Ireland’s digital content sector is valued at €220m, a major new survey into the industry has estimated. Of this figure – the total turnover of all the companies in this industry – 83pc originated from within the island of Ireland with exports making up the remainder.
Based on the survey findings, the digital content sector is growing. The all-Ireland research found that the sector gives jobs to around 2, 600 people spread across 409 companies. On average companies employed 6.5 permanent staff. Just over half the total (54pc) had three or less employees; 15pc of firms have a staff of more than 10 and 8pc of companies employed more than 20. Between 2003 and 2005, those polled said permanent employment rates grew by 16pc. An additional 10pc rise in staffing levels is anticipated over the coming year.
Collectively, the companies said their turnover had increased by 21pc since 2003 and they expect this figure to grow again by 35pc for this calendar year. On average, revenue for each company was €550k, the research found. More than half of companies earned less than €250k last year, though just over 16pc of firms earned more than €1m.
From an analysis of the research, the sector breaks down as follows: the film and broadcast sector represented 33pc of employment and 42pc of turnover; interactive media accounted for 36pc of employment and 39pc of turnover; animation was responsible for 16pc of employment and 10pc of turnover; games development delivered 12pc of employment and 6pc of turnover; and music technologies had 2pc of each.
In terms of geographical spread, more than half those permanently employed within the sector are based in the Greater Dublin Area. More than a quarter were in Northern Ireland (29pc) and nearly 7pc of firms and 3pc of employment is located in the east-border region.
Encouragingly, there are strong indications that the various companies work well together within the sector; more than 80pc of businesses collaborated with other digital content companies on the island. Content creation and product development were the two reasons most cited for collaborating on projects.
The report, entitled We are content…we are not content – investigating SMEs in the digital content industries on the island of Ireland, also examines the opportunity for developing the sector in the east-border region through the EU-supported MIDAS initiative along with other similar economic interventions.
In addition, the survey makes the case for a specific range of hard and soft interventions at local, regional and national government level to help support the development of the digital content industry in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland or on an all-Ireland basis. Among the 12 recommendations are that the public sector should provide access to national digital resources and assets at low cost for the local industry collaborations to license, manage and exploit, especially for export markets. Additionally, the report calls for subsidised access to specialist financial expertise for SMEs such as for raising investment and capitalising intellectual property rights.
The report advocates the establishment of a skills development programme to provide the industry with project management, sales and marketing and business training for SMEs. It also recommends that the current system of tax credits, financial incentives for research and development in the Republic and Northern Ireland be maintained and refined.
By Gordon Smith