Ireland has a lot of calling cards when it comes to being the Silicon Valley of Europe. However, TelecityGroup Ireland managing director Maurice Mortell believes the country needs to tell a more holistic story about its strengths as one of the best places in the world to do business.
TelecityGroup is one of Europe’s largest data-centre operators and is listed on the London Stock Exchange. The company has data-centre infrastructure in all the key financial and digital districts of Europe and in the six months ending 30 June, the company reported pre-tax profit of stg£43.9m, reflecting an increase from stg£40.07m from the year-ago period. Revenue jumped 16pc to stg£159.3m, compared to stg£137.3m in the first half of last year.
TelecityGroup acquired Irish data-centre group Data Electronics in August 2011 for €100m.
TelecityGroup Ireland operates three carrier-neutral data centres in Dublin, with a combined capacity of more than 5,000 sq metres and 5MW of customer available power.
As a more than 20-year veteran of the IT and data-centre industry in Ireland, Mortell says Ireland has a lot of strengths, epecially in terms of grid infrastructure, which he believes is one of the best in the world. “Its continuity of service is excellent. It is certainly a big calling card but is only one component in a bigger picture.”
That bigger picture, Mortell believes, is all the components that joined together make a compelling case for global companies and start-ups to base themselves in Ireland.
“I get the feeling that we have these silos of information that are great around certain areas. There’s a very strong data-centre industry that is good at saying what we do, the telecoms guys are good at saying what they are doing and the Government is good at promoting the country. But sometimes the holistic story is the real story and really captures opportunities and the imagination about coming to Ireland.
“In some areas we can’t compete with other countries if you are looking at renewable energy or maybe the cost of power; other countries are cheaper or may have better international connectivity.
“But if you to take all of what we have to offer, our data-centre infrastructure, our renewable story around energy and ambient temperatures, our legislation around the International Digital Services Centre (IDSC) and what they are doing with data protection and how data flows between the different jurisdictions, and when you look at our skill sets and how we are trying to retain skills and develop new skills so these companies have a flow of people coming through.
“If you look at what Government is doing around support for grants, the R&D tax credits, the corporation tax and put it all into the mix and say, OK, and the ease of doing business, this is what Ireland has to offer as a package and not just the bits, we have a great story to tell. We are as good, if not better, than anybody out there.”
Back to top of the class for education
Like many concerned business leaders and indeed as a parent, Mortell has been focused on the education picture in Ireland and ensuring the steps are taken to ensure students are given a relevant education in terms of the 21st century’s thirst for mathematical, literacy and language skills.
He says he feels a lot more optimistic because of changes to the curriculum that will ensure Ireland returns to its place in the league tables.
“We are on the right track. Maybe better than the last time we had this conversation. I think the country’s leaders have a much better handle on what’s required at secondary and primary level to ensure we have the type of student coming through into third level that is going to move into the types of jobs we are trying to create at the highest level.
“The universities have got it 100pc. They are all over private industry at the moment trying to get information about what they should be doing in courses in areas such as cloud computing, infrastructure and even in engineering – how does that work its way into the industries that require those types of skillsets.
“Again the key is addressing the raw material at primary and secondary level. It’s a numbers game – we need people doing the right subjects in the right areas with the right skills.
“We can then put our hands on hearts and say genuinely we deliver these people locally. It’s an awful lot better by what it was. I’m very encouraged by what’s going on in all of the schools at the moment.”
Internet Capital of Europe
Mortell believes Ireland, because of its size, will never tick all of the boxes in terms of capturing all of the opportunities of the digital age, but it is certainly punching above its weight in winning the international business of firms like Twitter, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Dropbox, to name a few.
“We don’t tick all of the boxes but there are a lot of boxes we do tick. Look at our relationship with the US and the continual flow of foreign direct investment (FDI), which stands testament to that.
“When I look at TelecityGroup’s European footprint I get a great insight into what’s going on in the other countries. Amsterdam is a very important international business hub, Frankfurt is a huge financial and internet hub and London has a massive financial services industry driving activity there.
“While we don’t have visibility in terms of every single opportunity, we still need to be getting the message right about what we can offer.
“We don’t have to win everything, but we can capture enough of a slice of the pie that’s out there by telling a more holistic story,” Mortell says.
Maurice Mortell will be a panelist at the Digital Ireland Forum: Global 2.0 on 20 September in Dublin, where digital leaders will discuss Ireland’s future as a hub for the best in internationally traded digital services.