This winter started with job cuts at some of Ireland’s largest tech companies, with hundreds of layoffs at Twitter, Meta and Stripe causing many people working in the industry to consider their futures.
Kieran Ivers, CEO of Green Rebel, which provides site investigation and data services to the offshore wind sector, says despite the imminent challenges, Ireland’s tech sector is expected to continue to grow with new opportunities in a range of evolving industries not limited to big cities.
“The companies that will invest in rural Ireland are only now being created — and it’s up to us all to ensure that they are filled,” Kieran notes.
The renewable energy sector has the potential to bring life back to rural communities who have been facing depopulation for decades, he says, creating high-end jobs and revitalising towns and villages across the country.
“Ireland can be at the front of the global green energy industry ensuring that much-needed talent is kept locally,” he says.
The scale of what is possible with renewable energy and the impact that it will have is something that hasn’t been seen in Ireland in almost 80 years, he predicts, and once again technology will be to the forefront.
“In 1946, Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board embarked on an enormous project to bring electricity to rural Ireland, which transformed the Irish countryside, brought new technologies into people’s homes and paved the way for rural development.”
While the logistics, technology and investment required was vast, imagine how different rural Ireland would be if the ESB had not taken on that challenge, he suggests.
“When electrification first came to Ireland there was some fear about it, people didn’t understand it, but for the generations that followed it became normal and we can no longer imagine life without it. Now, we find ourselves facing rising energy costs and the fear of electricity shortages which is why the transition to renewable sources of energy is so important. Our futures and those of the generations to come depend on us moving away from fossil fuels and the tech sector is central to that.”
Taking offshore wind as an example, each gigawatt (GW) of wind is potentially worth up to €2 billion to an economy, and in recent weeks Ireland set new targets of 37GW in offshore wind power by 2050.
“Offshore wind holds enormous possibilities for Ireland and its coastal communities,” he points out. “Cork has the potential to be a key location for Ireland’s offshore wind ambitions. But it is not just limited to one location – communities right around Ireland, places where the population has been getting smaller for many years can also benefit. However, we need the best people if we’re to be successful and there are huge opportunities for those with technology backgrounds.”
Green Rebel, based at Cork’s Penrose Dock, is a data company providing site investigation services to the offshore wind sector.
“We are a prime example of people switching tracks from other industries and applying their knowledge to the emerging renewable energy sector.”
The company has a team of over 80 scientists, chemists, engineers, ecologists, vessel crew and business practitioners across multiple locations in Cork and Limerick. “That includes tech sector transferees who are combining their value system with their expertise to identify a high energy contribution.
“Technology and innovation are at the heart of what we’re doing,” he explains. “We’re not tied down by an asset base, we’re using an untapped resource of people with a technology background, using the skills and knowledge gained across a range of companies and sectors and are helping us to develop unique solutions including in areas like artificial intelligence.”
The renewable energy industry is growing rapidly and with it comes new technologies that allow higher quality and more efficient processes.
“Companies working in the offshore sector are now using drones and autonomous underwater vehicles to support what they are doing and are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to see their ambitions realised. A key constraint for companies across all sectors is talent because so many are looking to attract the key players. Employees are looking for jobs that offer better work-life balance and organisations that share their values.”
Many Irish companies in the renewable energy sector have a competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff, he says: “They are new, ambitious and are not afraid to make bold choices that will benefit their teams. Several are taking part in a European pilot project to trial a four-day working week.
The calibre of people who are drawn to this industry share a common purpose which is to have a positive impact on our environment and secure a better future for everyone. For many teams, it’s much more than a job.”
Kieran Ivers sees Ireland as having the ability to develop industry-leading technology for offshore wind and renewable energy — something that is already happening here, but with so much more potential to come.
“We need to look at what countries of similar scale have done with technology and manufacturing. They opened the doors to attract market players and became global leaders themselves. I want to see Ireland becoming a global leader in offshore wind technology.”