Software sector needs more third-level spin-outs

27 May 2004

A deep re-think of the current campus company business model and the processes behind it is called for, said Cathal Friel, chairman of the Irish Software Association at the organisation’s AGM yesterday, stressing the importance of third-level spin-outs to the future of the sector.

Friel said that there was a general sense of “cautious optimism” in the sector and that the industry upturn is being reflected by the number of high profile trade sales of companies such as Eontech, Massana, Raidtec, Eland Technologies and eWare.

However, Friel expressed concern that only one former campus company – Iona – employs more than 50 people.

“The reason is the current model of technology transfer between universities and the private sector has failed us. We must now look to the successful US model of spinning research out of universities and into the commercial world as a prototype we can successfully replicate locally,” Friel argued.

Also speaking at the AGM was ISA director Kathryn Raleigh who spoke of the need for increased dialogue between industry and the universities to assist in the technology transfer between colleges and the commercial sector. “There is some cutting-edge research taking place locally and this research must receive the credit it deserves. For the coming year we must continue to work closely with the universities as well as Science Foundation Ireland, ICT Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to promote the conversion of strong research into commercially viable ideas.”

One of the ISA’s first steps to encourage this technology transfer was the recent announcement of an annual award for the most innovative and commercially viable software developed by a third-level student in Ireland. The award, sponsored by Trinity Venture Capital, will see the winner receive a €5,000 cash award and subsequent guidance from the firm in developing the business concept.

By John Kennedy