Technology park maintains academic links

29 Jul 2004

The Kerry Technology Park in Tralee is managed by Shannon Development but has strong links with the neighbouring Institute of Technology Tralee (ITT). In the mid-Nineties the ITT recognised it needed to move to a new campus and in 1996 it relocated to a greenfield site on the outskirts of the city.

At the same time, realising that the benefits of a link between the ITT and a technology park would be plentiful, Shannon Development took an option on the adjoining lands and spent the next two years working with the ITT to plan a complementary development.

“When you enter the campus you can see it is a seamless development,” says Marie Lynch, development manager, Kerry Technology Park. “That is because we all started together and planned it together, so there is a very close, natural linkage. We worked together on the master plan, roads and so on, and there is co-operation between the companies and the academic side.”

The total site occupies 113 acres, 63 of which are owned by ITT and 50 by Shannon Development. The technology park consists of two buildings, so far, each with 50,000sq ft of space. “One of those is the innovation works building,” says Lynch. “We are almost at full occupancy in the two buildings and we are now looking at building new ones.”

Companies in the park have high-speed internet access, high-quality telecommunications and meeting and conference facilities. “We spend a lot of money because we want the companies we deal with to be international companies,” says Lynch. “They can bring clients or partners into impressive-looking buildings and that can be very important.

“The big thing that we are promoting here is the link between education and enterprise. We have 16 companies here in the park employing 180 people. All of them are Irish technology or knowledge-based start-ups and practically all are linked to the ITT. Several employ graduates or students or have lecturers providing expertise. Up to now, I couldn’t say that any of the companies were founded by staff even though staff members are involved. But we are now getting to a stage where college staff members are starting companies, for example Dendron Technologies and Clubline. They are still based within college but the next natural stage would be for them to move into the park.”

According to Lynch, there are benefits to both parties in having the park so close to the institute. “The benefit for Shannon Development has been the ability to attract companies. When we are talking to outside companies, they can see the brand new college with state-of-the-art equipment, and we can demonstrate that ITT has adapted to needs of industry by showing the specific courses they have introduced.”

The Kerry Technology Park is also part of the Shannon Development Knowledge Network. The network consists of key locations, all of which have a link to a third-level campus. “All have facilities to help new start-ups,” says Lynch. The locations include Limerick, Tipperary, Birr – which has strong links to Athlone – and the Information Age Park in Ennis. The latter is still in the planning stage and there is an ongoing feasibility study for an appropriate educational link.

In addition, Shannon Development runs a number of programmes. “This year we had the Innovative Actions Programme,” says Lynch. “Part of that consisted of workshops within third-level institutions to encourage people to commercialise their research. We ran the workshops in Tralee and Limerick, and we had between 15 and 20 lecturers or other staff members at each. We covered things such as intellectual property, market research and the steps to commercialisation.”

Shannon Development’s other job is to facilitate access to grant programmes. The authority works with companies to get their funding approved. “This would generally be early-stage R&D funding and we would tap into the same funds as Enterprise Ireland,” says Lynch.

The authority also runs a venture start-up programme and is involved in the Genesis programme run by the Cork Institute of Technology. Both programmes are aimed at recent university graduates or those leaving a management position to set up a business. Both are one-year programmes that give intense support during the start-up phase.

By David Stewart