Anne Lanigan Enterprise Ireland

Market Watch – A view from Europe

Key Takeaways

  • Business in Europe has been severely impacted by Covid-19, but many countries are now beginning to re-open and are determined to get industry and business moving again
  • Movement of products is improving while movement of people is still a challenge.
  • Opportunities are likely to emerge for example in digitisation across industries; or in the healthcare sector for non-Covid related health issues.
  • Preparation and planning is vital.
  • Enterprise Ireland offices around the region are on hand to offer support.

There is no doubt that Europe has been heavily hit by the effects of the current pandemic, but regional director Anne Lanigan says many countries are beginning to move into recovery phase and countries across the Eurozone are determined to get their industries and businesses moving again. There is a general acceptance in Europe that we need to learn to live, as safely as possible, with the virus. Construction and manufacturing industries are gearing up while observing social distancing and using personal protective equipment; digital technology and office based businesses are for the most part still working remotely but increasingly effectively and in a number of countries e.g. in France and the Netherlands some services like hairdressing have re-opened under strict guidelines.

“The numbers speak for themselves in terms of infections and fatalities, but most countries have passed their peak and are moving into exiting confinement and reopening – all at slightly different stages,” she says. “But there is alot of similarity in terms of the timing of countries coming out of lockdown at this point and what this is really saying is that Europe is opening up again.”

Lanigan says while we are inclined to look at when schools, shops, and social outlets open, what is really important to the restarting of economies is when industry is recommencing.

“Whether or not you can get a haircut isn’t relevant to most of our clients, what is really vital is the restarting of construction and manufacture and the returning to work in businesses. Of course movement of people and products is crucial to this” she says. “Movement of product is definitely improving but movement of people, particularly across borders, is still an issue which of course affects our clients.

“Each country is different and even regions within countries can be at different stages and have different restrictions, so it’s important to get up to date and accurate information from your partners, customers and logistics providers.  For example most countries will have a requirement to use face masks in certain circumstances, and social distancing rules will differ between countries. So don’t assume that the Irish rules will work – it’s important to know the specifics of the country you are working in.” Enterprise Ireland offices across the Eurozone can also help clients with this.” Irish companies with personnel on the ground in Europe are in a lot of cases eligible for state support from the country they are operating in and again our offices can offer advice and direction on this.

Thankfully many Enterprise Ireland client companies have maintained business in the Eurozone throughout the crisis and some have won new business. However while some clients have continued to do business in a similar fashion to pre-Covid days, most will need to get used to new requirements and many may also need to diversify.

“Our clients will need to be creative in adjusting to the new normal” says Lanigan. “Digitisation will form a large part of this. Localising (not just translating) websites is more important than ever – ensuring that websites are easily found, are easy to navigate and provide all the necessary information in a clear format. Social media is also getting a lot of traction at the moment, so making sure to be ‘out there’ in terms of social media, will help to raise a company’s profile.”

“As countries open up, travel will continue to be restricted so if companies can digitise their maintenance and servicing by providing online videos or some kind of instruction online or via a webinar in a sophisticated and professional manner, this will help them to hold on to business. Online shopping functionality may also be an important capability to add for some businesses.

Understanding how each country works is vital for Irish exporters, but the regional director says keeping in touch is even more important.

“Communicating with customers is still crucial whether business has slowed, stopped or continued during the current crisis,” she advises. “The communication lines must be kept open – and ear-to-ear or ideally face-to-face on a virtual platform is much better than an email. So virtual meetings, webinars and virtual distributor forums will all help to maintain communication and build strong relationships.

“This will keep businesses up to speed on what is happening in the markets and what is happening with their customers and so position them to adjust more quickly and in the right direction to maximise potential.

In every crisis there is opportunity and the current pandemic is no different with several sectors set to do well out of the situation. Lanigan says “Every industry is now seeing digital transformation at an accelerated pace and there are opportunities for businesses who digitise fast and opportunities for businesses who offer digital and tech solutions.”

“Our clients and Irish people are typically good at spotting opportunities,” says Lanigan. “I would encourage companies to look at how they can pivot in the current crisis – anything which reduces human contact and allows remote operations will have opportunities i.e. digitisation. 

“Another area likely to surge is non-Covid related healthcare. In most countries routine treatments have been put on hold or much reduced in order to deal with Covid 19 cases. As things move back to normal, there is likely to be a big demand for other med tech and pharma products. Now is the time to prepare for that.”

Lanigan advises companies to be look toward the future, reset and get ready for the recovery. “There is a danger that we just focus on the immediate – we are advising clients to also look at the medium to long term and get plans in place” she says. Future business may be a continuation of current business but with added value or an adjusted value proposition; it may be with a repurposed product pivoting to a different sector; it may be exploiting brand new opportunities created by Covid 19; or it may be replacing global products with ‘made in the eurozone’ products. “We are nearing the end of the stabilise phase and moving into reset but we need our eyes on the recovery – so be prepared, be aware and look forward. Enterprise Ireland’s team across the Eurozone are here to help you reset, recover and build your business.”

Anne Lanigan is Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Director for Europe. To learn more about the steps companies can take to address the impact of Covid-19 visit our business supports page.

Kilkenny Group Evelyn Moynihan

Online retail helps Kilkenny Group weather the Covid-19 storm


With 17 shops spread throughout Ireland, the initial impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on design and craft retailer Kilkenny was sudden and severe.

Most of the shops are in prime high-street locations and are reliant on heavy footfall for their trade, especially from tourists. With the global tourism industry decimated and the domestic market isolating at home, the outlook did not look good for the Kilkenny Group, its 350 employees, or the companies and craftspeople who make the homeware, wellness, jewellery and fashion products that the shops sell. Kilkenny Group Logo

Evelyn Moynihan, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Kilkenny Group, explains: “Kilkenny is all about championing Irish design and craft, about 72% of what we do is Irish made or designed. We stock just under 300 Irish designers and makers in our stores and online, and Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our business.

“We temporarily closed our shops and restaurants on the 16th of March. It was obviously a very difficult decision but it was the only one we could make for safety of our staff and customers.”

Customer insight was now the group’s only means of generating sales revenue. Fortunately the Kilkenny team had the capacity to pivot and ramp up online sales as a result of their participation in Enterprise Ireland’s Online Retail Scheme last year. The company received funding through the scheme to improve the performance of the website and develop a better understanding of their online customers.

Evelyn says: “The Online Retail Scheme helped us put a proper structure and way of working in place so that we were set up for growth:

“We used the funding to complete key steps like conducting a UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) audit of the website, and to outline a clear digital marketing strategy for our business. We also used the funding to complete a strong inventory consolidation for our eCommerce business.”

Kilkenny responded to the Coivd-19 challenge by redeploying staff working from home to support their online and telesales operations. The group’s started operating split shifts for warehouse staff over six days rather than five in order to ensure that it operated efficiently and also meet strict social distancing guidelines.

“We’ve gone from eight employees working on our online team prior to Covid-19 to now having 18 employees working across our online and telesales operation,” Evelyn says. “These are long-term staff members, so they know our products and our brands and are really passionate about the Kilkenny business. It’s fabulous to see that care and attention being put into our online and our customer service phone lines.”


Online growth

The Kilkenny Group’s ability to adapt has been rewarded with a dramatic increase in online sales. Evelyn says: “We’ve seen huge growth online – more than 400% since the 16th of March, which has been great for our business. Telesales has been an interesting new channel where lots of people are ringing up and ordering gifts to be sent out to their loved ones. Some of the cocooners who maybe aren’t as confident shopping online, are using that channel.

“Prior to the virus, online was circa five percent of our total business. Now, when we look out for the rest of this financial year, we believe that it will finished at 15% of our business, which is great to see.” says Evelyn Moynihan, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Kilkenny Group


The Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme

The Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme is open for traditional retailers who want to invest in their online offering and grow their markets in Ireland and internationally. It is offering an 80pc grant rate – meaning companies can apply funding of up to €40,000 against a project spend of up to €50,000. Applications for the scheme, which has €2m available, must be received by 3pm on 27th May.

Stephen Hughes, Head of Consumer at Enterprise Ireland, says:

“The Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme is not just for large retailers – there’s no reason why smaller niche, regional or local companies can’t use it to grow their online business and end up trading internationally, if they have an ambition to do so.” 

The Kilkenny Group is now making plans to reopen shops later this summer in accordance with the Government’s phased easing of Covid-19 restrictions – but continuing to grow online sales remain a priority.

Evelyn says: “International sales are a key area of growth that we’re setting ourselves for the rest of the year towards 2021. There are so many people with strong Irish connections or roots – we know from the shops that the market’s there and we know the products that they like.

“Although no one could have predicted the impact of Covid-19, the investment that we made and the work we did with Enterprise Ireland last year was critical for us to be ready to take on the growth that we see now in our business today.”

Learn how the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme can support your retail business online growth– Apply before 27th May 2020.



Market Watch Construction

Market Watch – Construction – Industry Bulletin no.2

Download the bulletin here.

As a result of the Covid-19 global pandemic, Enterprise Ireland construction companies are experiencing unprecedented market disruption both domestically and across international markets.

Following  our last market bulletin at the end of March, this report for April provides a high-level sector update from the Enterprise Ireland network of overseas construction advisors on their markets. Already we are noticing the loosening of restrictions and the strategic prioritisation of the construction industry by many national Governments.




Online investment helps drive business for Inish Pharmacy

Paul O'Hea, Inish Pharmacy

With three stores in rural locations, the importance of community is ingrained in the culture of Inish Pharmacy.

The company’s employees work hard to understand the needs of the people who shop in their pharmacies in Buncrana, Carndonagh and Muff in Inishowen, Co Donegal. The customers are, after all, also their neighbours, friends and family.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on how Inish Pharmacy does business. As an essential business, their shops are open but social distancing measures have been implemented for the safety of both customers and staff.

Not surprisingly, footfall is down, and shop sales have fallen considerably. Were it not for the performance of Inish’s online shop, the company and its employees might be facing an uncertain future.


Online growth

Inish Pharmacy director Paul O’Hea says: “Online has gone through an exceptionally busy period. There’s a huge demand for healthcare but people don’t want to go out or can’t go out, so they’re shopping online. Prior to the coronavirus, online was probably 25 percent of our sales, but in the last couple of months there has seen a huge increase.”

Having been trading online for a number of years, Inish Pharmacy already had an established customer base – but it was only at the beginning of 2019 that the company started to discover their online potential. Inish received funding in February 2019 from the Online Retail Scheme, a grant administered by Enterprise Ireland on behalf of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation to help retail businesses improve their online capability.

Inish developed a strategy to improve customer experience and optimise conversion rates in their online store. They conducted analysis of international best practice for online pharmacies and completed 1,600 customer surveys on their offering. The company also ran website upgrades in tandem with the project.

Paul says the changes and improvements that Inish made have been key to the company being able to meet the current demand for their health-care products.


Responding to Covid-19 demands

Paul says: “One of the things the Online Retail Scheme helped us do was take a big overview of a lot of our processes internally. We revamped a lot of our processes to allow us to expand order fulfilment quickly. That has been really helpful because in the current environment, when order volumes really increased in a very short period of time due to Covid-19, we were able to expand our capacity quickly to keep up.

“And it’s not just processing orders. At the minute we’re buying in new products from different suppliers and we’re able to react quickly and get these products ordered, on the system and online so that they’re available to our customers. We have been able to adapt, and a big part of that was because we spent time as part of the Online Retail Scheme planning for expansion and then putting things in place to allow us to do it.”

Excellent customer service is a hallmark of Inish Pharmacy’s operations – for customers locally in Donegal, or online throughout the rest of Ireland, the UK or further afield. The company is rightly proud of its 4.9 out of 5 rating on Trustpilot. Standards are high and Inish has invested in its people to ensure they are maintained during the current crisis.

Paul says: “Our warehouse staff has gone up from five up to 13 people since the coronavirus hit. Three people have been redeployed from shops to the warehouse and we’ve had to take on five additional staff as well.”


The Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme

The Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme provides even greater incentive for traditional retailers to invest in their online offering. Companies can apply for a grant of up to €40,000 against a project spend of up to €50,000.

Stephen Hughes, Head of Consumer at Enterprise Ireland, says:

“It’s an 80 percent grant rate, which is almost unheard of for such a large level of support – it’s unprecedented. There is €2m available in the scheme, which opened on 29th April and will closes at 3pm on 27th May – all applications must be received by then.”

For now, Inish Pharmacy remains focused on providing the best service they can for all of their customers during the Covid-19 pandemic. But the company also has plans to scale up the growth they have experienced since participating in the Online Retail Scheme.

“We have had good growth and we have expanded our customer base and we want to take that up to the next level,” Paul says. “I think people’s buying habits will change as a result of the coronavirus – a lot of people will have got used to buying online more than they have ever done before.

“In 12 months’ time, I would like to think that a lot of the customers that are shopping with us for the first time now will have become regular shoppers.”


Learn how the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme can support your retail business online growth– Apply before 27th May 2020.



Market Watch Industry Bulletin – Aerospace & Aviation


Enterprise Ireland’s industry bulletin for the Aerospace & Aviation industry provides insights from Market Advisors across the world, on market developments in each region, exploring market conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic , developments, opportunities and supports.

Read the full report here.

Featured Webinars Category


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Medxnote helping the NHS to improve response to Covid-19

Dublin company Medxnote has responded to the Covid crisis by creating a clinical bot that is significantly cutting the time it takes to notify medical staff of Covid 19 test results.

The company specialises in Robotic Clinical Assistants, which are helping to improve patient flow, hospital efficiency and quality of care by giving medical staff access to previously siloed clinical data. The bots work within Microsoft Teams, the workplace collaboration platform that is part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite of products.

Niall Rafferty, co-founder and CEO of Medxnote, explains. “We’ve created a suite of clinical bots, which automate human actions by connecting a hospital’s electronic health record systems to the Microsoft Teams messaging app.

“So, for example, a doctor can message the bot via a mobile and ask for a specific report on a patient. The bot searches the hospital’s system and serves reports almost instantly. Medical staff can also receive push notifications relating to test results and other clinical information.

“As we already had a bot specialising in results notification for flu and Norovirus positive patients, we were able to very quickly adapt it to include Covid-19 results.”

At a time when medical staff are struggling to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic, the ability to access test results in real time is hugely beneficial. Rather than having to periodically look up results on a PC, which are limited on the ward, staff in some hospitals in the UK’s NHS can now receive notifications on their mobile phones as soon as the results are released by the lab.

The response from medical staff has been extremely positive as it enables them to prioritise care and make the best use of isolation units.

Dr Ashwin Pinto of University Hospital Southampton, the first hospital to use the Covid-19 bot, says:

“We can now give doctors and nurses real-time data. I can get Covid-19 results on my phone as soon as they are released by the lab. We know where that patient is, so we can make sure they go to the right care environment and that staff are safe as well. That’s been transformational.”

The bot is now also in use in Liverpool University Hospital and is garnering interest from hospitals across the NHS.


Timely communication – better care

Medxnote, set up in 2013 by Rafferty and Garfield Connolly, is the only company building clinical chat bots within Microsoft Teams.  As well as the test results notification bot, Medxnote has created an inter-department consultation bot. This provides clinicians with real-time access to referral queues leading to more efficient discharge of patients. In one hospital, use of the bot resulted in speeding up the process by a factor of 15. 

Another bot enables medical staff to upload images to the patient’s medical record, while faster and easier recruitment of patients to clinical trials is being achieved through a bot that sends a notification message to the clinical trial team when a suitable patient presents in the hospital.

Medxnote’s latest development, a pager bot, has been another response to the Covid crisis.

“The demand for medical examiners is higher than normal at the minute. Usually a pager system is used but we created a bot that will send a message out to the examiner via Microsoft Teams and enable them to open a chat or do a video call with the nurses,” says Rafferty.

The pager replacement solution brings the company full circle back to where it began.

“We initially set up the business to create a solution to replace pagers in hospitals. Then we changed to providing secure messaging for medical staff. That has led us to where we are today. About two years ago we began working with Microsoft Teams and now we’re a Microsoft partner,” says Rafferty.


A world of opportunity

In response to Covid 19 Microsoft accelerated the roll-out of its Teams across the NHS. As a result, 1.3 million more people now use the software, opening up a huge opportunity for Medxnote to sell in its productivity and process enhancing integrations.

The company is also looking to Europe, initially targeting France, Sweden and Portugal, which are all licensed for Microsoft Teams.

“We’ve multiple opportunities worldwide because we’re on the Microsoft Teams Co-sell Programme, and we’ve also benefitted from great support from Enterprise Ireland’s international offices,” says Rafferty.

“I believe that this pandemic will change patterns of work and that people will be more liable to work digitally than they were before. In the healthcare space, that will drive better communication, informed clinical decision making and more efficient patient throughput and ultimately result in improved quality of care in hospitals.”

Market Watch Industry Bulletin – Automotive – European Manufacturers Structures, Operations & Plans


Sean Long,  Enterprise Ireland, Senior Market Advisor UK for Automotive interviewed Ian Henry of Auto Analysis on the changing landscape of European Vehicle Manufacturers.

The interview explores their

·         current organizational structures

·         plant operations

·         purchasing contacts

·         trade tariff considerations

·         developments around new vehicle platforms.

The video interview took place on 10th March 2020, prior to Covid 19 restrictions.

Supporting great people in difficult times

Developing employee engagement now will pay dividends long into the future

Up until the pandemic, the biggest challenge facing many firms was attracting and retaining talent. That hasn’t changed, says Ryan Williams, CEO of Conscia, a training provider which specialises in employee engagement.

Conscia is the architect of a series of online modules designed to help companies maintain employee engagement throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

Each provides practical steps to take, plus easy to use templates and frameworks, to help companies maintain their employee value proposition (EVP).

Those that succeed in doing so will not only optimise productivity throughout this current, difficult time, but will be well placed to capture the opportunities of the post-pandemic surge.

Those that neglect employee engagement, however, risk damaging their reputation as an employer of choice long into the future. “It’s about asking yourself, how you want your company to be remembered after this pandemic,” says Williams.

Your EVP is an invaluable retention tool and should be robust enough to support employees in good times and in bad, he points out.

“The market for talent will be equally as competitive when we come out the other side of this as it was when we went in,” says Williams.

“Though some sectors will suffer more than others, the fact remains that if you needed a software developer before this, you will still need one after it, so it is important to get the best talent that is out there.”

The top priority for employers right now is communication.

By this stage new work practices will be established, either from home or, socially distanced, in the workplace.

“The novelty of the early stages has well and truly worn off, the buzz of setting up meetings on MS Teams and Zoom has ebbed, and people are starting to feel this will never end. The risk is that employers stop communicating when in fact it is vital to over-communicate now and throughout this process.”


Deliver your communications with confidence

In a period characterised by uncertainty and anxiety, it’s important to display “honest confidence” he says.

“Be honest and transparent and deliver your communications with confidence, even if it is bad news, such as, perhaps, having to take a pay cut to get through this. People can cope if they realise there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Empathetic leadership is essential.  “You need to communicate your company’s vision and mission with empathy. It’s about understanding that your people are going through challenging times.”

Weekly ‘all hands’ meetings online are an opportunity to show that everybody is part of what is a communal effort.

“Be very honest about what you do and don’t know. The rumour mill can be difficult to manage so share the good, the bad and the ugly with honest confidence.”

Decision making in a time of crisis should be quick and decisive, with resources allocated speedily. Employee polls are a quick and effective tool for effecting change, offering maximum transparency and ‘buy in’.

Regular, scheduled and consistent communications help keep fear and anxiety at bay. Use video as much as possible. “People want to see their leaders.”

Be cognisant of the impact not just of your words, but of your tone and body language too. “Lean forward, be expressive, use your hands,” he says.

As well as large town hall type, and team meetings, make sure to set aside time for one to ones, to check in with people and see how they are doing.

Recognise and reward output. “Celebrate team wins and individual efforts more than in ordinary times. People are doing fantastic things right now so make time for shout outs in meetings and promote them on your social media too.”

Fostering ‘water cooler’ moments online helps to replicate the everyday interaction of the traditional workplace. “Don’t lose your social cohesion.”


Building trust and loyalty

At every step, focus on building trust and loyalty. “Very many companies have spent years building up their culture. Don’t lose it. Find new ways of maintaining it instead.”

Social distancing will likely continue for some time, as will working from home. “We are all living with uncertainty at present, so ‘What does this mean for me?’ is the key question people have. While you can’t control this, you can help by removing as much of the uncertainty for employees as possible.”


Provide purpose and stay positive

The current situation provides a great opportunity for learning and development. “This doesn’t have to cost you money,” he points out.

“It could be online learning opportunities, or a situation where an experienced member of staff helps train up others on a new software tool, such as cucumber. It could be a buddy system, where someone experienced is matched with someone who may be feeling overwhelmed.”

Spare capacity could be given over to executing planned projects that had previously been put off. “We have one client company, for example, who built an entire logistics platform in eight weeks, a project it had long wanted to do,” says Williams.  

Such initiatives help provide purpose, an important component in employee engagement.

Set short term goals for long term results. “Focus on bite sized projects to help people navigate through.”

Finally, stay positive. “Remember, this is different from the financial crisis because it is the same for everybody. From Ireland to China to the US, the base line has lowered for everyone. So, while there is uncertainty, and a need to paint as honest a picture as possible, it’s also important to look to where the opportunities will be post-pandemic.”


To find out more about building employee engagement during the Covid-19 restrictions see here.

Market Watch Germany – Webinar – Enhance your digital presence for the German market

Enterprise Ireland’s offices in Germany have launched a series of Webinars: Market Watch Germany. Every Wednesday at 14:00 BST/15:00 CET a new theme will be addressed to help Irish companies exporting to Germany navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by Covid 19.

The third webinar in the series; Website Optimisation: Enhance your digital presence for the German market, took place on Wednesday 29th April

The team was joined by consultant Suzanne Dirks, Ed ​Kelly, Creative Director and Emmet Dunne, Managing Director of Digital Agency Kooba providing expertise on:

  • how to leverage your website in terms of layout and localisation

  • how to increase traffic to your website by creating an enhanced user experience

Finally, Eoin O Siochru from Enterprise Ireland’s Internet Marketing Unit discussed the supports available to Enterprise Ireland client companies to drive these activities.


Market Watch Industry Bulletin – Consumer & Retail

Download the bulletin here

Enterprise Ireland consumer retail and retail technology companies are experiencing extraordinary market conditions, resulting in massive increase in e-commerce, declining sales in non- essential items as well as fractured supply chains.

While these are certainly unprecedented and challenging times, there remain significant opportunities for clients within the global consumer retail and retail technology market, which we hope to help you identify.

Read more in our Consumer and Retail Industry bulletin.