This time last year I was doing a lot of explaining to a lot of people. It was the waning days of my role as Dublin Commissioner for Startups and I had decided that as a follow-on project I’d build a data driven and public record of all innovation happening in Ireland. People thought that was a fancy way of saying I was building a database, and they were right, even if for me it was actually a much more compelling story. After two and a half years back in Dublin my search for a listing of Irish companies was still coming up empty and I’d already spent way too much of my youth persuading colleagues in America that Irish innovation went beyond the Book of Kells and great Irish brands like Guinness and Kerrygold. Nothing less than a database of Irish innovation company by company was going to cut it, so that’s what we were going to do, me and my new team of true believers in a new organization called TechIreland.
— Niamh Bushnell (@NiamhBushnell) March 15, 2018
By December 2017 we had 9 months of data gathering behind us and had managed to entice a raft of great advisors to our cause as well as support for our activities from Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, Bank of Ireland, Google and many others. The data was strong enough to showcase by itself but the stories it told about Irish innovation would glow warm and brightly under a stronger spotlight so what were we waiting for. We released our first annual report on Irish innovation in January 2018 and it’s been downloaded over a thousand times since. If they love it digitally we thought, let’s make it into a book. The book will be ready to adorn coffee tables later this week and will be able to order from our website.
The book, called Innovation Nation Edition 2018, is also being dispatched by the Department of Foreign Affairs to Irish consulates and embassies all over the world, and I love the idea of this physically beautiful and factually irrefutable guide finding its way into the hands of decision makers and influencers just in time for Paddy’s Day. Whether they spend hours diving into the details or a couple of minutes flicking through its 140 pages, Innovation Nation will leave them with a powerfully positive impression of modern Ireland and that ticks the success box for me, the team and all of our supporters.
So what does Innovation Nation tell us about Ireland? It looks at Irish innovation at a moment in time – the year 2017 – celebrates our global winners and introduces us to up and coming Irish companies whose technologies and products are prompting peers and corporates across the world to sit up and take notice. The book offers a tip of the hat, a nod and a smile to established players who’ve had another great year like Monex, and Transfermate and Netwatch and Boxever and creates a bit of fanfare around introductions to newer players like Soapbox Labs, Gecko Governance, Artomatix, Coroflo, Cainthus, RecommenderX and Plynk. In total, Innovation Nation features over 100 companies we’ve been tracking for months already and reminds the reader that you heard it here first because these are our companies, born and bred here in Ireland.
Innovation Nation, the Coffee Table Book is finally here and it's 140 pages of great stories about great Irish companies over the last 12 months. Check out a sample or order it here https://t.co/5D6g5YTiBH #InnovationNation2018
— TechIreland (@techireland) March 15, 2018
For someone like me based on home turf, the most compelling story in Innovation Nation is the story of the regions in Ireland. We talk a lot about “the regions” here in Dublin but tend to know few of the details about them. With this book and report we’d like to think we’ve started to fix that. We’re tracking innovation across all 26 counties but ended up highlighting 8. There are chapters dedicated to Cork, Limerick, Galway, Louth, Waterford, Kildare, Kerry and Donegal and again there’s tips of the hat and congratulatory smiles showered on companies like XYZ who are leading the way for their county in technology and funding, and the support systems that go with them.
A headline picked up by many from our report was that Limerick received more funding in 2017 than any other county outside Dublin. When they saw this some people called foul as Limerick’s first place was mainly due to one company and one funding round – Aarlis who secured €50M – but for us that’s still a great reason to give kudos to Limerick. The county is building and scaling Irish born companies of the magnitude and power of Aarlis, AMCS and others. The data proves it so we’re happy to put it in the spotlight. In fact, one of the trends we noticed when we first knuckled down to this work was how often our advisors across the country would suggest locally based companies we were already tracking as Dublin. Migration to the big city is natural and even critical for companies in areas where there are few people around them with the skills, the knowledge or the networks to give them a leg up but regional enterprise funding and initiatives are starting to change that, another fact our report gives a fair amount of coverage.
One of the things I love about TechIreland is how it’s connecting companies to each other here at home in Ireland. Sure, we want and need to world to see us but we also need to know what our next door neighbours have to offer. The Irish may be super well networked in the States and even in Asia but we’re divils for making those more obvious connections. The little-database-that-could makes that easy so log on, buy the book or do both at the same time. And wherever you, don’t forget to tell a modern Irish story.