Rise of the regions: Which areas of Ireland are winning in tech?

5 Feb 20183.44k Views

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The Dingle Peninsula. Image: Potstock/Shutterstock

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New data from TechIreland shows that Cork is producing the most tech start-ups, but Limerick got the lion’s share of funding last year.

Ireland’s tech regions are evolving, and integral to their development is the establishment of regional hubs, new data from TechIreland has revealed.

The data is part of baseline research on tech sectors and regions in Ireland, and TechIreland has been building a database that can be searched company by company, sector by sector and investor by investor.

‘The importance of a central hub or physical building to a sense of innovation and the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in a town or region cannot be overestimated’
– NIAMH BUSHNELL

The data tracks more than 1,725 companies, including 341 multinationals and 213 investors, as well as 118 tech hubs. It revealed that 283 out of 1,725 companies are led by women founders. About 69 companies around Ireland were founded in 2017 and, overall, 183 tech companies received funding last year.

In terms of the volume of tech companies in Ireland’s regions, 142 are based in Cork, followed by 105 in Galway and 63 in Limerick.

However, when it came to funding, Limerick captured the largest amount in 2017 with €72.7m raised by seven companies, compared with Cork, where 25 firms raised €22.8m between them last year.

Cork is the most active sector, with tech companies operating in agritech/food, consumer/e-commerce, edutech, enterprise solutions, entertainment/sports, green/energy, health, industrial technologies, security, and social media and advertising.

Rise of the regions: What parts of Ireland are winning in tech?

Graph: TechIreland

Summing up the findings, TechIreland CEO Niamh Bushnell said that in terms of sentiment, job creation is still more prized than innovation, making FDI a bigger priority for some regions over indigenous ecosystems.

While three regions – Cork, Limerick and Galway – dominate in terms of activity, connectivity and geography is a big problem for other regions.

For example, Donegal suffers for being perceived as too far from Dublin while Kildare struggles under the shadow of nearby Dublin. Other regions – such as Louth – have never had it so good, benefiting from low costs, a good quality of life and proximity to the capital city.

Brexit is seen as a major challenge for tech companies operating in Louth and Donegal.

The housing and accommodation crisis that is tarnishing Dublin’s tech crown is also being felt in Cork and Galway.

Improved quality of life through remote working could help regional tech companies win in the talent wars, but critical infrastructure problems such as broadband are also a concern.

The emergence of regional digital hubs such as the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen in Cork, the Building Block in Sligo, SportsTech in Limerick, Crystal Valley in Waterford and One Region One Vision in Galway are being viewed as the catalyst for future job creation and innovation among indigenous firms.

“The importance of a central hub or physical building to a sense of innovation and the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in a town or region cannot be overestimated,” Bushnell said.

“But hubs need to develop networks of experienced entrepreneurs and companies around them to attract start-ups in.

Ireland by its tech regions

Cork

According to the TechIreland data, Cork has 142 tech companies, out of which 26 are led by women founders.

Tech companies in Cork are particularly active in security, artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), software as a service (SaaS), medtech and enterprise.

25 Cork tech companies received €22.8m in funding last year, according to TechIreland’s data. Top companies include Nualight, Teamwork, Helixworks, Amarenco and AventaMed.

“There’s definitely a renaissance afoot in Cork,” said Republic of Work’s DC Cahalane. “A lot of new businesses are starting and you can feel a lot more positivity around. We’re going into 2018 with a positive, fighting attitude. That said, we still need a more attractive and straightforward scheme from the government to allow private individuals to invest in start-ups.”

IT@Cork’s Caroline O’Driscoll added: “In 2018, I would like to see Cork continue to reimagine our city and the unique footprint the development of the docklands area brings. Let’s not lose the momentum we’ve built! With over 1m sq ft of office space coming on stream in the next 12 to 18 months, and with office rental costs at half that of other European cities, in 2018, Cork is ready to show the world what it is capable of.”

Donegal

In the north-west, Donegal has 16 active tech companies, out of which two are led by women founders.

Two Donegal tech firms received €1m in funding in 2017. Firms in Donegal are particularly active in security, enterprise and cloud computing.

Top performing tech players in Donegal include DroneSAR, CloudRanger and Cerebreon Technologies, and ones to watch in 2018 include FireCloud365, Farmflo and Sendmode.

Galway

Moving to the west coast, Galway has 105 tech companies, out of which 15 are led by women founders. In 2017, 13 tech companies received €27m in funding between them.

Headline companies include BriteBiz, Alison, Tr3Dent, Orreco, Contego, 9th Impact and PipIT. Ones to watch in 2018 include Bluedrop Medical, CitySwifter, FarmEye, Appraisee and Eirscope.

“The biggest achievement of 2017 was the breaking down of barriers between counties in the north-west,” explained Tracy Keogh, who runs Bank of Ireland’s Startlab in Galway city. “Thanks to NWRA’s One Region One Vision initiative, Galway has joined forces with neighbouring counties to develop their ecosystems together, and each county’s knowledge and networks are being shared by all.”

Kerry

At the south-west edge of Ireland, Kerry boasts 35 tech companies, out of which three have women founders. In 2017, three Kerry tech companies received €200,000 in funding.

The county is particularly unique for its concentration of globally focused fintech players.

Headline companies in The Kingdom include Fexco, Monex, Crua Outdoors, StoryStock, Standard Access and Salaso. Ones to watch in 2018 include Dairymaster, Mobacar, Wazp and Harpoon Connect.

Kildare

Nestled close to Dublin, Kildare has 25 indigenous companies, out of which three have women founders. Just two companies received €65,000 in funding in 2017, according to TechIreland’s data.

Notable players include AQmetrics, PennyOwl, Equine MediRecord and Funbakers. Ones to watch in 2018 include Accuplex Diagnostics, LabCup and Access Earth.

Limerick

Limerick may have fewer tech companies than Cork but, in 2017, it raised more funding. The region has 63 tech companies, out of which 12 have women founders.

In 2017, seven Limerick tech companies secured €72.7m between them. The region is particularly active in enterprise, green energy, IoT and medtech.

“Limerick has come through some challenging times but, in 2017, it dusted itself down and experienced an economic renaissance, which includes the go-live of the Limerick Workbench, the Engine Hub announcement and important new initiatives like SportsTech Ireland,” said Pat Carroll from Bank of Ireland.

“In 2017, Limerick also embarked on the largest capital expenditure project outside Dublin, and established companies like AMCS and Arralis are helping us to show how global, best-in-class solutions can be home-grown in Limerick.”

Headline Limerick tech companies in 2017 included Arralis, which raised €50m in funding in 2017; Showman Sports, which partnered with USA Football; Teckro, which raised €8.4m in funding; BHSL Hydro, which raised €7m in funding; and AltraTech, which raised €5.2m in funding. Limerick tech companies to watch in 2018 include CDK Global and Trackplan.

Louth

One of Ireland’s smallest counties, but strategically perched between Northern Ireland and Dublin, Louth has a feisty scene of 23 tech companies, out of which seven are led by women founders.

In 2017, Louth tech companies secured an impressive €44.1m in funding between them, including Nova Leah, Anord, Multihog and Gecko Governance. Ones to watch in 2018 include Playertek, Climote, Mcor Technologies and Ovvo.

Waterford

Ireland’s south-east is a haven for tech innovation, driven largely by the efforts of local entrepreneurs but also the innovation engine that is TSSG at Waterford Institute of Technology. Notable successes include the sale of FeedHenry in 2014 to Red Hat for €63.5m.

Waterford boasts 26 local tech companies, out of which two have women founders. Three Waterford tech companies received €1.1m in funding in 2017.

“In 2017, Waterford became one of the few cities in Ireland to have a start up incubator for tech (WIT – ArcLabs), an accelerator (NDRC), a venture capital company (Suir Valley Ventures) and a company to promote tech (Crystal Valley Tech),” said Barry Downes, founder of Suir Valley Ventures and chair of TSSG.

Notable tech players in Waterford include NearForm, Fusami, Immersive VR Education, LiquidEdge and Kyckr. Ones to watch in 2018 include Fund Recs, Kollect, Dataworks and Sedicii.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com