Map of EU with padlock

GDPR and Data transfer to or through the UK

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force on 25 May 2018 and unifies data protection law throughout the EU. It gives individuals control over their personal data and requires businesses and other organisations to put in place processes that protect and safeguard that data. The regulation also addresses the transfer of personal data outside the EU and EEA.

 

Dealing with the UK, USA and other third countries

GDPR came into sharp focus this year as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. GDPR still applies in the UK, however as it is now a third country it is subject to the GDPR rules governing the transfer of data outside the EU and EEA.

 

Data transfer to/through the UK

The first thing for firms to do is to establish exactly where their data goes. Companies may not realise that their cloud storage provider is actually located in Britain or Northern Ireland. Their pension schemes, payroll, healthcare plans may all be run out of the UK and involve the regular transfer of personal data. Workplace benefits databases could also be held in Britain or Northern Ireland. Even translation services might be covered if personal data is included in the material to be translated.

Having established that data is being transferred to the UK, the next step is to decide if that needs to continue. There may be options to look for another service provider in Ireland or another EU Member State and these should be explored.

Standard Contractual Clauses

If it is not possible or if it is too difficult to take this option, there is a ready solution to hand. There is a tool that can be used to solve this problem and it is available on the Data Protection Commission website. It is known as the standard contractual clauses (SCCs). This is a set of off-the-shelf clauses developed by the European Commission and which are recognised as an appropriate safeguard to ensure that firms remain compliant with GDPR.

The SCCs are already written and only require firms to fill in the blanks with their details. They can be appended to existing contracts and come into force when both parties sign them. Once signed, this enables firms to continue transferring data to the UK in full compliance with GDPR, and people still have their rights.

The data subject is also given certain specific rights under the SCCs even though they are not party to the relevant contract. Firms are also advised to update their privacy statements to indicate that the data is transferring to the UK under the terms of the SCCs.

The SCCs will cover most situations, but there are certain more complex cases where they may not apply. These are relatively rare, but firms in doubt should consult the Data Protection Commission or seek their own legal advice  to check out their particular situation.

There are also certain situations where the data transfer is not covered by contract. These include cases where data is being transferred from a UK Controller to an Irish processor for processing and then transferred back to the Controller. This has been a relatively routine process up until now, as the data remained within the EU at all times. The best advice for firms based in Ireland who find themselves in this situation is to look at the clauses within the SCCs and insert them into the service level agreement governing the activity. This will demonstrate an intention to be GDPR compliant in the new situation.

The same will apply to Irish shared services centres carrying out global back and middle office functions for multinational parents. They should update the terms of service to UK-based affiliates to include the SCCs.

 

Data Protection Policies

Some very large organisations use what are known as Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs). These are legally binding internal codes of conduct operating within a multinational group, which applies to transfers of personal data from the group’s EEA entities to the group’s non-EEA entities. The approval of BCRs can take a significant period of time and also, given the cost and complexity of BCRs, they are not a suitable transfer tool for most Irish companies.

The only remaining questions for Irish firms transferring data to the UK concern adequacy. Certain ‘third countries’, such as Japan, have received what is known as an ‘adequacy decision’ from the European Commission. This allows a cross-border personal data transfer from the EU to that country because it has been determined to have an adequate level of data protection safeguards compared to the EU. It could take some time before the European Commission completes its negotiations with the UK Government in order to deem the UK adequate as a jurisdiction to which data can be transferred under GDPR. Therefore, companies need to explore the options available to them when transferring data to the UK.

Digitalisation: a key strategy in ensuring export success

Start your digital journey

During this period of recovery, Irish companies are looking at every way possible to grow and increase their business. While finding new markets for your offerings is an important strategy, the role that digital transformation can play in business growth cannot be underestimated. According to the World Economic Forum, over $3.1 trillion in productivity gains could be added to the global economy by digital initiatives by 2025.

To ensure they share in these gains, Irish businesses are primed to drive their digital transformation strategies but it’s important that they take a holistic approach so their digital plan can evolve as the business grows.

“Most Irish companies are somewhere along the digital maturity curve,” says Conor O’Donovan, Head of Marketing Communications and the Client Digitalisation Unit at Enterprise Ireland. “Some are at the very early stage, which means they have only begun to look at ways to optimise their business through moving to the cloud for example, or implementing a CRM to improve how they engage and record customer data and interactions. Other companies are further along the journey, and are embedding automation to streamline manual repetitive tasks, while others are adopting data analytics and AI into to improve data analysis and predicting trends that impact their businesses and providing real time customer or supplier information upon which they can make informed decisions.”

 

Challenges and developing a digital mindset

While the advantages of adopting a robust a robust digital plan are clear and plentiful, there are challenges facing SMEs. “Knowledge and awareness are key issues,” explains Conor.

“Many businesses don’t know where to begin or who to speak with about their digital roadmap, and therefore find it challenging to select the right partner and vendor. Another key challenge is access to skills, both strategic and technical. says O’Donovan

“Ensuring that these skills are available to the business either internally or externally are key success factors, as is developing a digital mindset across the business. Finally, the availability of finance can be a key challenge in implementing the right solutions.”

Many businesses mistakenly believe that digitalisation is just about expensive technology, but this is only part of the story. According to Conor, there are four key aspects to a successful digital strategy, all of which need carefully addressing.

“Firstly, ask yourself why you need a digital strategy. It’s easy to read about a new platform or technology solution but a good digital strategy must be aligned to your business strategy. Ask yourself a number of key questions. For example, what business objective can be enabled by the digital plan? Is it about finding new customers or increasing sales with existing ones? Is it about improving production efficiencies or about strategic decision-making, which requires the availability of real-time accurate information drawing from several business units or locations? These are all important questions that must be answered before you start.

“The second key factor is process. It is hugely important to review and optimise processes before layering on digital technologies. An inefficient process before digital will remain an inefficient process after digital. Talk to Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices for help on this; we have LEAN programmes to support process optimisation.

“The third key element is people. Digital strategies will only work if people at the senior levels and across the organisation understand digital possibilities, see the benefits to the business and champion its adoption. says O’Donovan

“It must be driven by multiple people across the organisation and developing a digital culture and mindset across the business is key. There are multiple programmes on digital available from Skillsnet, the IMI and others to support this.

“Then finally we get to the technology piece. This part can be daunting for companies with limited budget, so it’s vital to take the time to really assess the technology required. It’s also important to ensure interoperability as new technology comes on stream as part of a multi-year plan – so the technology ‘speaks to each other’. This will avoid expensive integration and data extraction issues at a future date.”

 

Supports progress your digital journey

While the above might feel daunting, especially for businesses at an early stage in their digital journey, there is plenty of help available. Enterprise Ireland can help Irish exporting businesses to focus on and develop their digital strategy. The new Digital Ready Scorecard is a short self-assessment online tool that enables businesses to assess their current digital readiness and identify any gaps. The scorecard also signposts supports from Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices and across Government. More information can be found on the Enterprise Ireland website.

Enterprise Ireland also offers a €9k fully funded Digitalisation Voucher for eligible companies to engage independent experts to develop their digital strategies before purchasing any technology. All these aids will ensure that Irish exporters can reap the significant rewards of a robust and dynamic digital strategy.

A person gathering market intelligence by analysing graphs and statistics on a sheet of paper

Using market intelligence to inform your export plan

The saying that ‘knowledge is power’ is certainly true of successful exporting. Companies must use market intelligence to understand their customers’ requirements, cultural considerations, market trends and what competitors are doing, in order to succeed.

Insights gained from high-quality market research are essential for good business decisions for companies with the ambition to grow, export and, indeed, survive. While successful products and services are built on sound market research, a continual process of keeping up-to-date with business intelligence is required, which can be time-consuming and costly.

 

Market Research Centre

That is one reason Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre is such a valuable resource. It is the largest repository of business intelligence in Ireland and contains thousands of world-class market research insights, available to Enterprise Ireland supported companies.

Reports include company, sector, market and country information, which help businesses to explore opportunities and compete in international markets. We use databases from blue-chip information providers such as GartnerFrost & Sullivan, Mintel and others, which provide authoritative, verified information that is independent and reliable. Some of these reports cost tens of thousands of euro individually, so the value of accessing the service is immense.

 

Using market intelligence to assess new markets

The Market Research Centre is staffed by information specialists who help clients locate the most appropriate sources of knowledge for their requirements. The specialists can track down niche market intelligence that is not available through internet research and can also facilitate access to industry analysts to provide bespoke briefings that deep-dive into subject areas.

While the UK and European markets remain vitally important for exporters, increasingly diversification into more distant markets is a strategic option. Critical to all such business decisions is access to authoritative market research.

 

Using insights to make an impact

An example of how the centre helps companies to explore opportunities in overseas markets is workforce travel company Roomex. Over the last two years, the company has targeted the UK and Germany and is now looking at the huge potential of the US market. Information specialists helped the company gain valuable insights by providing access to global company, country, market and sector data which helped the Roomex to analyse their target customer and competitor base.

Enterprise Ireland’s research hub offers access to extensive predictive research on future trends, which is invaluable for companies interested in innovation. Knowledge of what might impact a market next provides an opportunity to develop new products or solutions. There are huge opportunities arising from disruptive technologies, such as driver-less cars, but also risks to companies which are not looking ahead.

 

Growing your business using market intelligence

Companies which are serious about exporting, growing and future-proofing their business should put continuous research at the heart of their strategy.

If your company is considering expanding into new markets the Market Research Centre’s extensive resources and expertise should be your first port of call.

Contact the Market Research Centre today.

CEO Spearline

Spearline: Taking practical steps to promote gender balance in leadership roles

A diverse staff to meet the diverse needs of their target audience – to Spearline, gender balance in every part of the business, particularly in senior roles, naturally makes sense. But for the Cork-headquartered company working in the field of telecommunication technology, getting good gender balance is much easier said than done.

“In the field we’re in, it’s hard to get a gender balance, particularly with regards to software development,” explains Spearline CEO Kevin Buckley. “But it’s important – we believe that the more diversity a company has, the better it performs – and countless studies have backed this up.

“I think most companies within our sector are aware of the importance of gender balance; we would hear this constantly referenced when on training courses or meetings. But achieving it can be tricky.”

 

People-focused business

Established in 2003, Spearline has developed a cloud-based platform that proactively monitors critical business telecommunication services, replicating the experience of a client’s customers and callers and allowing them to diagnose, escalate and resolve issues before they become noticeable problems. With clients including Zoom, Mastercard and Global Call Forwarding, Spearline is a problem solver with a diverse customer base – so having a diverse workforce to match is a must.

“I believe that the more diverse your thinking as a company, the better it will be,” says Kevin. “Men and women have slightly different ways of thinking, and I mean that in a positive way. Bringing these together can only improve our thinking as a business. And our users and clients would be both men and women, so I don’t understand why a company wouldn’t try and go for a 50-50 balance. Basically you’re trying to get a diversity of thought within your organisation, whether that’s gender, ethnic or more. A nice way of describing it is that we’re citizens of the world – we’re looking for a broad understanding of the world, and that is down to diversity.”

 

Practical steps

With teams based in Skibbereen, Waterford, Bucharest in Romania and Ahmedabad in India, Spearline is working hard to achieve a good gender balance in every part of its business. “We’re currently at 31.6% but by 2030, we’ll be setting a goal for ourselves to meet 40%,” says Kevin. “The software development side, which is about a third of our team, is very male oriented, but the other parts of the company tend to be less so – we would be pushing 40% in most of the other areas.

“We constantly look at the issue when hiring, especially in the last few years as we have matured as a company.says Kevin

“Entry level positions for software development are dominated by men, but when hiring, we strive to identify people with strong leadership skills and support them as they progress their career with us. For instance, we interviewed one prospective candidate who was self-taught and had huge ambition and potential. She is now head of the QA team. We believe that this approach helps out gender balance policy in every area of our business – and in terms of leadership roles both our Chief Commercial Officer and our Chief People and Culture Officer (CPCO) are women.”

To attract more women into leadership roles, the company has put in a number of benefits to suit both women and men who are juggling work and family. “Two years ago, we brought in maternity, paternity and adoptive leave, and we’ve just introduced a hybrid model of working, which is two days in the office and three days at home. We also have flexible working hours, to accommodate school runs, and we offer career development opportunities through subsidised study. Our aim is to keep pushing the whole time, to create a workplace that is inclusive and diverse.”

Lorraine McCarthy, CPCO, adds, “I think it’s definitely working. We have a lot more women coming through in India, and that’s a growing team, we have 45 there now. Our country lead in India is female; we made her head when she came back from maternity leave, and to make someone head just after returning from maternity leave would be virtually unheard of in India. But she was the right person for the job, it’s as simple as that.”

Visibility of women in leadership roles also supports another important strategy in promoting gender balance which is role modelling. “Yes, we have 40% women in our Indian team now, which absolutely proves the point,” says Kevin.

 

Leading the way

Spearline is one of the progressive businesses that have seen the business benefits of gender balance in management teams, and have been working hard to attract more women into every aspect of their business. This strategy is aligned to The Level Project, a campaign by Enterprise Ireland to increase the number of women in senior management and leadership positions in Irish companies. This was a key aim highlighted in the 2020 Action Plan for Women in Business.

“I do see a difference in the world in terms of promoting gender balance; society has moved on and there are a lot of people doing a lot of good things in making that change.” says Kevin

Enterprise Ireland has great weight and clout, and by getting behind gender balance, it’s really putting a spotlight on the issue – we’re constantly bombarded by information, but when it comes from a heavyweight like Enterprise Ireland, people do listen.”

 

Start improving gender balance in your company with The Level Project Toolkit.

Private Healthcare webinar

Private Healthcare – UK webinar

Private Healthcare UK webinar

This webinar gives an in-depth analysis of the UK private healthcare market, providing Irish businesses with insights into the opportunities and challenges that exist for companies aspiring to target the market.

Topics discussed in this webinar include:

– Market size and scope.

– Private Healthcare landscape and sectors.

– Digital health usage across the private sector.

The webinar is hosted by Martin Bell, Independent Healthcare IT Consultant.

Martin is joined by James Maunder, Chief Information Officer at The London Clinic for an interactive question and answer session.

 

VRAI team

VRAI: Promoting gender balance in leadership roles to gain an edge in the technology sector

 

Pioneering Irish businesses are rapidly discovering the business benefits of seeking gender balance in leadership roles, especially in sectors that are traditionally dominated by men. This was a key aim identified by Enterprise Ireland in its 2020 Women in Business strategy, and already the leadership gender balance strategy is paying off for those businesses that have worked hard to increase the number of women in senior management and leadership positions.

Fast-growing tech firm VRAI, a leader in the field of data driven VR simulation training, specialising in training for “risky, remote and rare” activities such as working on off-shore wind turbines. Not surprisingly, this sector is overwhelmingly dominated by men, so achieving gender balance in any part of the business, much less in leadership roles, is quite a challenge.

“Our sector is technology and we would be hiring software developers, data engineers, 3D artists etc,” explains VRAI co-founder and managing director, Pat O’Connor. “If I was doing straightforward hiring, for instance through LinkedIn, it would be about 80% male. It’s even more challenging as you get to higher level roles. The question is, what do you do about it? We’re trying to change things, and for a number of reasons. There’s the ethical reason, that it doesn’t seem fair or right; it seems that systemically women are not getting the same opportunities in what is a very exciting industry.

“But there’s also a strategic reason – what we are trying to do is really complex, in an emerging market. One of the ways to mitigate that complexity is having diversity of mindset in the senior team. We’re already doing something that’s very hard, and it would be a lot harder trying to do it with a mono-mindset team. So we’re doing it for business reasons as well as ethical ones.”

 

Deeds not words

Pat agrees that more people are realising the importance of gender balance in business – the big question is though, are we doing enough on a practical level? “I think people are thinking about it, but what’s important are deeds, not just words, it’s about doing something to change the situation. Thanks to our own strategy, I feel that more people are engaging with us to learn about diversity on a business level, to see how they can do it in their own businesses.”

Pat and the VRAI team have created a practical strategy to promote gender balance in every part of their business. “As a business, we have adopted a triple bottom line. In real terms, this means that as a director of the company, you have a responsibility not just for profit but also for people and the planet. We are striving to create a more meaningful workplace, where we’re achieving something else, not just earning profit. As part of this, we are committed to a gender-balanced workforce.

“We set out to be a gender-balanced company and we set out a number of milestones. At VRAI 10 (when we had ten employees), we had gender parity.” says O’Connor.

“As we got bigger though – we now have 18 employees – that figure has altered somewhat, we’re now 66-33 toward men. That has predominantly been driven by hiring more senior people, and we’ve found that there are even fewer women applying for these roles. Our aim is to get back to gender parity by VRAI 30.

“Early on in the business, we put in a number of strategies at a junior level to achieve gender balance. We committed to a gender-balanced shortlist for every job, which means we take much longer to recruit but it’s the right thing to do. We also sponsored Ireland’s first-ever female-only tech apprenticeship – in fact our apprentice is coming to the end of her two years. In this scheme, our apprentice spends part of her work in college and part in the office with us.

“Now we need to address the issue at a senior level. Our first strategy is to look at non-traditional hires. For instance, if someone has been working at a high level in an adjacent industry, they very likely can bring a lot of experience to this industry too. For example, one of the members of our management team came from a film background, working in production, but because she’s an outstanding performer, she’s able to make a huge contribution to the business.

“Another way is by role modelling people, showing others that it’s possible to get into these roles, even if you’re not in technology now. And finally, it’s providing some sort of flexibility. It’s a big cost to introduce enhanced maternity benefits, for instance, but we felt it was the right thing to do both ethically and for the business.”

 

Highlighting the issue

At every opportunity, VRAI tries to highlight the issue, and is a great advocate of The Level Project, Enterprise Ireland’s campaign to highlight the benefits of gender balance in leadership and management teams.

“We’re trying to highlight the issue, be advocates for gender balance, so we try to talk about it in the media, and we try to make sure we are using the right language in our recruitment ads, etc.

“Part of The Level Project is the introduction of an online Action Planning Toolkit, which is brilliant because a lot of people want to do something but they mightn’t know where to start.” says O’Connor.

“When you’re a start-up, you tend to prioritise the urgent; but giving yourself time to look at these fundamental issues is hugely important, and this toolkit takes you away from the fudgy, talking-about-it stage to doing something really practical to help the situation.”

 

Start improving gender balance in your company with The Level Project Toolkit.

Digital Transformation in Care in the UK

Digital Transformation in Care – UK webinar

Digital Transformation in Care - Webinar

For Irish companies with growth ambition, the UK remains of vital strategic importance. This panel discussion provided businesses with an update on the latest initiatives and trends regarding digital transformation in the UK social care sector.

Other topics included what Irish companies should consider to successfully enter and scale in the UK social care market, drawing from the expert insights and experience of our panel.

Our expert panel included:

Declan Kelly – CEO, Aspirico

Daniel Casson – Managing Director, Casson Consulting London Ltd

Ryan Williams – Director/Founding Shareholder, Connected Health Group Ltd

Nathan Downing – Head of Advisory Services, TSA

Nicola Haywood-Alexander – System CIO, NHS Lincolnshire

The webinar was chaired by Peter Wade, Market Executive – Digital Health, Enterprise Ireland and featured an opening key note address from Minister Robert Troy TD.

Delivery driver with customer signing VAT form

Key considerations for managing customs procedures

For a huge number of Irish companies, the UK’s departure from the EU meant a first encounter with customs procedures, or if not an entirely new experience, an unfamiliar one to say the least.

Two figures give some idea of the scale of the issue. Approx 1.6 million customs declarations are made to Revenue each year with this figure expected to rise to more than 20 million by 2023.

This massive increase is creating difficulties not just for importers and exporters but is also puting pressure on the logistics sector, customs agents, and the ports, which are already working at capacity. Faced with this situation, many Irish companies have little option but to attempt to deal with the customs processes themselves.

 

Handling customs procedures in-house

And this will entail a rather steep learning curve. “There is a general lack of knowledge of the customs process,” says Derek Dunne, director of customs formalities and compliance specialist at Manifests Ireland. “We have been spoiled since the establishment of the Single Market in 1992 when didn’t have to make customs declarations for trade with other EU countries. A whole new generation of firms grew up with the advantage of the Single Market.”

“The other problem is that where the knowledge does exist in the logistics industry and customs brokers, the capacity simply doesn’t exist to deal with the anticipated increase in the volume of declarations,” he adds. “All the customs brokers are exceptionally busy already and they are not really able to take a chance on bringing new people in and training them up. SMEs can’t depend on brokers and logistics partners. As good and efficient as they are, they just don’t have the capacity.”

Taking control of the process themselves could be the way to go for many SMEs, he advises. He explains that this may well be the best course of action even if the company can find an external partner to handle the work. “If a broker or logistics company is already looking after 27,000 different products for a lot of other clients, they may find it quite difficult to pay adequate attention to a few products for an SME. In these cases, the SME may be more comfortable handling it themselves.”

 

EORI number

The procedures are very clear for companies who wish to make declarations directly to Revenue. “They have to know who you are, what you are importing or exporting, and you have to be able to make the declarations electronically,” Dunne explains. “This means companies need an EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) number. This is a European Union registration and identification number for businesses which undertake the import or export of goods in or out of the EU. You can register for a number through Revenue’s EORI online registration service.”

 

Online customs declarations

Making declarations online is known as Direct Trader Input (DTI) and requires importers, exporters or their agents to have dedicated software making electronic declarations to the Automated Entry Processing system (AEP). “You also need to register with Revenue and get a digital certificate from them to make declarations to the system,” says Dunne.

Fortunately, there is a range of software products on the market to handle electronic declarations. “There are around half a dozen providers out there and it’s a bit like mobile phone offers: they all have different features and benefits, so it is best to weigh them up to see which package best suits the needs of an individual firm. Many of them also have the ability to integrate and interact with existing software systems such as ERP and management information and financial systems. They can export and import data to them – that’s an important thing to check.”

The software will make the process quite straightforward for the majority of firms. “Most companies will be importing or exporting the same products time and again,” he says. “You need to spend time setting up the system and entering the information, such as commodity codes. The software will make life much easier for that. The packages allow you to create templates which can be replicated time and again. All you need then is the information on when and where and how it’s moving. You might need the assistance of a customs expert when setting it up, but most firms should be able to manage it quite well.”

 

Customs declarations – outsource or complete internally?

He believes the decision on whether to outsource customs procedures should be based on a solid business case. “It’s quite a simple calculation really”, he says. “While the software providers have different pricing schemes it usually works out that you shouldn’t pay more than €7 to €8 per declaration when using their packages. On the other hand, you’ll pay €50 to €60 when using a broker.”

This may sound like a compelling case for carrying it out internally but that isn’t necessarily so. Dunne explains that a company with very small volumes of declarations may find the expense of training staff and the additional administrative burden mean that outsourcing is the better option.

“If you just deal in one or two products quite often you will get to know the processes involved quite quickly and it will be better to do it in-house”, he adds. “But with small volumes less often it is probably better to try to retain a broker. Also, if you are dealing in unusual products it could be hard to track down their commodity codes so it might be best to have an expert do that. In the end, it’s a fairly straightforward business decision based on available resources and the volume of declarations involved.”

 

Working with a broker

For those who see outsourcing as a necessity he says finding a broker will be the issue. “Revenue estimates that there are about 330 brokers in Ireland,” he notes. “These range from large logistics companies to very small brokers. There is no centralised database. You need to talk to them, assess their capacity to take on your business, and their commitment to your company. That’s really the way to go if you want to outsource.”

 

Preparing to do customs processes in-house

For those companies which wish to handle the process internally or haven’t decided yet, Dunne says training is key. For companies interested in building the capability internally, there are many customs training courses available to give an overview of customs procedures and train staff how to fill in customs documentation.

 

 

Aeriel shot of a large boat with containers in a port

Incoterms – Defining the responsibilities between buyer and seller

 Now that the UK is a third country, there is an extra administration burden on those who trade between the EU and the UK. Import and export declarations now have to be completed for all shipments, and duties may have to be paid. But who is responsible for carrying this extra burden and cost? Is it the buyer or the seller? This is where Incoterms come in.

What are Incoterms?

International commercial terms, or ‘Incoterms’ as they are often called, define where the responsibility lies between the buyer and the seller. Incoterms set rules for the delivery of goods between trading partners and are recognised globally. These rules help to clarify; who is responsible for the costs involved in the delivery of goods, such costs include insurance, freight/shipping and duty and who is responsible for the import/ export declarations and the associated filing costs.

 

Negotiating Incoterms

Companies should try to negotiate the best terms, ensuring that they strike the right balance of keeping buyers satisfied while also ensuring that they are not taking on any extra expenses which they cannot afford or that would make their sales unprofitable. It is important to consider how you will process any declarations and if you can afford to take on the extra costs associated with any of the methods available.

When agreeing on Incoterms, it can often be the case that the buyer has the greatest say and may dictate the terms. Some companies may take on responsibility for the declarations and duties in order to avoid passing the burden on to their end customer especially where it could be easy to find an alternative supplier locally.

 

Incoterms in Practice

There are currently 11 categories of Incoterms but we will look at two to understand how they work in practice.

EX Works (EXW) typically involves the buyer taking on the majority of the risk and costs involved. The seller agrees to have the goods available for collection at an agreed location. The buyer collects the goods and is responsible for both export and import declarations, shipping costs and the payment of duties.

Take for example, a French car manufacturer selling cars to a UK car dealership, under the term ‘Ex Works Paris’. The car manufacturer (the seller) will have the goods available for collection at their factory in Paris. The UK dealership (the buyer) will collect these goods. They will bring them to the port, ensure that they have the correct export documentation submitted. They must pay for the shipping and insurance cost. When they reach the UK, they are responsible for having the correct import documentation completed and that duties are paid. Finally, the UK dealership must pay for the transport from the point of entry at the port to their premises.

Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) is another term that is used regularly. Many large supermarket chains, for example, have stipulated to their suppliers that they must continue to supply goods under DDP terms post- Brexit. This term requires that the seller accepts all responsibility and costs for delivering the goods to the named place of destination. The seller must pay for both the export and import declarations along with taxes, duties, insurance and transport costs.

Take for example, an Irish vegetable producer supplying a supermarket in the UK under the term ‘DDP Birmingham’. The Irish supplier will now have to submit an export declaration for the goods to leave the country. They will have to pay for transport costs and insurance to get the goods to the UK. In order for the goods to be allowed into the UK, the supplier must ensure that they have the correct import documentation and that all duties and taxes have been paid. Once the goods have been imported, the Irish supplier must deliver the goods to the premises of the supermarket (the buyer) in Birmingham.

It is important that all companies are aware of the potential impact and extra cost that an Incoterm may have on their business before agreeing terms with their supplier or buyer.

For companies that feel that their customers could easily find an alternative supplier, it is vital that they take the necessary steps to increase their competitive advantage. Through continued innovation and engagement with their UK customers, companies can ensure that they provide not only a superior product but also better quality service than that of their competitors, making customers less likely to switch.

Further information on incoterms can be found on the International Chamber of Commerce’s website.

Europe is our future

Eurozone: Why trading in the Eurozone equals more profits and less risk for SMEs

As an exporting nation, Ireland really couldn’t be in a better place. We have a strong and enduring relationship with both the US and the UK markets, but we also are a pivotal part of the Eurozone, a huge market that is incredibly open to ambitious Irish companies. 

Anne Lanigan, Regional Director, Eurozone, at Enterprise Ireland believes that the Eurozone represents a huge opportunity for Irish companies, particularly at this time of recovery.

 

“The market in the Eurozone is five times that of the UK, yet, Irish industry exports from Enterprise Ireland supported companies are just 80% of what they are to the UK. That highlights the opportunity in Europe – we have really only just scratched the surface. It’s a huge market and it’s an easy market in terms of the lack of infrastructure barriers.” says Lanigan

“In general, Europe is very open to working with Irish companies, not just because we’re Irish but also because we’re innovative, we’re very flexible and friendly to work with, and we are very good at customising our product to suit the customer – and that is very much valued in Europe. We’re pushing an open door in Europe. The challenge is in our own mindset.”

 

Fewer overheads, more profit

But the most attractive part of trading in the Eurozone is the fact that we are operating in the same currency. Investment and financial advisor John Power says that the positives of the single currency cannot be underestimated for SMEs. “When you bring it down to brass tacks, for SMEs, anything that requires intervention, eg if you have to manage currency, is an overhead. I think that some smaller companies often forget that managing a currency is an overhead, and removing an overhead is always going to have an immediate effect on your profits.”

Language is often cited as a barrier to Irish companies trading in Europe, but the positives of dealing in the single currency override any such barriers. “Language is a barrier but we think that habit might play a part too,” says Anne. “Irish companies know how to deal with currency as we have traded with the UK and with the US for years, but even if you have the capability to deal with currency, it is still an overhead. It’s a good thing that our companies are able to deal with currency issues, as the UK, the US and other countries are very important markets for us, but Europe does offer a market that removes this overhead, so your profitability is higher when you’re dealing in the same currency as your customers and your suppliers.”

There is a second reason why the single currency is invaluable for Irish SMEs – the volatility of exchange rates. “When Brexit was voted upon, we saw the volatility of sterling and the damage that it did to Irish companies,” explains John. “We saw massive margin erosion and margin uncertainty. We saw that margin uncertainty happened throughout the sales cycle, so the margin that a company thought they would get at the start of the sales cycle could be completely eroded by the end of it. It was then that we saw the real damage that currency volatility can do.

“When you’re an SME working in international markets, the more risk you can eliminate, the better. One of those risks is currency and as an asset class, it’s probably the most volatile. If you can eliminate that, it has to be a huge positive because you’re eliminating a huge overhead and a risk at the same time.” explains Power

 

Lack of barriers

But there are plenty of other advantages to trading within the Eurozone. For one thing, the lack of barriers in the European Single Market means that trading is quick and straightforward. “Mainland Europe operates much like the States in terms of there’s no real land borders to trade between member countries,” says John. “Our traditional trading relationship with the UK and the US may have resulted in us partly ignoring the opportunities in the Eurozone, yet it’s possibly the nearest and the easiest trading relationship we have.

“We are the only English-speaking nation in the EU, we have a great position on the edge of Europe and we share the single currency. This puts us at a unique trading advantage right now.”

And, financial transactions are fast and easier too, John explains. “We are also members of SEPA, the Single Euro Payments Area, which significantly reduces transaction costs and the time it takes to make a payment. Along with the single currency, this make it far easier for small companies to forecast revenue, and to receive and make payments.”

All these financial factors have the potential to transform profitability for Irish SMEs, at a time when revenues and profits are in danger of being squeezed. Luckily for us too, Europe welcomes products and solutions from Irish companies, and we have a great reputation in the most in-demand sectors right now.

“We have companies excelling across a wide range of sectors,” says Anne. “The most important right now would be high-tech construction, ICT – which fits into every sector – agritech & agriculture engineering, automotive and life sciences. But broadly speaking, we have companies providing solutions for every sector in Europe.”

Put simply, the Eurozone is a huge market full of opportunity for Ireland – and a market that actively welcoming Irish companies. Time, then, to think European.

 

Enterprise Ireland and the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) presented at three part series; Europe is our future. Watch the final webinar from Sept 24th below:

 

 

Net Zero: Time for Irish companies in the UK to prioritise strategies to tackle climate change 

Net Zero

Irish companies operating in the UK have had quite a turbulent few years. Not only have they worked through the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected literally every part of the business world, but they have also come through the preparation and implementation of Brexit. But now there’s another issue that is becoming ever more urgent by the day – climate change – and it’s time now for Irish companies in the UK to start implementing strategies to make their business more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

While climate change is an urgent issue in every country, an even closer light has been cast on the changing environmental and sustainability conditions of the UK market. The UK was the first industrialised nation to enshrine its climate targets in law, pledging to cut carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 78% by 2035 and to reach net zero by 2050. This has been supplemented by recent UK government announcements including its ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution (published in December 2020), a new hydrogen strategy and an offshore wind sector deal. COP26 is taking place in Glasgow this autumn, and to coincide with its launch, the UK government is planning to publish a comprehensive cross-sectoral net zero roadmap, which should provide greater clarity for all sectors.

By and large, net zero been welcomed by the market, as businesses can see the opportunities that come with such a move, but the details still need to be sorted out,” explains Darragh Cotter, Senior Market Advisor, Industrial and Cleantech, at Enterprise Ireland. “The comprehensive roadmap to be published ahead of COP in November is expected to include all the important steps to take the UK to their net zero target, including the level of investment the government is willing to put into it.”

 

Already an urgent issue

With such ambitious targets, it’s clear that this will result in fundamental changes across the business community. Already, the UK net zero challenge is rapidly impacting government policy and legislation, influencing consumer preferences, impacting investor decision making and changing the way major corporates work with supply chain partners.

If you already have a presence in the UK, you must become conscious of the net zero ambitions of your customer base and the changing dynamics,” says Darragh. “For instance, already a lot of public procurement is building in environmental criteria into their tender assessments. That will be the same in the construction and agricultural sectors. So our message is that this is a critical issue for Irish businesses if they want to continue working in the UK because everything from procurement to the type of products and services will undergo fundamental change as we journey towards net zero.

“For us in the Enterprise Ireland London office, it’s the number one issue facing businesses today; we want to educate our clients on the issues facing them, find out what’s required by their customers and potential customers in the UK and relay that information to our client companies. For instance, we are seeing more and more UK corporates looking for their supply chain to have achieved environmental accreditation through certification such as ISO 50001 and ISO 14001. Our client companies need to be aware of the criteria they need to fulfil in order to continue doing business in the UK.”

To help, Enterprise Ireland has launched Net Zero UK: Ready for a Green Future, a proactive market intelligence and insights campaign that is designed to keep Irish business informed of the UK’s net zero plans and their impact on business. Through webinars, podcasts and reports, the campaign will highlight technologies and verticals that are likely to decline and those that will grow and emerge, along with the evolving expectations of major UK corporates. These insights can inform the strategic planning and R&D activities of Irish companies operating in the UK to both protect and to grow their business over the coming years.

Opportunities

Of course, with every change there’s opportunity, and working with Irish SMEs to identify new and relevant business opportunities is a key goal of Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign. “Net Zero will affect every sector, but some sectors would require different measures to others,” says Darragh. “For Irish companies, there are opportunities across all sectors related to net zero, not just in renewable energy – there are also opportunities in construction, engineering, manufacturing, local authorities, finance, business technology and more.”

Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign is complemented by the €10 million Climate Enterprise Action Fund, which provides a suite of products to help Irish companies assess their current carbon footprint and develop a concrete decarbonisation strategy to help future-proof their business. These financial aids work alongside the focused sector insights provided by the Net Zero UK campaign.

Despite Brexit, the UK remains one of Ireland’s most important export partners, and it’s vital that Irish companies take action now to address the opportunities and risks brought about by the growth of UK’s green economy. Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign aims to support Irish exporters and help them to emerge stronger, more successful and more sustainable than ever.

Net Zero UK is part of Enterprise Ireland’s Evolve UK campaign. Find out more here.

Leo Varadkar and others on trade mission

Back to business: Tánaiste leads Enterprise Ireland trade mission to London, Paris & Berlin

It’s been a long and difficult 18 months for Irish businesses, but now that we can finally travel abroad and meet new and existing companies, the recovery has well and truly begun. In fact, Enterprise Ireland’s ambitious calendar of in-person trade missions has already begun, with the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, leading a team on a visit to the UK, France and Germany in early September.

This was the first in-person trade mission since the EU-UK Trade Agreement and the Covid-19 pandemic, and underlined Enterprise Ireland’s commitment to helping Irish companies grow and prosper during this period of recovery. “This trade mission was a reflection of our commitment to the economic recovery, getting Irish businesses out there as quickly as possible to take advantage of opportunities in these three important markets,” says Tom Cusack, Divisional Manager for International Sales and Partnering at Enterprise Ireland.

Together, the UK, France and Germany represented 38% of total Enterprise Ireland client exports in 2020, with over 2,300 Enterprise Ireland client companies exporting to these three markets. “Brexit has happened but the UK continues to be the No.1 export market for Irish companies,” says Tom. “Our ambition is to sustain and grow exports into the UK while growing exports outside the UK too. France and Germany are important to us; each market is worth over €1 billion, and as part of the Eurozone, there are several huge advantages in trading with both countries, including the currency, ease of access and ease of trading. But the UK remains extremely important.”

 

Resilience and growth

While undoubtedly the past 18 months have been challenging, Irish companies have shown great resilience and tenacity in continuing to trade during tough times. In fact, despite the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit, Enterprise Ireland client exports remained steady in 2020, achieving exports of €25.48 billion. Plus, over the last 12 months, more than 50 companies have set up a new presence on the ground in the UK, French and German markets, in such growth areas as digital technology, life sciences, construction, fintech, energy and transport.

“Irish companies have been remarkably resilient over the last 18 months, and have continued to win business and maintain existing business without being able to travel,” says Tom Cusack, Divisional Manager for International Sales and Partnering at Enterprise Ireland.

“Some industries have been more impacted than others, but our 2020 numbers would have effectively held their own with 2019, which is very positive.”

To help Irish companies grow and recover, the purpose of the September trade mission was practical, and enabled Irish companies to meet potential new customers and decision makers in many different industries in the three countries. “Ultimately the mission was about raising the profile of Irish businesses and Irish products in the UK, France and Germany, and highlighting the level of innovation and commitment coming out of Ireland,” says Tom. “It was also a chance for companies to pitch to potential customers in each country. The presence of the Tánaiste always helps to get people into the room, so the mission proved a valuable opportunity for Irish companies.”

 

Three busy days

The first day of the trade mission took place in London, underlining once again how vital the UK market is to Irish companies. Highlights of the visit included an innovation exchange event, attended by the Tánaiste, with UK local authorities and Irish companies. There was also opportunity for focused business meetings with key decision makers from the UK insurance and healthtech industries.

In Paris, much attention was paid to large infrastructure projects, and included meetings with Réseau de Transport d’Electricité and EirGrid, partners in the Celtic Interconnector project. There were also meetings with representatives from Le Grand Paris project, the largest transport and infrastructure project in Europe focused on mobility, sustainability and urban development in the Ile de France region.

The team then travelled to Berlin, where the Tánaiste formally launched Enterprise Ireland’s fourth Enter the Eurozone programme, in partnership with Berlin-based European School of Management and Technology (ESMT). Meetings also took place with Europe’s leading healthcare provider, Helios Health, and German mobility company Tier GmbH.

Over the course of the trade mission, the Tánaiste also met with a number of IDA Ireland existing and target client companies from the financial, telecommunications, insurance and e-commerce sectors.

“It was a very busy couple of days but we believe the trip really opened doors for Irish companies, highlighted the significant benefits in doing business with Irish companies and ultimately helped their growth and recovery by introducing new customers and encouraging new business,” Tom explains

“This trade mission was hopefully the first of many. We have a draft schedule of missions running to the end of the year that includes the US and the Middle East, underlining our commitment to get Irish companies back out there. Where possible, the export agenda will be fully supported by Ministers from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, which always helps to open doors during these missions. We’re an island nation and exports are vital to us; we have a strong reputation throughout the world and our priority is to sustain and grow this through these trade missions.”