On Tuesday 27th February, in the second of the Chamber’s #AGENDA2018 policy series, sponsored by KPMG and Ulster Bank, leaders from the UK and Irish ICT sectors came together alongside policy makers, experts, commentators, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders for the ICT Seminar ‘Turning a Challenge into an Opportunity’. The purpose of this Seminar was to assess the potential challenges and opportunities presented to the Irish ICT sector as a consequence of Brexit and how best to develop a UK-Ireland Tech Corridor.

The audience received a high level presentation from serial entrepreneur Colm Lyon who is the founder of fire.com, who spoke on the changing nature of banking, transfers and bank accounts. His presentation was followed by the first panel which focused on ‘How to Win the War for Talent’. Key topics for discussion included harnessing talent, up-skilling in the workplace, education and collaboration, attracting international talent, and a strong focus on diversity in the work place. Ireland’s current tax system came under scrutiny from the panelists with Olivia Buckley from the Irish Tax Institute offering a warning to the audience that “We’re at risk of pricing ourselves out of the market with our very high taxation rates and low entry points”.

The second panel focused on the challenges of Brexit to the Irish and UK sectors before tackling the importance of a UK-Ireland Tech corridor. The audience were reminded that 90% of the UK’s tech exports are services based, therefore Brexit will raise technical issues such as in the area of data transfers. The challenge for small fintech firms who service the UK using EU passports will be the need to get both licenses while managing GDPR. Colm Lyon eloquently expressed the overriding goal that must be maintained in these negotiations; “Doing business in the UK is like doing business in Cork. This must be maintained at all costs”. Giles Derrington of techUK suggested that enhanced communication between governments, regulators and business would be vital for development of a UK-Ireland tech corridor.

The Seminar was chaired by Jeanne Kelly, Chair of the ICT Committee and the panelists were:

• Olivia Buckley, Director of Communications, Irish Tax Institute
• Ruth Curran, Managing Partner, MERC
• Giles Derrington, Head of Policy, techUK
• Niall Flood, Director of Corporate Finance, KPMG
• Olaf Fitzsimmons, Head of SME Banking – East, Ulster Bank 
• Anne Kiely, Snr. HR Business Partner, Twitter
• Anne Looney, Executive Dean, Institute of Education, Dublin City University
• Colm Lyon, CEO and Founder, Fire.com