IBM is investing €22m in a new research and development facility at its Santry software laboratory. The investment, made with the support of IDA Ireland, is aimed at bringing new software research to Dublin that will in turn feed into the development of future IBM software, notably in the area of middleware.
Last year the Santry facility was designated as a Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS), one of seven such centres run by IBM worldwide. The centre is already contributing to the IBM software product line. Yesterday in a related announcement, IBM launched version 2 of its Lotus Workplace software application. Several components of this software were developed in the Dublin lab. “The lab will play a leading role in developing leading-edge products going forward,” said Michael Daly, IBM Ireland country manager.
Tánaiste Mary Harney TD, who announced the investment, said it was strategic in nature and not necessarily because of future employment. “This investment will create a world-class knowledge centre and software development facility in Dublin to complement other IBM global labs. It will result in a major enhancement of the capabilities at IBM’s Dublin Laboratory. The introduction of new competencies in software research, for leading-edge technologies, will move it into critical core development work for IBM’s global software business.”
She added that the scale of investment by IBM would be useful leverage to encourage other investors to bring research and development facilities into Ireland.
Elaine Stephen, IBM’s director of Lotus Workplace Collaborative Learning said that work by the management and staff at the Dublin Lab in building a world-class software development capability helped IBM to make its strategic investment there. “Our decision was influenced by the availability of the necessary skills, the growing emphasis on scientific research by Science Foundation Ireland and the strong support of IDA Ireland,” she added.
Other factors in the decision included linkages that IBM has with several Irish universities as well as help from Science Foundation Ireland and IRCSET, the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology. “Their support has enabled us to advance our research capability,” said Stephen.
Gus Jones, manager of the ICT division within IDA Ireland said that the organisation’s role was now to help existing multinational businesses grow and expand in Ireland. In the future this will mean not so much offering large numbers of jobs, but focusing instead on higher paid roles with more emphasis on skills and innovation, with the aim of attracting sustainable business.
“It’s about skills-intensive projects,” Jones told siliconrepublic.com. “We have relatively low unemployment so we’re not out to solve the employment problem like we were 20 years ago; we’re out to solve a problem of economic growth.”
He said that the nature of IBM’s investment meant that it could not have gone to a greenfield site; it required an existing presence in the market and in IBM’s case, the Lotus facility in Santry had consistently improved its operations since first being established in the Eighties for basic software manufacture. “By definition, research and development is a core, critical activity in a company and you’re not going to take a chance unless you’ve got first-hand experience of what Ireland can offer.”
By Gordon Smith
Pictured: Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, Mary Harney TD with Michael Daly, country manager of IBM Ireland and Elaine Stephen, worldwide director, Lotus Workplace Development