NDRC has proven itself to be value for money for Ireland’s economy

5 Jun 2018

Communications Minister Denis Naughten with NDRC CEO Ben Hurley. Image: SON Photography

Irish Government to continue exchequer funding of NDRC to drive Ireland’s entrepreneur-led digital future.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD, has secured Government approval to continue funding the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC), which has so far generated 680 high-value jobs.

Research from economic consultants Indecon has found that the NDRC has delivered a net economic benefit of €73.5m for the State.

The NDRC was founded in 2006 amid the embers and debris of the failed MIT MediaLab Europe venture to kickstart a digital research culture in Ireland.

Under the leadership of CEO Ben Hurley, the NDRC has excelled.

NDRC is primarily focused on the very early stage, pre-seed part of enterprise supports. It also offers some seed and venture support.

It has many of the characteristics of a start-up accelerator programme but also some distinguishing features including a focus on the digital sector and the provision of pre-seed and seed funding, often at a higher level than other accelerators.

Procurement competition for a new concessionaire for NDRC

In its report, Indecon concluded that the policy objective underpinning the NDRC programme is still valid and recommended that the State should continue its support for start-ups in the digital sector.

“Digital technologies are having a transformative effect in practically every facet of society and one of our goals in Government is to create a business environment in which new digital enterprises can thrive,” said Minister Naughten.

“The findings of the Indecon report are that the NDRC is an important and successful policy in supporting early-stage Irish digital enterprises and the report recommends that the State should continue its support for the programme.

“On foot of the Government decision, my department will run a competitive procurement process to select a concessionaire to run the NDRC programme and deliver early-stage enterprise supports in the digital sector.”

A consortium of third-level institutions was selected in late 2006 to manage and operate the NDRC through a concession agreement following a competitive procurement process. The initial concession agreement ran from 2006 to 2013 and involved funding from the Department of €25m. An option under the concession agreement to renew the contract for a further five years was exercised in 2013 with funding of €17.5m (€3.5m per annum) up to the end of June 2018.

Indecon’s estimates suggest an economic benefit of €73.5m to date, given a total cost to the State of €55.25m since NDRC’s founding.

Other metrics included the 680 jobs that have been created and the €152m secured by NDRC-backed ventures in follow-on investment.

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