Government urged to develop information technology hub

Call for technology ambassador to promote Ireland in Silicon Valley

Denmark’s Casper Klynge was appointed the world’s first national technology ambassador in June.

Denmark’s Casper Klynge was appointed the world’s first national technology ambassador in June.

 

The Government has been urged to develop a national ICT hub and to appoint a technology ambassador to represent the Irish tech sector in Silicon Valley.

In a new policy paper to be published this week, the British Irish Chamber of Commerce says the creation of a dedicated role that would be based on the west coast of the United States would complement the work of State agencies in promoting the country as a key location for tech companies.

It says the ambassador could also help support Irish companies looking to expand in the US and would assist the Government and ICT sector by keeping them informed of emerging trends.

The call comes just two months after Denmark’s Casper Klynge was appointed the world’s first national technology ambassador. Chosen to carry out what the Danish foreign ministry dubbed “techplomacy”, Mr Klynge is responsible for building direct ties with Silicon Valley heavyweights such as Apple, Facebook and Google.

“There’s nothing gimmicky about the suggestion. In fact, it would honour and support the great work done by the likes of IDA by having a leading individual from the sector talking to their own about the benefits and credentials Ireland has in ICT,” said John McGrane, director general of the British Irish Chamber.

“Appointing someone would be a sign of intent and a recognition that there are plenty of people fishing in the same pond and there are no marks for being shy,” he added.

ICT hub

The chamber has also urged the establishment of a national ICT hub to act as an overarching link between the Government, start-ups, investors and the multinational sector. It cites the Life Sciences Hub in South Wales as a good template on which to establish a new centre.

The hub, which opened in Cardiff in 2014, is designed to bring together academic, business, clinical, professional services and funding organisations to boost the sector locally by at least £1 billion by 2022.

The chamber said that while the Republic has some of the most supportive State-funded grant programmes for start-ups, there is “an obvious disconnect” between co-working spaces, national supports, accelerator programmes and direct access to venture capital funders.

To address this disconnect, the chamber recommends that the Government invests in a centre that would be “the nerve centre” for the ICT ecosystem in Ireland. It envisages the centre being based in the Dublin docklands but with satellite hubs in the south, west, northwest and the midlands.

“There is a massively vibrant sector spanning all of the technology landscape in Ireland but there is a need for a single central point that connects it all together. We are not trying to be prescriptive in terms of the nature or format of the hub but we do think that there are opportunities from joining up what is currently a very fragmented sector,” said Mr McGrane.

In its paper, the chamber also calls for Budget 2018 to address the “uncompetitive nature” of the Irish tax system to support the ICT sector with suggestions that include reduction of the marginal rate of taxation, reform of capital gains tax and the expansion of the Employment and Investment Incentive scheme.