The Centre for Software Engineering (CSE), a campus company at Dublin City University (DCU) that provides training services to the software industry, has closed with the loss of 12 jobs.
Established in 1991, the CSE provided training consultancy in advanced techniques of software development, such as software quality improvement to ensure compliance with internationally recognised quality standards. Although located within DCU, it had no formal links with the School of Computer Applications and no academic research took place there.
The future of the CSE had been in doubt for some time due to funding worries. The National Software Directorate (NSD, now known as the National Informatics Directorate) fully funded the CSE during its first few years of operation but gradually scaled back the level of funding from the mid-Nineties onwards with the result that the facility has been running at a loss for several years. The situation was exacerbated by a fall-off in demand for its services due to the technology downturn. It is understood that the board of the university felt it could not afford to fund a loss-making enterprise and was left with no option but to close it.
“The CSE was set up as an independent campus company and it was always intended that State funding would gradually be reduced,” explained DCU spokesperson Eilis O’Brien.
“The company was set up very much to meet a specific training need in the IT sector and I suppose things have moved on,” she said.
Seamus Gallen, a manager at the National Informatics Directorate and former board member of the CSE, also felt that the centre had “outlived its usefulness”.
He remarked: “The CSE was conceived as a link between academia and industry. Its original raison d’etre was to highlight the need for quality in software, something private industry wasn’t willing to fund at the time. But now there are plenty of private companies offering the same type of advice and service. You don’t need a State-funded entity to provide that.”
According to Gallen, the CSE had two roles: the commercial exploitation of research and the provision of services to the State, which involved running awareness programmes and seminars. However, the commercial side failed to take off, he said, which led to the funding crisis.
However, Frank Cronin, CEO of the Irish Computer Society, reacted angrily to the closure saying that it would be seen as a severe blow to Ireland’s reputation for software excellence.
“At a time when we need to invest further in IT development, the closure of one of our national centres of excellence is a backwards step. The work that the centre was undertaking has national and international importance. In addition to the 12 jobs that are being lost and the cancelling of many valuable projects, the damage to our international reputation is immeasurable,” he said.
He added: “The work of the centre, in training, consultancy and special programmes at the highest level of IT will now need to be replicated elsewhere to ensure that software development continues to prosper. The need for R&D is never greater than when the IT industry is in a recession. This measure sends out the completely wrong signal about Ireland’s ambition to become a credible world centre for R&D. The superb work of the CSE in helping to improve the quality and productivity of software development and in implementing best practice will be a major intellectual and commercial loss. This is a particularly sad day for the industry.”
Robert Cochrane, the director of CSE since its inception, expressed disappointment that the Government did not step in to save the venture. “The time of an industry downturn is when the Government should be investing in skills and knowledge and sowing the seeds for when we come out of the downturn and I believe that the CSE could have made a good contribution to that.”
Cochrane added that he hoped to resurrect the CSE in some form and “carry forward some of things done and re-employ some of the staff.”
By Brian Skelly