Opportunity for Ireland to be EU R&D hub for AR and VR

8 May 2017

Image: Oleksandr Nagaiets/Shutterstock

Brexit could create the perfect storm for Ireland to become the EU research and development hub for AR and VR, a €99bn market opportunity.

According to Dublin Institute of Technology’s Alex Gibson, fostering research and development (R&D) in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) over the coming years could reap a major economic boost for the country, given the changing relationship between the UK and the rest of Europe.

“At present, Britain is undoubtedly the main market in the EU when it comes to augmented reality and virtual reality,” Gibson said.

‘The potential for the island as a whole is clearly there – we just need to make sure that we all grasp it and that we don’t leave it until it is too late’

“However, with the advent of Brexit, the massive expected investment into European AR and VR will need a new home within the EU, and that creates significant opportunities for other countries – particularly Ireland.

“There is now a major gap in the EU market and if we were to cultivate an R&D environment for AR and VR in this country, we would be very well placed to occupy that space, become a development hub for these sectors and secure a significant source of economic investment.”

Gibson, one of the country’s leading academic authorities on these technological sectors, was speaking ahead of the annual AR and VR conference, ARVR Innovate, which takes place at the RDS on 11 May.

The next big growth sectors on the horizon

“The global AR and VR markets are estimated to be worth €99bn by 2021,” Gibson said, citing research from technology consultants at Digi-Capital, who estimated that the combined AR/VR market will be valued at $108bn by 2021. At current exchange rates, this is the equivalent of €99bn.

“This means there will be considerable growth in these sectors over the next few years. That growth will require substantial activity in the development of more advanced hardware, more efficient and complex software, and also in creating processes that will allow for the mainstreaming of AR and VR activity into people’s day-to-day lives.

“When you consider the burgeoning AR and VR community in Ireland, the significant technology talent that is already located in this country, our strong track record in working with the major multinational technology companies, our shared language with the US, and then add in our corporate tax rates and the benefits provided by measures like the Knowledge Box, we are very well placed to take advantage of this opportunity.”

However, Gibson warned that it will require a significant push from the Government to ensure that the companies looking to invest are embraced, and that the benefits this country offers to the sectors are fully expounded.

“The North [has] already recognised this trend. Invest NI has really embraced AR and VR as markets for growth.

“For example, they will be promoting 16 Northern-based businesses [that] are active in these sectors at the ARVR Innovate conference.

“The potential for the island as a whole is clearly there – we just need to make sure that we all grasp it and that we don’t leave it until it is too late.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years