A study has found Ireland's vibrant and growing software industry risks losing thousands of new jobs to other countries because of a shortage of suitable skills.

The research was carried out by the Lero Software Engineering Research Centre and Kemmy Business Schools at the University of Limerick.

It also found that access to venture capital is another major impediment to the growth of software companies in Ireland.

It aimed to analyse key competitiveness trends in the software industry.

Its interim report described a vibrant, fast-growing Irish software industry with tremendous potential, but with big differences between indigenous and foreign firms.

It found 80% of software companies in Ireland are Irish, with a quarter of those less than three years old.

More than half have five or fewer software engineering staff.

A quarter of foreign software firms have been in Ireland over 15 years, but only one in ten has five or fewer staff involved in engineering.

However, when it comes to challenges, experiences are similar.

Skills are in short supply, with as many as half of all vacancies filled by inward migration.

Access to second-stage venture capital is also in short supply.

The authors warned that despite the growth potential, unless the challenges are met, there is a risk thousands of new jobs at software firms based in Ireland will be created outside the country.

Professor Brian Fitzgerald from Lero told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that a lack of suitably-qualified software engineers was the main problem facing the Irish software development industry. 

He said ICT needs to be made more attractive to students at primary and secondary school. 

Prof Fitzgerald also said the high drop-out rate, of as much as 36% from some courses, needs to be addressed.

He said eastern European countries have been very creative with tax breaks and incentives, which make the industry very attractive to employees.