Limerick, the hub for SportsTech Ireland
What do you think of, when you think of Limerick?
Inevitably when I ask this question, sport of one form or another features in the first 5 words. Be it Munster Rugby, the UL Arena; Tom Barr; Special Olympics, the 50 metre pool; Ger Hartmann; rowing on the majestic Shannon river; the World Student Sports Games, or the new 25 metre diving pool opening soon. However, one thing stands above all else – the enthusiastic, passionate sporting fans and spirit that pervades Limerick.
This idea for this initiative was borne out of a research project by an Executive MBA team from the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. Len Middleton, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Ross School of Business has been a long-time visitor to Ireland and particularly to Limerick and the mid-west. Len brought his 100th Irish team to Limerick in September 2016, this time to lead a project on examining the start-up and scaling ecosystem and how it could be powered up. The project team met with many stakeholders in the City including UL, LIT, Limerick Enterprise Office, Innovation Works, etc, as well as many start-up entrepreneurs and established companies. One of the many ideas conceived was for a Limerick-based cluster bringing together two of the cities key areas of interest, Sports and Technology.
“SportsTech Ireland can provide a bridge between coaches, athletes & players, investors and sports and technology entrepreneurs, businesses and international companies.” Professor Len Middleton, University of Michigan.
In 2015 Ireland’s first ever sports business cluster was established in Limerick with a target of creating 500 jobs within five years. The National Sports Business Cluster was developed in association with W2 Consulting, University of Limerick and Innovate Limerick. Building a specialised SportsTech hub for sports innovation and technology is a natural extension of this project, linking to the Universities for research and Sports Science and IT/Engineering; LERO (Irish Software Research Centre); entrepreneurs; indigenous and multi-national technology companies; coaches, players and athletes.
Formal clusters are known to work well. Dundee is noted as a video games cluster and has been credited with driving a 600% growth in Scotland’s gaming industry. Dublin is focusing on becoming a Fintech super-power cluster. Galway is Ireland’s med-tech cluster. As Michael Porter has said “the enduring competitive advantages in a global economy lie increasingly in local things—knowledge, relationships, motivation.” Clusters are not new thinking but they are viewed as the new kind of team. A team where the performance is much higher than the sum of the parts.
A SportsTech cluster for Ireland can compete on an International scale with Israel, London, Paris, Toronto, Boston, St Louis, and Silicon Valley. The aim is to specialise in key verticals:
- Fan Engagement
- Stadium Tech
Leap of faith
A SportsTech cluster for Ireland requires a long-term strategy and commitment. Establishing it in Limerick takes advantage of the natural sporting ecosystem that already exists. Making SportsTech Ireland a success requires motivation, innovative thinking, collaboration and a competitiveness; the hallmarks of any great team.
The official launch of SportsTech Ireland is set for June 1st in Limerick. It all began with an idea. But the raw material that can power this idea is, of course…people.