If Elon Musk Were Ireland’s Prime Minister, School Would Be Free for Engineers

Photographer: Brian Lawless/Press Association via AP Images
Elon Musk at the Dublin Web summit, held at the Royal Dublin Society, in Ireland, on October 31, 2013.

Forget subsidies for farming and to combat long-term unemployment. Elon Musk says Ireland needs to waive college tuition for technology engineers.

The real-life Iron Man appeared on a panel last night in Dublin with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. Musk was asked to play the role of Irish leader and come up with ideas for how to transform the country into a digital frontier. “Or any frontier,” Kenny quipped.

Musk suggested Ireland should help midsize companies acquire funding and to somehow cultivate a high concentration of talent. Then, the Tesla Motors and Space Exploration Technologies co-founder paused, and said he should avoid speaking in “platitudes.”

“For a technology company, you need engineers,” Musk said. “Maybe engineering could be tuition-free or something like that."

One caveat: "They’ve got to stay in Ireland.”

There is a growing base of software and hardware engineers in Ireland, thanks to Silicon Valley tech giants including Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter setting up offices in Dublin and Cork. However, the startup scene is fairly sparse.

Ireland is still recovering from the euro crisis. Or, as Prime Minister Kenny put it yesterday, the nation’s economy “didn’t just fall in the toilet, but it flushed out the other side.” The government sees technology as a fast-growing industry that could help develop the nation’s economy. Ireland isn’t the only one.

“Keep coming back,” Kenny said to Musk, who was visiting Ireland for the first time since he was a boy. “We need you.”

We might have the plot for the next “Iron Man” movie.

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