ITAG Board look to Silicon Valley centre for entrepreneurship

Martin Gibbons, GMIT, Prof Gerard Lyons, NUI Galway, and Burghardt Tenderich, Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology UC Berkeley.

Martin Gibbons, GMIT, Prof Gerard Lyons, NUI Galway, and Burghardt Tenderich, Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology UC Berkeley.

Members of the board of Information Technology Association Galway (ITAG ) recently visited a world leading centre for technology entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley.

As one of the most influential universities in the technology sector, University College Berkley academics have started more than 200 successful business ventures in areas such as IT, Clean Energy and Biotechnology. Governments and business leaders from all over the word have looked to the Silicon Valley area for ideas on how to build successful industry clusters.

The area is unique in creating a pipeline of new ventures -- emerging from the Bay Area’s universities and finding a fertile business climate, readily available capital and an abundance of experienced start-up leaders.

“Many people talk about the unique business ecosystem in Silicon Valley, but this is something which can’t be easily replicated elsewhere”, according to Prof Gerry Lyons (of NUIG ). “This doesn’t work according to some grand plan, but is a natural evolution based on cultural attitudes towards technology, innovation, business and risk-taking. This culture pervades everything, even the mindset at some of the most respected universities in the world”.

The ITAG group visited the UC Berkley Centre for Entrepreneurship & Technology (CET ), based in the university’s College of Engineering. “Entrepreneurship is not a separate office or support group in the University, but a part of the core academic business of Engineering & Computing”, according to Prof. Ikhlaq Sidhu, Director of the Centre.

“Undergraduate students take modules in entrepreneurship as part of their core curriculum, and work on real-world problems with emerging companies and industries. Graduate students have the opportunity to work at the CET Industry Lab, where they work in groups of 5-10, alongside seasoned entrepreneurs, experienced venture capitalists and industry leaders, to solve a specific problem within an emerging area, such as Clean Technology.

During the visit, the ITAG group met with teams of young entrepreneurs at the UC Berkley CET Venture Laboratory. Here, Ph.D. students in Engineering and Computing work on building start-up businesses based upon their doctoral research topics, in areas as diverse as: network switching for domestic solar panels, to electric motor monitoring, and digital image management in Web site design. “What impressed us most was the ease with which students and professors moved between academic and business objectives”, says Prof. Lyons.

“These were clearly producing high-quality Ph.D. research, but were equally motivated by the buzz of building start-up companies”.

“As ITAG approaches its 10th anniversary, we can be confident that the IT industry in Galway is a healthy and vibrant sector”, says Fintan Healy (ITAG Chairman ). “This involves some of the largest IT companies in the world such as Cisco, IBM, HP and SAP.

“ But, Galway is also home to many small Irish owned start-up and emerging IT companies, such as Storm, Vulcan Solutions and FotoNation”. The next phase of development for this sector must surely be to stimulate greater start-up activity in this area, involving our local third level colleges, experienced multi-national managers and some previously successful entrepreneurs,” he said.

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