Dogpatch Labs and regional hubs win €17m NDRC contract

16 Dec 2020

From left: Aideen Leacy, Dogpatch Labs; Minister Eamon Ryan, TD; and Patrick Walsh, Dogpatch Labs. Image: Flavia Bianchi

The national start-up accelerator will now be managed by a network of innovation hubs throughout the country.

Following the news that the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) management team had lost the tender for the State-backed start-up accelerator, the contract has now been awarded to a network of regional innovation hubs.

Established in 2006, the NDRC is a Government initiative to invest in very young digital enterprises and start-ups. Following a competitive process, Dogpatch Labs, supported by its partner hubs, has been awarded the €17m contract to manage the service for the next five years.

Along with Dublin-based Dogpatch Labs, the regional partners involved in the network are PorterShed in Galway, Republic of Work in Cork and RDI Hub in Kerry.

The network also has backing from UK regional accelerator Ignite, which will provide international support and knowledge sharing, as well as Google for Startups, which will open its own global network partner programmes to NDRC participants.

What’s on offer

The newly designed national accelerator programme will be open to globally ambitious early ventures and national and international entrepreneurs.

Successful start-ups will receive €100,000 investment, workspace in Dublin’s docklands, and a mentor-led programme delivered by international and national industry experts.

New features include access to an international VC and corporate network and a three-month programme to accelerate the growth, scaling and fundraising for start-ups after the accelerator.

Non-equity pre-accelerator programmes will be delivered to a broad range of early-stage companies and entrepreneurs across Ireland, providing support at each stage of growth and acting as a pipeline to the accelerator programme.

The network will also offer training services to stakeholders working in the start-up space, teaching them how to support young digital venture teams with significant scale potential.

The network of hubs around the country will work off a ‘hub and spoke’ model, connecting in to other hubs, incubators and universities.

Speaking to, Dogpatch CEO Patrick Walsh said this approach gives the accelerator programme “a multi-layered home”, enabling the team to reach entrepreneurs in every county in Ireland. “It’s really embedded locally but it’s also connected globally.”

Walsh said another major element is the connection to the investment community. The new set of programmes have been supported by five of Ireland’s top VC firms.

Maximising supports

For the start-ups and entrepreneurs, Wash said there is also a focus on “maximising the amount of supports” available for them. “There’s a value for money piece there as well in terms of minimising overhead and making sure more money went to the regions [and] more supports went to entrepreneurs.”

He also spoke about the importance of pre-accelerator programmes outside of the main, national programme. “If you’re a little bit more early stage and you’re not quite sure what it takes to get into an accelerator and also you just want to put some shape on your idea … we’ve got all of these regional accelerator programmes.”

The network plans to deliver mentorship-driven accelerator and pre-accelerator programmes, and pre-seed funding to entrepreneurs across Ireland. While the smaller accelerator programmes are set to be revealed in January, Walsh said the main accelerator programme will kick off in Q2 of 2021.

‘We’re going to have this huge levelling up of all of the participants in the ecosystem’

With the help of TechIreland, the network also mapped out all of the current supports available to start-ups, both to ensure that hubs could best direct founders to the right programmes, but also to ensure the newly designed programmes would complement what is already out there.

Mary Rodgers, CEO of the PorterShed hub in Galway, said that for start-ups that aren’t quite ready for certain programmes, the new network will act as a signpost for more suitable routes from other organisations such as Enterprise Ireland.

“We’re not competing, we’re collaborating across the whole ecosystem,” she told “We’ll just make sure that the founders get the best opportunities at whatever stage they’re at.”

As part of the new contract, Walsh also said that each hub will have a programme manager specifically trained to support start-ups and entrepreneurs.

“We’re going to have these specific half-day courses going on and other trainings such that we can make you better at supporting start-ups,” said Walsh. “We’re going to have this huge levelling up of all of the participants in the ecosystem.”

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic