CoLab is a purpose-built incubation centre based on the campus of the Letterkenny Institute of Technology. Having begun life in the early 80s as a small incubation centre, it is now the largest business centre in the 3rd level sector in Ireland. Patsy Donaghy is the manager of CoLab and has been with the centre since 2002, overseeing significant expansion, the roll-out of a host of training programmes and the provision of 35 business units to 60 companies who in turn employ over 220 people.
‘’At CoLab we offer a wide range of workspace solutions. From large offices to hot desks in the co-working area, we have space to fit a range of business offerings. There are three distinct groups whom we assist. First are Startups that need help and direction with their early-stage ideas. We offer the New Frontiers Programme in conjunction with IT Sligo in the North West which provides the skills, support, and confidence needed to make the leap to starting a successful business.
‘’The second group we are looking to help is Diaspora from the region. We connect with people that have left the North West but either want to return to start-up their own business or can influence the company they work for to open a European base in Donegal’’ explains Patsy. Some examples of these companies include ElectroRoute, an independent energy trading and services company, Arklu, the Lottie Dolls manufacturer and KeyedIn Solutions, a cloud-based software company.
The third group are Remote or Co-Workers with the Centre equipped to service 30 remote workers with individual desks along with printer and private phone facilities.
CoLab clients, or assets as Patsy calls them, are diverse in nature. While the Centre focuses on helping technology and export-focused companies sectors represented include: cloud computing, software development, e-commerce, education, film and video, energy, finance, fire safety and manufacturing.
Two of the largest companies in the centre are currently adding significant numbers to their staff headcount. These are Druva, a software firm headed up by local man David Gildea who will be recruiting a further 20 employees, while similarly Nvolve, a long-term CoLab resident, have recently announced similar expansion plans.
One of the biggest benefits for businesses setting up in CoLab is the established connections to businesses in the region and abroad, business consultants and high-quality graduates on your doorstep being based on the campus of LYIT, as well the nearby Ulster University.
According to Patsy ‘’the most important benefit is the calibre of the companies that are based in the centre. If you need advice on setting up your company we have Accountants-on-line, if you want advice on manufacturing or buying in China then Ian Harkin is the man to talk to. If you need advice on crowdfunding you can talk to Michael White of Motorme or problems with Data Security then Clare Ryan of Itus Technologies is the person to have a cup of coffee with.’’
Collaboration is in the name and in the DNA of Patsy and the business centre. In addition to strong client interaction within the facility, connecting with networks such as Letterkenny Chamber, Donegal Woman in Business Network and Donegal Dublin Business Network helps to provide fruitful relationships for both parties. CoLab also works closely with other Business Centres including The Base, Inishowen Innovation Hub in Buncrana and the gteic network in the Donegal Gaeltacht.
There is much in the pipeline too for CoLab. Recently they secured funding from Enterprise Ireland to run the New Frontiers Programme for another 5 years. They will support LYIT with a feasibility study on establishing a Marine Incubator in Killybegs to allow them to harness Ireland’s Ocean Wealth around Seafood and Energy and also working with the existing sector-based there. Additionally, LYIT will become a Technical University early next year which will be increasing its research base and in turn will lead to more spin-out companies from the university and more IP being created.
Patsy’s concludes ‘’Donegal is now recognised as a hub for tech, R&D and innovation. At CoLab alone there are 60 companies who develop new tech products and export across the world as far away as Japan, the US and Australia. Businesses have chosen to locate here because they have all the facilities and supports available in major cities but without the hassle of congested traffic, high costs and time constraints, coupled with an unrivalled quality of life.’’
Article by [author-name] (c) Irish Tech News - Read full story here.