An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has turned the sod on a €1.6 million Regional Enterprise Development funded Innovation Hub, supported by Enterprise Ireland in Galway. The Bowling Green project is located in downtown Galway city centre and will be the home to 130 globally ambitious tech innovators and entrepreneurs from across the west of Ireland.

The project sponsor is The Galway City Innovation District, the team behind The PorterShed tech hub in Galway’s Eyre Square.

The Bowling Green development is the first of two new developments by GCID funded by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment through Enterprise Ireland. The next building at the Connacht Tribune will begin construction shortly and is expected to open in mid-2022.

L- R: Maurice O’Gorman, chair of the Galway City Innovation District; Mark Christal, divisional manager, regions and entrepreneurship, Enterprise Ireland; mayor of Galway, Councillor Colette Connolly; Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar

Experts and innovators

The Bowling Green site will also serve as a regional centre of excellence, delivering programmes for founders from the west and northwest, as well welcoming experts and innovators from further afield.

The PorterShed, the first building of Galway City Innovation District (GCID), opened in 2016 and quickly became the home of tech in Galway, opening its doors to the wider tech industry through talks, programmes, meet-ups and networking events. In just five years. GCID has supported the creation of more than 720 jobs in Galway and its members have had investments of over €35m.

Building on the success of the PorterShed, the new GCID location at Bowling Green will continue to build globally scalable tech start-ups and serve as an innovation space for the wider tech community. GCID is expanding its footprint in response to the high demand for city-centre locations for tech start- ups, which in just five years has outgrown the original PorterShed’s footprint.

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said: “Today is an important day for Galway which will further enhance the west of Ireland’s reputation as a technology hub.

"The PorterShed’s expansion with these two new GCID buildings is highly anticipated by the tech community in Galway. Innovation hubs offer much more than desk space. They provide a supportive environment, mentoring, and programmes to start and scale innovative tech businesses.

"The startup journey comes with all the usual challenges of starting a business, as well as the uncertainty of launching something totally new. The PorterShed community also gives startups access to other founders who have been on this journey and can lend their support. I congratulate GCID and Enterprise Ireland on this achievement and look forward to my return visit when the hub opens its doors.”

Mark Christal, divisional manager, regions and entrepreneurship, Enterprise Ireland, said: “Supporting innovative regional start-ups is a huge focus for Enterprise Ireland and the Regional Enterprise Development Fund is an effective mechanism of supporting regional development.

"We were delighted to support the development of the Bowling Green site as a state-of the-art technology innovation hub here in the heart of Galway city from which startups can operate, develop and thrive. We look forward to working with the entrepreneurs and businesses that will nurture and develop their business ideas as they come through this new collaboration hub with the possibility of one day becoming high potential startups.”

Early-stage supports

GCID is also a regional delivery partner of the NDRC, providing early-stage supports to founders in the west and northwest. GCID works closely with other stakeholders in the start-up ecosystem, including New Frontiers, GMIT, NUI Galway.

Key sponsors of the GCID initiative include AIB who have backed GCID since its inception in 2016. Mary Whitelaw, director of corporate affairs, strategy and sustainability said: “Our investment in the PorterShed demonstrates the role that AIB can play in supporting innovation and opportunity in our local communities and creating a sustainable future for new enterprises”.

Other sponsors involved in the new development include KPMG, SIRO Vodafone with more announcements expected in the coming months.

Maurice O’Gorman chair of Galway City Innovation District, added: ‘This is a key milestone in the long term strategy of Galway City Innovation District, the creation of high value sustainable jobs in the west of Ireland is fundamental to the growth of the region, we very much look forward to opening the Bowling Green site and expanding our footprint in Galway.

"The PorterShed was never just a building, it has always been about building a community facilitating innovation and creating world class companies in the west of Ireland.”