UK and the Nordics

Irish exporters can find ample opportunity in both the UK and the Nordics

While our new trading relationship with our closest neighbours has caused some challenges for Irish companies, the UK undoubtedly remains a critically important market for Irish industry, and an important first export market.

 

In fact, at the recent International Markets Week event run by Enterprise Ireland in the RDS, one of Ireland’s biggest annual business events, new exporters and start-ups comprised two thirds of the Irish companies meeting with the organisation’s team of UK market advisers. Despite evident challenges, this market is still hugely attractive to Irish exporters.

 

It’s not surprising, when we consider that the UK and the Nordic markets collectively accounted for €9.6 billion of global exports from Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in 2021. That represented 35% of all exports from Enterprise Ireland-supported companies last year, and an increase of €1.38 billion on the previous year.

 

Despite the additional complexities since Brexit, it’s clear that the UK remains the dominant market for many of the companies supported by Enterprise Ireland, says Marina Donohoe, Regional Director UK, Nordics & Global Procurement, Enterprise Ireland.

 

“It remains a crucial market for companies to scale in and to use as a stepping-stone to further export markets. One key reason for that is the strong reputation of Irish companies in Britain, and the resilience and agility they’ve shown in the face of recent challenges,” she says. “One key reason for that is the strong reputation of Irish companies in Britain, and the resilience and agility they’ve shown in the face of recent challenges.”

Irish exporters thriving across sectors

As we build on the strong links that have been in place between our countries for centuries, we’re also seeing a new generation of exporters across sectors such as digital technologies, renewable energy and modular construction.

 

Likewise, in London, which remains the financial services capital of Europe, Irish companies specialising in digital finance and payment technology have an impressive reputation in this highly regulated industry.

 

“Consumer retail is another thriving sector for Irish companies exporting to the UK,” explains Marina.

 

“In the past decade, we’ve seen brands such as Therapie, Max Benjamin, Pestle & Mortar and Gym+Coffee become really well established there. And recently, the hugely popular Irish beauty brand Sculpted by Aimee has also launched in Boots stores across the UK.  It’s also worth bearing in mind that the UK is the third largest e-commerce market in the world.”

Scaling from across the UK

We’re also seeing more and more Irish exporters who appreciate the value of starting their UK operations in cities such as Liverpool and Manchester, and scaling from there. In these locations in particular, they benefit from long-standing relationships between the cities and Ireland.

 

Throughout the UK, Irish companies employ 117,000 people, making an important economic impact in their nearest market. Enterprise Ireland has expanded its team in the UK in recent years, opening a new office in Manchester in 2018 and planning to expand our footprint to Scotland in 2023.

Nordics prove accessible for Irish firms

Exports to the Nordics from Enterprise Ireland-supported companies are also growing rapidly, and have risen from €442m in 2011 to €1.24 billion in 2021.

 

“While there is a preconception in Ireland that these markets (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland) are expensive and difficult to access, once companies start to do business in the region, they find it is much more accessible than they initially thought,” says Marina.

 

In fact, English is widely spoken and customers in the Nordics are willing to pay for innovation, with particular opportunities for Irish firms across high tech construction, life sciences, digital technologies and consumer retail.

 

“As these markets combined represent the 11th largest economy in the world, they’re a natural focus for consideration for any Irish business seeking to expand its internationalisation focus,” Marina adds.

Expanding services across the Nordics

Reflecting the strong demand for support and the clear market potential, Enterprise Ireland expanded the team, opened its office in Copenhagen in 2019 and established a wider network of pathfinders throughout the region. We also plan to extend our operations in the Nordics in 2023.

 

Regardless of the preconceptions, Irish firms may have about doing business in the UK and the Nordics, the statistics clearly tell the story of Irish companies scaling well in these markets.

 

For other Irish businesses keen to emulate this success, we recommend doing focused market research, understanding your value proposition and how to differentiate yourself in these crowded markets, and then committing to them by visiting often and having a presence on the ground.

Enterprise Ireland teams across the region are keen to support clients to enter and scale in these critically important near and accessible export markets

Learn more about the opportunities in these markets and get crucial market insights in our Global Ambition deep dives for the UK and the Nordics.

UK Education

UK Education Sector Procurement Report

UK Education

The sector is a complex mix of organisations with differing levels of autonomy and financial control, with local authorities playing a key role. Therefore, the purpose of this report is to explain the structures and governance to make it easier to understand for companies that wish to target products and services to this sector and how the sector procures goods and services. Education spending is the second largest element of public service spending in the UK, representing about £99 billion in 20/21, second only to health spend.

Read the report here.

UK Local Authority Update Report

 

The new report extended the research to look at the specific opportunities available to Irish companies by taking a closer look at the investment plans, budget priorities and organisational changes within authorities.

This document is based on detailed research, combined with our experience, knowledge and personal contacts. It endeavours to provide an up-to-date insight into the sector, taking account of the effects of the pandemic and budget priorities to help Irish companies identify relevant opportunities and target the
right authorities rather than taking a blanket approach.

Read the report here.

place based services

UK Market Analysis of ‘Place’ Based Services – Waste Collection, Treatment and Street Cleansing

 

This report provides details of how local authorities work and where Enterprise Ireland’s client companies should focus efforts to win work and develop a sustainable profitable foothold in the UK. The report focuses on two specific areas:
• Understanding the UK local authority landscape, including the types of local authorities, the roles and responsibilities of elected Members and officers and how they fit in with the decision-making process of procuring the type of ‘place based’ services offered by Enterprise Ireland client companies.
• Undertaking market analysis to identify the local authority procurement horizon/ pipeline for ‘place’ based services, focussing on waste collection, treatment and street cleansing services.

Read the report here.

UK Water Sector: Trends and Opportunities 2022-2025 – Webinar

 

In 2020 the UK water sector embarked on AMP 7, its five-year infrastructural spending cycle worth £51 billion. This sum covers a wide array of areas, from decarbonisation to digital, with plenty of opportunities for businesses across the supply chain to get involved in the sector.

This webinar discusses the trends and opportunities in the sector across the regulator’s five key themes, as well as AMP 8.

Topics discussed:

  • Environmental Protection

  • Carbon Reduction and Resilience

  • Digital Agenda

  • Customer Service

  • Collaboration and Innovation

  • Value for Money

  • The Future of the Sector and AMP 8

    Construction in the UK: A Guide to Legal Challenges and the UKCA Mark – Webinar

     

    In this webinar the speakers discuss some of the main legal and regulatory issues currently facing contractors, employers and suppliers in the construction sector across the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

    This webinar also discusses the UKCA mark, the new UK product marking that will replace the CE mark on 1 January 2023 in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UKCA mark will be required for construction products being placed in the market. We will also discuss the process of how to certify your products with the UKCA marking.

    Speakers Include:

    • Jamie Ritchie, Partner, LK Shields

    • Dominic Jones, Partner, Blake Morgan

    • Lisa Boyd, Construction and Procurement Lawyer, Gateley Tweed LLP and Gateley Legal

    • Robin Byrne, Head of UK Office, NSAI Certification UK

      Net Zero UK GA Agriculture

      Net Zero UK podcast – The UK agriculture sector – Jon Foot, AHDB

      In Enterprise Ireland’s ‘Net Zero UK’ podcast series, we discuss how the UK plans to transition to a net zero economy and the impact this will have on SMEs.

      In the fifth episode, Jon Foot, Head of Environment and Resource Management at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), discusses the latest sustainability trends in the UK agriculture sector.

       

      UK financial services buildings in London, England

      UK financial services: A lucrative market for Irish companies looking for growth

       

      Consumers and companies are still coming to terms with the new restrictions, rules and regulations in the post-Brexit world. The added disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic added even more change into Ireland’s economic relationship with the UK.

      Slowly, things are beginning to settle down. We can see more clearly how our relationship with our most important trading partner has altered since their withdrawal from the EU.

      One industry that has attracted many headlines is financial services, especially in London, which has long been seen as one of the most important financial hubs in the world.

       

      Overview of the UK financial services market

      In the run-up to Brexit, there was much talk of London losing its dominance in financial services as Brexit played out, but this has certainly not been the case.

      Covid-19 had little effect on the sector too. A 3% reduction in output, 2% of eligible staff furloughed – is negligible when compared to other industries such as hospitality.

      The UK remains one of the biggest financial services markets in the sector globally, and there are many exciting opportunities there for ambitious Irish companies.

       

      Areas of opportunity in the UK financial services market

      “One of the biggest areas of opportunity is in technology, as the financial services industry in the UK is undergoing a rapid and wide-ranging modernisation cycle,” explains Jack Finucane Clarke, Senior Market Advisor, UK Financial Services/Fintech.

      “This is partly driven by the pandemic as companies grapple with remote working, retaining or attracting good staff and partly driven by exponential operability offered by AI, natural language processing and API connections.

      “This is great news for Ireland, as we have a strong reputation for innovative technology solutions, especially in fintech and cybersecurity.”

      “The UK financial services industry is looking for a wide range of technology solutions including HR technology, compliance and regtech, payments, bionic underwriting in insurance, process optimisation and especially technology that can open up new revenue streams.”

      Insurance is a sector that is really starting to embrace digitalisation. With more MGAs coming to the market that are entirely technology-based, there are plenty of opportunities.”

      “Irish companies – such as CodeEast, who recently announced a partnership with WTW and Unitek, an early-stage company based out of Malahide – are getting lucrative deals in the space. The reputation of Irish insurtech is growing in the city, and we hope to see more entrepreneurs developing scalable solutions in the future.”

      The growing influence of technology in financial services can be seen in the make-up of financial services boards of management. Previously, these boards were dominated by accountants, lawyers and bankers. Now, there is strong representation from experts in technology, often coming from other industries.

      “This gives a strong indication of the way in which the industry is going,” says Jack.

      “Technology companies should always be careful to focus on the ‘fin’ rather than the ‘tech’ to ensure the solutions are suitable for financial services.”

       

      Remote working in the UK financial services market

      According to Jack, remote working in the industry has also produced plenty of opportunity for Irish companies.

      “While remote working, project managing remotely, and communicating and selling remotely were considered ‘nice to haves’ before the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s now becoming clear that they are here to stay and are now considered essential to compete within the industry and to attract talent.”

      “At Enterprise Ireland, we are working with financial services clients on adjusting their products and processes to suit remote selling.”

      This is still an area with plenty of opportunities for Irish companies with innovative solutions.

       

      Sustainability in the UK financial services market

      Sustainability is also an important area for innovation,” Jack continues. “The market is ripe with opportunities for Irish businesses to take advantage of this development.”

      At a number of recent events in the UK, Enterprise Ireland executives noted that this is a consistent topic of conversation among the most senior personnel in the industry.

      “There is clearly a strong and increasingly urgent need for solutions in the areas of sustainability and environmental, social and corporate governance.”

       

      Entering the UK financial services market

      A growing trend – and one that underlines once again the growing importance of the market for Irish companies – is the move by some Irish companies to set up a presence in the UK.

      This is generally done either to be regulated in the market or to keep a close proximity to their buyers. Most recently, Global Shares and CurrencyFair have established offices in the UK.

       

      Contact Enterprise Ireland’s Jack Finucane Clarke to learn more about the opportunities for Irish companies in the UK financial services market.

      Net Zero UK podcast – The UK construction sector

      Net Zero UK podcast – The UK construction industry – Tim Chapman, Arup

      In Enterprise Ireland’s ‘Net Zero UK’ podcast series, we discuss how the UK plans to transition to a net zero economy and the impact this will have on SMEs.

      In the fourth episode, Tim Chapman, Director of Infrastructure Design at Arup, speaks about what Arup is doing to lower its emissions, changes in the UK construction industry and how supply chain companies can get to the start line of the journey to net zero.

       

      Net Zero UK podcast – The UK construction sector

      Net Zero UK podcast – The UK construction sector – Lara Young, Costain

      In Enterprise Ireland’s ‘Net Zero UK’ podcast series, we discuss how the UK plans to transition to a net zero economy and the impact this will have on SMEs.

      In the third episode, Lara Young, Group Climate Change Director at Costain, speaks about Costain’s climate ambitions, the journey to net zero in the construction sector and the role of the supply chain moving forward.

       

      Net Zero UK podcast – The UK ports sector

      Net Zero UK podcast – The UK ports sector – Lewis McIntyre, Peel Ports

      In Enterprise Ireland’s ‘Net Zero UK’ podcast series, we discuss how the UK plans to transition to a net zero economy and the impact this will have on SMEs.

      In the second episode, Lewis McIntyre, Managing Director of Port Services at Peel Ports, speaks about Peel Ports’ journey to net zero, the UK ports sector’s net zero ambitions and the role that the supply chain has to play as the sector works to reduce its emissions.

       

      Net Zero UK podcast – The UK water sector

      Net Zero UK podcast – The UK water sector – David Riley, Anglian Water

      In Enterprise Ireland’s ‘Net Zero UK’ podcast series, we discuss how the UK plans to transition to a net zero economy and the impact this will have on SMEs.

      In the first episode, David Riley, Head of Carbon Neutrality at Anglian Water, speaks about Anglian Water’s journey to net zero, the UK water sector’s net zero ambitions and the role that the supply chain has to play as the sector works to reduce its emissions.