Call is made for a plugged-in Irish technology ambassador to Silicon Valley who could also represent the country on the global tech stage.
The ICT committee of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce (BICC) has called for the appointment of a technology ambassador to represent Ireland and the Irish tech sector in Silicon Valley.
A policy paper by the committee contains proposals for winning the war on talent, driving entrepreneurial efforts, incentivising investment and supporting the ICT sector to grow as Brexit becomes a reality.
‘I would envisage the ambassador to work in a similar vein to a traditional ambassador by showcasing Ireland along with the IDA, and working with Enterprise Ireland to support fledgling Irish companies looking to export abroad’
– JOHN MCGRANE
Among the proposals are suggestions to reduce the marginal rate of taxation, and expand the Special Assignee Relief Programme, especially for new hires.
There is a suggested reform of the employee share-based remuneration regime, to reflect the UK’s Enterprise Management Incentive scheme.
The paper also calls for the reform of the Capital Gains Tax regime, including measures to raise the entrepreneur relief lifetime cap to €15m, to expand the Start-up Refunds for Entrepreneurs Scheme from €100,000 to €250,000 and to cover investments by the self-employed.
Ireland needs to maximise its digital potential
The director general of the BICC, John McGrane, told Siliconrepublic.com that with one of the fastest-growing ICT sectors in the world, Ireland must use every policy lever to ensure the country is maximising its potential.
“By appointing a technology ambassador, Ireland is sending a very important signal to the world’s largest multinationals, and our own thriving start-up and scale-up community, that Ireland is unambiguous in its ambition to grow as a global technology hub.
“I would envisage the ambassador to work in a similar vein to a traditional ambassador by showcasing Ireland along with the IDA, and working with Enterprise Ireland to support fledgling Irish companies looking to export abroad.
“The ambassador would be plugged into the Silicon Valley ecosystem, giving Ireland a head start in responding to emerging trends in the US. Although based in Silicon Valley, the technology ambassador would promote the Irish tech sector throughout the world.”
When asked about the areas where Ireland and the UK can collaborate better in a digital sense as Brexit comes to pass, McGrane replied: “The ICT sector has been described by Prime Minister May as a ‘great British success story’. The UK is and will remain the most successful ICT hub in Europe; it is also a major destination for Irish ICT companies looking for support and capital, and the first location after Ireland for scaling.
“We are actively encouraging Irish companies that rely on the British market to secure a base in the UK, while simultaneously promoting Ireland as the next best option for UK firms that need unfettered access to the EU’s Single Market.
“There is also significant potential in developing a UK-Ireland tech corridor; incentivising this is work in progress for the chamber’s ICT committee. Without question, such a development would be to the mutual benefit of both countries.”
Brexit will upset the UK tech apple cart
McGrane acknowledged that Brexit will put the UK ICT sector at risk.
“The UK has one of the highest demands in Europe for highly skilled labour in the tech sector, which they have been unable to meet, which has led to a sizeable skills gap.
“There are nearly 200,000 EU workers in the sector, and one in five of the directors of the 27,395 new tech businesses founded in the UK in 2014 were foreign nationals. Brexit puts at risk the growth of the UK tech sector by curtailing access to highly skilled migrants from the EU. Prior to the referendum, surveys showed that 70pc of technology business leaders were in favour of staying in the EU, with only 15pc supporting a Brexit.
“Ireland also has a significant ICT skills gap where it is estimated that one in four ICT places would have to be met by attracting highly skilled ICT employees from abroad. It is uncertain what the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations will be but, should the UK and the EU not agree reciprocal rights for citizens or fail to put in place a streamlined, easily accessible visa programme, this will have a negative effect on the UK’s ability to maintain and attract ICT talent.
McGrane said Ireland should be a significant benefactor for any skills exodus from the UK; however, it must create an environment that would entice highly skilled, well-paid workers to Ireland.
“As laid out in the policy paper, the Government should reduce the marginal rate of tax, expand the Special Assignee Relief Programme and reform the Employee Share-based Remuneration Regime,” McGrane urged.
Apple Park, Cupertino, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Image: Uladzik Kryhin/Shutterstock