Listen to TR&I Director Leonard Hobbs on the Big Tech Show Podcast with Adrian Weckler
Leonard spoke with Adrian on 29th April 2022 regarding whether the big tech success of Dublin is making the city more like San Francisco where high salaries and expanding campuses are making it unaffordable for everyone else, producing a blander, less interesting city?. Adrian asked are there some downsides to this success in particular the crisis in affordable housing.
Leonard responded to say:” I do recall San Francisco being a very vibrant, multicultural, and colourful city when I lived over there some decades ago,. Are we moving towards becoming a city like that? It may be an inevitability perhaps because of our success at attracting some amazing companies. We are producing the kind of talent that is required and we're enabling the ecosystem that's attracting the top global tech companies here.”
However Leonard did think the question was an important one. He said “I think we need to be careful how we how we design our urban areas. One could argue that when the IFSC was built, and consumed that large space that at that time, it didn't take everything required into consideration. The Grand Canal dock area, which is one we're very familiar with in Trinity , is at point now where it is being developed. And we are certainly very conscious in Trinity College that anything we do there engages with the community in a meaningful way. I think we need to make a conscious effort not to push creativity and diversity out of the city, as has happened in San Francisco. And indeed of course not to push local people out. We must not forget the communities already living in the city.”
Leonard went on to that we don't want to do is create a city that that's not attractive for the appropriate professionals, because that can become self defeating: “I think in Ireland culture is really important and people kind of get that. And it's not just Irish people, but of course people who come to live in Ireland . Perhaps we are more like Berlin? Can we keep Dublin cool, maybe that's the objective we need at this time .”
Towards the end of this podcast interview with the Irish Independent Leonard made the point that these housing and related cultural problem's we may be facing are unfortunately, a side effect of our success: “We are managing to attract, these are great companies”, he said “and they provide fantastic employment and great training and great opportunities for young people. So there's the upside, the downside is what you're describing. I don't know an easy solution for that. But I wouldn't suggest it's to impact the upside, we have to figure out to how to do both.” The Director of Trinity Research and Innovation felt that perhaps it's something for the companies themselves to help to address as well. For example if there are programs the companies can invest in to help to make the city more sustainable.
Leonard concluded by making it clear the success of the companies is not the sole cause of the problem. But he said they they need to be part of the solution He said. “But I'm not partisan. It's not straightforward. You know, it's not simple.” He also said that he would love to hear industry groups’ thoughts on it. “And the fact we're looking at this closely in the Trinity Docklands space in a few weeks time. We are focussed on the inclusion and diversity issue, namely how do you include the community in Grand Canal Docks Innovation District? How do you include the community in this growth in the success? How do you do that? it's not an easy answer. And lots of cities around the world have got it wrong.”