graph with export data

Using market intelligence to inform your export plan

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

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

 

Market Research Centre

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

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

 

Using market intelligence to assess new markets

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

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

 

Using insights to make an impact

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

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

Growing your business

Companies which are serious about exporting, growing and future-proofing their business should put continuous research at the heart of their strategy. If your company is considering expanding into new markets the Market Research Centre’s extensive resources and expertise should be your first port of call.

Contact the Market Research Centre today.

Seoul, Korea

Great opportunities on the Eastern horizon

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which was provisionally in place since 2011 and formally ratified in 2015. And although it is a decade old, Taewon Um, Director of Korea at Enterprise Ireland, says it continues to be beneficial to Irish businesses.

“As with any free trade agreement, this one aims to further liberalise trade between South Korea and the EU by eliminating or reducing customs duties on industrial goods and agricultural products,” he says. “For example, South Korea’s average tariff rate was 8% but the FTA removed all tariffs on industrial goods heading into South Korea within the first five years of its implementation.

“Fundamentally, the FTA has made it easier and better for Irish and European businesses trading in South Korea. This means Irish exporters under the FTA won’t need to pay the customs duties, which vary depending on items and products gaining a price advantage or cost benefit.” says Um.

 

Supporting Irish business

The Korean market is the fourth largest in Asia, so it has great potential for Irish firms – and the area director says one of his main remits is to help Irish businesses to gain a footing in this market and also to support existing companies in scaling their exports.

“I provide market research and advisory support to help formulate market entry and scale strategy,” he says. “I also make introductions to Korean buyers and partners and introduce innovative Irish solutions and capabilities to potential Korean partners and stakeholders.

“Since its onset, the FTA has been very beneficial in making this happen as it also addresses non-trade barriers (NTBs) in key sectors such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices, automotive and more. This makes it easier for businesses to comply with the regulatory elements by recognising the other party’s standards or waiving certain regulatory or certification burdens.

 

Common traits

“In fact, a report by Copenhagen Economics finds that the EU-South Korea FTA had already resulted in an increase of €273m or 31% in Irish exports to South Korea in 2015.”

But the market expert says it is important to note that the agreement doesn’t provide all the intended benefits automatically, so he would advise Irish businesses to attain approved exporter status and analyse how best it can use the FTA to save costs and minimise administrative burdens.

He says the Irish businesses doing well in the Korean market all seem to have the same ethos.

“They tend to share certain commonalities in that they are all highly innovative and have industry-leading technologies or solutions which fit the market, have trusted in-market partners, and put resources on the ground to serve customers and partners,” says Um.

“South Korea has strong ambitions to lead the biopharma industry, and Ireland’s expertise in this sector is widely recognised and highly regarded. Also, Ireland is South Korea’s sixth largest source of medical devices – and as digital health is an area where South Korea wishes to develop, Ireland can add strong value given its strong position and expertise in both this area and in innovative biotech.”

 

Cross sectoral opportunities

The digital technology sector is another area where Ireland has strong potential in Korea as AR, VR, IoT-enabled solutions, system chips for sensors, as well as data processing tech, are actively sought after by Korean businesses – and both fintech and RegTech are also presenting good opportunities for Irish firms.

Looking ahead, agri-machinery and agri-tech seem likely to be areas with strong future potential as the South Korean government has been working to increase agricultural productivity, and Irish Agri-machinery is well recognised and received by consumers in the Asian country. In fact, the government’s push for smart farming is also in line with Ireland’s agri-tech offering.

 

Irish companies successfully trading

According to the area director, the Irish companies doing well in Korea at the moment, include Novaerus, Kastus, Ding, InnaLabs and Skillsoft – and he believes that there is an Irish advantage which should be considered in the context of local markets as each market has comparative advantages and disadvantages.

“Overall, the Irish businesses which are doing well in Korea, invest time and resources and visit their partners and customers regularly,” he advises. “Obviously, travel has been difficult due to Covid-19, but in-person meetings and connections are still very important when it comes to building trust and relationships here. And although there is more acceptance among Korean businesses for initial virtual engagement than there may have been pre-Covid-19, this cannot replace the fundamental importance of in-person interaction.

“However, going forward, I am hopeful that once the world opens up fully, there will be plenty of opportunities for Irish businesses in Korea.”

 

Doing Business in South Korea webinar

Enterprise Ireland aims to boost the number of Irish businesses benefiting from the free trade agreements with these countries and recently hosted a webinar on Doing Business in South Korea.

The webinar brought together experts on the topic to provide knowledge and insights on key elements of the FTA, and to enable Irish businesses to make use of the FTA to its fullest in doing business in South Korea.

Register to watch the on-demand Doing Business in South Korea webinar.

fintech

Mexican market ripe for Irish fintech firms seeking to expand

With an underbanked population and skyrocketing use of mobile tech, Mexico offers an open door to growth for Irish financial technology firms seeking new opportunities in the global market. This is a market with a real need for innovative financial services.

“Mexico is in the early stages of a financial technology (or fintech) revolution, with start-ups focusing particularly on flexible, low-cost, accessible services,” says Sara Hill, SVP Southern US and Mexico at Enterprise Ireland. “It is the Latin American hub for the sector and local start-ups flourishing in the wake of local pioneers such as Kubo, Financiero and Conekta, all peer-to-peer payments firms which first emerged in 2011.”

Partly driven by the same social distancing regulations and decrease in the use of cash seen everywhere because of the pandemic, use of mobile banking is soaring in Mexico, up 113 per cent between 2018 and 2020.

 

Lending and payments lead the way

Across the board, the financial services market in the country remains underserved, but local consumers and businesses are keen to see new services in this area and new financial companies don’t have to compete with legacy institutions as much as they might have to elsewhere.

“Only 47% of the population in Mexico has a bank account,” explains Sara. “That’s why we’re seeing lending and payments as the top two areas in which fintech start-ups are operating. There continues to be huge demand and extensive room for growth in this area.”

Start-ups are also active in Mexico in categories such as blockchain, crowdfunding, cryptocurrencies, digital banking, enterprise financial management, personal financial management, remittances and foreign exchange, scoring, identity and fraud, and wealth management.

“In the Austin, Texas office of Enterprise Ireland, we not only support Irish businesses seeking to break into nine southern states of the US, but also those who want to enter the Mexican market,” says Sara. “We help them evaluate the opportunity there for their business and also offer in-market support such as introductions to buyers, partners and decision-makers.”

 

Irish businesses soaring in Mexico

Fintech businesses in Ireland considering this step will be in good company, with Irish tech firms already thriving in Mexico including Workhuman, Adaptive Mobile and Daon.

Other Irish businesses also active in Mexico include Ornua (Kerrygold’s parent company), mobile recharge provider Ding, forklift firm Combilift, food packaging manufacturer Fispak, GM Steel Fabricators, and pharmaceutical engineering firm Prodieco. Overall in 2019, Irish exports to Mexico were worth €83m, up 36 per cent on the previous year.

 

A growing market for fintech

When it comes to fintech, Mexico is currently ranked 30th in the Global Fintech Ranking, with Brazil ranking 19. Mexico has over twice as many adults that use digital banking, however, compared with Brazil, Colombia and Argentina.

The Mexican fintech is worth 68.4 billion pesos (around €2.8 billion), with about 4.7 million users out of a total population of 127.6 million. For context, the global fintech market was valued at US$127.66 billion (€105.9 billion) in 2018, with expected growth of 24.8% by the end of 2022.

 

Understanding market challenges

Rapidly developing markets like this one undoubtedly present challenges to potential new entrants. With a troubled history of corruption in the past, some lingering distrust of financial institutions remains, but the introduction of a stringent fintech law in 2018 has helped.

 

“This law regulates which financial entities are legally allowed to operate and offer financial services in Mexico,” explains Sara. “So you have to make sure that your business is going to meet the criteria. The law was introduced to protect users and consumers, to prevent money laundering and to help foster an environment of trust.”

Geography can also be a challenge for companies expanding in Mexico, with many rural areas having no banks or ATMs, meaning people are less likely to have bank accounts. While this presents a great opportunity for digital payments, internet and mobile service can be poor in some locations. As a result, fintech firms tend to be based in urban areas, with more than half of the 700 or so start-ups in the sector based in Mexico City.

Other factors inhibiting financial inclusion in Mexico include income, education and even gender. That gender gap should close quickly, however, as men and women are equally likely to use mobile tech and social media.

 

Building lasting relationships

When it comes to exporting, understanding the nuance of any new market is vital. Firms must remember to localise products and messaging properly, for example, as Mexican Spanish is different to that spoken in Spain.

On-the-ground agents or partners are also crucial when it comes to navigating the local business environment and building customer relationships.

“People in Mexico want to do business with those they know and trust,” says Sara. “You’ll need to make multiple visits to build relationships or to have a strong partner on the ground who can represent your business.”

For Irish fintech firms seeking to expand overseas, Mexico undoubtedly presents a real opportunity to build a user base quickly in a rapidly developing and dynamic market.

Get advice and insight into local market conditions and practices in Enterprise Ireland’s Exporting to Mexico guide.

 

2021 virtual trade mission – Reaching a global audience

In the not-too-distant past, companies wishing to establish a successful business relationship with firms overseas, would have relied heavily on international travel and perhaps an office or ‘boots-on-the-ground’ in the country in question.

But these days, there is also another option as there are many international companies located across Ireland who are more than willing to do business with local businesses – and Gerard, Fenner, Senior Executive of Global Sourcing for Enterprise Ireland, says his team can help to bring Irish SMEs and multinational firms together.

“The combination of modern technology and accessible travel has made the world a much smaller place and opened up a myriad of global opportunities for Irish businesses,” he says.

 

Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland collaboration

“But travelling to or even selling out of this country isn’t the only means for companies at home to expand into the international market as there are hundreds of multinationals right here in Ireland, which are willing and able to engage with indigenous firms. Since its formation in 2012, the Enterprise Ireland Global Sourcing team has been working with colleagues in IDA Ireland to introduce Irish owned businesses to international firms to respond to their specific requirements.

“Working with companies across every sector, including pharma, medtech, ICT, engineering, financial services and energy, our team helps to develop relationships between Irish companies who are seeking to sell their product or service and multinational firms who wish to purchase same – so our particular focus is on providing sales opportunities and partnerships between Enterprise Ireland client companies and Ireland-based multinationals, predominantly IDA firms.”

According to Fenner, there are many benefits to both the seller and the buyer in these business relationships and apart from supporting industry at home, it can also lead to opportunities in export markets – and winning a contract with a multinational gives a scaling Irish company a valuable reference site for its move into export markets.

“We have found that one of the most productive means of securing relationships between Irish firms and multinationals based here is by means of events where introductions can be made, and sellers can have pre-arranged face to face meetings with potential buyers,” he says.

 

Developing international relationships

“In 2014 we organised the first Trade Mission in Ireland. The event was minister led and took place in various regional locations across the country over the course of a couple of days – and since then, it has taken place every year, apart from 2020, due to lockdown restrictions. It has always garnered a lot of interest and helped to develop contracts and future relationships.”

So it seems that trade missions have long been an effective means of introducing businesses to prospective clients, but since the onset of the pandemic, industry across every sector has had to pivot online and learn how to do business in a virtual world.

 

Online introductions and meetings

As current guidelines continue to prevent physical events of this nature taking place, this year, on May 12th, the first ever virtual Global Sourcing Trade Mission became the alternative.

Launched by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, the event proved as popular as ever with 65 multinationals and 240 Irish companies registered with over 350 meetings. And according to Gerard Fenner, the online system was popular with both the variety of different international firms and indigenous companies looking to set up new business relationships.

“When the Enterprise Ireland companies registered on the event platform, they provided some company information about what they do and what their offer is, and this allowed suppliers to search through this information and put in a request for a meeting,” says the international trade expert. “Similarly, the supplier was also able to request a meeting with a buyer in order to pitch a product or service.

“Although these 15-minute meeting slots were different to how things normally work at a physical trade mission, it proved to be very successful with feedback from both sides indicating their positivity – and early signs show the possibility of new business relationships and further revenue to add to the €32 million in contracts which have been secured from these trade missions.”

The Global Sourcing Team lead says there was also the added positive bonus of no travel, which meant that the multinational could bring in individuals from different areas of their business to meet potential suppliers – so rather than just one representative attending the event, firms could bring in someone from finance or with technical expertise to liaise directly with companies pitching a particular service.

“Overall it was a great success and we have run smaller online events similar to this over the past year and many multinational firms have come back to us to say they were impressed with the fact that they got to meet so many different businesses,” he says.

“So, the trade mission, whether it takes place at a venue or online, is an important platform for raising awareness about the capabilities of innovative Irish SMEs and helping them to establish future business relationships. And given the interest in this year’s event, despite the difficulties surrounding the current global situation, the future looks bright.”

Webinar Series: Free Trade Agreements

EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Canada, Japan, Mexico and South Korea enable Ireland to increase its trade, GDP and national income. The FTAs allow Irish exporters to explore new opportunities as market access increases and they benefit from competitive advantage in doing business in these countries.

Join Enterprise Ireland as it hosts a webinar series on Free Trade Agreements and doing business in these four export markets: Canada, Japan, Mexico and South Korea.

Each webinar will be opened by Robert Troy TD, Minister of State Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with responsibility for Trade Promotion. The webinars feature contributions from market experts and guest speakers from Irish companies who will share their experiences on doing business in specific markets.

If you’re considering exporting to these markets, or scaling your existing export business, these webinars are for you.

Click on the links below to register for upcoming webinars.

Doing Business in Japan

Thursday, 17 June 2021, 9am BST

The EU Japan Economic Partnership Agreement provides a positive backdrop to Ireland Japan trading relations. This webinar will explore the experiences of key Irish business interests in Japan, and will outline the knowledge, networks and access supports available to capitalise on what is an increasingly important market for ambitious Irish exporters.

For the full agenda and to register, click here.

 

Doing Business in Mexico

Tuesday, 22 June 2021, 3pm BST

With duty-free trade on most goods and a simplification of the customs procedures, the latest 2018 EU-Mexico trade agreement has improved the already positive and prosperous relationship between Ireland and Mexico. This webinar features two market experts who will highlight opportunities and explain business culture and processes, as well as providing practical guidance for market entry.

For the full agenda and to register, click here.

 

Doing Business in South Korea

Thursday, 24 June 2021, 9am BST

The EU-South Korea FTA can provide enhanced business opportunities for Irish businesses. This webinar brings together experts on the topic to provide knowledge and insights on key elements of the FTA, and to enable Irish businesses to make use of the FTA to its fullest in doing business in South Korea.

For the full agenda and to register, click here.

Doing Business in Canada


Tuesday, 25 May 2021, 3pm BST

Attendees will learn more about the opportunities available in the Greater Montreal region, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and Europe, and what incentives are available to Irish companies looking to expand in North America.

Watch back on-demand, available here.

cybersecurity

Protecting remote workforces: Tips from five notable Irish cybersecurity firms

One of the most immediate consequences of Covid-19 has been the rapid global shift towards working from home where possible

During these uncertain times, Irish cybersecurity companies can offer innovative solutions to the challenge of managing a remote workforce. Many are free or open to all, including:

Read on for expert advice from some of the Irish companies that can help your employees work from home safely and securely.

 

1. Edgescan: continuously monitoring threats

Remote working must happen over a VPN or similar solution to help ensure secure, encrypted communications, says Eoin Keary, CEO and founder of Edgescan, an award-winning vulnerability management service (SaaS) and one of Ireland’s largest cybersecurity exporters.

“Access to network systems in the office should be on a least-privilege basis and if your organisation has a Network Authentication Server (NAS), make sure it’s configured and enabled appropriately,” he says.

Appropriate patching and anti-virus measures should also be enabled on employees’ computers, he adds, to prevent viruses spreading into the office network once people return to the office.

Edgescan helps its clients worldwide to understand, prioritise and mitigate cyber security risks on a continuous basis, including when offices are closed and employees are working remotely

 

2. CWSI: ensuring secure enterprise mobility

The rules governing data security and cybersecurity don’t go away just because people have to change how they work, says Philip Harrison, CTO and co-founder of CWSI, which specialises in secure mobile and workforce solutions and works with many large organisations from its offices in Dublin and London.

“The cyber-criminals and hackers certainly aren’t taking a break to let us all adjust, so more businesses are more vulnerable than ever,” he says.

A core tenet of any information security management system is that your security or compliance is not weakened during a business continuity or disaster recovery scenario.”

Two-factor authentication, he adds, is critical to protect corporate data. Businesses should also ensure mobile devices are secured with a mobile thread defence (MTD) solution.

Employees should be encouraged to report security incidents to IT while they’re working from home and to be vigilant about keeping data secure at home, even through simple steps such as locking their screen when they walk away.

 

3. Cyber Risk Aware: training on cyber security in real time

Using VPNs and patched applications on encrypted up-to-date devices is critical to security for remote workforces, agrees Cyber Risk Aware’s CEO and founder Stephen Burke, himself a former chief information security officer (CISO).

These devices should be company-issued, with password-protected and encrypted files and data, he says. “I know what it’s like being on the inside defending a network. Personal accounts and devices can really leave a business insecure and vulnerable to cyber attacks,” he says.

Clear, secure lines of communication are also critical, he adds, advising companies to avoid channels such as social media and Whatsapp when working with sensitive data. Likewise, businesses should avoid ‘shadow IT’ or the unauthorised downloading and use of software and systems.

Cyber Risk Aware is the only company in the world to offer a real time cybersecurity awareness training platform. It helps companies worldwide assess and mitigate human cyber risks, the root cause in over 90% of security incidents, by running simulated phishing attacks, assessing cyber knowledge to locate risks within a business and providing security awareness training content when needed.

 

4. Sytorus: specialising in data and privacy management

Companies and organisations around the world have been urgently seeking information on minimising the risk of data breaches or employees getting hacked while working from home. So says John Ghent, CEO of Sytorus, which offers a SaaS privacy management platform and is a global market leader in data protection and privacy management.

“Many people newly working from home are likely to have smart TVs, gaming platforms, and wireless routers, with some also having Internet of Things (IoT) devices installed,” he says.

“All these can add complexity to the security challenge and vulnerabilities to the network, and home networks are not usually sufficiently protected.

Ghent advises organisations to update their remote access policy or develop one if none is in place, and to ensure all staff complete a full cyber security awareness programme (covering topics such as malware, acceptable use and device security) and understand the high risk of Covid-19 related phishing emails.

5. TitanHQ: protecting higher education and business

Along with businesses that must suddenly enable remote working, universities and colleges that now have to facilitate remote lectures and study must also be mindful of coronavirus-related cyberthreats, says Ronan Kavanagh, CEO of TitanHQ, a multi-award-winning web filtering, email security and email archiving SaaS business.

“We have seen massive demand so far this year for two products in particular that can be rolled out seamlessly to remote devices,” he says.

“These are SpamTitan cloud-based email security, which protects students and staff from the newest iterations of phishing attacks, and our AI-drive DNS security product, WebTitan. Combined, these create an umbrella layer over all students and staff protecting their devices.”

Supporting Regional Development Critical To Future Jobs Growth

 

Resilience is a word we became used to in 2020 and it is an apt term to describe how Irish business responded to the dual challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and the end of the Brexit transition period.

For thousands of businesses across Ireland, and their staff, it has been a tough, challenging year marked by disruption and uncertainty. But what has been remarkable is how Irish businesses have responded to the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.

At Enterprise Ireland we work closely with the Irish manufacturing, export and internationally traded services sector.  We invest in established companies and start-ups, we assist companies to begin exporting or expand into new markets and we back research and development projects creating future jobs.

This week we launched our annual review for 2020.  The good news is that the companies we are proud to support employ more than 220,000 in Ireland.  Despite the challenges faced in last year, nearly 16,500 new jobs were created, closely mirroring the 2019 outturn.

However, job losses were significantly higher than in previous years, resulting in a net reduction of 872 jobs across the companies we support.

There is no sugar coating the fact that it was a tough year for business.  However, behind these statistics are individual stories of companies taking brave decisions to change their business model, reimagine their product offering and find new ways of doing business and connecting with customers to trade through the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.

Enterprise Ireland has worked with these companies throughout the year to ensure viable companies have the liquidity, supports and advice they need to trade, and importantly, to sustain jobs.

Enterprise Ireland supported companies have a key role in the Irish economy.  65% of employment is outside the Dublin region and these indigenous Irish companies, many of which are world leaders in their field, are critical to delivering balanced regional economic development.

Powering the Regions is Enterprise Ireland’s strategy for regional development.  It outlines specific plans for each region in the country, drawing on their existing enterprise base, their connections with third level institutions and their unique potential for growth.

The strategy is backed significant funding.  This time last year more than €40m was allocated, in a competitive call, to 26 projects fostering regional entrepreneurship and job creation.

These included the Future Mobility Campus Ireland, based in Clare, which explores the potential of autonomous, connected and electric vehicles, UCDNova’s Ag Tech innovation centre in Kildare and the Clermont Hub in Wicklow which focuses on content creation and draws on the region’s established film and audio/visual track record.  The 26 projects were supported under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund, which has seen €100m invested in similar projects since 2017.

Given the potential impact of Brexit, particularly in the Border region, 11 similar projects designed to cluster expertise and innovation were supported with €17m in support under the Border Enterprise Development Fund in 2020.

These were strategic initiatives, closely linked to government regional policy, with a medium to long-term focus on supporting regional enterprise.

However, due to Covid-19, Enterprise Ireland moved last year to provide more agile interventions to regional businesses assist them to reset and recover.

Ensuring that viable companies had the access to finance was an important necessity.  Through the government-backed ‘Sustaining Enterprise Scheme’ Enterprise Ireland allocated €124m last year to support more than 400 companies employing more than 10,000 people.  The majority of this funding went to regionally based companies.

Similarly, €8.2m in funding for 95 enterprise centres, which are critical to the start-up ecosystem and future job growth regionally, was made available in September.

Retail business across Ireland also benefitted from the Online Retail Scheme which saw 330 retailers allocated €11.8m in funding to enhance their online offering, reach new customers and increase sales.

Through a mix of strategic funding aimed at long-term enterprise development and more agile funding supports Enterprise Ireland has helped to sustain jobs throughout Ireland in 2020.  We’ve also supported those sectors, such as cleantech, construction and life sciences which continued to grow and create jobs last year.

The pandemic will have lasting effects including how we work and where we work.  Many of these long-term changes can complement strong local and regional economies.  A key element of the Powering The Regions strategy was the potential of remote working and co-working hubs that Enterprise Ireland is committed to developing with our partners.  That potential has been accelerated by the changing work patterns evidenced in the past year. Now, more than ever, having a strategic approach to enterprise development is vital, and Enterprise Ireland looks forward to the role it can play as we recover and build for the future.

By Mark Christal, Manager, Regions and Entrepreneurship at Enterprise Ireland.

New African Dawn: Launch of the Continental Free Trade Agreement

A new year usually brings with it hope, optimism and new resolutions. The first two weeks of 2021 have however been fraught with the on-going pandemic, Britain’s exit from the EU and increased protectionism and populism around the globe. In marked contrast with this tone, one continent is pushing forward with hope, optimism and new resolutions.

The first of January 2021 saw the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This milestone agreement strives for greater trade cooperation on the continent. The aim is to bring together 1.3 billion people in a $3.4-trillion economic bloc that will be the largest free trade area since the establishment of the World Trade Organization. This agreement comes into force, with support from 54 of the 55 countries recognised by the African Union (Eritrea being the sole exception) is a hugely positive move.

The Agreement establishing the AfCFTA was signed in March 2018 and of the 54 Member States of the African Union that have signed, 30 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

The main objectives of the AfCFTA are to create a single market for goods and services, facilitate the movement of persons, promote industrial development and sustainable and inclusive socio-economic growth, and resolve the issue of multiple memberships, in accordance with the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The agreement lays a solid foundation for the establishment of a Continental Common Market.

AfCFTA presents a significant opportunity to boost intra-regional trade as well as increase Africa’s negotiating position on the international stage. Intra-African trade has always been relatively low. In 2019, only 15% of Africa’s $560-billion worth of imports came from the continent – compare this with a figure of 68% in the European Union (UNCTAD).

In addition, many African nations have struggled to develop better-enabling environments for attracting investment and it should follow that this agreement will help to make the continent an increasingly attractive location for foreign companies seeking to penetrate its huge market potential.

This landmark agreement is off the starting block but there is much to be negotiated to reach the desired goal of #OneAfricanMarket.

Under AfCFTA trading, with an aim to eliminate export tariffs on 97% of goods traded on the continent, tariffs on various commodities where rules of origin have been agreed will be drastically reduced and businesses of all sizes will have access to a much bigger market than they used to before. Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to trade will also be addressed and a mechanism for reporting of NTBs has been put in place (www.tradebarriers.africa).

In parallel to the AfCFTA, the African Union has also introduced the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons.

Though it will be years before the AfCFTA is fully implemented, the significant steps that have been taken to get the agreement to this point should not be underestimated, particularly in the current difficult global environment. Increasing prosperity on the African continent will ensure that it continues to be a continent of great interest to Irish exporters.

Enterprise Ireland has been assisting Irish companies to navigate the Sub-Saharan African market through our office in Johannesburg, along with an established and growing network of industry specialists across the continent. Contact us to learn more about the opportunities for your business in this growing export destination.

Nicola Kelly, Senior Market Advisor, Middle East, Africa & India

PIXAPP – Shedding light on PIC packaging

“PIXAPP is more than just a project; like all Horizon support I look at it as seed funding to grow your activity.”

Professor Peter O’Brien, Director of PIXAPP Photonics Packaging Pilot Line Horizon 2020 open call project

Overview:

  • Tyndall National Institute in Cork is leading an international consortium that is establishing ‘best in class’ photonic integrated circuit (PIC) packaging technologies
  • The PIXAPP project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
  • The European Commission has recognised PIXAPP as a flagship pilot manufacturing capability in Europe.

Photonics is the future. In devices ranging from hand-held cardiovascular monitors to self-drive cars, photonic integrated circuits (PICs) are revolutionising technology, enabling significantly higher capacity and speed of data transmission.

Its huge potential to address socio-economic challenges in areas such as communications, healthcare and security, has led the European Commission to invest heavily in programmes to advance PIC technologies. But with most developments focusing on the PIC chips, the challenge now relates to packaging, that is, connecting the chips to the real world though optical fibres, micro-optics and electronic control devices.

To address the challenge, a €15.5m project, involving 18 partners and led by the Tyndall National Institute in Cork, has established the world’s first open access PIC assembly and packaging manufacturing line, PIXAPP.

“The assembly and packaging challenges are considerable and it’s hugely expensive for manufacturers. PIXAPP provides a single point of contact, the Gateway, at Tyndall, through which businesses can access expertise in industrial and research organisations across Europe to translate their requirements into the best packaging solution. It’s a major step forward to enable the conversion of R&D results into innovative products,” explains Professor Peter O’Brien, co-ordinator of the Horizon 2020-funded PIXAPP pilot line.

The importance of sustainability 

When PIXAPP started in 2016, the ability to package PICs was dispersed across several European companies and institutions, each of which could only do a few steps in the process.

“Our aim was to make a diversified, distributed pilot line, which meant coming up with a common language of design, materials and equipment standards that could seamlessly move across different countries.” says O’Brien.

With PIXAPP due to end in October 2021, the issue of sustainability is key to ensuring progress in the area of PIC packaging continues.

“One of the key things we had to show in our Horizon 2020 proposal was a sustainability plan. We can’t just walk away after four years. We’re now engaged with over 120 companies around the world and many of them are gearing up to do the whole packaging process themselves, working with the technology standards we’ve developed.

“Ultimately, that’s what success looks like for us, where we can step back and industry takes on the high volume packaging work. There are still risks involved for companies but we can help reduce those by sharing or advising on equipment and we can train their engineers, which is an important part of what we’re doing.”

O’Brien’s team has also secured funding from the Disruptive Technology Innovation Fund, which will help with regional sustainability.

“When we got the DTIF funding the Commission was delighted because that’s the kind of regional investment they want to see,” says O’Brien.

Insights for Horizon 2020 success 

Applying for Horizon 2020 support can be daunting but O’Brien has extensive experience and offers some insights.

The key to a successful proposal is addressing the call requirements, in terms of scientific excellence, impact from project results including dissemination and structure of the workplan. It is also important to ensure the proposal reads as one document, rather than a large number of small documents complied by partners into a single proposal. Ideally, the coordinator should write the full proposal, taking input from all partners. This will ensure the proposal has one voice, making it easy for reviewers to read, understand and enjoy.

 “Enterprise Ireland gave us support to write the proposal and it’s important to use their expertise as well,” says O’Brien.

The right partners are also central to success.

“You need to have partners that you trust and who trust you, so you have a shared vision, and you need to work with them well in advance; don’t form consortia based on a call. Our funding success is is high, and we like to work with the familiar partners but it’s also exciting to work with new partners who can bring new technologies and insights. Spending time out of the lab meeting partners, including new partners is important. Visits to Brussels to are also important to stay ahead of upcoming calls and as a central location or HQ to meet partners and future collaborators.”

Tyndall’ photonics packaging group is currently involved in 15 European projects and has recently participated in €19m project for a new Photonics Innovation Hub called Photon Hub Europe.

O’Brien also feels strongly that projects should not be seen in isolation.

“All our projects are strategically aligned so we’re leveraging capabilities from one project to another. A focus on your core technical capabilities is important. And it’s a continuous thing. You have to keep working on proposals, stay up to speed, don’t dip in and out.

“The big benefit of being involved in Horizon projects is the contacts networks and the relationships that you make. You should think of the funding as seed funding to grow your activity. I don’t like the word project, because that suggests it’s done when it’s done. I think the Commission likes to think that every project is seeding something else much bigger.”

For advice or further information about applying for Horizon 2020 support please contact HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.ie

 

Market Watch – A view from Manchester

Key Takeaways

• The UK is the largest export market for Enterprise Ireland clients
• The North West of England has been growing at a faster rate than London in recent years.
• The Manchester office for Enterprise Ireland opened in 2019 and is providing support for many Irish firms operating into and in the region.
• Despite Covid and Brexit, business is still moving.
• There are opportunities for Irish companies in many areas including construction, healthcare, digital technology, and life sciences
• Irish companies may also achieve contracts with local authorities

As our closest neighbour, the UK has long been a crucial trading partner for Ireland and as one of the fastest growing regions of the country, the North West of England was the obvious choice for Enterprise Ireland to open up a second UK office last year.

Headed up by Laura Brocklebank and her colleague Kevin Fennelly, the Manchester branch focuses on opportunities for Irish clients in manufacturing – covering areas such as pharmaceutical and food and drink as well as paper, print and packaging. It is also leading on UK local authorities with major spending budgets across infrastructure, transport, healthcare and more.

“The UK is the largest export market for Enterprise Ireland clients, which, despite the challenges of Brexit, grew 2% to €7.9 billion in 2019, with all non-food sectors recording growth of 6%,” says the senior marketing advisor.”

And the market continued to perform strongly in spite of uncertainty, demonstrating that client companies have remained committed to the UK market and its short/medium-term growth potential.

“Adding to this, the north west of England is a particularly dynamic region which actually grew at a faster rate than London in recent years – in fact, if it were a country, it would be the 12th largest economy in Europe. And this was the key driver for Enterprise Ireland when selecting Manchester to locate its new office last year.”

Brocklebank says the Greater Manchester region alone is the size of the Irish market and the combined authorities of Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region, North of Tyne, Sheffield City Region and Tees Valley have devolved powers which means that decision-making powers and funding are transferred from Westminster to these regions.

“The UK remains a key first export market for Irish industry to enable them to innovate and diversify and for these reasons, many Irish companies look to the North of England to set up a presence in the UK and it is often their first overseas presence,” she says.

“Our Manchester team focuses on opportunities in manufacturing, along with partnerships with UK local authorities who have major spending budgets. We collaborate extensively with our London office and work as one team with our 20 colleagues who are specialists in various sectors including Construction, Life Sciences, Healthcare, Digital Technologies, Cleantech and Renewables – all of which are of strategic importance and opportunity across the region. In effect, we are also the eyes and ears on the ground for our colleagues leading these sectors.

“As the North of England is traditionally the industrial heartlands of the UK, having a base here shows our commitment to the region and we are attuned to the needs of Irish companies, which are active all across the area.”

Accessibility is key and the Irish Sea has long been an important link between the UK and Ireland. So as the Port of Liverpool has submitted a bid to become established as a UK freeport, the regional lead says this could provide an opportunity for Irish companies with relevant smart ports solutions and automated and high-tech solutions which facilitate maritime trade and logistics.

“Ireland’s strong marine and civil engineering companies will be keen to collaborate with UK partners in the North West to help facilitate the necessary infrastructural upgrades required to cater for increased trading and customs realities,” she says.

“In addition, over the past number of years the area has experienced a boom in new building and infrastructure projects and there are many Irish companies leading in the Construction sector – John Sisk & Son have created a major landmark with Manchester’s Circle Square Affinity Living Project, ESS Modular opened their Manchester office in July 2020, having completed a number of projects in Leeds and Oldham, and have a current project with North Manchester General Hospital. And Techrete’s architectural precast concrete cladding can be seen on the iconic One and Two St. Peter’s Square.”

Manchester is also home to a fast-growing £5 billion digital ecosystem and has been officially ranked as the UK’s Top Digital Tech City, while Newcastle became Smart City of the Year 2019 for its innovative approach in using technology to help transform services and improve the lives of residents.

The marketing expert says there is a lot happening in the region which could provide opportunities for Irish firms.

“Digital tech company, Gamma Location Intelligence has recently opened their first overseas office in Manchester as they expand into the UK, having established in Ireland in 1993,” she says. “They have become a market leader in the provision of location intelligence systems and services which drive innovation across many sectors including insurance and retail, focusing heavily on cutting-edge research and development projects, leveraging Artificial Intelligence and machine learning.

“And in October 2020, VRAI, a data driven VR stimulation training for high hazard environments, announced their expansion into the UK with their first overseas office in Gateshead’s PROTO Centre, the UK’s immersive technology cluster.

“There are also opportunities for Irish businesses who can support local authorities in digital transformation, smart cities, connectivity, transport, housing, infrastructure, roads and highways and adult and social care. And a great example of this is SilverCloud which works with Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, providing support for those who may be feeling stressed and anxious due to the current pandemic.”

Of course, there are still some challenges, with uncertainty surrounding both Covid-19 and Brexit but the UK will continue to be an important and attractive market for Irish enterprise.

“Earlier this month, we had a rich and productive meeting with Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham and Liverpool City Region Mayor, Steve Rotherham, to discuss and agree the strongly aligned sectors of which Enterprise Ireland clients have strong supply chain capability,” says Brocklebank. “So we are looking forward to further collaboration and to have deeper engagement across these sectors.

“Enterprise Ireland also warmly welcomes the announcement of a new Consulate General for the North of England and we are looking forward to working together to strengthen Ireland’s presence in the region.”

To learn more about UK opportunities see the Evolve UK page here 

Gannon Eco: If not for the Sustaining Enterprise Fund we would have been in dire straits

Circular economy pioneer Gannon Eco availed of the Sustaining Enterprise Fund to rebuild working capital and work its way through the worst of the Covid-19 slowdown. The company has invested heavily in R&D and increased capacity, but the pandemic-induced downturn put a brake on the return from that outlay.

“We spend an awful lot on R&D,” says company founder and managing director Niall Gannon. “We had new products ready for market and others in development when Covid-19 hit. We had also built a new plant here in Kilbeggan and we had the people in place to run it. The drop in demand was very substantial. If not for the support from the Sustaining Enterprise Fund we would have been in dire straits. It gave us the backing to continue to seek new markets and helped keep people in jobs. The funding received was quite significant and very helpful.”

The company traces its history back to the last downturn when the near-collapse of the construction industry in 2007 led John Gannon Concrete to seek an alternative line of business. “We had a family business supplying concrete blocks, readymix concrete, gravel and aggregates to the building industry,” Gannon recalls. “When the recession impacted that market died, and we had to diversify. We inadvertently stumbled on a problem with end-of-life car windscreens. They were being landfilled or exported and there was no sustainable solution for their end-of-use  disposal.”

That led to the creation of an entirely new business. “After quite a lot of research, we set up under the new trading name of Gannon Eco,” he adds. “We started taking in car windscreens, cleaning them off, grinding them down and repurposing them to sell on for uses such as filtration media for wastewater treatment plants and sandblasting materials. We were reducing the need for virgin material for these purposes and diverting waste from landfill, generating two environmental gains.”

Today, Gannon Eco is an award-winning company and one of Ireland’s leading environmental solution providers offering total reuse for industrial waste stream products.

“We moved on from windscreens to other glass types – window glass, pharma glass, light bulbs, TVs and so on,” Gannon continues. “After several years, companies started coming to us asking us to look at other waste streams and we developed into specialist repurposers over time. We now take a variety of waste from many industries which include, surgical implants, microchips, construction, pharma and a variety of other sources. We use construction and other waste to make low-carbon concrete and we take waste from the semiconductor manufacturing process to produce an additive for the steel smelting process which enables the process to run at lower temperatures, thereby reducing emissions.”

At its most basic, the company takes in waste from one set of customers, reprocesses it and sells it on as end products to another set of customers. “The whole business is based on the circular economy,” Gannon explains. “We won’t take anything that can’t be reused. Everything that comes in must be sold back out as a product. We will not send anything to landfill or incineration.”

“The drop in demand was very substantial. If not for the support from the Sustaining Enterprise Fund we would have been in dire straits”

The concrete products side of the business hasn’t completely disappeared. “We manufacture a small number of concrete blocks and precast concrete products. We are able to produce some of those products using 85% recycled materials.”

Innovation is at the heart of the business. “It’s not that simple,” he notes. “There was no plant for the process that we could buy off the shelf back in 2007, so we had to develop all our processes in-house. The process starts with a customer who wants to stop waste from going to landfill. We will do intensive testing in our lab and figure out what we can do with it. We design processes to produce an end product. After that, we must find a customer who will buy it from us. It takes a minimum of two years to test, build a process for the waste and market for the new product. Our longest project took seven years. Once you send out a product you are not finished. You must be 100 per cent sure it’s not harmful and won’t damage the environment in any way. There is an unbelievable amount of R&D and testing involved. We have about five projects in the works at any one time.”

The company was gaining a foothold in export markets when Covid-19 hit. “We had started exporting to Germany and the Netherlands and we are looking at the US, France and Spain now. We had been looking at the UK, but the uncertainty caused by Brexit made us look at other markets. We are looking at the possibility of setting up operations in the US at the moment. It’s a balancing act. You can’t import waste materials if the carbon emissions of the transport would be greater than the gain you are making. We are looking at establishing facilities in Europe as well.”

The impact of Covid-19 was severe.

“March was our worst month in nine years but it’s slowly picking up again. We have an agreement with a distributor for Germany, the Netherlands and northern France. The first shipment to them was due to go out in August but that was delayed, and we are now expecting shipments to commence in the first week in January.”

That’s where the Sustaining Enterprise Fund support came into play. “It helped us deal with that interruption to our business,” says Gannon.

Looking ahead, he says the biggest barrier to growth for the company now is delays to the End of Waste certification process. The company needs a certificate for each new process before it can sell the product to an end-user. “The EPA doesn’t have sufficient resources to deal with the demand for certification. It can take anything up to five years to get it at the moment.” And to quote the EPA

“There is no statutory timeframe for the assessment of end-of-waste applications and decisions to be made. The time taken to process an end-of-waste application to reach an end-of-waste decision is variable. It depends on the quality of the application, the availability of inspector resources, the complexity of the application, the efficiency of response to requests for further information and the workload of the inspector assigned”

That said, new product and process development will continue at the company. “Westmeath County Council and Enterprise Ireland have been unbelievably supportive of what we do,” he notes. “Enterprise Ireland has supported us with our R&D projects over the years. We will be the first company in the world to reuse the material we are working on in our latest project. The way things are looking, next year should be relatively positive. We are going to keep doing what we are doing.”

Enterprise Ireland has a comprehensive suite of supports available for companies at all stages of development, under Sustaining Enterprise Fund and Innovative Start-Up funding, as well as other funding offers.

Find out more about the SEF supports here

Aerospace & Aviation

Market Watch Industry Bulletin – Aerospace & Aviation

Aerospace and 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.