Picture of Black Head Lighthouse on Galway Bay (Allgau, Wikimedia Commons). My grandfather was the first lighthouse keeper here, having helped build it from 1935 to 1936 with the Galway Harbour and Irish Lights Commissioners (this Clare lighthouse was requested by the community of transatlantic liner captains and freighter masters using Galway Bay).
Galway has so much to be proud of that often remains under the radar. Sometimes we tend to be a bit “Irish” about the great stuff going on here, hiding our lights under bushels. So I wanted to make a plea to everyone in the West to shine a light on the creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship of Galway, the capital city of the West, whether it be through social media, word of mouth, or promotional material you may be creating for your organisation.
Here are some tidbits that many of you may have heard before, and some others that you may not have encountered thus far:
- Galway was named as the top microcity in Europe last year by the Financial Times fDi magazine (for cities less than 100,000 people).
- We are the world’s friendliest city according to Travel & Leisure Magazine.
- Galway is Ireland’s medtech capital, with a third of Ireland’s medtech workforce in one of Europe’s if not the world’s top medtech hubs, with a density of companies only rivalled by Minnesota.
- Galway is home to a fantastic range of MNCs and startups – I won’t list them all out because I’ll only offend those that I forget – but just take a look at the Galway Tech Map and Galway Medtech Map and you’ll get a good overview of the companies that are here.
- We also have had some very successful indigenous companies come out of Galway, including financial services company Fintrax, reportedly worth half a billion euro, and Creganna, Ireland’s largest indigenous medical device company, ranked among the world’s top 10 medical device outsourcing providers.
- NUI Galway is the only Irish university to move up in the university rankings for the past two years in succession (climbing 213 places in the QS Rankings since 2007), was the top performing Irish university in terms of money received from Horizon 2020, and is one of three universities in Ireland to receive LaunchPad funding from the Blackstone Foundation to boost undergraduate entrepreneurship.
- Between GMIT and NUI Galway there is a combined student population of 22,500, with many drawn from the catchment area in the West (nearly 360,000 people live within a 60 km radius of Galway). NUI Galway outputs nearly 150 ICT graduates and about 150-200 ICT postgraduates per year.
- And some bits from history:
- The two inventors of the terms “electron” (Stoney) and “homo neanderthalensis” (King) were professors at NUI Galway (then QCG).
- Alice Perry, the first female engineering graduate in the UK and Ireland, if not the world, was one of the first graduates from NUI Galway, and the chief engineer of San Francisco, Michael O’Shaughnessy, who named and commissioned the Golden Gate Bridge, was also a graduate from the University.
- The heart of Silicon Valley, Menlo Park in California, was founded by two Galway immigrants and named after Menlo and Menlo Castle here in Galway.
Barry O’Sullivan wrote an article in the Irish Times on Friday about various initiatives centred around what he dubbed “Silicon Square” in Eyre Square, including the Galway City Innovation District’s PorterShed, StartLab, and other projects that are aiming to raise the game in terms of innovation density in downtown Galway. The final line of his article summed it all up very nicely: “The folks in the west have a vision of Galway as a birthplace of ambition, so that our kids will have a choice to have amazing careers in the west, and not have to pack their bags for Dublin or San Francisco or even Lisbon.”
Galway has a great reputation for quality of life and culture, but to attract the creators, innovators and entrepreneurs (and keep our own kids here) we should be telling them first and foremost about our ecosystem of internationally-renowned and award-winning tech and medtech companies, as well as the skilled and talented graduates and postgraduates from our respected educational institutions (NUI Galway, GMIT) and research centres (Insight, Cúram, GMedTech, CiSET, Marine Institute), because it is this density of ecosystem that will primarily draw them in.
The literary, arts, music and food events plus other outdoor activities to do around Ireland’s cultural heart and most multicultural city are a huge feature and added benefit, as it could be the Derroura mountain bike trail outside Oughterard, Ireland’s only Computer and Communications Museum, or the Food on the Edge extravaganza in Galway that further resonates with the CEO of a high-potential startup or multinational who is already considering Galway as a location. Few others can boast having Galway Bay, Connemara, the Corrib, the Twelve Bens, the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands on their wild Atlantic doorstep, not to mention the Galway Races, Arts and Oyster Festivals held here every year. Christopher Columbus even paid us a visit in 1477.
But we also need to appeal to those businesspeople who are just visiting Galway as a tourist destination (1.13 million visitors came to Galway in 2014) and who have no idea of the fact that there is a tech and medtech hub right under their noses. Real-time social media searches often unearth such people: I remember a few years ago, one of the heads of a large internet organisation was on holidays in Galway and I felt that we had missed out on an opportunity. It would be great to instantly make these people aware of the ecosystem here in case they choose to combine work with pleasure and have a tour of what’s going on.
I also do a daily search for the word “galway” along with “innovation”, “tech”, “technology” or “startup” on Twitter, Google News, etc., and as part of my routine I share out the interesting things I come across on social media. You too may have seen a fascinating story about a Galway innovator or innovation in the newspaper or elsewhere: we can all be ambassadors, so I am calling on you to share these good news stories (online, verbally, hand-written, whatever!) with your peers, colleagues and friends.
Let’s shine a light on the treasure that is Galway, the best small city in Ireland, Europe, and I believe, the world.