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Forefront of Change

In recent years, Ireland has proven itself to be a big hitter when it comes to advancements in global tech, science and aviation.

In this section, you’ll learn more about how Ireland has emerged as a world leader in these exciting industries by meeting some of the key thinkers, influencers and innovators working at the forefront of each.

Patrick and John Collison


Patrick and John Collison founders of Stripe

Though still in their twenties, Irish brothers Patrick (left) and John Collison are big names in the world of innovative tech. Hailing from Limerick on the idyllic west coast, the pair are the founders of Stripe, one of the fastest-growing online payment firms. At the end of 2016, they became the world's youngest self-made billionaires (Stripe has been valued at an incredible $9 billion), and they’ve also been featured in Forbes’ famous ‘30 Under 30’ list.

The brothers’ passion for tech started young; John won the 41st Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in Dublin in 2005, at the age of 16. This annual Irish students’ competition showcases the most impressive creations – in this case, John’s programming language, ‘Croma’. Two years later, the brothers set up a software company which later merged with a UK start-up to form Auctomatic. They became overnight millionaires (at the ages of 19 and 17!) when they sold that company, and two years later Stripe was born.

The company currently has nine global offices, including one in Dublin’s vibrant ‘Silicon Docks’ area, so-called due to the many tech HQs located there – Google, Facebook and Airbnb, to name but a few.

Declan Ryan

Irelandia Aviation

Aer Lingus Plane

For a small country, Ireland has established itself over the years as a hub of global aviation activity. Declan Ryan has been at the forefront; along with his late father Tony, the entrepreneur was co-founder of Irish low-cost airline, Ryanair. He went on to hold several senior management positions there – including CEO – and was on the board from 1986-2004.

Declan went on to found successful airline developer Irelandia Aviation, basing this new business on the same low-cost model that had seen Ryanair flourish. “There’s huge provenance and heritage behind Dublin”, he has said. “Because of GPA [Guinness Peat Aviation; a company set up by his dad], which became the trailblazer in aircraft leasing, 50% of all airplanes leased in the world are through Dublin, which is fantastic for Ireland.”

Last year, Irelandia expanded into Central and South America, launching a new airline in Peru. The group has previously invested in low-cost carriers like Singapore-based Tigerair, Viva Aerob├║s in Mexico and Viva Colombia.

Aside from this astute business sense, Ryan is a generous philanthropist. In 2004, he co-founded the One Foundation; Ireland’s first venture philanthropy fund. Investment beneficiaries include Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, youth mental health network Headstrong, and children’s charity Barnardos.

Professor Mark Ferguson

Chief Scientific Adviser

Professor Mark Ferguson Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Irish Government

When it comes to trailblazing scientific research, Ireland really is ahead of the game. One man at the forefront of this exciting industry is Mark Ferguson.

The Northern Ireland native was appointed Director General of Science Foundation Ireland in January 2012, and just nine months later, became Chief Scientific Adviser to the Irish Government.  Prior to that, Mark was Professor in Life Sciences at the University of Manchester, making him (at the age of 28) the youngest Professor in Britain!

A graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, Mark holds a degree in Dentistry, is a Doctor of Medical Sciences, and has a PhD in Anatomy and Embryology. He’s passionate about translating scientific research findings into successful commercial entities. His work focuses on cellular and molecular mechanisms in scarring and wound healing, and developmental mechanisms in normal and cleft palate formation.

Mark is the author of an impressive 327 research papers and book chapters, and was the 2002 joint recipient of the European Science Prize.

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