Marina Donohoe, Director UK & Northern Europe at Enterprise Ireland, describes how the UK’s Northern Powerhouse project is creating opportunities for Irish companies.
The north of England is engaged in a historic transformation from an industrial past to a bright future that connects vibrant cities and globally competitive commercial activities. The scale of those activities should not be underestimated.
Growing faster than anywhere else in the UK, if the north of England was a country, it would be the 10th largest economy in Europe, exporting €56.4 billion worth of goods each year and accounting for nearly 20% of the UK’s overall gross value add (GVA).
The UK potential
The opportunities set out in Enterprise Ireland’s recent Northern Powerhouse report play to the strengths of Irish companies, particularly in the construction, life sciences, and digital sectors.
Northern Powerhouse is a government initiative that aims to rebalance the UK’s economy, by maximising the combined potential of the north of England’s cities and regions, including Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield and Tees Valley, an area of approximately 14,400 square miles with a population of 14.9 million people. The goal is to create a collection of modern cities sufficiently close to each other that ‘combined they can take on the world’.
The initiative, first launched in 2016, is delivering substantial public investment, with a focus on improving transport infrastructure between cities in the north of England and supporting economic activities around emerging capabilities. As a result, Northern Powerhouse is creating a wide range of business opportunities suited to the strengths of Irish exporters.
Theresa Grant, CEO of Trafford Council, comments, “Irish companies are long-standing trading partners to the north of England, contributing to its robust economy and reaffirming Ireland’s successful relationship to this part of the UK. With rail links like HS2 and HS3 and improved worldwide air connectivity opening up, enabling the cities in the Northern Powerhouse to grow and prosper, we anticipate the Anglo/Irish partnership will grow even stronger, as major opportunities to continue to work together and collaborate present themselves.”
The most significant opportunities are likely to arise from new economic activities and clusters, which are largely based on science and innovation. With the European Commission’s 2017 Innovation Scorecard ranking Irish SMEs first for innovation, Irish companies have a leading position internationally.
Significant growth for Irish companies
Brian Crowley, CEO of TTM Healthcare, says, “Since 2012, the TTM Group has been working with NHS trusts, private hospitals and charitable organisations across the north of England, supporting more than twenty clients and employing 110 permanent and temporary staff. We see this region as of one of the fastest in growth terms for TTM, as we work with amazingly innovative and progressive healthcare organisations. Through the support of Enterprise Ireland and Northern Powerhouse, Irish Small and Medium Enterprises can provide modern, innovative and high-quality services across several industries which enhance the growth of the economy in the north of England.”
Ardmac, a construction specialist that works with leading companies across the pharma and technology sectors, has an office in Manchester and a portfolio of clients across the north of England. Ronan Quinn, CEO of Ardmac, comments, “Our business has seen considerable growth in the region in recent years. A significant amount of that business has come from building a shared vision of what our clients want to achieve. The ease of travel between the north of England and our offices mean that we can be face to face with a client within an hour – a key benefit for those working across multiple territories.”
Notwithstanding the threat of Brexit, the UK’s economy is in growth mode and remains Ireland’s most significant export market. Enterprise Ireland is focused on supporting Irish companies to consolidate and grow exports to the UK market, while also supporting them to diversify their export markets across the globe.
Companies interested in exploring opportunities should begin by downloading the Northern Powerhouse report.
This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.