Ireland Tries to Pump Up VC Activity

Ireland has been roiled by the economic crisis, but the government is doing what it can to goose the startup landscape while trying to instill some confidence in potential co-investors abroad.

Last week, in a splashy display at the New York Stock Exchange, Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen launched a €500m innovation fund, one whose advisory board is being chaired by Damien Callaghan of Intel Capital.

Cowan said at the time that the fund is expected to be a “key pillar” of the government’s “smart economy strategy” and that if the government is successful in turning Ireland into a global hub, up to 120,000 new jobs could be created in the next decade.

And this morning, the Irish Examiner is reporting that VC firms backed by the economic development agency Enterprise Ireland — which has pumped €320m into Ireland’s private equity funds over the last 16 years — committed €52 million across 87 investments last year. Evidently, that’s a 53 percent jump over 2008.

Feargal Ó Móráin, the director of corporate and investment services at Enterprise Ireland credited the pickup to a few factors, including the launch of the €26m Bank of Ireland Seed and Early Stage Equity Fund and a €23m expansion to the Seed and Early Stage Equity Fund of Ireland’s Allied Irish Bank. Another fund launched was the €75m Seroba Kernel Life Sciences Fund II Limited Partnership Fund, one of the largest dedicated life science venture capital firms in Ireland and Britain.