Ireland needs to improve its marketing of the technology sector if it is to remain a global leader, delegates at the Irish Software Association's annual conference in Dublin were told today.
Ten years ago there was virtually no software sector in Ireland but now it is the envy of the world, according to Dr Mike Lynch, founder and CEO of international software company Autonomy.
However, he warned that a failure to market Ireland's technology edge successfully could undermine its quality reputation.
"Many of us come from the old school of engineers who believed that if you built a better bridge, the world would beat a path to your door," he said.
"This is not the case. There's no point having the best software in the world unless you market it."
Delegates also heard Cathal Friel, chairman of the ISA, call on students not to be scared of pursuing a career in technology just because of a short-term downturn in the sector and welcomed the upsurge in students pursuing PhD courses over the past 18 months.
"Ireland's future was as a knowledge based economy which would need a ready supply of technology literate graduates," Friel said.
He added that Ireland's days as a low cost manufacturing base were numbered, but the lesson of Silicon Valley is that you can have a high cost base if you have highly skilled workers.
A note of caution was sounded by Michael Chalfen of international venture capital firm Apax Partners, who said that technology companies can expect to face difficult conditions in the enterprise market for at least the next 18-24 months.
"Successful tech companies will need to do more with less. They need lower cost structures, driven by better product management and marketing to prioritise research and development efforts and reduce sales costs," he said.
"Compared to other European markets Ireland stood out based on its combination of cost, quality, and innovation and that makes it an exciting market for technology investors," Chalfen added.
Despite a difficult economic environment Ireland attracted international investment of more than €200m in 2002. Enterprise Ireland also approved investment in the sector of over €30m, including support for 35 new significant start-ups and more than €11m in research and development funding.
Opening the conference, the Tanaiste Mary Harney said that the sector continued to perform well and she had no doubt that it will remain a dynamic player in the world economy.