Silicon Docks

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Alto Vetro Building and the National Waterways Visitor Centre
View of the Google Docks (Montevetro) building from the roof of The Marker Hotel

Silicon Docks is a nickname for the area in Dublin, Ireland around Grand Canal Dock, stretching to the IFSC, city centre east, and city centre south near the Grand Canal. The nickname makes reference to Silicon Valley, and was adopted because of the concentration of European headquarters of high-tech companies such as Google,[1] Facebook,[2] Twitter,[3] Linkedin[4] and startups in the area. The number of tech professionals working in technology firms in the area is about 7,000.[5]


In the wake of the dot-com bubble collapse from 1999-2001, IDA Ireland's director of operations in California, Dermot Tuohy, made moves to bring the at-the-time budding tech companies, PayPal, eBay, Overture (which would later become part of Yahoo!), and Google to Dublin. In 2002, Google executives agreed to investigate the possibility of opening operations in Dublin. They viewed the Digital Hub in the city centre west, which now houses 900 people and is the location for the European headquarters of companies such as Eventbrite and Etsy. Google’s property advisors at the time also alerted them to an alternative location at Grand Canal Dock, identifying the potential of a number of buildings on Barrow Street owned by developer Liam Carroll. Within walking distance from the city centre, the location was seen by the company as having the right mix of factors to attract the type of employee they wanted in Dublin. Google's California offices encouraged a college campus-style atmosphere, something achievable in the Grand Canal Dock location. The visitors decided that once the building, which was still under construction, was complete, they would rent 60,000sq ft of Gordon House on Barrow Street, which they moved into in 2004. It’s a choice still seen by those in the IDA as a seismic shift for investment in Dublin. The agency, and many others including senior Google employees, feel the decision was directly responsible for many other Silicon Valley names, such as Twitter and Facebook, choosing to set up shop nearby.[6]

Many of the new buildings around Grand Canal Dock were completed in 2007, just as the financial crisis hit Ireland. This meant that many of these high-end buildings stood empty in the period of economic uncertainty that followed. Since 2012 in the wake of Ireland's economic recovery, international investors have been buying prime office space in the area.[7]

In November 2013, a new fast-track planning scheme was approved by Dublin City Council to allow for docklands buildings of up to 22 floors in height – 50% higher than Dublin’s tallest building. The Docklands Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) Planning Scheme gives council planners the power to make decisions that cannot be appealed to An Bord Pleanála, ensuring a minimum of delay for developers. The SDZ represents the first major planning initiative since the 2012 decision to wind up the Docklands Authority, but to retain an appropriate fast track planning framework to complete the Docklands project. Dublin City Council, which is taking over the Docklands Authority’s powers, is determined to encourage the continued development of the 66 hectares, north and south of the river, that comprise the new planning zone. The plan identifies five specific development hubs: Spencer Dock, Point Village, Grand Canal Dock, Britain Quay and Boland's Mill. One third of the overall docklands area – 22 hectares - is ready to be developed. Buildings left uncompleted since the financial crisis are now due for completion. Most notably, the former Anglo Irish Bank building, the unfinished skeleton of which became an icon of the financial crisis, is now due to be finished by its new owner, the Central Bank of Ireland.[7]

It should also be noted that due to the housing crisis in Dublin, and the marked increase in the cost of living, there is now pressure on tech firms to retain staff in the Silicon Docks area. Many of whom are looking elsewhere in Ireland to establish offices where the cost of living is more affordable. [8]


The name Silicon Docks first appeared in 2011[9] as the area was making a comeback amidst economic recovery after the 2008 economic crisis took its toll, leaving a number of projects unfinished. Since then, the term has gained traction, appearing in a number of articles by various media sources as well as Google Dublin's homepage.[10][11] A book titled Silicon Docks: The Rise of Dublin as a Global Tech Hub by Pamela Newenham was released 22 January 2015, published by Ireland's Liberties Press.[6]


View of the western (inner) basin from the top floor of the Google Docks (Montevetro) building. Boland's Mill, the Alto Vetro building, and The Marker Hotel can be seen.

While it has been reported that the reasons behind the development of Silicon Docks are 'scarce' or 'challenging',[12] three areas are generally focused on, including corporate tax incentive, human capital, and seed funding.[13]

Corporate tax incentive[edit]

Ireland's low corporate tax rate—just 12.5%--has long attracted entrepreneurs, and was once the country's key selling point for foreign business owners.[13] However, the tax implications that companies face in major deals have been described as an "impediment."[12]

Human capital[edit]

Ireland boasts the youngest population in all of Europe. In 2012, Citibank's annual list of most competitive cities in the world ranked Dublin as the city with the best "human capital." The city is home to dozens of colleges and universities, including Dublin City University, Trinity College, University College Dublin, and Dublin Institute of Technology.[13]

The local talent pool has received a boost from Google,[14] which opened its Dublin headquarters in 2002 and has since been recruiting highly trained tech talent from all around the world,[15] thanks to Ireland's lenient work visa process. As of 2015, Google employs some 3,500 people in Dublin. Facebook, Linkedin, Fleetmatics and Twitter, among others, employ hundreds more.[13]

Seed funding[edit]

Enterprise Ireland's Competitive Start Fund invests in 15 seed stage start-ups every quarter. There are also other accelerators in the city offering start-ups much-needed seed funding, including Launchpad.[13] However, Prof Vinny Cahill, Dean of Research and computer science lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, explained in 2012, "There is definitely a growing venture capital community here. But if you look at Silicon Valley, there's a network of people who have been through the business and who encourage investment. It's starting to evolve in Dublin, but we're not at Silicon Valley's level yet."[12]

Tech companies located in Silicon Docks[edit]

The following is a list of just some of the tech companies located in the Silicon Docks area, divided into geographical areas.[12]

Grand Canal Dock/Grand Canal Square

City centre east/IFSC

City centre south/Grand Canal

City centre/Northside Dublin

Dublin south/Dún_Laoghaire–Rathdown

Dublin north/Blanchardstown

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dillon-Scott, Piers (29 January 2012). "Google to open 'Google Docks' in Dublin". The Sociable.
  2. ^ O'Brien, Ciara (7 November 2013). "Facebook confirms move for Dublin HQ to bigger premises". Irish Times.
  3. ^ Parfeni, Lucien (26 September 2011). "Twitter Joins Google, Facebook and Sets Up International HQ in Dublin, Ireland". Softpedia.
  4. ^ "LinkedIn to open HQ in Dublin". Irish Independent. 30 November 2012.
  5. ^ Hennigan, Michael. "Dublin's Silicon Docks: Separating hype and reality". Finfacts. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  6. ^ a b Worrall, JJ (22 January 2015). "A seismic shift for Dublin: how Google was persuaded to set up shop in Ireland". The Independent. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  7. ^ a b Daly, Sharon. "The Rise of Dublin's Silicon Docks". International Financial Services Centre. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  8. ^ Team, "How tech firms outside Dublin are luring staff away from the capital". Retrieved 8 March 2018.
  9. ^ Smyth, Jamie (27 October 2011). "Dublin becomes hub for major internet groups". Financial Times.
  10. ^ Google
  11. ^ Barber, Lynsey (17 June 2014). "In pictures: Inside Facebook's new Dublin office and European HQ".
  12. ^ a b c d Weckler, Adrian (15 May 2014). "Growing pains of Dublin's Silicon Docks". The Independent.
  13. ^ a b c d e Lapowsky, Issie (18 December 2012). "Why Dublin's Tech Scene Is Booming".
  14. ^ Worrall, J.J. (2015). Game-changer: Google Moves to the Docks (Silicon Docks: The Rise of Dublin as a Global Tech Hub ed.). Liberties Press. p. 66-81. ISBN 978-1-909718-87-6.
  15. ^ Cahill, Liam (14 February 2014). "The Rise of The Silicon Docks". News Four Ireland.
  16. ^ Lyons, Tom (18 January 2014). "Airbnb finds its home in Dublin 4". Irish Times.
  17. ^ "TripAdvisor is coming to Dublin with 50 new jobs" (Business etc.). 30 December 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  18. ^ Fagan, Jack (4 May 2016). "Denis O'Brien gets top rent for south docks warehouse". Irish Times.
  19. ^ Reynolds, John (11 February 2015). "Big dogs in the global window are at the heart of Dublin's Silicon Docks". The Independent.
  20. ^ "Iput secures €1.8m-a-year letting on Molesworth Street with" (Press release). Irish Times. 4 July 2017. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  21. ^ "Amazon to move Dublin Development Centre to 69,000 sq ft office in Burlington Plaza" (Press release). IDA Ireland. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  22. ^ "LinkedIn establishment of International Headquarters in Dublin welcomed by IDA Ireland" (Press release). IDA Ireland. 23 March 2010. Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  23. ^ "Dropbox picks Dublin city centre address for its international HQ". Silicon Republic. Retrieved 29 January 2015. External link in |website= (help)