In June 2019, Una Fitzpatrick was appointed as the new Director for Technology Ireland. In this brief interview, Una shares her vision, her priorities for the European Commission and the value that Technology Ireland derives from the DIGITALEUROPE membership.
Tell us about yourself – what did you do before joining Technology Ireland?
I am a STEM graduate and have spent the last 14 years working in the knowledge economy. I have specifically spent the last 10 years at Ibec* with the last five years been spent with Technology Ireland**. I was delighted to be appointed Director of Technology Ireland in June 2018. Technology Ireland is the largest and most influential tech sector organisation group in Ireland. With origins dating back to 1968, the association was formed in 2017 by the merger of ICT Ireland and the Irish Software Association.
I am from Dublin, married to my husband Ivor and we have two daughters who are 4 and 7, so I have a busy home and work life!
What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges in your new role?
Within Ireland, there are huge opportunities for the tech industry to work across other sectors which have a strong reputation in Ireland, such a biopharma, med tech and agrifood. This cross convergence is an exciting part of the business to be involved with. Along with the biopharma and medtech sector associations in Ibec we have created the IoMT network (Internet of Medical things) and it is fantastic to be part of something working towards creating better products and treatments which will have real benefits for people.
Talent, skills and gender diversity are global challenges for the tech sector and while they are also challenging in Ireland, the work being done by industry in collaboration with Government and academia through the ICT Skills Action Plan, gives me hope that we will succeed in meeting the challenge through a myriad of approaches in higher education, further education, technology apprenticeships, conversion courses, women returner programmes and by attracting tech talent to Ireland.
If you were to meet the next President of the European Commission tomorrow to talk about the digital economy, what would you ask him/her to consider as top priorities?
I would tell her that industry shares the Commission’s ambition to make Europe a digital leader and we need to work together to make that ambition a reality. Europe needs to intensify its momentum, its capacities and the coherence of its digital transformation. In terms of momentum, we need to complete a sustainable digital single market that works – the proposed MFF Digital Europe programme will be important to this. In terms of capacities, we need to enable investment in the inclusion, the skills, the infrastructure, the entrepreneurship and innovation necessary to prepare Member States, businesses and individuals for the opportunities in a digital age. We need to enable the benefits of digital transformation across our economy and society. In terms of coherence, we need to ensure that our policy framework matches our ambition and is flexible enough to accommodate emerging business models and technologies like AI etc.
What are the success stories in Ireland? In which the digital sector do you believe that Ireland leads by example?
As you probably are aware, the European Commission ranks Ireland above the EU28 average in a cluster of high-performing member states and 6thoverall, across the EU, in progress towards a digital economy and society. Ireland is home to a strong indigenous technology sector and the top global technology firms. Ireland’s digitally intensive sector employs 212,000 (10.6%) of Ireland’s workers and account for €30 billion GVA in Ireland’s economy and 26% of its exports. However, it needs to be remembered we are a single market and that Ireland’s success is Europe’s success – there are spill-over effects across Europe from investment in Ireland and vice versa. Also, Europe’s challenges are Ireland’s challenges in terms of building a digital Europe – we need to drive this together.
How important it is to be part of DIGITALEUROPE for IBEC, and in what specific areas or/and activities do you find greater value?
DIGITALEUROPE membership is very important to Technology Ireland. A unified European voice for the technology and digital sector has never been more important. We see our relationship with DIGITALEUROPE as very much symbiotic in that our participation strengthens the voice of DIGITALEUROPE and the policy work done by DIGITALEUROPE serves European NTAs very well as tools with which to lobby their own Governments.
As with all member organisations you get out of DIGITALEUROPE what you put into it. By getting involved with groups and hearing the voices of others, this all leads to much more informed debate. Recently the work of the Brexit Taskforce has been important for Technology Ireland, as a member state who will be more impacted than others, it is useful to get the input from other NTAs.
*Ibec is Ireland’s largest lobby group representing Irish business both domestically and internationally. Its membership is homegrown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy. Together they employ over 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Ibec and its trade associations lobby government, policymakers and other key stakeholders nationally and internationally to shape business conditions and drive economic growth. It has over 230 professional services staff in seven locations including Brussels and has 42 different trade associations in the group.
**Technology Ireland is an Association within Ibec, which represents the ICT, Digital and Software Technology Sector. The Association is a pro-active membership organisation with over 200 member companies located throughout Ireland.