The city of Cork in southwest Ireland is surrounded by the kind of ancient and picturesque charm that you likely associate with Ireland, from centuries-old monuments to jagged coastlines. But Cork also holds another, more modern distinction it’s become home to a thriving cybersecurity industry.

Cork may be Ireland’s second city, but it’s clearly punching above its weight. Because it’s here that several multinational companies and many Irish start-ups have established or expanded their cybersecurity operations.

How did Cork land this distinction? It’s a culmination of factors, from the region’s emergence in recent decades as a technology hub, to concerted efforts to develop cybersecurity-related skillsets that are in high demand globally, to the inherent business benefits of operating in Ireland.

A natural evolution

Cork’s technology sector started taking shape long before words like infosec and ransomware became part of our vernacular.

Apple set up its first European operation in Cork in 1980. Dell Technologies also established its international operations campus in Cork in 1988. Flash forward to today, and more than 80 other technology companies now have a presence in Cork.

The rise of Cork as a digital hub made the city a natural choice for some of the biggest names in cybersecurity when seeking a location for their European operations.

Trend Micro established its EMEA operations center in Cork in 2003. Today, the center employs more than 200 staff and houses critical functions like the company’s forward threat research (FRT) team, which works with Interpol and other enforcement agencies to protect customers.

McAfee established its R&D Centre of Excellence for Enterprise Security Solutions in Cork in 2013 and today has a 200-strong engineering team. Forcepoint’s cloud security center of excellence and AT&T Cybersecurity’s EMEA headquarters are also both located in Cork.

Meanwhile, large companies like Qualcomm, IBM, Johnson Controls and VMware are also growing their security-related teams in the Cork area.

Of course, this buildup didn’t happen entirely on its own. Industry, academia and governmental bodies in the Cork region, along with IDA Ireland, have made a concerted effort over the years to bolster Cork’s standing as a leading global destination for the cybersecurity industry.

Local efforts strengthen the ecosystem

The rapid growth of cybersecurity operations in Cork in recent years led to the creation in 2018 of Cyber Ireland, a national cybersecurity cluster organization. Hosted by the Cork Institute of Technology with the support of IDA Ireland, Cyber Ireland is an industry-led body supported by academia and government that aims to address the needs of Ireland’s cybersecurity ecosystem.

For instance, Cyber Ireland is working to ensure Ireland has a sustainable pipeline of cybersecurity talent to keep up with industry needs. Part of this effort includes increasing diversity and representation in the cybersecurity sector. In particular, the organization is supporting efforts like Cyber Women Ireland to help more women break into the traditionally male-dominated sector.

Cork is also home to some or Ireland’s leading universities, including University College Cork and Munster Technological University. These universities offer dedicated cybersecurity courses and degrees and they engage with companies locally to develop relevant, industry-focused courses.

R&D efforts in the region can also benefit companies with cybersecurity operations in Cork. For instance, the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics is one of the largest data analytics centers in Europe. Its more than 400 researchers work at several locations across Ireland, including University College Cork. Companies can work directly with Insight researchers to gain insights and develop new solutions for the cybersecurity industry.

A good country to do business

To understand why so many companies are drawn to Cork, you need to zoom out from the city level to consider the many benefits of doing business in Ireland.

The country boasts the highest level of STEM graduates per capita in E.U. It also has access to the skilled workforce across the E.U. and has an open migration system – both of which help the country maintain a robust and multi-lingual workforce.

When companies establish cybersecurity operations in Ireland, they can take comfort knowing those operations are in a neutral, geopolitically stable environment. They also gain access to the E.U.’s single market from the E.U.’s only English-speaking country and can leverage opportunities such as grants from the Irish government for innovation work like new product development. And they can get assistance from IDA Ireland at every stage of their investment journey – from scouting locations to establishing and expanding operations.

Investments continue

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, companies are continuing to invest in Cork for their cybersecurity operations.

In recent months, Varonis Systems, a pioneer in data security and analytics, announced it’s expanding its operations and doubling its workforce in Cork. Security and observability firm Tigera also announced it will establish its EMEA headquarters in the city with the support of IDA Ireland.

These new and expanded operations will be able to take advantage of all that Cork has to offer a rich talent base, a business-friendly environment, and support from the Irish government and entities like IDA Ireland. And the fact that the beach is only a 20-minute drive from the city doesn’t hurt.