The number of new start-ups developing technologies related to sports is on the rise, according to Gráinne Barry, co-founder of SportsTech Ireland.
“We’ve seen an acceleration in the number of people approaching us with new ideas for the application of technology to the world of sport over the past year,” Barry said.
“Like many other industries, the Covid lockdowns seem to have generated new entrepreneurs and innovative ideas in the sports tech space. We have had enquiries from all kinds of people about how to scale up their idea or bring it to market.”
SportsTech Ireland is an advocacy body for the sports technology industry in Ireland. A not-for-profit organisation, it promotes Ireland as a world-leading destination for sports innovation and technology.
The organisation also supports the development of sports technology entrepreneurship in Ireland, and the development of talent and skills for the industry.
Barry put the recent rise in start-up enquiries fielded by SportsTech Ireland down to the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the way we live and work.
“You couldn’t go to a stadium or gym over the past year, and this meant we were accessing sport in different ways, and often different sports too,” she said.
“This seems to have produced so much creativity among sports fans, athletes and sporting organisations focusing on how to digitally transform their businesses.”
Founded in 2017, SportsTech Ireland is headquartered in Limerick “at the heart of Ireland’s passion for sport”, Barry said.
As she sees it, the city is the ideal home for the organisation, with a world-class university and sporting campus, easy access to Shannon Airport and a competitive cost base.
Limerick also has three colleges within a small city radius. “We are looking to capitalise on the various elite sporting facilities and assets already in the region,” Barry said.
“These include UL’s sports campus and research facilities, LIT’s Sportslab (Europe’s leading strength and conditioning centre) in Thurles, and a range of companies involved in other sports-related activities – from sports technology, analytics, and wearables to sports nutrition.”
Although headquartered in Limerick, SportsTech Ireland has a nationwide reach spanning the length and breadth of Ireland.
“We cover every sport from rugby to equestrian sports and run the full length of the island from Donegal to Cork and east to west,” Barry said.
“SportsTech Ireland aims to be a bridge between commercial bodies, start-ups, entrepreneurs, educational and research facilities and FDIs, and has partnered with a number of international organisations to help position Ireland as a global destination for sports tech companies,” she said.
In addition to her voluntary role with Sportstech Ireland, Barry is also vice-president of global digital and business operations at Stats Perform, the US-owned sports data company, in Limerick.
“For SportsTech, being headquartered in Limerick has been a particular advantage, because of its sporting reputation and as a focal point for transatlantic activity between the US and Europe,” she said.
“Sports tech hubs in Tel Aviv, Paris and Berlin are leading the way. With their help, we are taking what works, to create the best possible ecosystem here in Ireland.
“We are working on a dedicated sports tech programme to help us drive a cluster in the region to represent all of Ireland. We are working on building future talent to support start-ups and SMEs and to continue to attract FDI.”
The sports tech sector was on the rise globally, creating potential opportunities for ambitious start-ups in Ireland, Barry said.
“Data, and the interpretation of data, is hugely important in all sports and there are plenty of opportunities to work with that and develop innovative products,” she said.
“Sports tech overall is a growing space. It’s being used by everybody from elite athletes to the casual user. Everyone has their own personal best they want to beat.
“Ireland has a growing reputation in the sports tech space and we’re seeing examples of innovative indigenous companies that are scaling up internationally, such as Kairos and Orreco. We expect this to continue as the industry consolidates and expands,” Barry said.