Ireland has continued to see considerable investment – second only to the UK – in terms of investments in R&D, ICT and life sciences compared to the rest of the western Europe, according to data from greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets.

The encouraging Ireland data arrives despite a decrease in global FDI projects (see cover story, page 76) last year.

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Ireland, dubbed ‘the Celtic Tiger’ during 1990s and early 2000s, partly because of its ability to attract high-value foreign investments, has suffered during the recession in the financial services sector, but that has failed to deter investors such as Facebook and Citi from opening new global R&D centres near Dublin.

“Globally, FDI is down 30%, but I think it is important from an Ireland Inc point of view that, despite all the negative coverage of the economy, foreign direct investment is still coming to Ireland,” IDA Ireland chief executive Barry O’Leary said at a recent conference in Dublin. “Traditionally, the growth sectors have been life sciences, biopharmaceuticals, ICT, financial services and an array of globally traded services [However] digital media is showing the most [impressive] signs of growth at the moment.”

Mr O’Leary pointed to examples of Hewlett Packard investing e10m in R&D in Galway, and Intel bringing in more than €50m and adding 130 new research jobs in Shannon. Security software McAfee is in the process of setting up a 120-person technical support team in Cork, while the global leader in electronic games, Activision Blizzard, recently employed 740 people, also in Cork.

“Facebook is doubling the size of its international headquarters after coming to Ireland only a year ago [while] Citi is investing up to e100m in R&D. A few months ago, Boston Scientific revealed an investment of €140m at its Galway manufacturing operation,” said Mr O’Leary.

He added that nanotechnology was another growth sector. “It is an area that is programmed for spectacular growth and this is a space that Ireland wants to be playing in,” he told the conference. “Because of the IT, manufacturing and life sciences track record we have here, we can play to our strengths. The more expertise we develop here in nano­technology, the more likely we are to win business in this space, which is projected to grow from $147bn to more than $3100bn by 2015.”

Ginanne Brownell