They say that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. When they say that, they usually mean that they’re going to get drunk, not write a novel. But while a number of people attempt to reconcile the diametric Irish imagery of beer and artistic genius, Ireland today is actually making per capita one of the most profound contributions to technology in the world.

People often deconstruct Ireland’s contribution to literature and music, particularly how it is overshadowed by “Irish I Were Drunk” bumper stickers on the day commemorating Ireland’s patron saint. But a look at Ireland over the past two decades (and most notably in the past five years) actually shows a country that is pulling far more than its weight in building the world’s technological infrastructure.

In fact, the growth of Ireland’s tech sector, both in America and Europe, led in 2007 to the formation of the Irish Technology Leadership Group, an organization established by Irish and Irish-American technology leaders in Silicon Valley that just hosted their annual conference. Among the speakers at this year’s conference was California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. While the ITLG’s awards ceremony honored trailblazing Irish technology companies like cable supplier RedMere and drug innovator SiSaf, Irish tech companies have been gaining notice for some time now.

With over 26 Irish companies slated to unveil key wireless and telecom products at the upcoming CTIA Wireless Conference in Las Vegas, this St. Patrick’s Day seems like as good a time as any to shed a little light on the emerald isle’s impressive contemporary contributions to technology. A great many people started gaining insight into Ireland’s exploding tech sector in 2006, when a number of Irish companies began collaborating on some impressive unveilings, including Innogenetics’ new SeptiFast test, which identifies numerous bacteria types from a single blood sample.  Since then, the rest of the world has caught on to Irish technology.

In the past decade, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu has established the Deloitte Fast 50 Technology Awards, which ranks Ireland’s technology companies. And as the Irish tech sector has grown, companies have been increasingly encouraged to target global investors. Despite the frosty global economic climate, 2009 saw Irish tech companies make impressive strides in venture capital, enjoying a 24 percent increase in venture capital raised between first-quarter 2009 and the same quarter in 2008. And now that this community has been solidified by organizations like the ITLG, the seeds are being planted to help this industry grow.

A recent visit to Washington from Ireland Prime Minister Brian Cowen saw the announcement of a new Ireland Homecoming Study Program. An initiative of the Institutes of Technology Ireland, the program offers American students of Irish heritage the opportunity to study in Ireland. That academic exchange appears to be going both ways, as Ireland just announced the establishment of its own “innovation center” right in the middle of Silicon Valley, an ideal hub for the roughly 220 Irish companies operating in the United States.  

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a pint at a traditional Irish pub, an indefensible number of which (in New York, at least) seem to be called “the Blarney Stone.” But try not to lose sight of a pretty impressive new technological heritage Ireland has started to establish. Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!