Galway’s reputation as one of Europe’s leading tech hubs has been given a dramatic boost with the news that Galway Technology Centre (GTC) has secured €4m government funding for its ambitious AcademyWest plans.
The announcement catapults the tech ecosystem in the west to new international heights and will see the creation of over 500 direct jobs by scaling, innovation-driven enterprises.
AcademyWest will boost the west of Ireland economy by €62m each year while acting as a major driver of regional growth in the tech sector.
Today [Wednesday, 8 January], Enterprise Ireland announced €4m in grant support which means that, in the words of GTC General Manager, Niamh Costello “it is all systems go” for AcademyWest.
“This is huge news for GTC, Galway and the entire western region. We will spend approximately €5m on developing AcademyWest but the return will be multiples of that each year after we launch in 2021. It will be money well spent as Galway continues to make a real name for itself in the European tech sector,” said Niamh.
Twenty-five years after being founded in response to the closure of Digital Hardware with the loss of 760 jobs, GTC will expand on its regional leadership role with this ‘flight centre’ for global technology companies.
Frank Greene, Chairperson, GTC, paid tribute to “the Chair of GTC’s Strategy Committee, Eugene McCartan, and all his committee members.”
He added: “The board members are all voluntary and worked long hours to bring this next phase of GTC to fruition. This government funding will enable us to press ahead with the AcademyWest project incorporating a state-of-the-art 2,122 square metre extension and a range of supports to address a critical capacity barrier and facilitate rapid scaling of tech companies across the region.
“It is exactly 25 years since this social enterprise was founded by the government-appointed Digital Task Force, chaired by former City and County Manager, Seamus Keating. The task force set down GTC’s mission as follows: ‘encouraging and supporting the development of an indigenous technology-based industry in the (West) region’. GTC’s voluntary Board of Directors has since then worked tirelessly towards realising this vision and mission. AcademyWest will be another huge step.”
AcademyWest will support the creation of 820 direct and indirect jobs in the first five years and create a regional centre of excellence for innovation-driven enterprises.
“We have worked hard to turn our ideas into actual plans, and this government funding, under Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) is crucial,” said Niamh.
“There is a shortage of scale-up space in our region – we have had to turn companies away. In our role as regional enterprise leaders, we have assisted and mentored innovation hubs in the region to help build the kind of ecosystem that’s needed to sustain a world-class technology sector”.
Planning permission for the new centre was finalised last August.
Under AcademyWest, GTC will extend its reach throughout the region through collaborative tie-ups with other enterprise hubs, and act as a regional leader in new enterprise facilitation in collaboration with key foreign direct investment (FDI) employers in Dublin, London and elsewhere.
Over the past 25 years, GTC has been a vital ‘soft landing’ place for significant companies such as EA Games, Wayfair and MathWorks, all of whom had their first west of Ireland base there before breaking out into larger locations where they now employ hundreds of people.
Included among the success stories are indigenous technology companies that established themselves in GTC before scaling up to become major players. These include Storm Technology and Bluetree Systems (now Orbcomm), Planet 21 and Siren.
“Of late, we have read a great deal about plans for the east coast of Ireland in terms of making Dublin more like Boston, Barcelona and Paris, but, in fact, it is also hugely important that we develop the west of Ireland too,” added Frank.
“I congratulate Enterprise Ireland and the government for recognising this reality. This shows the level of trust GTC has earned over the years.
“GTC has proven its worth during good economic times and bad. The vision of the founding board members, and those who came after them, continues to stand to this region and will stimulate extensive economic activity for many more years to come.”
GTC is located in Mervue Business Park and is planning a major celebration to mark its 25th anniversary later in the year.
Number of companies currently in GTC: 40
Number of current jobs: 326
Number of companies based there since 1994: Over 300
Number of direct jobs created: 3,000
Value to the economy in direct salaries since 1994: €1.3bn