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Darmstadt vs. Dublin – Where is the real Silicon Valley of Europe?

Dublin is often referred to as the Silicon valley of Europe. Recently this notion was picked up again, in the context of Brexit.

But Dublin is not the only area in Europe that is linked to Silicon Valley. There are many more.

One of those areas is the City of Darmstadt, Germany. It’s located close to Frankfurt and has the by-name ‘City of Science‘.

It is also the city I was born and grew up in. Which is why I want to find out, which is the real silicon valley of Europe, Dublin or Darmstadt?

Silicon Valley is known as the heart and brain of tech-inventions. Apple, Dropbox, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter all originate from the small region in California.

Dublin can be considered an outpost of Silicon Valley companies. All major tech giants have their European headquarters in Dublin.

Google alone employs about 6000 people in Ireland. Due to the uncertainty of Brexit, many companies relocate from London to Dublin . This will further strengthen Dublin‘s position as a tech hub and will certainly evoke more Silicon valley comparisons.

Companies like to come to Ireland because of low taxes. Being an English speaking country in the Euro-Zone is also important .

In Dublin, a network of colleges/universities, start-ups, and technology development and innovation programs encourage the continuing growth of Silicon Docks. Still, the full potential is not yet reached.

So far, Dublin is also waiting to be included in the Truffle 100 report. This report lists and ranks the top 100 European software companies and allows comparisons between locations.

In contrast, Darmstadt belongs to the software cluster region of Rhein-Main-Neckar (3 large rivers i Germany that form a triangle). This region is listed in the Truffle 100 report as generating over 50% of worldwide income by European tech companies.

Revenue by Software Clusters in the EU, Switzerland and Norway. Data from the Truffle 100 Report.

According to the German newspaper FAZ Rhein-Main-Neckar is home to 11.000 companies and 17 research facilities which create one of the biggest clusters in Europe. An EU report lists Darmstadt on rank seven of important IT locations in Europe. This same report fails to list Dublin, which was heavily criticised by some experts.
European IT hubs according to the EU

This is incredibly impressive, considering Darmstadt only has about 160.000 residents.

Darmstadt hosts, among others, the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) of the European Space Agency, the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung (a leading accelerator facility for research purposes), Telekom City, Evonik and Merck.

The city is home to two universities and its close proximity to Frankfurt, with a further two universities and the huge airport, creates an ideal environment for a thriving IT economy.

In 2014 the TU Darmstadt opened the House of IT, a place for creative minds of the IT branch to meet and exchange ideas. Darmstadt was also chosen as smartcity for a digitisation pilot project. And it is the seat of the Fraunhofer Institute for safe IT.

As a result, the start-up scene is big in Darmstadt. Start-ups directly originating from the TU Darmstadt have grown from 15 within 6 years from 2000 to 2006 to an average of 12.5 new projects per year in 2018. There are many more projects and companies emerging outside of university, as well.

So as of now, Darmstadt in comparison to Dublin might be closer to the original spirit of Silicon Valley. But Dublin is catching up fast and in a few years this verdict might change.

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