Sustainability – Sisk Talks Success with GreenPlus

The relationship between the construction industry and the built environment and consumption of natural resources on the one hand and sustainable development on the other is both complex and significant.

Established back in 1859, John Sisk & Son – Building and Civil Engineering Design and Construction Services is one of Ireland’s most recognisable companies in the sector.  Headquartered in Ireland, with operations across the UK and Europe, the company places a strong emphasis on performance, quality, teamwork and a ‘hands-on’ management approach.

Sisk were the first contractors / builders in Ireland and the UK to achieve ISO 50001 certification in energy management. Their decision to become involved with the Enterprise Ireland GreenPlus scheme “really opened our eyes to the whole scope of energy management in our industry which until then had been very much overlooked,” explains Sisk Group Energy Manager, Ian O’Connor, who is recognised as an international leader in construction sustainability and was named ‘Private Sector Energy Manager 2020 at the EMA (Energy Managers Association) awards.

 

“It was very enlightening”

“It started with ISO 50001 but we took our initial learnings from this, developed them further and expanded our scope to take a more forensic approach to monitoring our energy use.  This identified areas of significant energy savings.  We started to measure but realised we needed to know more. We needed to analyse our energy use – when it was used, how much was being used and which processes were using the energy.  It was very enlightening”.

 

21 Targets Linked to the SDGs

Last year Sisk launched their 2030 Sustainability Roadmap ‘Building Today, Caring for Tomorrow’.  Within that there are 21 clear and ambitious targets linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “Industry collaboration is an important part of this. While we set these targets, we alone can’t achieve them.  We need the supply chain and our suppliers to come along on this journey with us. A rising tide lifts all boats and by doing this we hope to lead the way and we want people to join us on the journey.”

Ian O’Connor is adamant that visibility and clear messaging of the Sisk vision is the way forward.  “We are very keen to demonstrate to all stakeholders of our business – clients, our employees, subcontractors, communities – what we are going to do to care for the environment in which we work.  We plan to be fully carbon neutral by 2030. By 2024 50% of our fleet will be electric and by 2030 there will be no combustion engines within the fleet”.

The company also has some exciting and innovative ideas around digital technology, innovation and biodiversity.  In 2029 the business celebrates 170 years and to celebrate plans to plant a massive 1.7 million trees by 2030 in Ireland and the UK.  The first of those trees was planted in April this year.

Advising other companies of the benefits of getting involved with the Enterprise Ireland GreenPlus programme he states:

“I would say it’s really important to know where you are at the moment. Get a baseline and measure your impact on the environment, on energy use and on carbon emissions.  Set targets and then develop an action plan to start achieving those targets,” he recommends.

Ian O’Connor acknowledges that in addition to the help from Enterprise Ireland GreenPlus, the achievements to date wouldn’t have been possible without everybody at Sisk.  “We wouldn’t have had the launch of our roadmap if support hadn’t come from the very top – from our shareholders to our forward thinking management team and the ‘boots on the ground’ and staff in the office.  Ultimately, most of the people that work at Sisk are based on construction sites these are the people that will have a huge contribution to our efforts” he said.  “We know that our targets are ambitious but there is a climate emergency and we hope Sisk can play a significant part in overcoming this challenge.”

 

To get your business ready for a green future visit Climate Enterprise Action Fund or contact the Climate Action Team

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.”

One Planet. One Health – Danone and GreenPlus

“The health of people and the planet are intertwined.  You can’t have one without the other”, states Mark Stafford, Nature and Sustainability Manager at Danone, Wexford.

Danone’s mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible with high quality products contributing to all life stages. This is where sustainability and the environment comes in and it is one of the four key pillars at the company – they have now adopted ‘nature’ as a business fundamental for all supply points and sustainability roadmaps for their brands.

The company used Enterprise Ireland’s GreenPlus scheme to empower line management and teams to manage and improve energy performance at basic unit level and they have now achieved certification to the prestigious ISO 50001 International Energy Management Standard.  This standard aims to help organisations to continually reduce their energy use and therefore their energy costs and their greenhouse gas emissions.

Through their work with GreenPlus, the Energy Management System (EnMS) at Danone has now been implemented successfully across the site, system accreditation has taken place and a number of energy saving opportunities have been identified. This has enabled the company to implement solutions and their annual energy savings are now measured and verified.

So how was their journey with Enterprise Ireland’s GreenPlus and what were their main challenges? Peter Pearson, Nature Co-ordinator explains: “We started looking at the gaps and found the biggest gap was metering.  Data monitoring and reporting systems presented a challenge as the metering available on-site did not satisfy our requirements with regard to reporting detail and frequency”.

“Going down the ISO 50001 route focused our minds on the areas we needed to tackle. It raised awareness within the company.  It identified savings and improved our knowledge on the use of energy onsite.  We found the process easy to navigate and it was fairly straightforward. It was great to have the support of Enterprise Ireland and it was very helpful.”

Danone aims to become carbon zero across their value chain by 2050 and to do that all elements of the business need to become carbon neutral. “Our plant in Co. Wexford has become the first infant formula production site in the world to be certified as carbon neutral.”

“Our net zero carbon rating has been certified by the Carbon Trust, an independent global climate change and sustainability consultancy,”  said Stafford

Explaining the benefits across Danone of engaging with GreenPlus, he pointed out that “We needed buy in from management which we quickly achieved and it was also important to make all employees aware of where we needed to get to and our ambitions. We weren’t surprised that through the GreenPlus process we identified many opportunities – we knew they were there but just didn’t have visibility of them.  The process helped us to pinpoint exactly where we needed to make improvements”.

“As part of our roadmap for the project there was also a huge focus on energy reduction and efficiencies and implementation of the ISO 50001 was crucial to that journey”.

From a business perspective, Mark Stafford and Peter Pearson point out that consumers and customers are looking for sustainability more and more and all the research backs this up.  The expectation is there and that goes for all activities within a company.

“The feedback is that people want more sustainably produced products and environmentally friendly products.” 

“All employees are now aware of where we need to get to.  We have nature champions across our business units and they are now bringing in their own ideas in relation to sustainability and the environment for our brands.  There are a lot of projects now going on in the company. This includes our intention for all of our supply points and business units to be BCorp certified. We know where we are and where we need to get to and what we want to achieve.  We are very focused.”

 To get your business ready for a green future visit Climate Enterprise Action Fund or contact the Climate Action Team

Changing Construction – How GreenStart has Powered Passive Sills

Cork-based company Passive Sills was created with a vision of making changes in the construction industry

The company could not be more timely in their mission as together building and construction are said to be responsible for a massive 39% of all carbon emissions in the world right now.  Passive Sills produces thermally efficient building products and offers environmentally friendly building materials and product options to the construction industry.

Globally, leading cities and companies are committing to a highly efficient and decarbonised building stock by 2050 but put simply – the Paris Agreement is demanding an even more ambitious built environment strategy than is currently there and for this to happen strong implementation is required.

The European Commission has recognised the vital role that the built environment sector can play in delivering the requirements of the EU2050 long-term strategy to become climate-neutral.

Passive Sills wanted to push forward on this with the help of Enterprise Ireland GreenStart funding and gain a clear picture of the environmental impact of manufacturing their products.

“In the construction industry, everything is going towards zero carbon emissions.  It’s going to be a requirement in EU legislation anyway and taking into account the Paris agreement and what this country, the world and individual companies are doing to reduce emissions, it made sense for us to get on board as soon as possible”, explains spokesperson Janice O’Leary.

“We want to spread the word and change the way people think when they are building. They have the option to move away from heavy concrete and go for lightweight more thermally efficient options.  New Nearly Zero Energy Building (NZEB) standards requirements are a reality now and people are making more informed choices as it’s all about future proofing.  Our products including our insulated window sills and oversills suit most types of construction projects, have a lower carbon footprint and are 64% more thermally efficient than concrete, reducing cold bridging. They also have almost half the embodied carbon of concrete alternatives.”

 

Support from GreenStart

So how did Enterprise Ireland GreenStart support Passive Sills?  The company had very clear goals – to carry out a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of their products to understand clearly all the processes and materials that have an impact on the environment and to produce a Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and a public Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) which now sits proudly on their website. Passive Sills also wanted to produce an Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF) for their custom manufacturing facility in Youghal.  In addition, they wanted to receive access and training for a new online reporting tool called Ecochain, to generate detailed reports for clients.

“The Enterprise Ireland GreenStart grant helped us to nail all of this down. While we needed a lot of information for certain calculations and it did take time, we were able to calculate our carbon footprint and were pleasantly surprised with some of the results that we found. We have now also launched a new website – lightweightmouldings.ie – offering a full range of lightweight decorative mouldings and we’re expanding our product range.”

“The GreenStart process made us think in a slightly different way.  All of this was something that we would have had to do in the future anyway – specifically we knew the requirement for an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) would be coming down the line – and Enterprise Ireland gave us a push to get it done now.”

“We were more than happy with the process and what we achieved and we would highly recommend the process to other businesses.”

 

To get your business ready for a green future visit Climate Enterprise Action Fund or contact the Climate Action Team

 

Ground-Breaking BidX1: Building GHG Strategy with GreenStart

Fast-moving digital property company BidX1 is changing the way property is bought and sold, making the process more transparent, efficient and convenient for users.

The firm has developed an innovative digital platform, tailored specifically for real estate transactions, and has sold over 10,000 properties to date, raising more than €2bn.

This rapidly expanding company, which is transforming the property landscape through technology has also taken a forward-thinking approach to climate action and sustainability.  BidX1 embarked on the Enterprise Ireland GreenStart programme to help them develop a GHG Emissions and Carbon Strategy – with the goal of ensuring that environmental principles are embedded in their business model.

The company, which is headquartered in Dublin and has operations in the UK, Spain, South Africa and Cyprus, was founded on an inherently sustainable ethos.  “We knew we were doing well from a sustainability perspective, but we didn’t have precise metrics to work with because we have been in such a high-growth phase for the past few years.”

“We’ve now established a Carbon strategy and have calculated our emissions across every market, identifying hotspots and key areas for improvement” explains Nicole Pomeroy, Head of Communications. 

While 2020 and the global pandemic was a watershed for traditional real estate agents, it was not a significant transition for BidX1 who pioneered a fully digital model in 2015.

“We have developed a digital platform which connects users across the globe with property investment opportunities in 5 markets – and enables them to complete the entire transaction online. We wanted to match that level of innovation and ambition in our environmental policies, putting climate action at the forefront of our decisions as we expand existing operations and also enter new markets”, she explained.

Passion for sustainability

Recommending the Enterprise Ireland GreenStart process she said: “All that is needed to start the process is somebody who is passionate and committed – and who is willing to bring that passion throughout the company” referring to her colleague Eanna Glynn who is part of the finance team and the Head of Sustainability at BidX1.

Eanna is passionate about sustainability and environmental issues and has led the charge within BidX1 with the full support of CEO Stephen McCarthy and the management team.  “We looked specifically at greenhouse gas emissions for the GreenStart process. I wanted to aim for carbon neutrality and when I spoke to the management team, they encouraged me to figure out what that journey would look like for us. We kickstarted that with a carbon assessment. It did seem daunting at first but once we had connected with our advisors via GreenStart, who are experts in this field, the process became quite seamless,” he explained.

“We have set up a dedicated sustainability team within the company with a sustainability lead in each of our markets as we had to think globally. GreenStart with Enterprise Ireland was the starting point for that.  We have been focussed internally so far but we will now be assessing more of our suppliers to encourage change externally too”.

They have been blown away by the enthusiasm within BidX1.  “It has had a snowball effect – it’s not just us driving this – it’s everybody.  We always thought we would be pushing a rock up a hill but for us the rock is already at the top of that hill! There is such support and enthusiasm internally – and while we have said that we can’t do everything all at once when it comes to sustainability – that enthusiasm is a good problem to have!”

The advice from BidX1 to other companies starting out on their green transformation journey is: “Don’t be afraid. Get started, with the right advice and assistance from Enterprise Ireland. Don’t think that because you are a professional services company or office-based firm that it’s not for you and it’s not relevant. It is. Until you start measuring and are clear on your own figures and targets, you cannot effect meaningful change.  It’s not just manufacturing companies that have to race to achieve the 2050 goals – it’s everybody.”

 

To get your business ready for a green future visit Climate Enterprise Action Fund or contact the Climate Action Team

 

 

Stryve makes strides in Poland

Poland has made huge progress in recent years to become a regional ICT powerhouse. Its economy has been growing for decades, even after the financial crisis, and large educated population attracted investments in new sectors such as global business services that in turn drove growth of ICT skills and infrastructure. Exports of ICT services have been steadily increasing from €3.2bn 2014 to€7.7bn EUR in 2019.

Growth of the ICT sector will be accelerated even more with news from Google and Microsoft announcing that they will build hyperscale data centres in Poland, their first in CEE region. Microsoft’s $1bn investment in the data centre in Poland will also cover creating critical skills and learning opportunities for an estimated 150,000 employees, partners and students. The skills development program will include training, e-learning programs, workshops and hackathons on cloud computing, developing with AI and machine learning technologies, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT). Since Google is planning similar scale of activity in utilizing its data centre, this creates huge opportunities for Irish companies such as Stryve, which as certified experts in Cloud Computing & Data Security has the expertise and products in cloud technologies and cybersecurity that will be essential  for the digital transformation of Polish and international businesses operating in the region.

 

International Expansion

While Stryve already had a presence in Poland, the company availed of support from Enterprise Ireland, leveraging their market expertise and local network to gain introductions to enterprise customers and ICT decision makers to drive opportunities for their cloud and cybersecurity products.

“Poland has established itself as a significant centre for science and technology”. says Andrew Tobin, CEO of Stryve

“It is a known hub of research and development in the EU, with many companies engaged in information technology and business process outsourcing. Poland in recent years has had one of the fastest growing economies in Europe and has increased demand for cloud services. It is the digital heart of CEE.

Tobin adds “With this in mind, Poland makes an ideal strategic location for Stryve to continue our international expansion.”

 

Digital Transformation

2021 is a time of challenge and opportunity for small businesses who want to prioritize their digital transformation journeys. Fortunately, tools that weren’t seen as feasible for small businesses due to costs and resources are now becoming the norm for SMEs, integration of their workflows with cybersecurity is certainly one of them.

Stryve understands that protecting data is more important than ever with backup literally becoming recognised as the last line of defence for data protection, especially given the increase in ransomware and hack attacks.  The company also recognises and communicates the importance of having a disaster recovery solution in place. Disaster recovery is often mistaken for something that is needed only in the most exceptional circumstances, when something goes wrong or misfortune strikes. In reality, a disaster recovery solution needs to be implemented during ordinary times so that when you truly need it, it can step up to the task and ensure that in the midst of a high pressure situation, losing data is one less thing you and your organisation need to worry about.

For more information about doing business in Poland download our Going Global guide for Poland.

 

 

 

Transport & Logistics Industry Update – Webinar


The Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and the re-shaping of transport routes brought a very turbulent start to 2021. Logistics and transportation companies involved in the movement, storage and flow of goods have been directly impacted and had to rapidly adapt to changing business landscape. Irish companies exporting their products or importing components or raw materials need to follow and understand these trends to stay competitive.

This Enterprise Ireland webinar identifies these challenges and examines current developments with a panel of industry experts.

The webinar is chaired by Enterprise Ireland’s Director UK & Northern Europe Marina Donohoe with insights from:

 • Gopal R, Global Leader, Supply Chain & Logistics, Frost & Sullivan

• John Ward, Managing Director, Maurice Ward & Co. Ltd Ireland

• Richard Nolan, CEO, Nolan Transport – Nolan Group

 

Register now to attend the webinar.

Cutting costs and reducing food waste: Positive Carbon’s solution for the hotel industry

We are all becoming more and more aware of our impact on the world, yet when it comes to business, profit often takes precedence. But if you can form a business that makes profit and helps the environment – then you’re onto a winner.

This year, Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF) is encouraging applications from eligible companies that address the challenges and opportunities relating to climate change. “It’s really exciting to see more environmentally focused businesses coming through,” says Aisling Kirwan, co-founder and Director of Operations at Positive Carbon, a recent recipient of funding through the CSF. “If you can bring together a business model while answering environmental concerns, it’s a win-win. And people are becoming more aware of the consequences of their actions and their impact on the world around them.”

Positive Carbon is a great example of a business looking to have a positive impact on the environment with a product that saves money for their customers. Aimed at the hotel market, Positive Carbon manufactures a solution to reduce food waste in as simple a way as possible.

“From research, we found that hotels were the biggest wasters of food by far,” Aisling explains. “From talking to chefs and getting feedback from general managers, we came up with a solution that we thought would work the best in a busy kitchen, with the aim of halving food waste. A hotel, on average, spends €200,000 a year on food that ends up in the bin; if we can halve this, we can help the hotel save money while reducing the environmental impact of the waste.

“Our solution is a fully automated food waste monitoring system. A weighing scales fits under any bin in any kitchen and sitting alongside that is a camera that looks directly into the bin. When waste is thrown into the bin, the scales weighs it while the camera takes a picture for identification. All of that information is collected and displayed for the client, so they can see exactly what is being thrown away. For instance, the information might reveal that 13 kilos of chicken was thrown away today – this clearly needs addressing. Avoidable food waste accounts for 66% of the waste in hotels, and with functions, that number shoots up to 87% – it’s an absolutely massive amount of waste, both food and money.

The United Nations has said that if we can reduce food waste, this is the single most effective thing we can do to reduce CO2 – and it’s such a quick and easy and achievable fix.says Kirwan.

 

CSF applications – a demanding, but rewarding process

With a background in the food waste industry working with innovative companies such as FoodCloud, Aisling and her co-founder Mark Kirwan first applied to Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme to see if their solution to reduce food waste could become a viable business; Positive Carbon then opened for business in May 2020.

“The CSF felt like the logical next step for us,” says Aisling. 

“We used the funds mostly for product development, to bring out a new version of the product, and then to upscale manufacturing as we are bringing onboard a number of new hotels over the next few months.

“I’m also taking part in the Innovate programme as part of that, the three-month accelerator programme for women entrepreneurs delivered by Dublin Business Innovation Centre in partnership with Enterprise Ireland, which has been really great. It’s good to be in an environment where you can talk about any issues or thrash out solutions.”

Like many other CSF recipients, Aisling says the application process was a rewarding exercise. “I definitely wouldn’t say it was easy! There are a lot of different stages to it, but it was also very enjoyable. It made us really think what we were trying to achieve in our business, get that down on paper and then be able to pitch our plan to a panel as well – and to be confident enough to answer questions. It’s definitely a demanding process but you get a lot out of it as well.”

 

Covid – time to prepare

Launching a new business during the Covid-19 pandemic certainly brings its challenges but for Positive Carbon it also gave them time to prepare. “With Covid-19 limiting hotel business, we’ve had the chance to sit down with general managers for a chat about our product,” says Aisling. “People are so generous with their time; it’s nerve-wracking to call up someone out of the blue but people are happy to talk to you and give you really valuable advice and feedback.”

Aisling says that the reaction from the industry has been positive – and no wonder, as this product has the potential to save businesses a massive amount of money, something that the beleaguered hotel industry will welcome. “After such a difficult year, hotels are excited to try new things. Food waste is such an unnecessary cost – and it’s not just the cost of the food itself, it’s the cost of the staff time in prepping, cooking and storing the food. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that when you take in all the factors involved in food waste, the true cost is €5,000 a ton.”

Looking to the future, the team at Positive Carbon is gearing up for a busy year. “We have our first product live in the Grand Hotel in Malahide; once everything is back open, that will be fully operational. We also have four independent hotels and a hotel group interested in starting in the next couple of weeks. So we’ll be busy!

“We’ve come a long way in the last few months, and that’s with the support of Enterprise Ireland and the CSF.” says Kirwan.

Apply for Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund – find the application form and eligibility criteria here.

 

Read how Flynn built its international presence

This time last year, none of us were aware of the disaster which was about to unfold across the globe. But 12 months on, industry across every sector is still reeling from the impact of the pandemic which continues to make its presence felt.

But while some businesses were affected more than others, the construction sector in many areas of the world, has continued to carry out essential works and this, according to Cormac McKenna of Flynn, a Dublin based international construction company, has been beneficial for many companies which have expanded outside Ireland.

“We have been active in mainland Europe for four years and have branches in Denmark and Germany,” says McKenna, who has been with the company for 12 years. “We are predominantly in the data centre sector in mainland Europe and our offices have a blend of both Irish and local staff.

“We have also been active in the UK for nearly three years and have a regional office in London, servicing this market in the general contracting, fit-out and data centre markets.”

McKenna, a director with Flynn, oversees operations in Dublin and mainland Europe and says the move outside Ireland came about as a result of building on existing relationships and pitching the expertise the firm was confident would add value to European and UK projects.

“Our network of clients, design teams and traditional contactor partners have brought us data centre opportunities in Denmark initially – and these led to further operations in Northern Europe, the Nordics and the Benelux regions,” he says. “We are fortunate to have been able to continue working in Europe during the pandemic as it affected Irish business badly because the sector has been shut down twice during national lockdowns.

“Construction has continued in both the UK and Germany and because we have been working on data centres, which are deemed essential.

The main difficulty has been getting workforce to and from sites as every jurisdiction has its own restrictions – so in some places there are quarantine regulations and in other countries, there is a requirement to provide a negative PCR test. Everywhere is different, but you just have to roll with the punches, be nimble and able to change approach as and when is necessary. And we have relied heavily on our workforce to be flexible in their approach.”

Of course it hasn’t all been plain sailing as operating in different countries can be challenging, even without a global pandemic.

“Apart from the obvious challenges to be overcome such as supply chain, logistics, legislative issues, taxation, industrial relations and nuances in the construction regulations in any new jurisdiction we enter, working overseas also raises the additional challenge of ensuring that operations in remote locations are delivered with same culture and quality that we insist on,” says McKenna.

 

Building an international presence

“The main issues we have faced were around sourcing supply chain and getting to grips with local legislation from an industrial relations perspective and contract law perspective. But our auditors and accountants are Grant Thornton who have an international presence, which gives us a lot of satisfaction and comfort in knowing that our approach is correct.

“We have opened offices in London, Copenhagen and Frankfurt. And Enterprise Ireland and our international auditors and accountants have been key to the successful establishment of a foothold in these markets.  The key to success has also been leaning heavily on our network and ensuring we asked plenty of questions of the right people.”

Along with keeping its European interests ticking over, Flynn has also been looking after its clients here at home – but the various lockdowns have made this difficult at times.

“Like all businesses in construction, Covid 19 has affected our operations,” says McKenna. “We, like many companies, have faced difficulties and have faced additional costs for control measures and also to cover for staff who either contracted Covid or were close contacts of someone with the virus.  But we managed to get through the past year by investing in people and systems along with physical controls on our sites to ensure we have industry leading controls and management systems in place.

“Our business had well tested systems for remote working and collaboration to allow our project teams and regional offices to communicate effectively.  And as working restrictions were imposed, these existing systems have paid real dividends and we feel we are working as effectively as possible while keeping our teams safe.

The Dublin based firm has been in business for over 16 years and prides itself in the quality of its people and the prestige of its clients.  And according to McKenna, Enterprise Ireland has helped with this success.

“Flynn is predominantly a main contractor but over the past five years we have brought our main contracting experience to package contracting in the Hyperscale Data Centre Market,” says the company director. “And we feel the expertise in bringing teams of trusted trade contractors together and managing the entire CSA solution for our clients, brings tangible added value to any Hyperscale DC we have been involved in.

“Enterprise Ireland has been a key partner in our international growth. Their representatives are always at the end of the phone for advice and have provided key introductions in local authorities, supply chain parties and in some instances leads for new business.  They have also provided tangible supports from a training and marketing perspective.

“In addition, we found the Market Discovery Fund and some of the supports we got in the marketing field to be very effective. Some of the introductions they made for us in both Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK was a great help. And also, just having someone at the other end of the phone to bounce ideas off, has been invaluable.”

The company has over 140 employees across Ireland and Europe and is currently looking to further its portfolio with opportunities in Ireland, UK and Mainland Europe. and McKenna says while 2021 may be a difficult time for construction firms to be thinking of expanding abroad, once the current crisis is over, there could be plenty of opportunity for Irish companies.

“There is a definite advantage to being an Irish company overseas, particularly one with Irish employees as we are known for having the mindset of getting things done,” he says. “In the high tech and data centre world, schedule is key and the Irish work ethic of doing what you say you will do and doing it on time, is a great advantage as we can be trusted to get the job done.

“Our aim so to grow our client base across Europe, to grow our team and to bring added value to future data centre projects.  My advice to firms thinking of doing the same, would be to complete extensive research in the jurisdiction you are targeting and use the Enterprise Ireland team as they provide a lot of useful information and contacts.”

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