Ten brilliant Irish business ideas


Stephen Conmy looks at ten business ideas that originated in Ireland and changed the world.

It’s difficult coming up with an original business idea. Today, it seems most startups are trying to provide a different version of something else using an app or a piece of software. Back in the day, when people were made of sterner stuff, and computers were non-existent, people had ideas and made things that shaped the world forever. 

Below are ten ideas, conceived in Ireland, that went on to leave an indelible mark on human history. 

dennys rashers

The rasher

Perhaps the tastiest invention of all time? It was invented by Henry Denny, a Waterford butcher, in 1820. 

The hypodermic syringe

In 1844, Francis Rynd, a Dublin doctor, performed the world’s first subcutaneous injection with his homemade hypodermic syringe. 

penny red stamp

The modern stamp

The perforated stamp was invented by an Irish printer, Henry Archer in the 1840s. 

Artificial fertiliser

Artificial fertiliser was invented in 1817 by James Murray, an Irish doctor with a keen interest in chemistry. Dr Murray also invented Milk of Magnesia. 

The modern stethoscope

The binaural stethoscope was invented in 1850 by the Irish doctor Arthur Leared

The steam turbine

The steam turbine was invented by Charles Parsons who lived at Birr Castle in the 1880s. The steam turbine is what drives power stations and the modern distribution of electricity. Where would the electrical appliance industry have been without the steam turbine, or the computer industry or the digital age? 

holland submarine

The submarine

John Philip Holland changed the face of warfare by inventing the first commercial submarine in the late 1880s. 

The defibrillator

Professor Frank Pantridge was a physician and cardiologist from Northern Ireland who changed medicine and paramedics forever by inventing the portable defibrillator. In 1965 he installed his first version in a Belfast ambulance.


John Joly was an Irish physicist, who developed radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer. 

John Jolly

Colour photography

John Joly (clearly an intelligent man) also invented one of the first colour photographic processes, the Joly Colour Process. He was the first person to produce colour images from a single photographic plate successfully. 

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