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Irish tech firms win a chance to team up with the IRFU

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Keith Brock, senior development adviser at Enterprise Ireland; Lucy Mulhall and Stacey Flood, Ireland Women’s Sevens players; and Stephen McNamara, director of communications, IRFU

Keith Brock, senior development adviser at Enterprise Ireland; Lucy Mulhall and Stacey Flood, Ireland Women’s Sevens players; and Stephen McNamara, director of communications, IRFU

Lucy Mulhall and Stacey Flood, Ireland Women’s Sevens players

Lucy Mulhall and Stacey Flood, Ireland Women’s Sevens players

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Keith Brock, senior development adviser at Enterprise Ireland; Lucy Mulhall and Stacey Flood, Ireland Women’s Sevens players; and Stephen McNamara, director of communications, IRFU

While the Irish men’s rugby team is currently ranked as the best in the world after their recent historic test series win over the All Blacks, it’s also fair to say many innovative Irish sports tech companies are truly world-class.

That’s why it makes sense to bring together some of the best and brightest from the Irish tech sector with the IRFU, so these cutting-edge indigenous firms can trial and validate their innovative new products on and off the pitch and in the stadium.

Enterprise Ireland and the IRFU recently announced that the two organisations have developed a new strategic partnership, which is designed to support Irish innovators and start-ups in the sport tech sector.

This partnership will support individual entrepreneurs and Irish companies that can often find it challenging to gain access to the unique evaluation environment of an elite sports organisation.

Not only can the Irish firms be invited to participate in this partnership to test and optimise their products across the ranks of the IRFU, ranging from the grassroots to the upper echelons of the Irish game, but those that prove successful will benefit from its support and endorsement.

This approval from an elite international sporting organisation will also help them to bring their product or service to the attention of potential clients around the world, ultimately enabling them to grow and scale outside Ireland.

This partnership presents a valuable opportunity as the sports tech sector is continually on the rise. According to the latest 2022 European SPORTSTECHX report, 2021 will be remembered as a landmark year for sports tech crossing €1.8bn in investment in Europe, with Ireland ranked seventh in the region. Ireland already leads the global field when it comes to sport analytics and performance, with companies like Kitman Labs, Output Sports and Orreco supporting top-tier clubs and athletes around the world.

Further testament to our homegrown tech talent are the incredible Irish companies working in more diverse areas of sports tech.

This includes in the areas of player welfare, fan immersion and engagement, ticketing, stadium connectivity, content and more, with machine learning and artificial intelligence powering many of their innovative products and services.

Early next month Enterprise Ireland and the IRFU will issue a technology call inviting eligible companies to register their interest in working with the IRFU.

The two organisations have agreed to focus on four key areas, which are:

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  • Innovative means of increasing rugby participation while promoting health and safety;
  • Digitalisation to enhance fan engagement and immersion;
  • Technology to increase the preparation and performance of players;
  • Climate sustainability across IRFU, provinces, clubs and stadiums.

Innovative Irish companies are encouraged to consider applying if their offering could address one of the four key pillars of the partnership. The call will be open to Irish tech firms, even if they have not previously categorised themselves as sports tech firms, as they may realise their technology, product or service could solve a problem or contribute to the sports sector.

On foot of this technology call, a number of eligible companies will be invited to participate in the programme for nine months, and additional support will be provided by Enterprise Ireland and the IRFU.

As well as offering these Irish firms access to this unique and high-level evaluation environment, this strategic collaboration will support Irish rugby to gain a competitive edge by engaging with Ireland’s tech community at an early stage, which will contribute to Irish rugby’s technology transformation.

This collaboration will also serve to further enhance the ecosystem which supports the growth of these innovation firms, by engaging with the industry, third-level research and the wider sports tech sector. We really welcome the IRFU’s openness to working with Enterprise Ireland and the Irish tech sector.

  • Keith Brock is Senior Development Adviser, HPSU, Enterprise Ireland

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