Tánaiste opens £9.5 million IT Building at NUI Galway

Wednesday, 19 September 2001

Release date: 19 September, 2001

IT Expert emphasises the continuing need for skilled workforce

Tánaiste opens £9.5 million IT Building at NUI Galway

"Although the IT industry is undoubtedly experiencing difficulties at present, we should not be deflected from creating a highly skilled workforce to take advantage of the economic recovery that will follow the current temporary downturn." That is the strong message from Professor Gerry Lyons, Director of the School of IT in NUI, Galway. Professor Lyons was speaking at the opening of a £9.5 million IT building, which An Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Harney TD, officially opened at the University today (Wednesday, 19 September).

Opening the facility the Tánaiste said "Investment in skills and the promotion of close links between third level institutions and industry is central to Ireland s strategy to weather the current downturn in the IT industry".

"The experience of Galway shows clearly the effectiveness of this approach. Following the closure of Digital it was the availability of skilled people and the willingness of the education sector to work closely with business that led to the regeneration of the high tech sector in Galway and the creation of the vibrant City that we see today. This investment will ensure that this positive development is sustained into the future," the Tánaiste added.

The horrific terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York was not only a human tragedy of enormous proportions but also a body-blow to the American, and by extension the global economy. "However, given the robust, resilient nature of the US business sector, recovery will probably take place much quicker than we can at present forecast", says Professor Lyons.

He predicts that further contraction will indeed take place throughout this year, followed by gradual recovery in ICT (Information and Communications Technology) consumer and investor confidence in 2002. Recovery will continue thereafter as excess inventory is replaced with a more market-balanced supply-demand capacity and the rate of innovation increases again.

"The IT industry has a high "clockspeed", i.e. a shorter expansion/contraction cycle than most traditional industries", says Professor Lyons. "These are indeed dark days in the aftermath of the US attacks. However, as recovery resumes, it will bring with it a new wave of innovation and Ireland must be in a position to participate in those developments.

A reduction in demand for third-level IT programmes this year is short-sighted in Professor Lyons's view. "It takes four years to produce an IT graduate and there is still a supply shortfall in the numbers of these graduates, who do after all not work exclusively in the ICT sector. Their skills are required across all industries, business and public services – in any human or economic activity that relies on computing and communications technology".

Professor Lyons also urges development of an indigenous IT sector. "Ireland has a world-wide reputation as a leader in the ICT industry", he says. "However, we must promote more indigenous innovation and creation of ICT businesses that can scale-up to play on an international platform". Israel for instance, which is comparable in size to Ireland, has nearly as many companies listed on NASDAQ as Europe does.

Ireland is no longer a low labour cost economy and high volume labour intensive manufacturing operations will increasingly move to Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Ireland is already becoming established as a post-industrial, information intensive, high-cost, high-skilled economy, much like Switzerland or Sweden. "The only sustainable raw material for such an economy is a highly educated, technologically advanced workforce", says Professor Lyons.

"This means not just primary degree graduates in IT, Engineering and Science, but an increasing investment in fourth level graduates - specialists who have completed postgraduate degrees and developed research skills to fuel the indigenous product development industry."

Dr. Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh, President of NUI, Galway said that the new IT Building was a "vote of confidence in the future of IT in Ireland. This sector has brought tremendous success and prosperity to this country in recent years", he said. "It is important that we provide the most modern facilities to enable our students acquire the skills and training required to meet the technological challenges presented in the new millennium." The new building is a major element of the University s £45 million capital development programme, which was launched in 1998.

Ends

Information from: Máire Mhic Uidhir, Press Officer, NUI, Galway Tel. 091-750418

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