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CoLab – at the heart of innovation in Donegal 07.09.21

CoLab is a purpose built incubation centre based on the campus of the Letterkenny Institute of Technology. Having began life in the early 80s as a small incubation centre, it is now the largest business centre in the 3rd level sector in Ireland.
Patsy Donaghy is manager of CoLab and has been with the centre since 2002, overseeing significant expansion, the roll-out of a host of training programmes and the provision of 35 business units to 60 companies who in turn employ over 220 people.
Patsy explains: ‘’At CoLab we offer a wide range of workspace solutions. From large offices to hot desks in the co-working area we have space to fit a range of business offerings. There are three distinct groups whom we assist. First are start-ups that need help and direction with their early stage ideas. We offer the New Frontiers Programme in conjunction with IT Sligo in the North West which provides the skills, support, and confidence needed to make the leap to starting a successful business.
‘’The second group we are looking to help is Diaspora from the region. We connect with people that have left the North West but either want to return to start-up their own business or can influence the company they work for to open a European base in Donegal". Some examples of these companies include ElectroRoute, an independent energy trading and services company, Arklu, the Lottie Dolls manufacturer and KeyedIn Solutions, a cloud-based software company.
Patsy Donaghy, manager of CoLab.
The third group are remote or co-workers with the centre equipped to service 30 remote workers with individual desks along with printer and private phone facilities.
CoLab clients, or assets as Patsy calls them, are diverse in nature. While the centre focuses on helping technology and export focused companies sectors represented include: cloud computing, software development, e-commerce, education, film and video, energy, finance, fire safety and manufacturing.
Two of the largest companies in the centre are currently adding significant numbers to their staff headcount. These are Druva, a software firm headed up by local man David Gildea who will recruiting a further 20 employees, while similarly Nvolve, a long-term CoLab resident, have recently announced similar expansion plans.
One of the biggest benefits for businesses setting up in CoLab are the established connections to businesses in the region and abroad, business consultants and high-quality graduates on your door step being based on the campus of LYIT, as well the nearby Ulster University.
CoLab is a purpose built incubation centre based on the campus of the LYIT.
According to Patsy: ‘’the most important benefit is the calibre of the companies that are based in the centre. If you need advice on setting up your company we have accountants online, if you want advice on manufacturing or buying in China then Ian Harkin is the man to talk to. If you need advice on crowd funding you can talk to Michael White of Motorme or problems with data security then Clare Ryan of Itus Technologies is the person to have a cup of coffee with.’’
Collaboration is in the name and in the DNA of Patsy and the business centre. CoLab also works closely with other business centres including Inishowen Innovation Hub in Buncrana.
Patsy’s concludes ‘’Donegal is now recognised as a hub for tech, R&D and innovation. At CoLab alone there are 60 companies who develop new tech products and export across the world as far away as Japan, US and Australia. Businesses have chosen to locate here because they have all the facilities and supports available in major cities but without the hassle of congested traffic, high costs and time constraints, coupled with an unrivalled quality of life.’’
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