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Collen Construction: The Irish firm helping Sweden in its Data Centre industry transformation

The Nordics are quickly becoming a global data hub. Known for innovation across all sectors, from FinTech solutions to life science technologies, it’s no surprise that data centres have been attracted to the technologically advanced region. However, as with any innovation, collaboration and learning from other’s work is the key to success. What may surprise you about the Nordic Data Centre industry, is that many Irish companies have been heavily involved in its construction.

The Nordic region has become very attractive for all the Data Centre providers with a lot of work being done both at local and Government level to attract and support Hyper-scale Data Centre providers to set up here. Local regions receive a wide range of benefits from these projects, such as employment –both during Data Centre construction and afterwards –  or even capturing the excess heat generated by the data centres and using it to heat local buildings, thus reducing costs for people living in the area.

For Data Centre providers, the availability of stable power – priced reasonably – coupled with excellent internet connectivity makes setting up a Data Centre in Sweden an attractive opportunity. Another determining factor is the Swedish climate, which lends itself to free cooling of the Data Centres all year round thus negating the need for expensive chillers.

How Irish companies became leading experts in building data centres

Ireland was one of the first data centre hubs for many of the world’s technology giants, including Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and have quickly become leaders in Data Centre projects. The experience Irish contractors, construction services and engineering companies have gained has been one of Ireland’s key exports to the Nordics as well as the UK, Europe, North America, and the Middle East.

Collen Construction has been involved in several of these projects and has vast experience in owner-occupied, hyperscale data centres, that prioritise sustainable energy, low energy consumption and intelligent systems in their design and build process. But who are the people behind the Swedish operation?

Collen Construction is an 8th generation family-owned construction company, celebrating 210 years in business this year. Over the years, Collen has continued to adapt and is now a leader in the Data Centre sector internationally.  Collen has vast experience in Ireland in delivering many types of complex projects from Data Centres to Medical facilities.

The man behind the Swedish operations

In Europe Collen has been delivering Hyperscale Data Centres since 2013. In 2016 Thomas O’Connor, Collen’s European Director, moved to Sweden to work on local Data Centre projects:

“When we were awarded our first major project in Sweden it was felt that the best way to support the project was for me to fully relocate to Sweden.  So, my wife and I moved and have loved the experience, the people, and the lifestyle.”

Thomas was struck by the differences & similarities between Swedish and Irish culture. He saw immediately how important work-life balance is in Sweden and how it is something that anyone who works in Sweden must learn to adapt to.

“A lot of the time in our Industry, it is work first and family second, but Sweden has mastered the balance between the two – and family is most definitely first. This is something we are trying to rectify across the industry by using a well-being approach to our work-life balance, but this will take time.”

Thomas’ move to Sweden ensured the best support possible for their clients and helped Collen successfully complete the first two projects and win a third and indeed fourth project. Thomas’s time in Sweden really showed him the importance of understanding the market and supply chain when taking on projects overseas. Even simply understanding that Sweden shuts down for the entire month of July was vital knowledge when working on local projects. By being based in Sweden and working with local experts, such as Enterprise Ireland, Thomas was able to build relationships with people within the supply chain of Data Centre projects in advance.

“Doing business in the Nordics has had a positive effect on our business insofar as we have learnt to adapt to different ways of carrying out our day to day business and incorporate other cultures.”

The importance of partnering up with local expertise

Part of Collen’s policy is to partner with as much local expertise as possible and their clients have seen the value this brings into the projects. Thomas explains that Collen continues to build relationships with as many members of the Nordic Data Centre supply chain as possible.  Collen are by no means a contractual or adversarial company. Collen prides themselves in their ability to build strong relationships with all their clients which lends itself to lasting relationships. As a family company, Collen understands the importance of partnerships.

Collen hope to grow its market share of the Data Centre projects going forward and to expand across the Nordics in terms of support for Data Centre providers. By combining local knowledge and connections with Collen’s experience of working on Data Centres in Ireland, they can ensure their client base deploy successfully in Sweden.

For information on other suppliers active in the Nordic region please reach out to the Enterprise Ireland Nordics team 

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Nov 3, 2020

Collen Construction: The Irish firm helping Sweden in its Data Centre industry transformation

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