Inside the beating heart of sci-tech on Ireland’s west coast

1 Nov 2019

Image: © breakingthewalls/

For a whole month, we took a journey to the other side of the country to get to know what’s happening in science and technology in the west. Here’s what we learned.

Throughout October, Silicon Republic embarked on a tour of Ireland’s west coast, exploring the vast sci-tech ecosystem there. Starting at the heart of this ‘silicon coast’ – Galway – we found this hub of science and technology draws from neighbouring Limerick and Shannon too, forming a formidable network of ideas and innovation.

Galway itself is seeing a STEAM-powered revolution with science, technology, engineering, arts and maths. The city and county is well-known for its cultural attractions, but the same energy is pouring into science and technology – which is most strongly felt through the tens of thousands who visit the Galway Science & Technology Festival each year.

To get an idea of the sci-tech jobs market on the west coast, we visited the GMIT Careers Fair and later spotlighted companies hiring in Galway, Limerick and the Shannon region.

With more and more professionals seeing Galway as a sci-tech career destination, we got details on this jobs market from Matthew Cotton of Hays Ireland, while his colleague Niall Toland gave us the low-down on everything you need to know before settling there.

We also spoke to plenty of sci-tech workers who have made a move out west, some from as far as Poland, Italy, Germany and China. Others we spoke to had returned to Galway after spending time working in the US and Europe.

We also heard from those who have been long-time Galway residents, such as Joe Smyth, senior vice-president of R&D at Genesys; hurler and Storm Technology software engineer John Hanbury; Fidelity Investments head of IT enablement Seán Morris; and Cyber Women Ireland co-founder Joanne O’Connor.

Leaders from Galway-based companies such as Fidelity Investments, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Soti shared their valuable insights, while Karen Conway told us how her work in Galway led her to make international connections.

When it comes to doing sci-tech business in the west of Ireland, we highlighted a dozen Galway influencers you need to know. We also got some solid start-up advice from PorterShed innovation community manager Mary Rodgers and David Murphy from NUI Galway’s Innovation Office, while Empathy Jam organiser Diarmaid Ó Fátharta told us about putting hackathon attendees out of their comfort zone.

We shone our Start-up of the Week spotlight on Video Sherpa, Octiga and FeelTect, and found ourselves spoiled for choice with interesting start-ups worthy of a mention. From data science and fintech innovators to those starting up in the Galway Technology Centre and spinning out of NUI Galway, it’s no wonder reporter Kelly Earley dubbed Galway a “top start-up collaboration hub”.

The cluster effect doesn’t stop at start-ups either. We found collaborative west coast sci-tech ecosystems in engineering, cybersecurity, medtech, fintech and autotech.

The strength of the region’s innovation is no wonder, having mapped its scientific community. Ireland’s west coast is truly, as Colm Gorey put it, a “scientific playground”.

Among the science players, we profiled marine energy researcher Dr Jamie Goggins and history-postgrad-turned-sport-data-analyst Dr Úna Newell. Dr Enda Barrett told us how drones could rescue people from drowning and Prof Derek O’Keeffe told us how they could fly medical supplies to the Aran Islands. Dr Eimear Dolan let us in on the soft robotics revolution and Prof Michael Madden gave us a first-hand look at robotic technology being developed for crime scene investigation.

It has truly been a wild ride across the ‘Atlantech Way’, and this region’s sci-tech prowess shows no signs of slowing down.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.