Linesight’s top tips for entering eurozone markets

Linesight has extended its reach as a provider of professional services to the construction industry into mainland Europe and beyond in reaction to the downturn in the domestic market in 2008. Here, director Paul Butler shares some pointers on how to gain a foothold in key eurozone markets:

When working with multinationals in particular, first and foremost you have to be flexible. You have to adapt to the client’s needs in local markets. This means being willing to travel and being available at whatever time the client needs to deal with you. Our senior people travel over and back regularly to meet clients in eurozone markets.

In order to be really successful in eurozone markets, it is vital that you also have a presence on the ground, whether that is a subsidiary company, an office or a dedicated team based in the market. In the Netherlands, we have a dedicated team of 30 people, 95% of whom are based there full-time and integrated into the local community and tax system. There are generous tax incentives for people working in the Netherlands with professional accreditation, such as chartered surveyors or engineers.

It is important to gain a good understanding of local regulations and codes of practice for the industry you are operating in. This is best achieved by becoming part of the local environment with your on-the-ground presence.

The Irish mentality of “getting the job done” is key to success in mainland Europe. Irish companies are used to dealing with multinationals and working 10 to 12-hour days if necessary to make sure a job is completed on schedule. Clients really appreciate this. You need to be mindful that there are work-life balance issues in certain markets, particularly in construction – in the Netherlands for example, workers will walk off site at 3.30pm or 4pm and take their holidays at certain times. You will need to work around the fact that workers will down tools.

Aerogen’s top tips for entering European markets

Aerosol drug delivery system provider Aerogen has been active in European markets since 2000, and the region now makes up about 30% of its total sales.

Aerogen CEO, John Power

Here, CEO John Power shares his key pieces of advice to Irish companies contemplating exports beyond the UK.

The real key to success in European markets is having something special that they want. If you have a ‘me too’ product the purchasing decision will be based on price. You need to be offering a solution to a need in the market that is superior to what these markets have themselves.

A smaller company starting to sell abroad should go with a narrow focus and build from there. If you try to generate sales in several European markets at the same time you won’t have the bandwidth to service them. And if you don’t service them right, that will be detrimental. You’re far better off to procure one distributor in one market, get that off the ground and operating properly and then replicate this in other markets.

Don’t rush into selecting a distributor. Work long and hard on getting the right one for you in each market, as if you get this decision wrong it could work against you. Look for recommendations from other companies using distributors of products in your sector in the relevant markets.

If you really want to develop a market and distribution model in a European market, nothing beats having your own people on the ground to make sure a distributor gets the maximum amount of sales for your business.

precision engineering

Market Diversification – Burnside Autocyl’s Way of Dealing with Brexit

The fact that it has pursued a market diversification strategy for over 30 years means Burnside Autocyl’s growth is unlikely to be unduly affected by Brexit.

Established in 1974 in Tullow, Co Carlow, Burnside Autocyl was focused on the domestic market for its first ten years and when it became saturated the UK was the logical first export market.

However, it soon recognised the potential that existed in other markets and so branched out into Scandinavian countries and then Germany, France, the Benelux countries, Italy, the Czech Republic and Romania followed after that.

Currently exporting into 16 different countries, its most recent venture was to establish a manufacturing and warehousing facility in Pennsylvania in the US – the company’s first global footprint outside Co Carlow in terms of manufacturing capability. It also has sales and marketing offices in Germany and France.

Sales DirectorBurnside Autocyl designs and manufactures customised hydraulic cylinders for original equipment manufacturers in the manual handling, construction and manufacturing sectors.

“In 2013, we identified the US as a market that we had to pursue with more gusto and so established a physical presence in 2014,” says sales director Caroline Kelly.

“It is a hugely exciting market for us, which we are looking to grow right now. We have already seen 10% growth in sales year on year.”

All of Burnside Autocyl’s product shipments to Europe are currently routed through the UK. This is a concern for the company post-Brexit, but a challenge it will overcome, according to Kelly.

“It may mean our shipments will have to be bonded. A lot of questions remain to be answered. At the same time, UK competitors are in a stronger position than us because of weaker sterling,” she says.

“However, we are not overly concerned about Brexit as the UK doesn’t make up a significant part of our overall business and we are confident about growing in other markets.”

 Learn how Enterprise Ireland’s Diversification supports can help you to develop market knowledge and prepare for the challenges of entering new markets.

Czech Out Prospects

Only two hours by direct flight from Dublin, the Czech Republic, with a population of 10.5 million, is probably best known for short breaks to its magical capital city Prague, Skoda cars, excellent beer and great tennis players.

But it is also an economy on an upward curve – and therefore opportunities for Irish business are on the rise.

Eurostat data on GDP and purchasing power shows the Prague region of the Czech Republic is the ninth most prosperous in the EU.

The region has attracted many multinational investors, mainly in automotive, engineering, electronics and IT. Industry now accounts for 47.3% of the commercial economy, making the Czech Republic the most industrialised country in the EU.

Opportunities for Irish companies

Multinationals and home-grown businesses are always looking for new suppliers and innovative solutions. Windows of opportunity are open for Irish manufacturers of technologies, engineered parts and materials, specialised plastics, material-handling products; and also for suppliers of logistics solutions or enterprise software.

Apart from industry, the booming tourism industry shows an appetite for travel software, while the market-research company BMI singles out the Czech Republic as the most attractive medical-devices market in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Czech Republic is a rewarding, reliable and innovative business-to-business market that can help Irish companies diversify sales.

They can meet potential customers from very different parts of the world that made the Czech Republic their base, especially industrial conglomerates from Japan, South Korea and, increasingly, China.

No wonder that a number of Irish companies, including household names such as Kingspan, Smurfit Kappa, Mergon International, ICON, Grafton Recruitment and PM Group, have established operations in this market.

Many firms also use the Czech Republic as a gateway for sales in Central and Eastern Europe, a market of 110-plus million consumers.

Since joining the EU in 2004, Irish exports to Central Europe have grown over 300%. Getting involved in the Czech Republic requires strong local knowledge. It’s absolutely crucial to dedicate time to researching your customers’ needs, assessing alternatives and properly formulating your offer.

Ireland is very popular here – in many aspects it is a role model – but this goodwill does not mean you can skip your homework.

Advice for doing business in the Czech Republic

Czechs are quite pragmatic, focused on results and technical competence. However, personal relationships and mutual trust are critical. Face-to-face meetings go straight to the point and place facts before sentiment.

It is important to follow up on meetings and deliver on promises. Similar to other central European countries, Czech businesspeople are cautious and don’t believe it until they see it.

Although sticky points are discussed at meetings, people like to have things confirmed in writing and accompanied with sufficient evidence to back up claims. If we are to believe the research of British communication guru Richard D Lewis, Czech and Irish business cultures and negotiation styles are very similar.

Business meetings are invariably conducted in English, which is taught in schools.

Czechs are proud of their country and what they achieved since the fall of communism in 1989. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2013 ‘Where to be Born’ index, the Czech Republic has the highest quality of life among new EU member states and ranks 28th globally.

Judging from packed Aer Lingus and Ryanair planes heading from Dublin to Prague, an ever increasing number of Irish people are becoming familiar with Czechs’ attitude to the work-life balance – and socialising is an important part of all relationships. Unsurprisingly, this is not a barrier for Irish business visitors.

Like the Rubik’s Cube, Hungary is Worth a Twist for Irish Businesses

The designer of the Rubik’s Cube said “we turn the cube, and it in turn twists us”. In other words, to solve the puzzle you must look for other perspectives.

Hungarian professor Erno Rubik’s aphorism is apt for his home country today. Unorthodox politics and the controversial treatment of migrants has hurt its reputation, while the international business community has criticised Hungary for bringing its finances into check with the help of taxes on mostly foreign-owned banks and large companies.

However, much like the Rubik’s Cube, looking at Hungary from a variety of angles may lead to a different perspective.

For instance, it ranks in the top quartile of the Human Development Index and is the ninth most complex economy in the world – six places above Ireland. It exited the EU’s Excessive Deficit Procedure in 2013 and has defied predictions with growth projected at an average 2.5pc out to 2020. Imminent income tax cuts and a relaxation of a bank levy are expected to boost what has been described as a ‘creditless’ recovery.

It is a country of great artistic, cultural and sporting tradition. Hungarians won gold medals at every summer Olympics except Antwerp 1920 and Los Angeles 1984, when they did not compete. It was also the first country to host a Formula One Grand Prix from behind the Iron Curtain in 1986.

It counts composers such as Bela Bartok, Zoltan Kodaly and Franz Liszt among its native sons and is also a pioneer of cinema, providing Hollywood with Adolph Zukor, who founded Paramount, and Wilhelm Fuchs, who founded Fox Studios.

Hungary also boasts a strong scientific tradition, with scientists of Hungarian birth or origin receiving the Nobel Prize on more than 20 occasions. The OECD ranks Hungary 16th in the world in science education.

Indeed technical skills, allied to moderate wages and a location on the edge of European supply chains, led to investment in the early 1990s. Today, inward FDI amounts to 78pc of GDP, the highest in the region.

Hungary has been particularly successful in attracting FDI in the automotive and electronics sectors (often intertwined). As a result, participation in global value chains is among the highest in the OECD.

Large investors include Audi, Suzuki, GM and Mercedes plus more than 700 suppliers. Bosch, Alpin, Samsung, Honeywell and Rosenberger are among the big electronics players – and many are scaling up. This should interest Irish suppliers with sectoral references or offering added value for production or services.

There is also opportunity in Hungary’s national development plan (2014-2020), with €6bn allocated for health, infrastructure, environmental protection and tourism – which is predicted to increase 4.2pc this year, to a total of just over 12m visitors. Similar growth is expected until 2020, boosting tourism-related expenditure and hotel industry value.

BMI Research expects growth in the medical devices market of more than 6.3pc in 2016 and with the country reliant on imports to meet demand, producers and developers of time- and cost-saving healthcare solutions should take note.

Opportunities for Irish companies

Irish firms are already active here. Architectural practice O’Donnell+Tuomey designed the redevelopment of Budapest’s Central European University in time for this year’s 25th anniversary and CRH opened its new business services centre in the capital, providing administration for operations in Austria, Hungary and Slovakia.

Outside Budapest, McHale Hungaria produces hay bailers in Szolnok; Kingspan manufactures construction industry components in Ujhartyan; and in Torokbalint, Kerry Group produces food ingredients.

So despite its reputational issues, Irish businesses should look again and take note of possibilities in Hungary, perhaps with the aid of an invention of a former Budapest newspaper editor called Laszlo Biro.

Ladislav Muller is Enterprise Ireland director for the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria and is based in Prague

This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent

Pointers on the French Market from Irish Business Tricel​​​​​​​

France has become a key market for Killarney-based manufacturing firm Tricel since it obtained a government licence to supply sewage systems to one-off houses there in 2011. Here managing director Mike Stack shares his insights into the French market:

France is a gigantic market and you really have to commit resources to it. You can’t just dip your toes in and expect to be successful. The language is hugely important. You need people working for you that speak French. We have strong local teams on the ground, which has been very important. People from your company just arriving over once every couple of weeks won’t cut it. There has to be a local support network in the country.

Having a base in France – our factory in Poitiers – has allowed us to pursue an expansion strategy into other European markets. Once we got established there, we found distributors in Belgium and then Germany. We are also focused on French-speaking markets such as Martinique and Guadeloupe now that we have built up the language capability.

Building a strong brand has been important to us in France. Further to being awarded French and German trading licences (in 2011 and 2012, respectively) the Tricel brand for our environmental products became well established in those markets. This led us to the decision in 2014 to rebrand the whole company from Killarney Manufacturing Group to Tricel. It is quite a unique name globally and we have found since that it works well generally in international markets.

Opportunities for Irish businesses in Poland

The challenges of doing business in Poland are diminishing over the years according to Enterprise Ireland market advisors, with a broad spectrum of activity across many sectors. Unfamiliarity with the Polish market and the physical size of the country may come as a surprise to Irish businesses looking at Poland as a new international market, but resources are there to assist them #GlobalAmbition

To learn more about Enterprise Ireland supports and for further information on doing business in Poland click here

Ireland’s Polish Community Helps Make Poland a Great SME Target

It may be a bold claim, but Ireland’s trade relationship with Poland is unique among non-English-speaking countries.

While other EU markets may be richer and more populous, strong personal and professional ties between the two countries makes Poland easily accessible to Irish businesses.

People generate contacts and Ireland has few rivals with Poland in terms of people connectivity. Approximately 3% of the Irish population is Polish, spread across the country. Irish companies have seized the opportunity this offers, using their Polish staff to access this market, represent them and set up offices. For example, of the 42 companies participating in Enterprise Ireland’s 2015 Trade Mission to Poland, over 50% were represented by Polish staff.

The Polish economy has come a long way in the past decade. It did not suffer as badly as other countries during the recession, with continuous GDP growth due to large EU transfers and Poland’s growing attraction for foreign direct investment (FDI) and manufacturing migration.

EU funds have built out the transport infrastructure, meaning companies such as Amazon now effectively service Germany from Poland. Conglomerates such as LG, Samsung, Merloni and Philips have been attracted here too.

The country is also a leading market player for ICT (cloud, ecommerce and enterprise solutions) and business process outsourcing. Over 50 Irish companies have operations in Poland, with many such as CRH, Steripack, Kingspan, Smurfit Kappa and ABP having production facilities.

Many Enterprise Ireland clients export directly into Poland. The fastest growing export sector is the sub-supply of goods and services to multinationals with operations in Poland. This is simply business expansion where Irish companies with existing relationships with FDI in Ireland, extend their export footprint to Poland. But there is opportunity for firms of all sizes.

Other key exports include smart farm goods and services (agricultural technology, veterinary products and animal nutrition), materials handling equipment, pharmaceuticals and medical devices and construction services.

Ecommerce is a particularly easy way to access the Polish market with the sector growing 20% year-on-year and worth nearly €10 billion. And it may also be about to get a bit easier. Allegro, Poland’s equivalent to Ebay or AliBaba, is the dominant player in the online sales market. It engages with small and medium enterprises who want to expand their online offering to Poland, and is ready to provide sales, logistics and payments support to Irish online businesses. Allegro transacts over 150,000 purchases daily with clothing and babyware being the most popular exports from Ireland. Often this is just simple re-selling by individual entrepreneurs – so if they can do it, there is no reason SMEs in sectors like dry food, giftware and clothing could not follow suit.

Conducting business in Poland is, for Irish firms, about as easy as it comes. There are 11 direct-flight destinations, the country ranks ahead of Germany and France for English speakers and Irish and Polish business culture is broadly similar.

However, it is not all good news. Poland is a notoriously price-sensitive market with corporate buyers feeling more comfortable making a decision on the basis of lowest price. This is an issue for Irish companies because we tend to sell on quality and value-added criteria.

As a former member of the Communist bloc, it should also come as no surprise that the country is quite bureaucratic – but this only really affects in-country operations and has little impact on exporters. Remember, Ireland is unusual in our low level of bureaucracy. Nonetheless, compared to other markets, Poland ranks as a particularly strong export opportunity for Irish firms of all sizes.

International collaboration the zeitgeist in Berlin tech scene

The Berlin landscape today is very different to what it was in 1989, when the wall fell. Back then there were no cranes crowding the skyline, and the now-ubiquitous tech company logos outside offices were almost non-existent.

After reunification, a short boom was followed by a lengthy recession that left the city trying to carve out a new identity in the world. During this time, artists, creative media types and techno music disciples flocked to Berlin, giving it a public image it retains today.

Strolling around back then, the graffiti-covered squats served as an unapologetic symbol of the post-reunification liberal culture. In 2004, Berlin’s flamboyant mayor, Klaus Wowereit, described the city as “poor but sexy”.

In recent years, Berlin’s story has become something of a rags-to-riches tale. Bucking the German demographic trend, its population is increasing – largely due to EU and US immigrants attracted by the informal lifestyle and lower cost of living compared to London, New York and San Francisco. Many are highly educated and have the software development skills craved by tech companies worldwide.

Berlin is now one of Europe’s hotspots for private tech investors

Consequently, Berlin has become one of Europe’s hotspots for private tech investors. According to Dow Jones, €1.97bn in venture capital was raised here, more than most tech locations worldwide. The trend is set to continue. New tech companies are establishing here at a rate of 10 a week.

In contrast to tech in Ireland – with our mix of home-grown start-ups, major US tech companies and closely-connected infrastructure – the Berlin cluster is anchored by a small number of home-grown companies. Soundcloud, 6Wunderkind, Zalando, Onefootball and Rocket Internet are leading names among the 2,500 tech companies here.

Traditional German firms are getting in on the act. Household names with start-up incubators, accelerators or VC arms include: Google (through the Factory), Deutsche Telekom Innovation Laboratories, BASF, Bosch, Daimler, Microsoft and the Deutsche Bahn Mindbox.

Irish Tech meets Berlin Tech

Enterprise Ireland recently hosted ‘Irish Tech meets Berlin Tech’, involving 35 CEOs and senior managers from Ireland taking part in expert panels on tech and finance, fintech and HR technology; as well as buyer meetings and a networking reception at the Irish Embassy. Some 120 executives from the Berlin tech and VC industry took part – a testament to Ireland’s growing reputation here.

Several key learnings arose that should be of strong interest in Ireland. For example, collaboration takes place at an earlier stage here, with Berlin-based companies looking to partner with the right company and grow with them.

Thus, fast-growing start-ups can become multinationals very quickly. For instance, the aforementioned Zalando, founded eight years ago, now employs 10,000 people with international operations, including a strategic development centre in Dublin.

A software firm founder told me he sources from two Irish companies, despite having fewer than 15 employees himself. He regards this as only the start of his international partnerships.

Our seminar also heard that funding is becoming more specialised and more open to cross-border investment. While Ireland has a strong background in seed and early-stage funding, Berlin is strong at later stages.

Opportunities for Irish companies

There are opportunities for Irish companies to take advantage, particularly in strategic investment from the VC arms of large German companies. This can open up ready access to the parent company. VCs in Europe are also more willing to invest abroad without requiring companies relocate nearby – ideal for Irish companies interested in scaling.

Another feature of the tech scene here that will please every entrepreneur is that SMEs generally make decisions faster than larger, traditional companies. One Irish company that took part in our programme last month signed a deal here within 10 days.

Those in the Berlin tech cluster recognise Ireland’s scene is different but complementary to their own. Government body Berlin Partner has launched a “start-up alliance” linking their cluster with others worldwide. The door is wide open here to the well-reputed Irish provided they are prepared to get with the philosophy of Vorsprung durch Kollaboration.

Guest Blog: Ireland’s International Traders Remain Optimistic for 2016

Commenting on HSBC’s 2016 Trade Confidence Survey, CEO of HSBC Ireland, Alan Duffy, says that Irish businesses remain optimistic about trade prospects but have more confidence in the local than the global outlook.

It is a measure of how far we have come as an economy that HSBC’s 2016 Trade Confidence Survey of 24 global markets saw Ireland at the top end of the rankings for positivity around its local economic outlook.

We have all seen that the combination of wage restraint during the crisis years and the exchange rate effects of the ECB’s programme of Quantitative Easing have both provided a lift to Irish competitiveness.

Whilst the outlook was inevitably moderate as the value of the euro eventually normalised, an economic recovery in advanced economies across the world likely helped sustain a robust performance for Ireland’s export sector. In particular, Irish exporters are well positioned to benefit from solid performances by the UK and US.

Longer term, Irish exports will benefit from growing levels of disposable income in emerging markets, and China will likely become one of our top export destinations in decades to come. In the near term, the advanced economies of Western Europe and the United States continue to be our biggest sources of export demand. As such, Ireland is relatively well placed to withstand any headwinds coming from a slowdown in emerging markets.

Despite these positives, overall exporter optimism had actually eased somewhat in Ireland. This was reflective of reduced optimism in the performance of the global economy. Irish companies expected the global economy to worsen slightly during that period. This slip in confidence levels reflected the deterioration in the global trade environment. World trade growth had slowed sharply that year, with import volumes in leading emerging markets, such as China, Russia and Brazil, weakening significantly.

However, the recent downturn appeared more cyclical than structural in nature. As many of these economies benefit from strong economic fundamentals, they are likely to be an important driver of global economic growth and trade over the medium term.

Perhaps aligned to such caution over the global economy, currency and commodity price volatility had emerged as the top financial risks anticipated by Irish companies. With this in mind, many were looking at strategies to overcome these risks such as negotiating better terms with trade partners and internal cost cutting.

Across Europe, stronger competition is the single most dominant challenge for businesses trading internationally. In line with rising cost pressures and anecdotal reports that companies are reaching the limit on the amount of cost increases they are able to swallow before passing them onto consumers, the emergence of competitors who compete solely on price is outlined as the biggest challenge, with the majority of Irish firms also highlighting it as their main worry.

With such competition becoming a concern, differentiation becomes increasingly important. That is why many Irish corporates are focusing on improving customer satisfaction and employee skill sets as their main objectives for the next six months.

Starting To Export – How to Get Export Ready

The progression from mainly operating in the Irish market to exporting is one of the most transformative and challenging transitions many companies make. Here, co-founders of Monsoon Consulting, Dublin Bharat Sharma and Stephen Kenealy, explain how Enterprise Ireland’s Get Export Ready programme helped them embark on that journey.

What does the company do?

We are one of the leading digital agencies in Ireland offering content and ecommerce solutions that are built on the open source Drupal and Magento content management platforms.

How long have you been exporting?

We’ve been exporting since taking an office in the UK in February 2014.

What was the pivotal point that made you look at exporting?

We were looking at enterprise-level projects, and the Irish market was limited in size, so we decided early on we should attempt to break into the UK market.

What changes did the business have to make to become ‘export-ready’?

We needed to become certified solutions partners in the two technology stacks we work on so that when we were going into pitches against UK firms, we’d be operating on a level playing field. We achieved certification with Magento and are now one of just 17 partners at our level across the UK and Ireland, and the only one here with it. We also became an Acquia enterprise level partner [Acquia makes a popular version of Drupal] and are currently in the process of getting all our developers certified.

Are you targeting any other markets currently?

At the moment it’s just a case of trying the UK and It’s just been a case of trying the UK and seeing where it goes from there. Obviously, the European market would be a target for us on a more long-term basis but we need to get traction in the UK market first to demonstrate a capability there and then to go out further. In terms of the two technologies we focus on, most of the market for these is driven and controlled from the UK and so we need to expand our footprint there and can then hopefully scale from there elsewhere in Europe. In hindsight, focusing on the UK market early in the piece, has proved beneficial as the UK works its way towards Brexit.

What routes to market do you use?
We have channel partnerships that we’ve established with both Acquia and Magento, and they have been good lead generation providers. We’ve also become close allies with service providers who are not our direct competition, but who complement our solutions so there’s a good reference network with them. We also realised early on that opportunities wouldn’t just fall from trees simply because we’d opened up an office in the UK so we engaged with Enterprise Ireland on a sales mentoring programme and that’s been a really great help to us. We are also looking to partner with a company over in England for more lead generation opportunities and we’ve spent a lot of time ourselves flying in and out of London, which has helped us get traction there.

What changes did your business have to make to become export ready?

We invested in some areas such as expanding our team. To support this, we also signed a big lease for an office near Clonskeagh where people can more easily collaborate and together. With the help of Enterprise Ireland, we’ve also looked at how we can fundamentally improve the way we do business and have embraced lean principles in our processes, which has led to a performance and productivity boost of up to 50%.

What advice would you give other would-be exporters?

Don’t take your eye off cash flow or off your existing clients in Ireland.

Any mistakes you’ve made you’d care to share?

I think we charged into the UK expecting things to take off immediately on the basis that we’d been successful in Ireland. If you can get some key references from operational stuff you’re doing here before breaking into the UK and can establish a go-to-market strategy ahead of time, it will serve you well. We didn’t do enough of this early on and it made it difficult to get in the door.

How would you like to see the opportunity you have evolve?

We aim to be one of the largest and most successful e-commerce and content agencies in Europe.

Ceramicx – Using Technology Transfer for New Product Development

“Licensing new technology has enabled Ceramicx to develop cutting-edge innovation that will power the company’s latest wave of international growth.”

The Aston Martin BD9 touring car contains aluminium panels alongside fibre-reinforced plastic panels that are bound together with super-strength adhesive, developed by Irish company Ceramicx through an infrared heating process.

The West Cork-based company is now announcing a world-first in launching the Herschel, a machine that measures and maps infrared heating.

“Infrared is invisible, of course, so it’s a hard thing to quantify. Usually people measure infrared output as the heat produced as a secondary reaction, but the Herschel maps the output of an emitter in watts [power] per cm2,” explains Cathal Wilson, director at Ceramicx.

The technology, first pioneered at Trinity College Dublin’s Manufacturing Research Facility, is named after William Herschel, the German-born astronomer who moved to Britain in the eighteenth century and became famous for his large telescopes. He also discovered infrared radiation and the planet Uranus.

The licensing deal with Ceramicx and subsequent process of technology transfer was the fruit of an Innovation Partnership, part funded by Enterprise Ireland. In turn, it has unleashed a new avenue for international sales for the West Cork company.

Ceramicx is up-skilling its staff of 63 and preparing to double its floor space, adding further labs, offices and manufacturing capacity. The Ballydehob firm is no newbie, though. The company has been perfecting its infrared heat work for 25 years, and it exports to 65 countries, with key markets being China, Germany, UK and the US.

Ceramicx will use the breakthrough technology to further refine the infrared heaters and ovens it develops in-house for food and other manufacturers. But the company also expects demand for Herschel as a test instrument for large companies that rely on infrared energy in manufacturing.

Like baking a cake, there is a heat recipe in every material, and there are a number of variables that must be controlled to get the best, most efficient and most cost-effective solution. The Herschel will allow manufacturers to refine the dial on their heat recipe with amazing precision.

“There are probably five or six major companies in the world that would be interested in this new technology,” Wilson says. These include the likes of Corning Glass, European Aerospace, Boeing and leading-edge tech companies serving likes of NASA.

The company came to realise the need for a machine like Herschel after it had worked through a challenging assignment developing a finished oven for Corning Inc., the makers of the Gorilla Glass used in mobile devices such as the Apple and Samsung smartphones. A curved piece of glass 0.7mm-thick was required, and the initial calculation and trial stages of the glass finishing project engaged five Ceramicx engineers for over a week. “If I had been able to put the problem in front of the Herschel, I could essentially have had the figures immediately,” Wilson explains.

Within its own processes, the machine is enabling Ceramicx to create more energy efficient thermoforming machines for industry.

Another application is in the production of energy efficient ovens for manufacturers of foods such as biscuits, cereals and pizzas. Ceramicx has developed 12 food-industry related patents for Black and Decker, and the Irish company holds the commercial rights for the application of these patents in industrial-scale projects in Europe.

In the case of the Aston Martin BD9, Ceramicx designed and built not only a radiant infrared emitter, but it came up with the best possible solution so that the energy would be adequately absorbed, and the cure would take place in sympathy with the best chemical and mechanical characteristic of the bond. The result is an adhesive bond stronger than a weld, explains Wilson.

Commenting on the impact of Herschel, Cathal’s father, Ceramicx founder and managing director Frank Wilson observes: “For thousands of years, man has played with steel, trying out various heat works to it to make it suitable for certain jobs. In recent years, the plastics industry and other materials sectors have begun to realise that there is a whole range of heat work that can also be applied to improve the performance these materials also.” For these industries, he says, the benefits will be immeasurable.