IRELAND’S Atlantic coast is sheep-rearing and pilgrim country. The drive to Tuam, a modest town of 9,550 residents, reveals mostly lush fields, low hills, stone walls and mist. Yet this unlikely spot has a hi-tech industrial side. Off Tuam’s main road a bunch of warehouses contains some 400 software engineers, researchers and artificial-intelligence experts, drawn from 35 countries. Next door is a manufacturing plant employing 650 people churning out circuit boards, cameras and sensors for driverless cars.

The set-up in Tuam is operated by Valeo, a French car-parts firm with a market value of €12 billion ($13.4 billion), which brought in €500m in sales last year from producing 100m such products globally. Tuam is “our biggest R&D centre for surround cameras, with huge production capacity”, says Jacques Aschenbroich, the firm’s CEO. Tuam has also become Valeo’s global mother plant, overseeing its sensor factories in Hungary, Mexico and China.

What possessed the French firm to keep such operations in a spot so far from customers such as BMW, Range Rover and Google, away from big pools of labour, and a lengthy drive from Dublin? History is one...Continue reading