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Ireland's Silicon Bog

A decade ago, the Republic of Ireland was an impoverished backwater. Today, the country is called the Celtic Tiger and boasts the most vibrant European economy. A key to its success: plugging in.

Ireland is the world's No. 2 software producer, trailing only the United States.

Major PC makers - Intel, IBM, Apple, Dell, Compaq and Gateway - have made Ireland their main European base, and the country aggressively offers these companies a blend of tax breaks, government aid and investment in industry-linked university programs.

The silicon economy in the Irish Republic contributes $9 billion to the total Irish economy of $63 billion.

In all, computer-related industries employ more than 50,000 people and feature prominently in what a few years ago were cow pastures outside Dublin, Limerick and Cork. The Irish Times job section is filled with high-tech ads.

In Dublin, these high-salary jobs have helped fuel an unprecedented suburban housing boom. One new red-brick development: Cyber Plains.

The government last year launched an Advanced Software Technologies Initiative: $2.25 million to support 20 doctoral students in developing new software products. The Investment Ireland agency has set aside $110 million in venture capital for new software business.

A primary inspiration for the boom was Chris Horn, a computer sciences professor at Trinity College in Dublin who got government sponsorship in 1991 to develop "middleware," software that makes different programs compatible.

Today, Horn is one of Ireland's wealthiest men and his Iona Technologies has forged a strategic partnership with Microsoft. But Iona is only the best-known of nearly 600 indigenous software houses in Ireland.

"In Ireland, from Day One, you think about exporting," Horn said. "Your domestic market's too small to matter." Ireland has only 3.6 million people.

More Destinations on Digital Planet
Silicon Valley, Calif.Seattle, Washington
Boston, MassachusettsAustin, Texas
New York, New YorkDublin, Ireland
Cambridge, EnglandSophia Antipolis, France
Oulu Technopolis, FinlandHaifa, Israel
Bangalore, IndiaZhongguancun, China
Kyushu Island, JapanTaipei, Taiwan
SingporeKuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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Written by Shawn Pogatchnik

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