Over 500 jobs will be created by innovation driven enterprises at the new AcademyWest at Galway Technology Centre (GTC ), resulting in an annual €62 million boost to the west of Ireland over the next five years – and the facility is poised to act as a driver of regional growth in the technology sector.
In major expansion plans, GTC says AcademyWest will incorporate a 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.
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 scaling innovation-driven global technology companies’.
Niamh Costello, General Manager, GTC said AcademyWest would support the creation of 820 direct and indirect jobs in the first five years and create a national centre of excellence for scaling innovation-driven enterprises.
“Put simply, the region needs a global technology centre of this size and scope. 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,” she said.
In 1994, the problem was a shortage of employment as Digital, which employed 1,200 people at peak production, shut its doors – but GTC’s 2,122 square metre extension will solve a different issue.
“Companies that start here in the west want to stay here. The talent is here, the ambition is here and we have world class third-level institutions. That’s what has prompted us to create AcademyWest, which focuses solely on scaling innovation driven enterprises,” added Ms Costello.
“A key part of this project will involve delivering a range of specific supports to companies at a vital stage of their growth. These supports will include, for example, strategic connections with venture capitalists and other key players, multi-agency collaboration, tailored information and training programmes and professional assistance with national and international recruitment.
“In this regard, Academy West is much more than just a building – it is a dynamic ecosystem where we create an environment that enables companies to scale. It will be a flight centre for scaling innovation-driven global technology companies. The entire offering – the building and the supports – will be of enormous benefit to technology companies just about to take off.”
Planning permission for the new centre was finalised in August. It will be the largest of its type in the region. GTC is now pursuing various funding and support options.
The plans comprise just one element of a blueprint to guide GTC through the next phase of its evolution. The centre will also 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 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 which 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 established in GTC before scaling up to become major players. These include Storm Technology and Bluetree Systems (now Orbcomm ), Planet 21 and Siren.
“GTC is a social enterprise set up by the Digital Task Force in 1994 to support and develop an indigenous technology-based industry in Galway and across the region,” said Frank Greene, chairperson of the board of GTC. The Task Force turned to Galway Chamber of Commerce, Westbic and Forbairt (now Enterprise Ireland ) to realise their GTC Vision and Mission. All three organisations contributed to achieving these goals. They were generously helped by the strong support received from public and private institutions and local personal voluntary donations. With this assistance, GTC gradually grew from a 6,000 sq. ft building to the current 50,000 sq. ft building.
“GTC is a key driver of the evolution of the Galway Innovation District that also includes NUIG Incubator, GMIT iHub and, more recently, the Portershed. It is now much more than a leader in Galway. It has also become a regional leader, and will expand on that by establishing AcademyWest,” concluded Mr Greene.
GTC is located in Mervue Business Park and is planning a major celebration to mark its 25th anniversary later in the year.