I am delighted to be able to be here today and to welcome you all to the launch of “Experience the Digital Hub”. Since I became Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources last year, I have taken a particular interest in driving the development of the Digital Hub project here in the historic Liberties/Coombe area, and I myself have enjoyed this ‘Digital Experience!’
I am particularly pleased to be here in what is now known as the “Digital Exchange” and to see that that the premises are being put to good use. I understand that Riverdeep and TKO are now located in this building. Of course these are just two of the many new arrivals here in the Hub. Amazon’s decision to locate here is significant news for the project and will bring with it a number of highly skilled jobs. I have also learned that DC Studios will locate their development studio here in the Hub and create 50 new jobs in doing so.
This rapid and exciting growth is the story of the Hub so far and one that I want to see accelerated. The Government is fully behind this project and believes that the Hub can become a showpiece of city centre development where community and enterprise, where central government, local authority and the private sector, and where students and teachers all have a significant role to play.
The Digital Hub now has almost 50 companies on the campus with more in prospect. These companies have been attracted by the diverse cluster of enterprises, events and activities that take place here and by having access to some of the best telecommunications infrastructure in Europe.
The employment, energy and activity brought by companies to the Hub serves as a basis for cooperation with the wider range activities in the area, including activities under the Liberties Learning Initiative, and organisations such as the Computer Clubhouse and Suas.ie. I feel this is just the beginning, and the prospects for growth and development are very significant.
The Digital Hub Agency has had tremendous success in the social and community development aspects of its remit. The Liberties Learning Initiative, with the continued support of Diageo, has meant that the Digital Hub has had a meaningful and positive impact on the wider community of the Liberties.
Assisting in the development of the Hub, I intend to pursue two initiatives personally – a continued research presence in the area, and a new approach in the property development of the Hub.
I am delighted to say that the proposal to establish the “National Digital Research Centre (NDRC)” here in the Digital Hub has generated significant interest. The competition, which is being run on my behalf by the Higher Education Authority, was launched just last week and I know that the HEA are busy dealing with queries from a number of parties.
The Centre, which we hope to have established by the end of the year, will complement existing Irish Government initiatives focussed on digital media and technology enterprises and assist in the development and growth of the Digital Hub district. As well as having a clear educational research focus the Centre will have a strong industry input with a particular focus on Irish-based industry. There will also be an emphasis on interdisciplinary research and innovation. The NDRC, together with existing activities and initiatives in the Digital Hub district, represents the type of value-added activity that is key to maintaining Ireland’s success and reputation in the ICT sector.
Turning to the issue of property development in the Digital Hub, while it is unfortunate that the recent developer competition did not reach a successful conclusion I believe there is a silver lining here. We now have an opportunity to deliver the Digital Hub Project in a way that will give all the stakeholders a greater degree of control over the project and allow us to deliver the project quickly and efficiently. Following discussions with the Agency I have set up a Steering Group including representatives from the OPW to deliver the property development project in a timely manner. The OPW are currently preparing an Area Framework Plan for the Digital Hub to assist in the fast-track development of the Property. When completed the project will deliver 500,000 sq feet of enterprise, learning and educational, residential and retail space. The project will transform and revitalise the whole Liberties area and the next few years will be a very exciting time for the community and all those involved.
Finally, I believe that I will shortly be making a presentation to the winners of Dare to be Digital Ireland 2005. This competition, run by The Digital Hub in association with Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, will select a team to represent Ireland in the international ‘Dare to be Digital’ competition in Dundee this summer. Today’s winners will have the opportunity of developing their own games and presenting them to leading figures in the Irish and British gaming sector. So it will be a busy summer for them but I would like to wish them every success in Scotland.
It just remains for me to say a special thank you to all the team here at the Digital Hub - some outstanding work has been carried out here in the last year. I would also like to wish them the best of luck with the series of interesting events they have lined up here over the next month. For my part I would like to reiterate my own commitment and the Government’s commitment to the project - I am optimistic that by this time next year we will have an even greater number of new enterprises and community events together with the National Digital Research Centre contributing to the diverse range of activities that make the Digital Hub such a unique place in Dublin.