The Friday interview: Shane Fanning, FotoNation


12 Oct 2007

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Galway-based FotoNation creates technology for cameras and mobile phones. It plans to set up an R&D centre here next year. Shane Fanning is its MD

Where is FotoNation’s technology used?

We are embedded with all of the top camera manufacturers. We also see camera phones as a huge market because the image quality is not great. We can use algorithms we’ve developed to improve things like red-eye and face tracking, but more importantly, new ideas like motion detection and correction.

FotoNation isn’t the first to do advanced image processing, so what makes you different?

If you look at the large camera companies, they have very big in-house R&D departments. We try to focus on the end user and get an application that is required, like red-eye removal, that really improves the user experience.

How does a small Irish firm do business with the likes of Canon, HP, Kodak, Nikon, Olympus and Sony?

Because we’re a small comp-any, we can source in a good value solution to them. Also, because we can source it in to many customers, we remove the need for each of them to have an R&D department working with red-eye or with face tracking. Most big companies will look to outsource if they can.

How focused is the company on research?

Almost 25pc of our employees are working on pure research. That’s really high. Most top technology companies invest 15, maybe 18pc; we’re quite a bit more.

How far advanced are your plans to establish a research centre in Ireland?

We’re working very closely with the IDA and with a number of the universities to progress it. We’d ideally like to see it start up this spring.

What advantages does developing intellectual property have over just manufacturing?

There’s a ‘stickiness’ to it which is very good for Ireland. You can have other IT jobs that can just be moved to low-cost countries very quickly.

But if you have very advanced individuals in the universities and research departments working on imaging, the technology could be re-used in the medical or biomedical sectors. There’s a longevity there that I like.

By Gordon Smith