A new European Digital City Index compiled by the Nesta foundation has ranked Dublin eighth out of 35 European cities that are considered attractive cities to establish a start-up, with London ranked No 1.
The European Digital City Index (EDCI) covers all capital cities in the 28 European Union (EU) member states (and seven other major tech hubs) as part of the European Digital Forum, an interdisciplinary research hub co-managed by Nesta and the Lisbon Council, a Brussels-based think tank.
Broken down into two rankings – start-ups and scale-ups – the compilers of the EDCI say that this reflects the fact that the demands of very young companies or individual entrepreneurs differ from the needs of high-growth firms rapidly scaling up their operations and internationalising.
And, based off their findings, Dublin has ranked eighth in both the start-ups and scale-ups categories.
However, despite its reasonable placing, the detailed findings of the ranking hide some major issues facing start-ups and scale-ups in this country.
With 10 themes – each of which is scored out of 35 – Dublin scored quite highly when it comes to some of the key factors necessary when launching a fledgling company.
Among the highest-scored themes included its ‘entrepreneurial culture’ (third out of 35), ‘mentoring and managerial assistance’ (third), ‘market’ (ninth), ‘skills’ (10th) and ‘access to capital’ (11th).
Likewise, Dublin’s rank of eighth in Europe for ‘skills’ saw us rated quite highly for having access to graduates and, unsurprisingly, English language skills.
However, Dublin’s lowest-ranked theme was digital infrastructure, which ranked 27th, with considerable criticism of our mobile internet speed and availability of fibre broadband and only marginally better reviews for the cost of broadband and internet speeds through broadband.
And yet, the ECDI compilers noted that, per capita, Dublin has more venture capital funding than any other European country and it also praised the Startup Manifesto Policy Tracker “as clear evidence of a government which is supportive of start-ups”.
This, despite significant criticism aimed at the Government from entrepreneurs claiming Budget 2016 did little, if anything, to encourage start-up growth and development, with it rather serving to prop up the major multinational companies based here.
Equally worrying from an Irish perspective, London’s placing as the overall best place in Europe to establish a start-up will likely encourage start-ups here to move across the Irish Sea, despite the ECDI ranking London as one of the worst cities in Europe for ‘lifestyle’ i.e. cost and standard of living.
It did, however, rank first across the three themes of ‘access to capital’, ‘entrepreneurial culture’ and ‘knowledge spillovers’, while ranking second and fourth, respectively, for ‘market’ and ‘mentoring and managerial assistance’.
Speaking of the research, Chris Haley, head of start-ups and new technology research at Nesta, said: “Entrepreneurship, particularly digital entrepreneurship, is vitally important for innovation and growth, but not all cities provide equally fertile ground for these businesses.
“Our research indicates that location does matter and illustrates the ways in which top cities create a supportive environment and where lessons can be learnt.”
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