizabeth Aston is a senior adviser for industry affairs at Amadeus, an IT travel company.

Based in Madrid, she is responsible for strategic initiatives at government and institutional level including regulatory bodies in Brussels.

Sci-Tech 100: Elizabeth Aston

Elizabeth Aston, Amadeus. Image: Elizabeth Aston/LinkedIn

With an MA from TCD, Aston began her career in tourism, quickly catching the eye of Amadeus in the 1990s. After leaving in 2000 to work in Yellowrent and then Atinera, she returned to Amadeus in 2005.

Muireann Brennan

Based in Geneva, Switzerland, Dr Muireann Brennan is an epidemiologist at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical officer seconded to UNICEF’s Office of Emergency Programmes.

Brennan is a graduate of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland and received a doctorate in medicine from TCD and an MPH from John Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.

A veteran humanitarian who has worked in numerous war-torn countries, she advises graduates about how to cope in a challenging environments and coordinate health initiatives.

Emer Coleman

University College Cork (UCC) graduate Emer Coleman is chair of Ireland’s Open Data Governance Board, though she herself is based in London.

Coleman has a long history working on open data and policy in the UK and other countries, and was the architect of the London Datastore, which involved releasing all of London’s public sector data.

Laurence O’Rourke

Having joined the European Space Agency (ESA) in 1996, Mullingar native Laurence O’Rourke has become one of the agency’s most prominent Irish members since his crucial role in the famous Rosetta mission of 2014.

Laurence O’Rourke, Rosetta

From left: Michael Küppers and Laurence O’Rourke with a 1:4 scale model of Rosetta and Philae. Image: ESA

Based in Madrid, the engineer and scientist was a part of the flight control team of the historic mission, and is now planning ahead for the future joint ESA and NASA mission to land a craft on a comet and return a sample.

Mary Flynn

Netflix’s director of customer service EMEA, Mary Flynn, left Dublin when she joined the streaming giant in 2014.

Mary Flynn, Netflix

Mary Flynn, Netflix. Image: Mary Flynn/Twitter

Currently based in Amsterdam, Flynn oversees Netflix customer service operations across EMEA, and was responsible for the set-up of satellite customer service sites in Lisbon and Berlin.

The Dublin City University (DCU) grad previously held global positions with Microsoft and eBay.

Mary O’Connell

Working within the area of evolutionary genomics from an analytical and quantitative perspective, Dr Mary J O’Connell graduated with a PhD in 2005 before continuing in academia in UCC and DCU.

Now working in the University of Leeds, O’Connell has run her own team for over a decade where she and nine researchers focus on the functional consequences of change at the DNA level.

Dr Mary O'Connell

Dr Mary J O’Connell, University of Leeds. Image: The O’Connell Lab

Sarah Gilgunn

In November, Sarah Gilgunn was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for outstanding postgraduate student at DCU, where she conducted her PhD research on prostate cancer, part of a multi-institutional collaboration funded by the Irish Cancer Society.

She relocated to the UK to join Immunocore in 2015, where she currently works as a research scientist for the biotechnology company, developing drugs to tackle cancer and other diseases.

Jules Coleman

Jules Coleman studied economics and finance in University College Dublin (UCD) before moving to London.

After working at PwC for almost two years, Coleman left to start her own on-demand cleaning company, Hassle.com. In 2015, she sold Hassle for an estimated €32m.

Now, the sharing economy expert is an entrepreneur in residence at global venture capital firm Index Ventures.

Jules Montague

After graduating from TCD, where she researched ALS and dementia for her PhD, Jules Montague left Irish shores to pursue a career in London.

Currently a consultant neurologist for the Royal Free Hospital and an honorary consultant at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Montague is also a writer for The Guardian. Her upcoming book on the neuroscience of identity, Lost and Found, is due to be published in 2018.

Niamh Nic Daéid

Since moving to Scotland following her studies in Ireland, Prof Niamh Nic Daéid has spent the last 20 years establishing herself one of the UK’s leading researchers in forensic science.

With over 100 peer-reviewed research papers, Nic Daéid was the first woman to earn a personal chair in the Department of Chemistry in the University of Strathclyde’s 215-year history.

In 2014, she was named professor of forensic science at the University of Dundee.

Louise Richardson

Prof Louise Richardson became vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford in January 2016 – the first woman to hold the position. Previous to that, she spent seven years as principal and vice-chancellor of the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

Louise Richardson

Prof Louise Richardson, University of Oxford. Image: University of Oxford

A graduate of TCD and UCLA, Richardson’s commitment to teaching won her both the Levenson Prize and the Abramson Prize during her time as a professor and head tutor at Harvard. She also served as executive dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.

Anne-Marie Tomchak

A native of Longford, Anne-Marie Tomchak is passionate about the digital world and has worked for a variety of European media outlets, including the BBC and RTÉ. One of the founders of BBC Trending, she currently works in London as the UK editor of Mashable.

Last month, Tomchak presented the RTÉ documentary Cloud Control: Who Owns Your Data?, discussing the issues of cybersecurity and big data. She returns to Ireland next summer as a guest chair at Inspirefest 2017.

Alex O’Cinneide

As a graduate of TCD, the London School of Economics and London Business School, Alex O’Cinneide quickly rose to prominence in Abu Dhabi where, for seven years, he ran a $15bn Abu Dhabi government investment fund.

He is now managing director and head of Europe for Paladin Capital, a London-headquartered investment firm with more than $1bn in committed capital and offices around the world.

Alex O'Cinneide

Alex O’Cinneide, Paladin Capital. Image: Biomimicry Institute

Jason Keane

With years of experience in Microsoft and Yahoo, UCD graduate Jason Keane’s self-described passion for all things internet saw him named CEO of content provider Saffron Digital in 2012.

In 2013, he sold the business for $47m but continued as its CEO until October of this year, when he became CEO of Patient, a digital health marketplace.

Jason Keane

Jason Keane, CEO, Patient. Image: Saffron Digital

Áine Bryn

PwC global financial services marketing leader Áine Bryn is a Killarney native who traded Moll’s Gap for the Big Smoke in 1995.

Bryn has been with PwC since 1997, working her way up from UK insurance marketing manager to her current global position.

In this role, Bryn is responsible for developing a global marketing strategy that supports PwC’s business objectives, with a focus on fintech, technology, financial crime, risk and regulation, and mega trends.

Blathnaid Healy

Based in London, Blathnaid Healy, senior editor of news at CNN Digital International, started her career as a multimedia journalist with RTÉ in Dublin. At RTÉ, Healy set up the broadcaster’s first dedicated social media team.

Following stints in freelancing, and as content creator and COO at WorldIrish.com, Healy was appointed as UK editor of Mashable. In this role, she was instrumental in opening the media organisation’s first London office.

Liz Shanahan

Kerry native Liz Shanahan is a strategist and adviser in the health and life sciences sectors.

Based in London, Shanahan advises the CEOs of leading healthcare organisations – including the World Health Organisation, the World Economic Forum, Pfizer and the NHS.

A former entrepreneur, Shanahan is the person behind FD Santé, which she sold in 2011.

Shanahan chairs a number of boards and trusts, and just wrapped up her reign as global chair of the Irish International Business Network.

Emer Patten

Having studied communications at DCU, Emer Patten co-founded London-based Splinter Films with Nick Wickham. The company produces live music films and live events for broadcast, digital cinema and online distribution.

Patten has worked with some of the world’s best-known artists, including Madonna, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Katy Perry.

In 2014, she returned to DCU to give a TEDx talk on film-making and activism.

Jane Ní Dhulchaontigh

Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh is the CEO and inventor of Sugru, a malleable ‘glue’ which can be used to fix all manner of things.

Based in London, Ní Dhulchaointigh came up with the idea when she was studying product design at the Royal College of Art in London.

In 2013, she was shortlisted for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year award, and Sugru is currently stocked in more than 5,000 stores worldwide.

Ní Dhulchaointigh will be speaking at Inspirefest 2017.

Niall Dunne

Originally from Dublin, Niall Dunne went to the States for further education, gaining an MBA from Columbia State University and studying global leadership and public policy at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Dunne has been based in London as the chief sustainability officer for BT for the last five years.

Earlier this year, BT was named the third greenest company in the world by Newsweek.

Regina Moran

DCU graduate Regina Moran became the CEO of Fujitsu UK and Ireland in July 2015, after nine years at the helm of Fujitsu Ireland.

Moran completed a year-long stint as president of Engineers Ireland, during which time she focused on women in the STEM sector.

Moran previously co-founded DMR Consulting Ireland in 1997, which was later acquired by Fujitsu. She now leads the UK and Ireland team from London.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Book now to get half-price Super Early Bird tickets before prices go up on 15 December.