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Dublin: Leading Ireland’s recovery and future through investment in its entrepreneurial ecosystem

Posted by Chad O'Connor  October 9, 2013 11:05 AM

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[EDITOR'S NOTE: Over the summer I had a first-hand look at Ireland's recovery as documented on this blog. The next few days will show updated findings from Boston-based Leading Cities' current trip to Dublin.]

Leading Cities, an international research collaborative of municipal governments and universities focused on exchanging solutions to municipal challenges, facilitating business development and fostering government-to-government cooperation, is currently leading a delegation of Greater Boston's business, civic, academic and non-profit leaders on its annual Exchange Mission to explore Dublin, Ireland. Delegates will bring back their findings and look for opportunities to share and apply them in the Boston area, beginning with Leading Cities' annual Chatham Forum.

At a ceremony officially inducting the city of Dublin into the Boston-based Leading Cities Network, Enda Kenny, the Prime Minister of Ireland, said “we have to measure up and demonstrate competency, professionalism and the capacity to deliver.”

Mr. Kenny’s words ring true for countless situations and circumstances. However, in the climate of today’s political arena and the looming economic challenges around the world the resonance of such words could not be more powerful. In Ireland, Prime Minister Kenny’s leadership, optimism and sense of conviction for establishing Ireland’s recovery has inspired a nation. Ireland is on the rise – optimism is high, and for the people of Ireland, it is not just about recovering, it is about leading the way to the future – and their trajectory is pointed in the right direction. After experiencing the loss of over 250,000 jobs in Ireland, Silicon Republic, an Irish online publication, links Dublin's bounce back and current trajectory with its investment in its entrepreneurial ecosystem. The impact of such investment cannot be understated when entrepreneurs are recognized for having created two thirds of Ireland’s new jobs over the 5 year period ending in 2012– during which time 19,000 new firms were started.

Similarly, in the United States the Kauffman Foundation reported that large businesses destroy approximately one million jobs each year, whereas small and medium size enterprises are responsible for creating approximately 3 million jobs. As nations and cities worldwide struggle to put the unemployed and underemployed back to meaningful work, there is growing clarity that comprehensive strategies are needed to develop the necessary pipeline for the appropriate talent needed.

The Irish strategy is already clear—invest in human capital, foster innovation, support high growth startups and promote Ireland as an ideal gateway for foreign business to access the European markets. In other words, Ireland continues to develop and strengthen its entrepreneurial ecosystem—a strategy being discussed and pursued right here in Boston.

Photo courtesy of Leading Cities

L-R: Peter Finnegan, City of Dublin;
Brian MacCraith, President of DCU;
Peter Clinch, VP of UCD;
Mike Lake, President & CEO of Leading Cities;
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny

The Leading Cities’ Exchange Mission, which has organized a delegation of senior business and civic leaders from Greater Boston to visit Dublin, Ireland, was designed to explore innovative policies and programs that can be adapted and adopted in Massachusetts, creating new jobs and strengthening our own economy. Furthermore, this mission seeks to foster greater collaboration and business development opportunities that will build upon the historical and economic bridges that already exist between Ireland and the Commonwealth. With more than 70 Massachusetts-based businesses operating in Ireland and with more than 100,000 individuals employed in the US by an Irish firm, we have a solid foundation on which to build a partnership for economic prosperity for both our regions.

Over the next two days this delegation will seek to understand the solutions developed in Ireland around strengthening the entrepreneurship ecosystem within a city and exploring unlocking innovation in both the public and private sectors. The two remaining installments in this three part series will share the findings of this delegation and begin an ongoing conversation regarding Boston and Massachusetts’ positioning to be a more attractive destination to start and grow a business, to be a more powerful magnet to attract and retain talent, and to be a more competitive player in the global arena.

As we emerge from our own epic recession, with a resolve for economic leadership and commitment toward innovation and job creation, what lessons can we apply to optimize our own entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Richard Bruton, Ireland's Minister for Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation shared his department’s efforts which include improvements in access to seed and venture funding, increasing supports for international businesses being incubated in Ireland, facilitating mentorship from top level entrepreneurs and the increasing presence of Local Enterprise Offices throughout Ireland supporting startups.

At Digital Hub, a 10 year old government-funded, Dublin-based incubator, 72 digital media and content companies occupy 7 buildings once occupied by the Guinness brewery. This “village” of buildings and startup companies represents one example of the many centers of vibrant activities that fuel the entrepreneurial spirit, creating new opportunities, new ideas and ultimately new successes.

As is the case in Boston, and every knowledge-based economy, the access to talent and the development of a talent pipeline is a critical success factor for sustainable growth moving forward. To achieve this pipeline a number of programs engaging youth, attracting talent and providing skills training have been deployed. Among these programs is the Irish-born and subsequent worldwide expansion of CoderDojo, a non-profit organization teaching children how to code. In addition, Ireland is experimenting with 21st century models of apprenticeship to combine experience with knowledge and further prepare individuals for employment.

Mike Lake is President & CEO of Leading Cities and candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Joe Albanese is founder & CEO of Commodore Builders. Bret Perkins is Vice President, Comcast.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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