|Photo: IDG Connect|
The small propeller plane skims low over the Irish Sea to touch down onto the tiny landing strip of Ronaldsway Airport. This is the Isle of Man. A 221 square mile Crown Dependency situated between the UK mainland and Ireland. It is probably most famous for the TT motorcycle race which does a lap out of the circumference each year. The other thing it is most known for is its favourable tax conditions.
I’m visiting for the launch of its new IT campus. Developed as a public and private partnership between University College of Man (UCM) and International Centre for Technology (ICT), this aims to provide a funnel for the IT skills needed on the island. Because contrary to the bucolic scenes of rolling green countryside and cows grazing near the airport, the Isle of Man has excellent IT infrastructure. This includes 100% broadband penetration (to a population of 85,000), five tier three datacentres and good renewable power, the excess of which is sold on to the National Grid. This and the tax breaks makes it an ideal home for a wide range of technology companies.
'In a potted history Brian Donegan, Head of Operations for the Isle of Man Government’s eBusiness and FinTech Innovation, explains that although the island has been a financial services centre since the 1970s, in the early noughties it looked to diversity and became a hub for eGaming. This now makes up 19% of the economy and because of it the island had to learn to mitigate the risks so “became very good at regulation”.
“That was the beginning of digital businesses,” he says. FinTech especially has emerged into this slipstream and the Isle of Man is becoming a bit of a leader for digital currency businesses. Credits – which was recently awarded a contract to supply its Blockchain-as-a-Service offering to the UK public sector – is based on the island and trialled its service here first.
“These businesses need people,” says Donegan. Or as Mark Gerhard, CEO of small gaming company Play Fusion, puts it: “Organisations have to go where the talent is.”
The new campus is housed in an old nunnery – which looks like a castle – and plans to tackle this skills shortage head on. It offers an incentive for local school leavers to stay on the island to complete their tertiary education and aims to deliver a steam of qualified talent for local businesses. Part of the appeal for youngsters and businesses alike is the facility will look to run business and IT degrees along with useable vocational skills.
Source: IDG Connect