Tips for Success in Germany

Caroline Kelly, sales director at Burnside Autocyl, shares her top pieces of advice for Irish companies keen to tap into the German market.

• Be confident about your product or service before going into the market. We have always been focused on the parameters of our product offering – we make hydraulic cylinders with a bore diameter of 32mm up to 200mm and up to eight metres in length. We offer a wide range of products, but it is still finite at the same time. Get feedback from market experts and existing players in Germany on your product – Enterprise Ireland can help to arrange this.

• You need to convince potential customers in Germany of the three C’s – i.e. that you are capable, competent and committed – and able to interface with them on all levels. Many companies are good at selling, but not so many are good at both selling and supporting clients on a technical level. After-sales service is hugely important as you are looking at a relationship that goes on for years – in our case for the lifespan of the machine incorporating our hydraulic cylinders.

• When you are lucky enough to win German customers, mind them like gemstones. They are hard to win so you don’t want to do anything to lose them. Bad news travels faster than good, so try to exceed what they might expect from suppliers on their own doorstep. Be as good, if not better, than local suppliers in terms of quality and consistency of service.

Learn more about doing business in the Eurozone with the support of Enterprise Ireland.

Russia Irish exporters

Russia back on the radar for Irish exporters

Gerard MacCarthy, Director of Enterprise Ireland’s Russia office in Moscow, explains why Irish exporters should remain alert to growing opportunities in the market.

With President Putin returning to office for another six years following the Russian election on March 18th, a major shift in economic policy is not anticipated. Counter-sanctions will continue to block Irish exporters in the food sector from re-entering the market until at least December 2018, as Russia focusses on local production. Challenges for Irish exporters in the non-food sector will continue to include currency exchange, import substitution, and increased pressure for larger companies to localise part of their production process in Russia.

In a business environment that is strongly influenced by government, even at SME level, the Ireland–Russia Joint Economic Commission (JEC), led on the Irish side by An Tánaiste Simon Coveney, galvanises potential partnerships by raising awareness of sectoral strengths and facilitating high-level B2B contact with commercial partners that may otherwise be inaccessible to countries of our scale.

While the aims of the JEC are predominantly long-term, it affords short-term wins for Enterprise Ireland-supported companies, particularly in the agritech and aviation sectors.

To support these objectives, Pat Breen TD Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection visited Enterprise Ireland’s national stand at the Agrofarm Trade Show, attended by Dairymaster, Lir Agri, Moocall, and Weatherby’s.

In March, Enterprise Ireland led a National Stand at the Russia & Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Aviation Maintenance Repair Overhaul Trade Fair in which Botany Weaving, Dublin Aerospace, Eirtech, ITS, and Skypaq participated, highlighting Ireland’s tradition of excellence in the aviation sector.

Alexander Bogachev, former Head of Procurement for Russia’s national carrier Aeroflot, and currently assisting Enterprise Ireland-supported companies secure tenders with major airlines, comments, “Irish companies have stood by Russian partners, especially over the past three years when business was hard to come by, they still came to Russia and kept relations going. That – and Ireland’s reputation for excellence in the aviation sector – is benefitting them now as the market readjusts.”

2017 saw the stabilisation of the biggest factor in the decimation of Irish exports to Russia – the rouble/euro exchange rate. After the Russian Central Bank released the rouble from its one-sided relationship with crude oil, the rate is now mostly influenced by local and relatively stable economic factors, and not international and often volatile macro ones, consistently hovering around 70/euro.

While this new normal is 75% higher than the pre-crisis exchange rate, it is the benchmark to which Russian customers have adapted, allowing Irish exporters to once again compete on a level playing field. This at least partly explains the 36% recovery in Irish goods exports to Russia in 2017, up to nearly 500m from 364m in 2016.

With Russian GDP growth not expected to exceed 2% for 2018-2019 (2% less than the growth target), the Russian government continues to crank up its import substitution policy which aims to reduce reliance on imported goods, stimulate local infrastructure redevelopment, and increase domestic manufacturing output, none of which makes for good news for Irish exporters.

However, with businesses and government under pressure to meet ambitious self-sufficiency targets, they are also increasingly open to overseas partners who are ready to share knowledge and technology to help accelerate local rebuilding, creating an opportunity for Irish exporters in innovative high-tech sectors. As Russia focuses on weaning its economy off hydrocarbon dependence, policy makers acknowledge Ireland as a role model, recognising our transformation from the ‘horse and cart’ economy of the mid-twentieth century, particularly in the ICT and agri-tech sectors.

Trade-focussed ministerial visits are crucial to driving success in the market, in which government support adds to our Irish Advantage. Collaboration through the JEC of government departments, ministries, and the agencies that report to them acts as a high-impact endorsement for Irish companies working in Russia, most of which are repeat visitors, highly aware of the importance of maintaining face-to-face relations and keeping channels open.

This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.

If you’re exporting internationally and interested in researching new markets learn more about the Market Discovery Fund.

 

Knowledge Transfer Ireland

Research shows that Knowledge Transfers to the bottom line

Alison Campbell, Director, KTI Knowledge Transfer Ireland, outlines what small and medium Irish companies stand to gain from connecting with Ireland’s rich research ecosystem.

Busy Irish SMEs can sometimes see research and development as a nice to do, rather than activities that can heavily influence business results. If a company has not previously been involved in knowledge transfer, they can at times view higher-education institutes as removed from the competitive reality of driving business.

Results from Enterprise Ireland’s most recent client survey show that companies that collaborate with the Irish research system on market-led projects report more than double the sales and exports than those that don’t. Knowledge transfer delivers many additional benefits, including a closer understanding of industry challenges within academia, new entrepreneurial activity, higher business activity, and new jobs. These compelling benefits show why Irish SMEs should invest in research and development and take advantage of supports available to help them do so.

Supported by Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Universities Association, Knowledge Transfer Ireland helps companies to benefit from access to expertise and technology, by making it simple to connect and engage with the domestic research base.

A review of the performance of the Irish Technology Transfer System published by Enterprise Ireland in December showed that strong performance and a high level of impact has been achieved in the commercialisation of research over the last four years. The Annual Knowledge Transfer Survey (AKTS) published by KTI reports that an impressive 109 spin-out companies from research institutions are active in Ireland many years after their initial formation. Spin-out companies currently employ over 980 people. 99% of active spin-outs are based in Ireland, with many having a global footprint. 24 new products and services were brought to market based on ideas and technology from state-funded research.  

The Herschel is a robot arm IR sensor technology, developed in a research collaboration between the School of Engineering at TCD and Ceramicx Ireland, a spin-out company that supplies industrial heating technologies to support manufacturing processes. Frank Wilson, Managing Director at Ceramicx, describes his experience, “For me, knowledge transfer works best as advanced common sense. An organisation like Knowledge Transfer Ireland helps SMEs to connect with a world of academic expertise and institutions they might otherwise find difficult to access. They help you answer questions like ‘Who do you engage with?’ KTI can help your company focus on what your specific project needs. You might want to implement a product process that no other company is using yet. The expertise of academic specialists can help realise those plans. At Ceramicx, we’re working on two important knowledge transfer projects at the moment. But everything depends on the specific circumstances of the company.”

For company’s eager to explore what knowledge transfer could do for them, KTI’s interactive “Find R&D Funding” tool provides a mechanism that helps them to find the most appropriate funding and supports for research and development activity in Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland recently approved the third phase of its Technology Transfer Strengthening Initiative, a €34.5m investment to be made over five years that will help sustain capacity within the Technology Transfer Offices to ensure continuing effective commercialisation of research and to maintain the bridge between the research organisations, businesses and entrepreneurs.

The number and range of supports on offer by the Irish state to support enterprise innovation directly and indirectly are critical to driving increased levels of innovation in Ireland.

Ireland now ranks tenth in the world in the Global Innovation Index 2017 and has been cited as the most R&D effective country in the EU, achieving maximum innovation output per euro of public funding.

With a skilled technology transfer resource in the publicly-funded research sector and an active innovation system, we can further KTI’s work to make research collaboration and commercialisation simple and accessible.

This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.

Data centre Irish companies Sweden nordics

Data centre surge connects Irish companies to Sweden

Karin Angus, senior market adviser based in Enterprise Ireland’s Stockholm office, explains how Irish companies can power the Nordics’ expanding data centre construction sector.

With the estimation that, by 2021, 95% of data centre traffic will come from the cloud, compared with 88% today, a projected increase in demand is promising for Irish high-tech construction and engineering companies, who are already partnering in the development of the most innovative and large-scale data centres in Sweden today.

Major Swedish projects driven by Irish construction and engineering companies include the Digiplex facility in Upplands Väsby, and three Amazon Web Services facilities in Katrineholm, Eskilstuna and Västerås.

In March, Enterprise Ireland held a seminar on the construction sector at the World Trade Center in Stockholm, at which forty Irish and Swedish companies participated. Attendees received presentations from Thomas O’Connor, Director of Irish company Collen Construction, and representatives from Business Sweden, the Swedish Construction Federation, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Association of Public Housing Companies, Enterprise Ireland, and from the 16 Irish companies that attended. Ireland’s ambassador to Sweden, Dympna Hayes, and Ireland’s Minister for Culture, Josepha Madigan, also attended.

Ireland’s geographic location, on the western edge of the Atlantic, has helped it to become one of the most important hubs for global technology giants, including Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Dell EMC, IBM, HP, Facebook, Equinix, InterXion, and Digital Realty.

Speaker Tomas Sokolnicki from Business Sweden discussed why construction in the Nordics has accelerated since Google opened a data centre in Finnish Hamina in 2009. Sweden’s cool climate reduces the energy required to cool down data centres, one reason why it ranks as the third most suitable country in the world in which to locate them. A stable electricity supply, enabled by a production mix of hydro and nuclear power, also makes it a favourable location for data centre construction.

Two Irish companies, Hanley Energy and Kirby Engineering, announced the expansion of operations in Sweden at the seminar, having recently won a number of significant new projects.

Power management specialist Hanley Energy plays a key role in protecting data centres from problems caused by power supply issues and will open an office in Torshälla in Sweden.

Edward Pepper, Head of Operations at Hanley Energy, said, “Sweden is an important market for data centre building. An establishment in the Swedish market, together with our new office, not only supports our growth plans, but also shows our commitment to our customers who expect support around the clock for 365 days a year. Customer demand is central to us, and our expansion in Sweden is part of the implementation of our vision, Global Competence Center.”

With a turnover of €165m, Kirby was founded in 1964, and currently directly employs over 700 highly-skilled professionals.

Commenting on the expansion into Sweden, Dave McNamara Associate Director for Kirby in Europe said, “Although Kirby is relatively new to Sweden, we are positive about our growth and success in the market. This positive outlook is backed by our success so far in securing a number of high-profile projects, with more projects in the pipeline. Expanding our operations further in the Nordics region is a progressive step for the company both from a strategic and development standpoint, especially given the growth in the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing construction sector.”

For Irish construction companies interested in opportunities in the Nordics, it is important to be familiar with local labour laws, follow union regulations, and listen to local advice. Take the opportunity to explore market intelligence and potential introductions with Enterprise Ireland. Staff in the region will assist you with local knowledge and contacts.

Enterprise Ireland recently published the Future Data Centre white paper, in collaboration with Data Center Dynamics, analysing major changes that will impact design and construction trends over the next five years. The white paper can be downloaded from the Irish Advantage website and offers a snapshot of the data centre construction landscape, major changes impacting design and build processes, regulatory and technological drivers of change, and strategies for smart design and construction.

This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.

Irish CEOs Asia Pacific

Stories from the road – Irish CEOs in Asia Pacific

Winning business in AsiaPac is a marathon, not a sprint, for Irish fintech company Fenergo.

“We’re asking banks for between €30 million and €50 million, so these are big ticket deals. You don’t just walk up and ask for that kind of money. For us, closing deals is the equivalent of running a marathon, in that there are 26 units of work to be done, and it takes us between nine and 12 months to complete,” explained Marc Murphy, CEO of Fenergo.

He was speaking onstage at Routes to Growth Asia Pacific, a major conference organised by Enterprise Ireland at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

Even in a fast-paced sector like fintech, don’t expect speedy results, he cautioned. “For all we talk of digital revolutions, it’s still a pedestrian pace for big institutions. To get people to put their career on the line to back you is a big, elongated process. It’s about old-fashioned feet on the street. They want to see roots, they want to see you hiring locally, putting investment and commitment in.”

Asia currently represents 35% of Fenergo’s business. “Our beachhead in the region was Australia,” he explained. “We now have five of the largest Australian banks. From there we went after Singapore, we now have three of four local domestic banks there. We also have a presence in Tokyo, and in the next quarter we will have signed three of the large five Japanese banks.”

One of the ways Fenergo made inroads into China was via the overseas branches of banks such as Bank of China and ICBC, “they are giving us the opportunity to go into mainland China,” he said.

Certain steps can help your progress, such as using the Irish embassy for a launch, as Fenergo did in Singapore. Making key industry hires who are known locally is also helpful.

The company currently employs 90 people across AsiaPac, and has invested around €7 million in the region.

“The basics that we do in London and New York, we will do in Singapore and Tokyo too. There might be cultural differences, such as, in Tokyo, the C-Suite will only talk to the C-Suite, so you find out the customs of each society, but the principles of how we do business are no different whether it’s Toronto or Singapore.”

CAE Parc Aviation

CAE Parc Aviation first began doing business in the region almost three decades ago, said chief executive, Frank Collins. Today, 45% of its worldwide business comes from Asian companies. Moreover, 25% of its business is with Irish companies whose own customers are in Asia. All in all, “it’s a massive market for us,” he said. Parc now has seven offices spread across five AsiaPac countries.

Opening its first office in Tokyo, in 2006, proved pivotal, enabling it to develop deeper relationships. It now has three offices in China and employs 15 people in the region in total.

“Our experience was that though we found we could grow really fast – because of the growth in aviation – the hard part would have been to deliver. So we hauled back and decided to concentrate on three or four of the main airlines there and deliver a really satisfying product.”

Expansion can bring constraints for any company. “For us cash flow has not really been an issue. Our experience has been excellent in terms of getting paid,” said Collins.

“For us, it was just the length of time it took, and the regulation involved, in supplying pilots. Between the time you find a pilot and the time you have them fly, it can be months in certain Asian countries, so you’ve got to be prepared to have people on the ground, working through that, before you earn a penny. That’s the real investment, time and resources. But if you are not prepared to put in the time, and the people on the ground, don’t bother, you just won’t win.”

Cubic Telecom

Barry Napier, CEO of Cubic Telecom, first discussed the possibility of entering the region with Enterprise Ireland in 2010. Its initial market was Hong Kong, followed by Australia and New Zealand, Singapore and Japan.

Cubic Telecom also benefited from Irish embassies in the region. “Regulation is very different in every market. A key thing we leveraged from Enterprise Ireland was an introduction to the local ambassadors. They know about the laws and the regulations, and how to work within the community. It’s about networking, use that abroad,” said Napier.

Douglas Proctor is Director of UCD’s International office. The university currently has 5,000 students from the region studying at its campus, plus a further 5,000 studying in partnership arrangements in countries such as China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia. “One of the key things universities can offer is to act as a broker for Irish industry in terms of partnerships and R&D in the region,” he said.

UCD has around 20,000 alumni living and working in the region, which “if you map that across the seven universities in the country, means there are Irish people trained and working and ready to support your export aspirations in the region,” he said.

Thinking of the market in terms of clusters, rather than geographies, helped Fenergo tackled what is a vast region.

“In our market, banks all move together. We have all the Australian banks, for example, and we get them together, which can take two or three years,” said Mark Murphy.

“Divide your market into sub-segments and go after them like they are clusters. Put every resource you can against one of those sub-segments – call it a beachhead in terms of how you tackle them – and overwhelm them with customer service. Overwhelm them with delivery. Make them feel like you are bigger and better than Apple and Microsoft, and all the other big brands out there.”

“That has been our real formula for success as we’ve gone after new markets and it has proven to be our success in Asia too.”

How Tenderscout is helping Irish companies to win business across the world

“We’ve had Irish firms win contracts in Texas – companies who never would have looked for business beyond our shores before they started working with us.”

While every business relishes winning new contracts, few share the same enthusiasm for the tendering process. It can be laborious, consuming valuable time and requiring considerable investment, with success far from guaranteed.

One dynamic Dublin-based company, Tenderscout, is working to change that. Established by seasoned software developer and start-up specialist Tony Corrigan, the online platform was developed for Irish companies competing for tenders around the world.

Delivering expert support and specialised software, Tenderscout helps companies of all sizes to transform their approach to winning tenders, giving them the best chance to capitalise on a rapidly changing business landscape in which international borders may be no more restrictive than lines in the sand.

“We sit at the hub of the activities a company needs to complete in order to compete for global tenders,” explains Tony, who was inspired to set up the company after becoming frustrated with the inefficiencies he faced during tendering processes.

“That includes sourcing initial requests for tender, qualifying the job to assess if the company is a good fit, and then putting the proposal together.”

Irish businesses can use the Tenderscout platform to quickly find quality jobs posted around the world. The team, which numbers 10 and is growing, applies innovative technology to determine which clients are best-suited to win the tender, connecting them with expertly selected partners or consultants who can help deliver the proposal.

“For example, if you’re a business that would like to compete in Poland for an IT contract, we list companies that can provide required services in that market. That’s a huge advantage when competing internationally,” says Tony.

“We’re also building out a network of bid consultants around the world who can put together tender documents. We do some of this ourselves but primarily the platform is used to source the consultant with the expertise the bidding company needs.”

Expert knowledge of markets and sectors

Making connections with these consultants can be extremely powerful, Tony explains – whether to bridge geographical gaps and provide insights on language and cultural matters, or to offer specific sectoral subject matter expertise.

“If you’re tendering for a project to implement an IT system into a department of education, we can pair you with someone who has experience implementing IT systems into departments of education,” he explains.

Learnings from 3,000 tenders in four years

Tenderscout’s tried-and-tested framework allows the cost of partnerships to be managed to great effect.

“We’ve learned that consultants and the companies they serve don’t always share the same interests,” Tony comments. “It may be in the interests of a consultant for a job to last longer than a client company would like, for example.

By curating the relationship and providing a framework for how the process works, tenders can be developed for 60% of the cost.

We can deliver that because we’ve carried out 3,000 tenders over the past four years. It leaves us with a huge bank of reusable material, which means consultants don’t have to invent everything from scratch, so they can start working more quickly.”

Open your business to the world

One of Tenderscout’s major motivations is to change the status quo, in which most contracts are advertised and awarded to local companies.

“We work internationally ourselves, and we see that Irish companies are, in many cases, better placed to provide certain services than those in the US or Europe,” Tony says. “Particularly in areas such as software development, smart technologies, smart cities, internal productivity solutions, such as meeting room software, and other areas.

The issue is that companies are not always ambitious enough to look beyond their own borders. When they do, results are compelling. We’ve had Irish companies win contracts in Texas, companies who had never looked beyond Irish shores for business before they started working with us.”

Tony insists that companies should not allow fears or concerns about the tendering process to inhibit ambitions for growth.

“The barrier to success is not as high as people think when it comes to tendering,” he adds.

“If you were to take a random selection of tender documents and independently evaluate them, they’d score about 60%. To win, you’d need to be in the region of 90%.

“If you’re good at what you do, scoring highly shouldn’t be a problem. But the process itself can inhibit otherwise great bids.

“In short, if you put the proposal together well, you will win more often than will miss out.”

Going global with ambition

Tenderscout has become highly adept at navigating the international business landscape for clients, partly because their own journey has focused on international expansion, supported by Enterprise Ireland.

“We first became involved with Enterprise Ireland through the New Frontiers programme, then succeeded in getting a grant through the Competitive Start Fund in 2014,” recalls Tony. “From there, we were assigned an advisor, and were supported in research missions to the US and UK by the West Coast and London teams.”

While grant support was helpful in the company’s early days, the most valuable help, as with the company’s network of tendering consultants, came from creating connections and developing insights around the international markets.

“Enterprise Ireland’s support in connecting us with the local business community within each market and helping us to establish our credibility, made a real difference.”

Tech visionary Tony hopes more businesses will put their faith in the Tenderscout platform and use it to transform their fortunes.

“Tenderscout is the tool used by companies that win contracts,” says Tony. “If you’re in a situation in which you’re pitching for business, having Tenderscout in your corner is the best way to aim for success.”

Asia Pacific

Asia Pacific is flying high – time for Irish companies to get on board

Tom Cusack, regional director for Asia Pacific at Enterprise Ireland, explains what Irish exporters can gain by exploring opportunities in the region.

“Always listen,” advised Dicky Yip, non-executive director of Chinese insurance giant PingAn and former chief executive of HSBC China, during his keynote speech at Enterprise Ireland’s Routes to Growth Asia Pacific, a major conference which brought together more than 400 Irish and international business people to explore export opportunities in the region.

“It takes time to understand each area’s cultural differences”, explained Yip.

The inaugural Routes to Growth Asia Pacific event offered a unique opportunity for networking and peer-learning to current and first-time exporters, with more than 100 potential buyers travelling to attend. Enterprise Ireland’s entire Asia Pacific team assisted companies with export plans and on-the-ground experience. Enterprise Ireland also launched a series of business guides to help companies better prepare for market entry.

Asia Pacific is home to two of the world’s three biggest economies

Stretching from Australia to India and China, Asia Pacific is home to half of the world’s population and two of its three biggest economies. By 2025, it will account for more than half of the world’s economic output. Similar trends are evident with growth rates, which range from 5% to 9%, compared to the 2-3% global average. Australia, in particular, has enjoyed over 25 years of continuous growth.

More than 600 Irish companies are currently doing business in the region, worth €2 billion annually.

Irish exports more than doubled in the last five years since breaking the €1 billion mark in 2012, delivering double-digit growth for Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in 2016, with an impressive 16% year-on year-gain. As the second-fastest growing region for Enterprise Ireland-backed companies, a 50% increase in exports is targeted by 2020. Opportunities for Irish businesses in sectors including aviation, fintech, international education, and construction and engineering are particularly promising.

“Ireland has emerged as one of the greatest global aviation hubs in recent times,” commented Dermot Mannion, former deputy chairman of Royal Brunei Airlines and former Aer Lingus CEO. “That is happening at a time when Asia Pacific is by far and away the fastest growing region for aviation. Over the next twenty years, the number of aircraft going into Asia Pacific will be equal to North America and Europe combined. We are very well positioned to take advantage of that.”

One example of Irish success in the sector is CAE Parc Aviation, who first began doing business there almost three decades ago, explained chief executive, Frank Collins. Today 45% of its worldwide business comes from Asian companies. CAE Parc has seven offices spread across five AsiaPac countries. In all, “it’s a massive market for us,” Collins said.

Speakers recommended reaching out to Enterprise Ireland for assistance and tapping into the Irish diaspora.

Work with Enterprise Ireland to expand in Asia Pacific

“You need to get out there on the ground, so use Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Foreign Affairs. There is always someone who can give you introductions,” said Paul Costigan, chief sales and marketing officer at Decawave.

Barry Napier, CEO of Cubic Telecom, first discussed the possibility of entering the region with Enterprise Ireland in 2010 and benefited from Irish embassies in the region. “Regulation is very different in every market. A key thing we leveraged from Enterprise Ireland was about laws and regulations, and how to work within the market,” said Napier.

Ireland’s connectivity to the Asia Pacific region will see a big boost in June 2018 with the launch of a direct flight between Dublin and Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific, the first ever direct flight from Ireland to the Asian mainland.

“Don’t underestimate the impact of having ‘Dublin’ on departure boards in Hong Kong will have,” said Mannion. “It will create a dynamic where companies in that part of the world will be interested, because it will be easier to do business here.”

That the Routes to Growth event was organised in partnership with Cathay Pacific is fitting. There is no doubt that the AsiaPac region is flying high. For Irish companies, it is time to get on board.

Visit our markets section for insights on Singapore and China and the opportunities for Irish companies.

This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.

End of year results

Positive Results but New Year means New Markets

Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, describes how the agency will support Irish companies to target opportunities in key markets in 2018.

Despite the challenges and uncertainty created by Brexit, Irish companies continued to grow global exports in 2017, supporting strong job creation across all regions of Ireland. That positive trend was evident in the End of Year results Enterprise Ireland announced in January at the Dublin headquarters of client technology company Ding, with job creation figures up across every region, every county, and every sector on 2016.

The job creation figures were up on 2016, despite the uncertainty that Irish businesses faced in 2017 in the context of Brexit. 209,338 people are now employed in companies supported by Enterprise Ireland, the highest total employment achieved in the history of the agency. 19,000 new jobs were created across all regions in Ireland last year. The figure represents a net increase of 10,309 jobs for 2017, taking account of job losses. In line with total employment levels, the net increase in jobs, is the highest on record with Enterprise Ireland.

While we welcome these positive results, it not a time for complacency about the forecast for Irish companies in 2018. It is imperative that Irish businesses continue to build on the strength of their 2017 performance and implement robust plans to prepare for the impact of Brexit.

In recent months, Enterprise Ireland launched a number of new measures to strengthen the rural and regional economy and provide quicker access to innovation funding for exporting companies. The Market Discovery Fund is a new response from Enterprise Ireland to help companies to diversify in the context of Brexit. The fund supports Enterprise Ireland-backed companies to diversify into new markets and promote new products to existing markets. Three levels of funding are available to companies: up to €35,000, up to €75,000 and up to €150,000.

This latest initiative is just one example of the work Enterprise Ireland has undertaken to deliver our strategy, Build Scale, Expand Reach 2017-2020, focused on transforming the innovation and competitive capabilities of Irish companies, to help expand their global reach by diversifying into key export markets.

While the results for the first year of the strategy are encouraging, Brexit represents a huge challenge for Irish companies and is top of our agenda. The Market Discovery Fund, along with our intensive international programme of export-focused trade missions and our recently introduced Agile Innovation Fund, are key supports which are instrumental to helping even more companies grow and reach new export markets.

The Eurozone, and non-Eurozone European countries, have always been important markets for Irish companies but now their importance is significantly enhanced. Consolidating exports to the UK, while expanding the Irish export footprint in markets beyond the UK, is a high priority.

The strong 2017 performance by Irish businesses can be attributed to the continuing growth of an entrepreneurial climate for start-ups, allied to strong jobs growth in sectors such as construction, engineering and life sciences, which all saw an 8% increase. I was pleased to report the increase in female-led businesses, with 63 female-led start-ups receiving backing in 2017. 42% of Competitive Start Fund Approvals were to female-led start-ups.

It is encouraging that job creation was evenly spread across the country in 2017, with every county seeing increases. 64% of new jobs were created outside of Dublin, with the west, mid-west and north west seeing the largest level of increases for 2017 at 7%.

Whatever the outcome of the complex Brexit negotiations that lie ahead, it is vital that as a country we are ready to continue to support Irish companies to drive exports and expand to growing markets.

Last year, a new €60m Regional Enterprise Development Fund was launched to invest in the regional ecosystem. 4 new Regional Accelerators were established. €23m was invested in New Technology Centres – Irish Manufacturing Research and Meat Technology Ireland. 9 Regional Brexit Advisory Roadshows were held across the country. Irish Advantage digital campaign to promote sourcing from Ireland. 33% Increase in international Trade Missions and Events. 878 International buyer visits to Ireland. 1,391 New overseas contracts won by EI backed companies

The new Market Discovery Fund is just the first initiative of 2018 as we work with our partners in government and enterprise to help Irish companies build their scale and expand their reach whatever the challenges on the international horizon.

This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.

US flag - exporting to the US

Top 10 Tips for Exporting to The USA

Ireland enjoys a unique advantage in trading with the US because of our deep historical links. Relations between the two governments are exceptional; and cooperation at an institutional level is excellent including in areas such as research, innovation and education.

There is, without doubt, huge opportunity in the US. Around 700 Enterprise Ireland client companies are exporting there and companies like Aerogen, Fenergo, Cylon Controls, Candidate Manager and Rubicoin have set up offices and accelerated exports in the past 24 months. To date, over 20 clients have won contracts worth over €500,000.

1. Preparation

Before entering the US market, extensive research at home is strongly advised. Make contact with State agencies, relevant support organisations and companies who currently export to the US, if possible. Targeting the US usually requires additional financial and human resources, so to keep costs and operations manageable in such as geographically big country, first-time entrants are advised to segment the market and target a particular region or state. Give careful consideration to the resources needed to serve the selected market, for instance, will the operation use a direct or indirect sales channel. Some companies hire locally and others (often in the early stages) put a C-level member of the team in the market for a short period to get things off the ground.

2. Legal

Corporate – Confirm your corporate structure. Typically setting up a US subsidiary makes sense both for tax and liability reasons. Your US subsidiary also will need to appoint a registered agent, and “qualify to do business” in every state in which you have an office or similar presence.

Intellectual Property – Address US trademark issues defensively (confirming that no one else has prior registered or unregistered rights in respect of name and key brands); and offensively (by filing a US trademark application). Patent issues may need addressed depending on the business.

Contractual Terms and Conditions – These must be converted to the laws of a US state, for legal and commercial reasons.

Employment – Get professional employment advice locally. Most US employees do not have employment contracts but employers are bound by offer-letter terms, employee manuals and other undertakings. Also, ensure confidentiality and IP assignment agreements with all employees are established.

3. Tax Structuring and Compliance

Establish appropriate arm’s-length arrangements between the Irish parent and US subsidiary to separate taxable income. This is particularly important because US corporate tax rates (federal and state), totalling about 40% are typically three times the level in Ireland. Have appropriate compliance procedures in place to address federal and state corporate income tax, as well as other potentially relevant tax regimes (sales tax, personal property tax, etc.), particularly at the state and local level.

4. Trends

US import trends indicate high potential for Irish exporters. Meat imports were valued at €9.4bn which was the second fastest-growing import; while dairy went up over 40% to €2.8 billion. The US also imports pharmaceuticals worth $86.1 billion; medical and technical equipment worth $78.3 billion and organic chemicals worth $52.1 billion. These are all among the top 10 Irish exports by category. It is also a big importer in sectors such as aviation and aerospace, mechanical and electronic equipment, insurance and ICT services – all of which are growing in Ireland.

5. Banking

It can be difficult for a non-US company to set up banking for its US subsidiary. Some banks are particularly focused on banking high-growth companies on a trans-Atlantic basis, which can help ease the process.

6. Immigration

Most Irish companies exporting to the US find it critical to establish a presence in the market. This is particularly true in software and high-tech. An estimated 65% of Irish exporters to the US have a full-time presence, ranging from a single-person sales office to manufacturing operations with thousands of employees. Route-to-market decisions are crucial and the role of agents and distributors cannot be ignored. Buyers rarely purchase directly from manufacturers, particularly those from overseas. So fulfilment centres have become increasingly important in the supply-chain, especially since the growth of e-business. This approach is better suited to non-perishable items and consumer products.

7. Insurance

The US is a high-risk environment. Get an insurance broker with trans-Atlantic experience to advise on types of cover, terms and limits.

8. Recruitment

The most difficult aspect of setting up in the US is finding the right people. Obtaining recommendations from trusted people including investors and advisors is often the best way. Otherwise get professional support (especially with sales people). Consider outsourcing for book-keeping, employee tax withholding, HR and mandatory employee insurance and benefits, and similar matters. Also note that visas permitting Irish personnel deployed in the US to work are needed. Allow three to four months to sort this out.

9. Offices

Get professional advice on office space and other properties such as co-working spaces (like WeWork), accommodation offices (like Regus) or renting an individual premises.

10. Incentives and Supports

US supports should not be overlooked. Federal, state and local development agencies and international chambers of commerce can provide very useful support. State and local incentives for investment and job creation also may be available.

 

Unlocking Europe’s Great Engineering Markets

Taoglas tunes into Germany and France

Established in 2004, Taoglas provides advanced antenna and RF (radio frequency) solutions to the world’s leading wireless and Internet of Things (IoT) companies. Over the last decade, the company has gained a reputation for innovation built on its world-class design, support and test centres based in Ireland, Germany, Taiwan and the USA. Since 2015, Taoglas has launched over 100 new products onto the market.

The County Wexford-based business works with its customers to provide solutions for their unique antenna and RF challenges. In-house manufacturing takes place in its Taiwan and USA facilities, and company expertise and experience applies across different wireless and IoT use cases, from LTE to GNSS, DSRC, and NFC and beyond to 5G, gaining it success stories in telematics, automotive, metering, smart grid, wearables, medical devices, remote monitoring and high-speed video broadcasting.

Taoglas has recently established offices in France. French sales manager Sam McCarthy explains that the decision to establish a presence in France isn’t related to Brexit but rather builds on the success the company has enjoyed in the German market since setting up an office in Munich in 2015.

For an Irish engineering company looking to this market, a flair for the cutting edge needs to be at the heart of the offering, he adds. “For the engineering sector, in particular, you need to have innovation on your side. There are a lot of French companies that are very good at what they do and, if you are just good at doing something, you’ll find you have plenty of competition here.”

In France, the company is targeting particular opportunities in the smart metering market, as well as the automotive and digital signage sectors. The French office was opened in mid-2016 and McCarthy says the step of putting someone on the ground is a potentially transformative one for any ambitious Irish company looking to grow there. “The fact of having someone here, as opposed to managing the market from Ireland, is the difference between night and day. Customers here don’t learn about the company in the same way unless they have someone in front of them and, equally, the company can’t gain the same understanding of the marketplace without a presence on the ground.”

Establishing that presence requires both fluent French and a strong grounding in French business culture: “Formality is at the heart of the French way of doing business. It’s important to understand the subtleties of this as you set out to build relationships,” he told The Market.

While France is famous for a certain level of bureaucracy around employment, he adds that establishing an office need not be an onerous decision. “As long as the company presence is focused on sales, things don’t need to get complicated. As we grow and expand here, it will become a more sophisticated operation, but our experience is that for any company looking to set up a sales presence, there are solutions providers that eliminate the need to worry about excessive costs or paperwork.”

Kerry Abrasives expands out from Germany, Switzerland and Austria

A precision manufacturer of engineered abrasives, Kerry Abrasives was established in 1998 in Listowel by co-founders Liam Brosnan and Peter Mc Kenzie-Vass. The company’s diverse client base includes aerospace, automotive, cutlery and hand tools, bearings and medical device, bringing a natural international focus to its activities. Sales and marketing manager Ina Baumann explains that the very diversity of its portfolio has to be factored into its growth and development strategy.

“Being in so many individual industries can be challenging in terms of focus. We tend to work by product or industry sector and develop markets both from a product focus and a geographic base.”

The Kerry headquartered business is in the somewhat unusual position of having its more established markets in central Europe, particularly Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and seeing the UK as more of a development opportunity.

Using a reseller model to sell to specific clients, the company is developing a distribution network to extend its reach in Central Europe, targeting growth particularly in Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and Poland, over the coming years.

Baumann says that the business leverages its standing in Germany through participation in events such as GrindTec, a flagship event for the industry. “GrindTec is the main industry trade event, and it attracts a lot of interest from Eastern Europe businesses who want to see the latest development. It isn’t just the large companies with manufacturing facilities that are there; smaller indigenous companies also attend. They are looking to Germany and western Europe for new ideas,” she told The Market.

“The level we play at is a little above the normal abrasive. Our products are customised, and we go the extra step to deliver a better finish and real life efficiencies. If you can deliver that you can hold your customer; price is not the issue.”

While Brexit is creating uncertainty for some, Baumann says that for a company already focused on the Eurozone, “it’s very much business as usual. You have to put in effort with a new client, in terms of testing, modifying and getting approval, but growth is happening, and we are positive.”

Mergon targets Central Europe’s massive manufacturing base

Established in 1981, Mergon is an Irish company with operations in Ireland, the Czech Republic and the US. Recognised internationally in the area of technical moulding, the company designs, manufactures and assembles components for clients in the automotive, industrial and healthcare sectors. Mergon made headlines in the 2014 World Cup when it was revealed that the 79,000 seats in Rio’s Maracana stadium had been manufactured by the company, both at its Castlepollard plant in Co Westmeath and its facility in Brno, Czech Republic. In 2016, the company confirmed its standing as an international player with the opening of the Mergon Innovation Centre in Castlepollard.

Sales and manufacturing director Tom Mullen explains that the opening of the facility in Czech Republic in 2004 has been instrumental in its growth in Central and Eastern Europe. The facility opened at a time when costs were increasing in Ireland but also responded to developments in a part of Europe that was becoming a major manufacturing hub, particularly in the automotive sector. This is an industry where “to grow sales and deal with rising costs, you needed to be close to the customer”.

Mullen says that achieving the success they’ve found in Central Europe “would have be very difficult without the Brno plant, as we wouldn’t have been able to grow sales as aggressively. If you don’t have presence, it can be hard to convince your customer that you can supply them. Once we established here, that presence has actually supported our manufacturing capability in Ireland. We can switch capacity and supply from both locations.” In its approach to Europe, the company divides the continent with strategic line supply from Czech Republic.

For an Irish company looking to expand in Central Europe, Mullen says it is “really no different to selling in any other part of Europe”, but adds that “having people who can speak the language and know the culture is certainly important. It wouldn’t be as effective if we were to try to do the same thing with an Irish sales team”.

The opportunity represented by the automotive industry in the region has, if anything, only increased over the years. The Škoda auto plant has its headquarters in Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic, while neighbouring Slovakia holds the title of the world’s largest producer of cars per capita, with Volkswagen, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Kia Motors all having major facilities there. While it is a prestigious industry to be part of, Mullen points out that winning clients will usually come down to the two particular drivers, namely being the best and the best value, and suppliers have to prove themselves in terms of technical capability, consistency, quality and ability to delivery on time.

As regards the tendency of Irish companies to focus on the UK, he ascribes it to a general trait of “following the path of least resistance. If you’re going to get business in the UK, then naturally you’ll concentrate on that, but from a risk point of view, the broader the spread of your business the better. Our experience is that if you can sell successfully into the UK, then you have nothing to fear in other markets in Europe”.

Setting up in the Czech Republic has undoubtedly been pivotal to its growth in Central Europe and, overall, the experience has been excellent, Mullen adds. “We have only had good experiences. It is another piece of the jigsaw, and it has allowed us to keep higher specification jobs in Ireland. The dual presence benefits both locations and has been an important part of our growth.”

Mapping Europe’s engineering strengths

Germany remains Europe’s industrial powerhouse as a leader in automotive and machine manufacturing. The fourth largest producer of cars in the world behind the US, China and Japan, the industry is dominated by household names like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Opel, Porsche and Volkswagen. In addition, Germany controls 14 per cent of the global market for construction and material handling equipment. Doing business with some of the country’s global giants can also open opportunities to enter the supply chain of these German headquartered multinationals elsewhere in the world.

Central Europe’s substantial Central Europe’s substantial and growing manufacturing hub now includes large portions of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. It is fast becoming one of the leading global destinations for domestic appliance, flat-screen TV and automotive manufacturing.

With strengths in agricultural machinery, energy, cleantech, transport and aerospace, the French engineering sector is worth an estimated €40bn, employs around 350,000 people and is forecast to grow by 7.4 per cent over the 2015-2020 period. Key trends include energy transition, maintenance and renovation, smart cities and intelligent transport.

Italy is also famous for its engineering sector and is home to leading global companies in sectors such as automotives, aerospace and oil and gas. Irish companies with innovative solutions and niche products and international references can win business here.

The Nordic nations of Sweden, Norway and Finland are European leaders in metal ore mining, and Norway is a global player in the oil and gas sector. Sweden is home to an innovation-led automotive sector for cars and heavy and specialised vehicles, while Denmark is a European forerunner in renewable energy innovation, particularly in the areas of wind and biogas.

The Benelux ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp provide entry to Europe, making this a good market for logistics, fleet management and other solutions that can improve material handling and transportation efficiencies.

Grant engineers French success

Grant engineers French success

In the wake of the Brexit vote, oil boiler specialist Grant Engineering immediately looked to develop its export markets.

The Offaly-based company employs up to 320 people. It also has operations in the UK, where it employs a further 80 staff and accounts for more than half of the UK oil boiler market.

This year it will launch in France, delegates attending Ambition France, an Enterprise Ireland event, heard.

How Enterprise Ireland supported market entry to France

It started by attending a French trade show, supported by Enterprise Ireland. “It was an opportunity to invite people from our industry to meet us,” said Niall Fay, a director of the company.

The company availed of Enterprise Ireland’s Business Accelerator initiative, which helps companies retain the services of an industry expert in country. “He spent two months contacting local potential distributors and clients, asking them to come to see us at the show and arranging the meetings.”

The result was an unexpected but welcome offer. “Two guys from a company that was of particular interest to us were looking for a career change and were keen to develop the business for us so we agreed to take them on an consultancy basis. We were lucky to find French people with 40 years industry experience between them.”

A Market Access Grant from Enterprise Ireland enabled the company to localise the product for the French market. The company then set up offices and a training facility. Grant established in France as an SAS company, the most common limited liability structure in France, opened bank accounts and registered for VAT.

Having French nationals heading up the company was a huge advantage. “One of the biggest concerns we had was finding someone within the industry who would come and join a company that is a complete unknown in France. We have gotten over that hurdle and now we are looking at sales. It is very common in France to have sales agents all over the various regions of France and that is the route to market we are going to go.”

Here too, having French nationals who know the market, and can assess candidates, has been a boon.

His French hires have extensive knowledge of the agent network and have already selected 12 they reckon can deliver. “That would have been very hard for us to do,” said Fay.

Establishing the right corporate structure is vital, said Noel Cunningham, head of FDI at Mazars in Dublin. While a liaison office can be a good way to test the waters, incurring no tax liabilities in the country, it isn’t a sustainable solution because it precludes the signing of contracts.

And if you have three or four sales people on the ground, you could find you have a taxable presence there.

Hiring locally is important. “But doing your due diligence in relation to who you hire is extremely important too,” said Cunningham.

“Apart from the cost and effort involved in hiring unsuitable candidates, it can also damage your brand. Make sure there is someone back at base who is controlling them and be clear about what type of reports they should be generating,” he said.

Work with people who have an understanding of the different culture and language, said Fabrice Folliot of F4B Development, a French national and market accelerator.

“The mistake is to come into the market from a very strong position in Ireland, even a dominant one, and think that going into to France from that position would be easy. It’s not the case,” said Folliot, citing the common tourist experience of Paris by way of analogy.

Efforts to localise essential for French market

“If you start to ask directions in English, no one will stop for you. If you start even with broken French, to show you are making an effort, people will. In business, it’s about making an effort and working with the right kind of people. That is a positive sign that shows you want to invest in, and plan to be in, the market for the long term.”

Despite France’s reputation for bureaucracy, the time it takes to set up a company has been reduced to a matter of minutes online, pointed out Hubert Levesque, managing director of Morgan McKinley France, a recruitment agency.

The “Macron effect” has seen economic growth of more than 2% and unemployment of 5% at executive level, leading to a tightening of labour market, Levesque warned. The result is salary inflation of 7% this year.  “All of this makes it harder and harder to get good high profile candidates if you have a good brand. So when you are entering with an unknown brand, it’s even harder.”

Being open to locating outside of Paris can help.

“Everybody wants to go to Paris but that is going to be more expensive and you are going to be more anonymous. There are other cities too to consider, including dynamic ones such as Lyons, Marseilles or Bordeaux, which is just two hours from Paris by train. Salaries are cheaper there because you can offer a better quality of life.”

Take advantage of the supports available to you, including Ireland’s short “distance to power”.

“When we opened our French office the Irish ambassador, government Minister Bruton and Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon all came,” said Tony Richardson, CEO of Venn Life Sciences.

“Our French staff were gobsmacked by the level of access an Irish company can get to a government representative, which you simply would not get in France. It made them feel really important and that they work for an Irish company which is really important to the Irish government.”

For more information on doing business in France download our Going Global guide to France.

Enterprise Ireland Instrumental in the Scaling of Combilift

The Enterprise Ireland supports availed of by Combilift in Co. Monaghan over the past 20 years have ranged from trade mission participation to ongoing R&D support.
Materials handling equipment manufacturer Comblift has availed of Enterprise Ireland supports in the areas of research and development (R&D) and overseas markets since it was first established in 1997 in Co. Monaghan.

“We knew even from year one that we would have to be very focused on product development and investing in R&D and have found Enterprise Ireland to have been very supportive over the years in this regard,” says managing director of Combilift Martin McVicar.

“When it comes to entering new markets people in Enterprise Ireland offices will get out on the road with a company. In Germany, Kevin Buckley not only helped me to set up meetings but joined me in the car for three days going up and down the country meeting potential distributors.”

Combilift has also found the trade missions led by Enterprise Ireland to be very beneficial, as they have given the company great credibility in various markets — particularly with big customers and dealers. It has been on a number of trade missions, including to Saudi Arabia and Texas.

“Potential customers really put value on a trade mission. They demonstrate that your company must be a serious contender if it is endorsed by a government minister.”

Trade missions have assisted in driving sales for Combilift. For example during a trade mission to the United Arab Emirates two years ago it announced it was opening a new factory. Coincidentally a potential customer in the market, Agility Logistics, was at the announcement.

“Once operations manager of Agility Logistics Mohammed Jaber saw that Combilift was important to Irish government ministers he placed €400,000 worth of business with us.”

Other supports which Combilift has found beneficial include the Leadership for Growth programme as well as quarterly meetings of a mid-tier engineering group arranged by Enterprise Ireland over the past 18 months. “These meetings help to foster a scaling mindset – it is a stepping stone to creating the equivalent of a ‘Mittelstand’ of engineering companies in Ireland’.”