Technology Ireland launches to advocate for the tech sector

Minister Dara Murphy speaks at the launch of new advocacy group Technology Ireland.

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23 February 2017 | 0

A new advocacy group representing the technology sector in Ireland has been launched by the business group IBEC.

Technology Ireland brings together ICT Ireland and the Irish Software Association (ISA), creating an advocacy group for Irish-owned and foreign direct investment (FDI) companies in the sector. The group will be chaired by Zelia Madigan, managing director at Ericsson Ireland, with Jonathan Hyland, CTO, Globoforce, as vice chair, and Paul Sweetman will be director.

“It is testament to the strength and scope of the technology industry in Ireland,” said Sweetman, “that we have merged together to jointly advocate towards our common goals and ensure a united voice for the Irish technology sector.”

“With origins dating back to 1968, Technology Ireland is now the country’s largest and most representative technology sector group, with an unparalleled network of home-grown and international business leaders. Supported by a strong board of Country Managers, CEOs and Founders, Technology Ireland will be the authoritative and united voice driving effective and meaningful change for our sector.”

Structure
Technology Ireland said that its network is structured around a series of core working groups, member forums and networking events, all of which are primary enablers of its strategy. “By forging close working relationships with government departments, state agencies and governing bodies, the association ensures the united voice of the Irish technology sector is clearly communicated to the relevant stakeholders and policy makers.”

“The future of Ireland’s technology sector is very bright and continues to grow at a rapid pace,” said Zelia Madigan. “Ireland is the second largest exporter of technology services in the world and home to nine of the top 10 technology companies. As Technology Ireland, we will work to create an environment for additional growth of the Irish digital ecosystem with the combination of the world’s leading international and indigenous companies.”

Key goals
The group will have five key goals.

  1. To ensure that Ireland is the best country in the world for talent and skills in technology. Technology Ireland will work to promote:
  • Investment in education and preparing students for life beyond the classroom
  • Continuous training and upskilling which meets industry’s changing needs particularly through initiatives such as Skillnets and the ICT Associate Professional
  • Development of a new ICT Skills Action Plan which aims to build the supply of talent
  • Maintaining strong support for initiatives such as Tech/Life Ireland which promotes Ireland as a location for mobile tech talent
  1. Promote Ireland as a global digital leader through:
  • Digital leadership at the highest levels of Government
  • Advancing Ireland as a world leading data economy
  • Continuous investment in innovation and R&D that supports FDI and indigenous companies
  1. Promote Ireland as the most competitive and collaborative business environment for technology companies through:
  • Strong collaboration between industry, academia and research institutions through initiatives such as the Technology Ireland Innovation Forum
  • Improved tax supports for technology businesses such as an enhanced employment investment incentive scheme, a stronger R&D tax credit and a competitive corporate tax rate
  • Ireland as a location that fosters strategic operations and decision making
  1. Highlight Ireland as the preeminent global location for diversity, developing :
  • Ireland as a world leader in correcting the gender imbalance in the technology sector
  • Initiatives that encourage careers in STEM
  • Training opportunities that attract female IT professionals back into the workplace such as the Technology Ireland Software Skillnet ‘Women Reboot’ programme
  • A diverse workforce where talent can flourish in a vibrant technology sector
  1. Develop Ireland as the best location in the world to start, grow, scale and invest in a business through:
  • The introduction of schemes and initiatives which encourage investment in start-up technology businesses
  • Awareness amongst scaling technology companies of the broad set of funding opportunities that are available
  • A new seed enterprise investment scheme to encourage investment in start-up technology businesses and a reduced
  • Capital gains tax (CGT) rate for entrepreneurs
  • The development of a scheme similar to the EMI scheme in the UK, where share options are afforded relief from income tax and the Universal Social Charge (USC)
  • Talent development programmes focused on scaling businesses through our Technology Ireland Skillnets

Forefront of regulation
Minister of State for European Affairs, Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Dara Murphy TD, praised the work of both ICT Ireland and ISA, with special recognition for the initiative to bring the two efforts together in Technology Ireland.

The minister highlighted the benefits of being at the forefront of regulation and the digital single market, as protectionist attitudes are gaining ground around Europe.

He said that Ireland is not just catching up with respect to regulation with other members of the EU, but is now giving leadership in this space. The minister said that funding to the office of the Data Protection Commissioner has quadrupled in recent years, to facilitate a regulatory framework to support both indigenous and the multi-national companies.

“Ireland is the only country in the European Union,” said the minister, “that has a dedicated unit that specifically deals with data protection related issues pertaining to large, tech and multi-national companies.”

“We are also, along with Germany, one of the only countries that has a data forum looking at the potential for our country and our society from data and the evolution of this new age,” he added.

Common issues
In a panel discussion comprising the new chair, vice chair, the minister and representatives from Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, common concerns for the tech sector were raised.

Maintaining competitiveness, attracting and, critically retaining, talent, the free movement of people and housing were all mentioned, though the minister added that more needs to be done to address the cost of energy.

Sweetman of Technology Ireland made specific mention of the issue of gender imbalance in the technology sector as a whole, but said that if it was correctly addressed here, it would do much to address the wider skills and talent issues.

“At a time when industry is expressing major concerns over the skills and talent demand,” said Sweetman, “it is obvious that if we can improve these numbers, the talent demand will abate and we can focus more efforts on innovation and turning ideas into real assets, products and services.”

Sweetman said there were currently a number of activities focused on promoting women in the technology sector and that addressing the gender imbalance issue will be one of Technology Ireland’s “flagship focuses” in 2017.

Start-up connectivity
Another issue raised by Leo McAdams of the IDA, was around start-ups. McAdams said that the IDA currently works with more than 200 start-ups per year, and a constant need for such companies is what he termed “connectivity” — that is the ability to meet and communicate with others in the sector and wider industry to share wisdom as well as to seek out opportunities.

In recognition of this need, Sweetman said that there would be a new membership model for start-ups focused on affordability to encourage greater participation.

In a closing comment, the minister emphasised the need for groups such as Technology Ireland to work with European sister groups to coordinate efforts, as not all the partners in the union share the same outlook.

 

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