Thursday 23 October 2014

NAMA sites to become free offices for startups

Published 24/01/2014 | 02:30

Sean O’Sullivan and Minister Richard Bruton launching the Entrepreneurship Forum's report at Dogpatch Labs. Picture: STEVE HUMPHREYS
Sean O’Sullivan and Minister Richard Bruton launching the Entrepreneurship Forum's report at Dogpatch Labs. Picture: STEVE HUMPHREYS

EMPTY buildings owned by NAMA will be offered for free to startup companies under plans being considered by Government.

The scheme will probably be rolled out this year under the 2014 Action Plan for Jobs, the Irish Independent has learned.

The idea emered out of the Department of Jobs' Entrepreneurship Forum, a working group led by 'Dragons' Den' investor Sean O'Sullivan.

Its proposals, first reported earlier this month by this newspaper, recommended that unoccupied and NAMA buildings should be used to provide a total of 50,000 square feet of working space for entrepreneurs and startup companies.

The idea is to provide this office space for free or at a very minimal cost.

But other recommendations, such as ambitious tax reform proposals, are unlikely to be implemented. Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said the tax idea was a long-term goal and would not happen under the current government.

Buildings owned by the Office of Public Works and government departments have been proposed for a pilot scheme to make use of NAMA properties.

The proposed new offices would be designed as "co-working spaces", which are communal offices than house several different companies.

These offices are also known as incubation hubs. There are several in Dublin. Some, like Polaris' Dogpatch Labs, are provided by private venture capital firms to house the startup companies they have invested in.

"Affordable, flexible workspace does not exist in sufficient quantities for startups in all regions of the country" the research behind the idea found. "Landlords and office space rental in Ireland often requires long fixed terms for fixed spaces which is inappropriate for most startups. Legal reviews of lease expenses is an additional unnecessary expense."

The problem is particularly pronounced for entrepreneurs outside Dublin.

Other recommendations included proposals for mandatory training of third-level science, technology, engineering and maths students on how to commercialise business ideas.

Changes to the legal system to support employee stock option programmes was also proposed.

Irish Independent

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