Enterprise Ireland ups drive to get hi-tech start-ups
Semi-state hopes to lure web firms away from rival London
ENTERPRISE Ireland's has ramped up its drive to attract foreign technology start-up companies to these shores and has London-based firms firmly within its sights.
The Irish semi-state (EI) last year launched a €10m fund to invest in small technology companies if they relocated to Ireland.
That fund is specifically targeting London-based companies who are being incentivised to shift operations to Dublin where they can avail of a range of support services and a lower cost base that they can't get in the British capital.
The British government has made a huge effort to promote its "Tech City" in central London as a base for start-up internet- based companies, and Prime Minister David Cameron has pointedly trumpeted the virtues of London over Dublin.
Last year when London and Dublin were competing to become the European base of microblogging site Twitter, Mr Cameron personally made overtures to get the company there.
In the end, Twitter decided to locate offices in the two cities.
Yesterday, Naghmeh Reilly of Enterprise Ireland's Overseas Entrepreneurship, said that while the scheme did not specifically target one particular region, it was only natural that it is looking to attract companies away from London.
"Are we aiming to take companies from London only? Not at all, but it is a fact that there are a lot of those in London so it is only natural that we are putting time in there.
"Having said that, we are looking to attract companies from a lot of different places, whether it's London, Paris or anywhere else," she added.
One of the points of emphasis for Enterprise Ireland is to target the diaspora, and it is aiming to lure back recent emigrants in particular.
The agency hopes to have convinced around a dozen such companies to move to Ireland by the end of this year.
Under the terms of the investment fund, EI will put up to €500,000 of venture capital into a start-up firm.
Unlike traditional venture capital funds, however, it will not take more than a 10pc stake in any company.
The strategy continues the Government's emphasis on the technology sector as a way to attract highly skilled employment here.
Some of the biggest names in the sector are already based here including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and LinkedIn.
Many of the firms have set up in the Grand Canal Docks area of Dublin, and a growing number of start-up companies have sprouted up in the same area as employees who gained skills with some of the major firms branch out on their own.
Despite the IDA's success in attracting major technology employers to these shores, and the growth in start-ups, questions have persisted about the long-term viability of these small companies.
At a conference last week the Irish Stock Exchange said the State needed to do more to get these companies to scale up in Ireland rather than moving overseas or selling out to a trade buyer.