2010 has been a good year for the software industry. We’re feeling the pinch; there’s no soft business out there, but we’re export driven and we’re growing. Exports and employment both grew by 6% in 2009, and an additional 2,500 employees have been employed in the ICT sector since the beginning of this year. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what we are doing well. The Irish software industry is a strong example of an export-oriented knowledge-led industry. Our global sales activities mean that we can take on this recession better than many other industries.
Let’s talk about some challenges facing our industry, indeed any high tech industry, and the challenges facing Ireland’s Smart Economy strategy. Real progress is being made in the funding area. There’s a sense of urgency and some really good decisions are being made. But let’s not forget the role of private investment in this. We need people to invest money to create high-skilled indigenous companies. Tax relief for this can’t be considered a dirty concept. Certainly remove the tax loopholes; but encourage people to invest in the real economy. Encourage them to take real risks. Specifically, we believe that the per-company BES limits need to be increased.
The ISA has long identified the barriers that exist for Irish software companies to do business with Irish government departments and agencies. Senior politicians and civil servants now have a strong understanding of the importance of this and the issues that need to be resolved, and, recently, new guidelines have been issued that should translate this into real action. Enterprise Ireland’s Public Procurement Unit is a real example of progress in this regard.
We now have bonus points for maths: the universities have done what they can do to help. Urgently, this needs to be backed up by more support for maths teachers and some structural changes in the curriculum and the exams. What sane country would make Maths (or any subject) significantly more work that any other? Perhaps the subject needs to be split, but whatever solution is chosen needs to be put in place with a real sense of urgency. Bonus points alone aren’t the solution. The linkages between maths education, engineering and computer science, high-skilled jobs, growing companies and growing economies are clear to everyone.
Product management is a key factor in the success of a company. It can t be isolated in one department, but must involve everyone from the CEO down. We ve long identified it as an area that needs support. This new working group will focus on product management, but will also expand into sales, marketing and PR. Many of the MNCs based here have strong product management teams and experience, and these have offered to help the group. It will also organise a set of events to help build the community and to learn from each other and from experts. The first event took place on 26th October in IBEC, and the second will be a TechBrew on 2nd December.
We are very grateful to Enterprise Ireland for the funding to enable us to run ISIN. If you are interested in research collaboration, commercialisation of IP or have a technology challenge, the ISIN team will help you access the relevant knowledge and facilities available in Ireland’s Universities and Institutes of Technology. The group also aims to bring together MNCs and indigenous software companies. The ISIN website also provides extensive information on funding and IP licensing.
The All Island Software network is a partnership initiative between the ISA, Momentum (the Northern Ireland ICT Federation) and InterTradeIreland working in collaboration with IT@Cork. The purpose of this project is to act as a resource for member companies to help identify partners, support mechanisms and collaboration opportunities in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Key areas of focus are the development of business and collaborative partnerships and networks in Ireland and Northern Ireland. This is now being extended to identify and develop European opportunities.
I’d like to finish by thanking a few people. Paul, Alicia, Patricia and Niall provide the core around which the ISA is built. Looking inwards, 2010 has been about changing the way in which the association works, getting more people involved, and putting in place the structures needed to help ourselves. So today, nearly all of our work is done by our working groups, and I would like to acknowledge the people involved:
- Brendan O’Reilly (Daysha Consulting) in the Public Procurement working group: government departments now understand the importance of working with Irish industry, and this is reflected in new guidelines. In parallel, we’re oganising a training course on public procurement for Irish software companies; as well as a series of workshops to bring companies and Departments together on specific software themes.
- Edel Creely (Trilogy Technologies)and Jonathan Boyland – Product Management is our newest group, and will organise a set of events to bring the Irish product anagement community together. The next event is on Dec 2nd.
- Howard Beggs (Helix Health)and David Moran – the Growth & Scale group ran its first Software Investment Forum in April, bringing together six software companies and six Irish VCs. The second forum will be later this month, and we’ve had 35 applications!! Other events being planned will give industry veterans the opportunity to pass on some of their experiences to new companies.
- Raomal Perera: the ISA has helped to re-activate the CEO Forum, by providing some admin support.
- Philip Sharpe (Danu), Karl Flannery, Ivan O’Dwyer and of course Michael Martin – ISIN links academics and the software industry, and it is real proof that someone as skilled and hard working as Michael can make a huge difference.
- John Caulfield and Therese Rochford – the Membership Services group is helping to make us more relevant to our members. For example, as well as our on-line presence, John is organising TechBrew events. These are informal product-related business discussions, with beer and sandwich in hand.
- Maire Hunt and Niall O’Cleirigh in Software Skillnet: in the last 4 years, 400 software companies have availed of the training on offer. Please work with us to make sure that we’re offering the courses that you need.
- Terri Raftery (Ericsson) in Education: this group focuses on areas such as the skills shortage – the people shortage!, Maths, and use of IT in schools.
- Doreen Freeman (Qumas) in HR Circle: provides a forum for HR issues.
- Stephen Sloan: the All-Island Software Network is a partnership between ISA, Momentum, InterTradeIreland, and IT@Cork, which helps companies to co-operate on an all-island basis