The Level Project: Promoting gender balance in leadership teams

The Level Project: Promoting gender balance in leadership roles

 

Gender balance, diversity and inclusion is something we strive to promote as much as possible as a society, but in the world of business, having gender balance in a leadership team has been proved to have a very real and positive impact on a company.

As a result, gender balance in management is something that Enterprise Ireland is widely advocating and supporting through a major new initiative, The Level Project.

 

What is The Level Project?

Sheelagh Daly, Enterprise IrelandThe Level Project has its origins in Enterprise Ireland’s Action Plan for Women in Business, which recognised that increasing the number of women in middle and senior management, as well as on boards, leads to more successful, sustainable and profitable businesses. “The Plan saw that there are considerable economic benefits that lie, untapped, in women in their roles both as customers and as talent,” says Sheelagh Daly, Entrepreneurship Manager at Enterprise Ireland. “In essence, by achieving gender balance, a company is tapping into 100% of the talent pool and 100% of the market.”

The findings of the report is reflected in numerous studies that show that gender-balanced leadership teams can help businesses grow on a global scale. But despite all these studies and their clear conclusions, Irish companies are a long way from achieving gender balance in senior teams.

There are numerous reasons why, but in the interests of helping companies progress and work towards their own individual gender-balance goals, The Level Project is a practical initiative that includes an online Action Planning Toolkit. Free to all companies, this toolkit helps companies assess their current situation and put in place real actions to enhance gender balance in senior teams.

“Achieving gender balance is certainly harder in some industries than others, but simply taking some steps to enhance the gender balance of your leadership team can have tangible benefits for your business,” explains Sheelagh.

“For example, visibly championing gender balance can have a positive effect on attracting and retaining talent. Gender balance in leadership also leads to increased creativity and innovation, thanks to diversity in thought and mindset, as well as a greater understanding of your customer base.”

 

Striving for better

These advantages are already being experienced by four early champions of The Level Project.

VRAI is a fast-growing tech firm in the field of data-driven VR simulation training, and believes that a diversity of mindset is essential to help mitigate the complexity of what they are trying to achieve.

Similarly, Spearline, a leader in telecommunication technology, credits a better understanding of their diverse customer base to diversity within their senior teams.

For CLS, Ireland’s largest contract laboratory, having gender balance throughout the company, especially in leadership teams, creates harmony in the workplace, which can only lead to success.

Vivian Farrell, CEO Modular AutomationHowever, achieving gender balance is very much a long-term plan for a lot of companies, especially those in industries that are traditionally male dominated. For example, Shannon-based Modular Automation has recognised that gender balance is hard to reach if girls are not seeing engineering as a viable career choice in school – a key part of their strategy is therefore demonstrating the advantages of studying engineering to girls at Junior Cert stage and lower.

“All four of these companies have implemented very real strategies to enhance gender balance in senior leadership,” says Sheelagh. “While they recognise that this is a long-term project, the advantages of such strategies are already being experienced.”

 

Introducing the Toolkit

A key part of The Level Project is the Action Planning Toolkit, which is suitable for all companies, big and small, whether they are just starting out on their gender balance journey or want to improve and target their efforts even further. The Toolkit consists of six themes (Strategy, Attract, Retain, Develop, Engage, Measure), each of which is divided into two levels according to how advanced a company is. “We recommend that every company should start with the Strategy theme,” explains Sheelagh.

A series of questions is included within each theme; answering ‘No’ to a question presents the user with suggested actions to include in their plan. Each theme also includes links to helpful resources such as guides, templates and expert insights. Once finished, an editable Action Plan for the company can be downloaded, which includes all the actions chosen  as well as space for notes.

The online toolkit can be used free of charge by ALL companies.

Enterprise Ireland client companies can also apply for several supports to help develop and implement their gender balance plan. Details of these supports can be found here or by talking to your Development Advisor.

 

More information on The Level Project, including access to the Action Planning Toolkit and details of financial aids available, can be found here

Three EU flags in front of a Eurozone recovery banner on the Berlaymont building of the European Commission

Eurozone Recovery, Irish Opportunity: How Irish companies can benefit from the EU’s recovery plan

 

Key takeouts

  • NextGenerationEU funding represents an opportunity for Irish companies to break into new markets or scale their presence in existing markets
  • From digital health care and green technology to smart cities and cybersecurity, there are hundreds of Eurozone recovery projects that will be fully funded by the EU
  • The Enterprise Ireland Eurozone team can help you find the right markets and projects to target

 


 

What is NextGenerationEU?

We are living in extraordinary times, but it’s not all bad news for Irish business. Over the next couple of years, those who can or who are keen to export can take advantage of a significant opportunity, fuelled by the NextGenerationEU funding package put in place by the European Commission. At €750 billion*, it’s the largest ever stimulus package in Europe and some is directly aimed at SMEs.

“The objective is twofold,” explains Marco Lopriore, at the European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA). “It is recovery, to help the European economy recover from the past year, but it is also resilience.

“This is a push for a radical transformation of consumption and production to prepare European economies to withstand future crises in a better way. We’re speaking in Brussels about a paradigm shift. This is basically changing the way we function completely.”

Within the overall project, the EU level of investment is supplemented by the agendas and priorities of each national government.

*The current value of the funding is €806.9 billion. It was €750 billion when agreed in 2018.

 


 

What does the Eurozone recovery plan mean for Irish SMEs?

This Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) means a wave of funding unrolling across all 27 EU member states to support investment in public services and infrastructure, to make Europe greener, more digital and more resilient.

As Ireland seeks to build a deeper trade relationship with Europe, that funding represents an excellent opportunity for Irish companies to break into new markets or to deepen and scale their presence in existing markets.

Across everything from digital health care and green technology to smart cities and cybersecurity, there are hundreds of Eurozone recovery projects to complete across the EU over the next few years. All of them will be fully funded.

“SMEs are not always directly affected by macroeconomics,” says Anne Lanigan, regional director, Eurozone at Enterprise Ireland, “but when that volume of money is going into it, especially to drive the green and digital agenda, it has to have an impact on what is happening at a business level.”

 


 

Core focus on green and digital

European Commission bannerThe overall fund is focused on six pillars, with the green transition and digital transformation being top of the list. The European Commission has specified that each country must assign at least 37% and 20% of their spending to those pillars, respectively.

“Several member states have gone beyond those minimum thresholds,” says Lopriore. “Luxembourg, for example, is putting 60% to green, while Germany is putting 50% to digital.

The green transition covers everything from clean tech, renewable energy and energy efficiency, sustainable transport, improving water quality to creating greener cities and making farming more eco-friendly.

Digital projects to get funding span 5G, digitalisation of public service, cloud computing, smart cities, artificial intelligence, blockchain and more, including projects focused on reskilling and upskilling to improve digital literacy.

 


 

Leaning into Irish tech expertise

Areas in which many Irish firms specialise, such as cybersecurity and the digitalisation of health are a significant focus in many plans, says Lopriore, who wrote extensively on national areas of focus for NextGenerationEU funding in a recent paper.

“In Belgium, for example, the plan is to spend €585m on digitalisation, of which almost €80m is allocated to cybersecurity. Spain wants to reinforce cybersecurity on its rail network, its air traffic control, its central public administration and in the tourism sector.”

When it comes to providing health and medical services online, France will invest €2 billion in the digitalisation of health, while Germany will invest €3.8 billion.

 


 

Breaking into a new European market

The funding offers new momentum to Irish exporters targeting Europe, a trend that was already soaring, says Lanigan.

Anne Lanigan, Patrick Torrekins, Leo Varadkar, Leo Clancy“Since we implemented our Eurozone strategy in 2017, we’ve seen a 33% jump in exports from Ireland to the Eurozone,” she says. “Even in 2020, when some sectors were hit very hard, we still saw a 1.6% growth in exports, which is significant considering economies across Europe shrunk.

For companies that want to export for the first time or to diversify their export markets, Enterprise Ireland can offer support and advice. This includes everything from market research and helping a company to get export-ready to tapping into a wide network of contacts and making the right introductions.

“The easiest model is where a client is looking for a customer and we can introduce them,” says Lanigan. “Exporting often involves a local partner and we introduce companies to the right people– the local influencers, the potential partners and those they could collaborate with, including other Irish companies.

“We work to build clusters that bring companies in the same space together,” she explains. “If there is an opportunity around smart mobility, for example, we can bring companies working in that area together and introduce them to the right people.”

 


 

Finding the right market to target

The markets of interest to individual companies will depend on the nature of the products and services they offer. Those selling into the tourism and hospitality sector, for example, will find more extensive opportunities in Southern Europe, where governments are placing more emphasis on this sector.

Many countries mention renovating buildings to be more energy-efficient and installing more electric vehicle charging situations, but Germany is putting particular emphasis on hydrogen production and AI, for example.

Detailed country-by-country information in English on the plans and priorities of each Member State can be found here.

 


 

How will the Eurozone recovery funding work in practice?

  • While SMEs may believe trying to tender for public contracts is too complex and likely to be choked by red tape, 15% of the NextGenerationEU funding will benefit SMEs – more than half of that in direct business.
  • Furthermore, Enterprise Ireland can advise on the tendering process.
  • In practice, each EU state has its own national Resilience and Recovery Plan (RRP), with all projects in it open to public tender on an online portal.
  • Some of these portals, such as those of France, Italy and Portugal, are already up and running.
  • Every project linked to this Eurozone recovery funding must be completed by 2026.

 


 

Rising to the export challenge

While deciding to expand export operations can seem daunting to some, Lanigan encourages Irish business owners and managers to examine the RRP options open to them. That includes going beyond the UK, even as a first export market.

“Diversifying our export markets has become even more important since Brexit,” she says. “Now, 29% of our clients’ exports go to the UK, but that is down from 45% a decade ago.

A marked improvement in marine links is helping, she adds, as more routes with more capacity mean it is much easier to trade directly with EU customers.

“We have a huge market on our doorstep. After all, we have the biggest free trade agreement in the world, with no customs, no tariffs and no regulatory challenges. And, of course, for 19 countries in the Eurozone, there are no currency costs.”

“Irish companies have a great reputation across Europe, with customers having a really positive view of them. And when you see the Irish products and services selling into Europe – they are top notch and born of incredible innovation – it’s evident why they are well regarded.”

 

If you’re interested in starting to export to the Eurozone or in growing your exports to the Eurozone, get in touch.

Creating innovative solutions to new and emerging threats

Cybersecurity solutions that address new and emerging threats

The Covid-19 pandemic saw a rapid shift for many to virtual ways of doing work – and the recognition – finally – that remote and hybrid working is a very viable possibility in many industries. And, that offering flexible ways of working can actually give companies an edge when it comes to attracting talent. Unfortunately, however, with more flexibility comes a very real problem – the increased risk of cybercrime and cyberattacks. And the need for effective cybersecurity solutions is becoming more urgent by the day.

According to a study by McKinsey & Co, only 16% of executives felt that their organisations are well prepared to deal with cyber risk. Plus, the United Nations has warned that cybercrime increased by nearly 600% during the pandemic.

“Globally, there has never been a more challenging time for organisations in relation to cybersecurity,” says Pat O’Grady, Senior Business Advisor and Global Lead for Cybersecurity at Enterprise Ireland. “A higher level of cyber threats and attacks, security challenges linked to remote working, and increasingly sophisticated attacks on personal accounts have all put systems under immense pressure.”

 

Irish cybersecurity solutions

Ireland has long been a leader in technology innovation, with our advances in medtech, agritech, fintech and more in high demand across the globe. So it comes as no surprise that an increasing number of ambitious Irish companies is coming up with some very clever solutions to cybercrime. As an example, Cork-based Velona Systems has developed a solution that protects large call centres in the US against brute force call spam attacks, ghost calling and robocalling, a growing challenge in this sector.

Velona is just an example of our strength in the area, which is highlighted in the Enterprise Ireland Cybersecurity Innovation Series 2021, which this year is titled ‘Creating Innovative Solutions to New and Emerging Threats’. Taking place over six separate events in November and December, covering different world regions, the series features talks by leading cybersecurity experts, pitches by innovative Enterprise Ireland client companies, and opportunities for individual client-buyer meetings.

“All the participating Irish companies have identified the most urgent areas within cybersecurity and come up with intelligent solutions that potentially have a worldwide customer base,” says Pat. “For instance, one of the biggest issues now is the sharp rise in phishing emails. Cyber Risk Aware is an Irish business offering learning platforms that can build training programmes within Microsoft Office 365 to raise staff awareness regarding phishing and teach them how to spot a dangerous email. The company also offers a phishing simulation platform, which can build email templates and schedule simulation campaigns to test the level of awareness within the organisation and to offer additional focused learning for staff when required.”

Like all good responses to security threats, many solutions are based on prevention rather than cure – and with the cost of cyber crime rising sharply as the attacks get more sophisticated, this is sure to be a massive area of growth. “EdgeScan is leading the way in pen testing, or vulnerability scanning,” says Pat. “This includes scanning company IPs or carrying out pen tests on company websites or client portals to find any potential weaknesses – therefore stopping the threat before it happens.”

 

Remote working challenges

With remote and hybrid working looking likely to stay in the long term, many companies are looking for ways to boost their security with staff working on devices away from the office and even out on the road. “Remote working has brought with it many challenges; one issue is providing the same amount of security as in the office,” says Pat. “Web and email filtering identifies new malware sites and can block specific categories of websites, such as gambling sites. Galway-based TitanHQ offers advanced solutions for this issue, currently helping businesses in over 120 countries.”

A big issue for companies is our increasing reliance on mobile phones for work purposes – now a company has to look into protecting these as well as laptops and computers. “Many companies have introduced a controlled ‘Bring Your Own Device’, or BYOD, policy in which company apps are locked down or secured on the device, while others have restricted access to only corporate devices to allow for full control. And yes, there’s an Irish company involved in this area too: CWSI are experts in the field of mobile device management and offer guidance on both policy and the technical aspects of managing devices.”

It’s clear that Irish companies are leading the way in cybersecurity solutions. Many companies are finding it difficult to acquire and retain staff with skills in the areas of compliance, ISO certification, incident response, forensics and investigations – and, as Pat explains, there are several Irish companies in a great position to help. “Irish innovators such as Integrity360, SmartTech 24/7, Kontex and Evros are providing a solution to this issue by providing expert security consultant services. These companies’ Security Operations Centre (SOC service) offers uninterrupted monitoring of their clients‘ IT networks.”

 

Details of the Enterprise Ireland Cybersecurity Innovation Series 2021 can be found here

A young man in a warehouse using his laptop to research his EORI number

Customs – What is an EORI Number used for?

 

The Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number allows businesses to import or export with countries outside the European Union. It is a unique reference number recognised by all EU member states and is a requirement on all customs declarations.

First introduced in 2009, the EORI number is a common reference number for interactions with the customs authorities in any EU Member State. All Irish numbers are prefaced with the prefix IE and contain eight characters. It is closely aligned to your VAT number but requires a separate EORI registration with Revenue.

 

Register for your EORI number

To obtain your number, companies can register directly through Revenue. If you are already registered on Revenue Online Service (ROS), you can register within a matter of minutes. Once the registration is complete, the number is active immediately.

If you believe that you already have one, this can be verified by simply checking the EORI number validation service. Insert your VAT number prefixed by “IE” and select validate.

Revenue has support for companies that have questions about their process. Visit Revenue’s website for the relevant contact details.

Large ship with containers in port

Customs – Country of Origin

When it comes to customs, the country of origin of a product is critically important. And to all intents and purposes, the world is divided in three – EU member states and preferential and non-preferential countries.

 

Preferential Countries

Goods of EU origin travel freely within the EU, with no customs to deal with. Preferential countries are those with trade agreements with the EU, and all other countries fall into the non-preferential category.

Exports to and from preferential countries are subject to the rules of the trade agreement. For Irish exporters, this means proving that the goods involved are of EU origin. Importers must establish that the goods are of preferential origin, i.e. that they came from the country with the trade agreement.

 

Non-Preferential Countries

Normal WTO rules apply to non-preferential countries. This means first establishing the origin of the goods in question and then looking up the EU TARIC site to get the code for the goods and finding the relevant tariffs and other rules such as anti-dumping or quota restrictions which might apply.

Origin is essentially the economic nationality of the goods being traded. In some cases, this is easily established. These are instances where products are what is known as wholly obtained in a country. This means they have been entirely produced in that country without any goods from other countries being utilised in the end product.

 

Value-Added Rule

This would normally apply to fruit or vegetable products or basic cuts of meat. Spanish strawberries or Dutch tomatoes would be examples.

Things get a little more complicated with prepared consumer foods like frozen pizzas or other ready meal products like lasagne. The increasingly complex and globalised supply chains involved in the manufacture of such products can call into doubt their country of origin. So, a pizza manufactured in the EU, but with many of its ingredients sourced from countries outside the EU, could present an interesting case.

Origin in these cases is determined by where what is known as substantial transformation has taken place. This is decided by the value-added rule which, broadly speaking, means where most value has been added. In the case of the Irish manufactured pizza or ready meal, if the value of the finished product is significantly greater than the sum of its third country ingredients, it is deemed to be of EU origin.

 

Certificates of Origin

Certificates of Origin are required for goods being exported to countries with trade agreements with the EU. Certificates may also be required for other countries depending on the destination e.g. certain Arabic countries. Many large exporting companies have an Approved Exporter for Simplified Origin Procedure status with Revenue, and this allows them to self-certify their exports to countries with EU preferential origin status.

Companies without this Approved Exporter status have to apply for a EUR 1 certificate from Revenue for each consignment of goods to preferential countries. For newer preferential agreements with Japan and Canada, EU exporters can simply register in the REX system, without applying to Revenue for Approved Exporter status. They can then declare their exports to Japan and Canada as having EU preferential origin by means of a statement on origin placed on an invoice or other commercial document.

Where the goods are destined for a non-preferential country, a Certificate of Origin can be obtained through Chambers Ireland or one of its members.

For further information, go to a customs broker for advice or to your local chamber of commerce. If you are still in doubt after that, you will find further information on the Origin section of Revenue’s website or contact the Revenue Commissioner’s Origin and Valuation Unit.

Map of EU with padlock

GDPR and Data transfer to or through the UK

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force on 25 May 2018 and unifies data protection law throughout the EU. It gives individuals control over their personal data and requires businesses and other organisations to put in place processes that protect and safeguard that data. The regulation also addresses the transfer of personal data outside the EU and EEA.

 

Dealing with the UK, USA and other third countries

GDPR came into sharp focus this year as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. GDPR still applies in the UK, however as it is now a third country it is subject to the GDPR rules governing the transfer of data outside the EU and EEA.

 

Data transfer to/through the UK

The first thing for firms to do is to establish exactly where their data goes. Companies may not realise that their cloud storage provider is actually located in Britain or Northern Ireland. Their pension schemes, payroll, healthcare plans may all be run out of the UK and involve the regular transfer of personal data. Workplace benefits databases could also be held in Britain or Northern Ireland. Even translation services might be covered if personal data is included in the material to be translated.

Having established that data is being transferred to the UK, the next step is to decide if that needs to continue. There may be options to look for another service provider in Ireland or another EU Member State and these should be explored.

Standard Contractual Clauses

If it is not possible or if it is too difficult to take this option, there is a ready solution to hand. There is a tool that can be used to solve this problem and it is available on the Data Protection Commission website. It is known as the standard contractual clauses (SCCs). This is a set of off-the-shelf clauses developed by the European Commission and which are recognised as an appropriate safeguard to ensure that firms remain compliant with GDPR.

The SCCs are already written and only require firms to fill in the blanks with their details. They can be appended to existing contracts and come into force when both parties sign them. Once signed, this enables firms to continue transferring data to the UK in full compliance with GDPR, and people still have their rights.

The data subject is also given certain specific rights under the SCCs even though they are not party to the relevant contract. Firms are also advised to update their privacy statements to indicate that the data is transferring to the UK under the terms of the SCCs.

The SCCs will cover most situations, but there are certain more complex cases where they may not apply. These are relatively rare, but firms in doubt should consult the Data Protection Commission or seek their own legal advice  to check out their particular situation.

There are also certain situations where the data transfer is not covered by contract. These include cases where data is being transferred from a UK Controller to an Irish processor for processing and then transferred back to the Controller. This has been a relatively routine process up until now, as the data remained within the EU at all times. The best advice for firms based in Ireland who find themselves in this situation is to look at the clauses within the SCCs and insert them into the service level agreement governing the activity. This will demonstrate an intention to be GDPR compliant in the new situation.

The same will apply to Irish shared services centres carrying out global back and middle office functions for multinational parents. They should update the terms of service to UK-based affiliates to include the SCCs.

 

Data Protection Policies

Some very large organisations use what are known as Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs). These are legally binding internal codes of conduct operating within a multinational group, which applies to transfers of personal data from the group’s EEA entities to the group’s non-EEA entities. The approval of BCRs can take a significant period of time and also, given the cost and complexity of BCRs, they are not a suitable transfer tool for most Irish companies.

The only remaining questions for Irish firms transferring data to the UK concern adequacy. Certain ‘third countries’, such as Japan, have received what is known as an ‘adequacy decision’ from the European Commission. This allows a cross-border personal data transfer from the EU to that country because it has been determined to have an adequate level of data protection safeguards compared to the EU. It could take some time before the European Commission completes its negotiations with the UK Government in order to deem the UK adequate as a jurisdiction to which data can be transferred under GDPR. Therefore, companies need to explore the options available to them when transferring data to the UK.

Export Compass webinar series

Export Compass: the first step to export success

Export Compass webinar series

The export economy is widely seen as vital to the success of the Irish economy – and even more so now we are looking into a period of recovery after the twin challenges of Brexit and Covid-19. There’s no better time to look at the possibilities afforded by exporting, and the opportunities that are available for ambitious Irish companies.

Plus, there are more markets that ever before that are actively welcoming innovative and ambitious Irish export partners. The UK market continues to be an important market, while our ongoing commitment to the EU has made trading within the Eurozone easy and accessible. What’s more, Brexit has created more opportunities for Irish companies to increase business within the Eurozone.

But while it’s clear that now is the time to develop an export strategy, getting started is the most difficult step – and that’s where Enterprise Ireland’s Export Compass series of webinars can help.

“Exports are critical to the Irish economy,” says Keelin Fagan, Head of Exporter Development at Enterprise Ireland. 

“As micro, small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the Irish economy, it’s a key focus for us and other agencies such as the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) to support these types of businesses when thinking about exporting and during their export journey. The Export Compass webinars are a first step for any company even considering exporting.

“The last 18 months have been extremely challenging for SMEs and micro businesses. The pandemic has resulted in the digital economy completely opening up, and there’s been a dramatic shift in how people buy goods. But this has also created opportunities for businesses that weren’t there before, whether in terms of mindset or in in terms of the market itself. In short, Export Compass is a chance for companies to really explore the possibility of developing an export strategy, and what are the right next steps for them.”

The series of five webinars cover every aspect of developing an export plan, including research into different markets and opportunities, culture and doing business in other countries, sales and marketing techniques to win export customers in a digital world and financing your export plan through funding and pricing. The final session aims to bring all the information together, with a chance for participants to interact with a panel of experts.

 

Essential first steps

Export Compass is open to any company considering exporting, or perhaps in the very early stages of developing an export plan, as Keelin explains: “The Export Compass webinars aim to show companies the benefits of exporting, as well as where companies can get support in overcoming any potential barriers or challenges, for instance, language or business culture. The purpose of the series is to explain the key facts when it comes to exporting and how to get into the mindset of developing an export plan.

“Participants will hear from other companies that have started their export journey, or perhaps are even a little further along.”

“We touch on areas such as market research, the ideal customer from an international point of view, cultural differences in each of the market, and tips and tools to win customers in a competitive digital world. These are the fundamentals of what you need to think about if you want to move forward in developing an export plan.” says Keelin.

Introduction to supports

The series features interviews with companies who have successfully exported to a variety of different countries, giving participants a valuable opportunity to learn from other Irish businesses and network with those in similar situations – something that has been hugely missed over the last 18 months.

A pivotal part of the series is the introduction to the many available supports for Irish companies considering an export strategy. Enterprise Ireland has over 40 international locations, which facilitate access to more than 60 countries worldwide; each of the international offices are there to help Irish companies overcome any obstacles to trading in each country, from facilitating introductions and meetings with potential export partners to researching a chosen sector or overcoming language barriers. The Export Compass series features insights from many of the personnel available to help Irish companies implement an export strategy in their chosen country.

We also bring in some of the Enterprise Ireland staff from the offices around the world so participants can hear first-hand how they can support client companies as they begin their export journey,” says Keelin. “We want participants to leave the series of webinars with a clear idea of what support is available to help them during their export journey and what next steps they need to take in order to develop their plan.”

The webinar series is free to all micro & SME companies who are looking to take the first steps on the export journey. Watch the on-demand series here.

 

 

 

A person gathering market intelligence by analysing graphs and statistics on a sheet of paper

Using market intelligence to inform your export plan

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

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

 

Market Research Centre

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

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

 

Using market intelligence to assess new markets

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

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

 

Using insights to make an impact

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

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

 

Growing your business using market intelligence

Companies which are serious about exporting, growing and future-proofing their business should put continuous research at the heart of their strategy.

If your company is considering expanding into new markets the Market Research Centre’s extensive resources and expertise should be your first port of call.

Contact the Market Research Centre today.

Delivery driver with customer signing VAT form

Key considerations for managing customs procedures

For a huge number of Irish companies, the UK’s departure from the EU meant a first encounter with customs procedures, or if not an entirely new experience, an unfamiliar one to say the least.

Two figures give some idea of the scale of the issue. Approx 1.6 million customs declarations are made to Revenue each year with this figure expected to rise to more than 20 million by 2023.

This massive increase is creating difficulties not just for importers and exporters but is also puting pressure on the logistics sector, customs agents, and the ports, which are already working at capacity. Faced with this situation, many Irish companies have little option but to attempt to deal with the customs processes themselves.

 

Handling customs procedures in-house

And this will entail a rather steep learning curve. “There is a general lack of knowledge of the customs process,” says Derek Dunne, director of customs formalities and compliance specialist at Manifests Ireland. “We have been spoiled since the establishment of the Single Market in 1992 when didn’t have to make customs declarations for trade with other EU countries. A whole new generation of firms grew up with the advantage of the Single Market.”

“The other problem is that where the knowledge does exist in the logistics industry and customs brokers, the capacity simply doesn’t exist to deal with the anticipated increase in the volume of declarations,” he adds. “All the customs brokers are exceptionally busy already and they are not really able to take a chance on bringing new people in and training them up. SMEs can’t depend on brokers and logistics partners. As good and efficient as they are, they just don’t have the capacity.”

Taking control of the process themselves could be the way to go for many SMEs, he advises. He explains that this may well be the best course of action even if the company can find an external partner to handle the work. “If a broker or logistics company is already looking after 27,000 different products for a lot of other clients, they may find it quite difficult to pay adequate attention to a few products for an SME. In these cases, the SME may be more comfortable handling it themselves.”

 

EORI number

The procedures are very clear for companies who wish to make declarations directly to Revenue. “They have to know who you are, what you are importing or exporting, and you have to be able to make the declarations electronically,” Dunne explains. “This means companies need an EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) number. This is a European Union registration and identification number for businesses which undertake the import or export of goods in or out of the EU. You can register for a number through Revenue’s EORI online registration service.”

 

Online customs declarations

Making declarations online is known as Direct Trader Input (DTI) and requires importers, exporters or their agents to have dedicated software making electronic declarations to the Automated Entry Processing system (AEP). “You also need to register with Revenue and get a digital certificate from them to make declarations to the system,” says Dunne.

Fortunately, there is a range of software products on the market to handle electronic declarations. “There are around half a dozen providers out there and it’s a bit like mobile phone offers: they all have different features and benefits, so it is best to weigh them up to see which package best suits the needs of an individual firm. Many of them also have the ability to integrate and interact with existing software systems such as ERP and management information and financial systems. They can export and import data to them – that’s an important thing to check.”

The software will make the process quite straightforward for the majority of firms. “Most companies will be importing or exporting the same products time and again,” he says. “You need to spend time setting up the system and entering the information, such as commodity codes. The software will make life much easier for that. The packages allow you to create templates which can be replicated time and again. All you need then is the information on when and where and how it’s moving. You might need the assistance of a customs expert when setting it up, but most firms should be able to manage it quite well.”

 

Customs declarations – outsource or complete internally?

He believes the decision on whether to outsource customs procedures should be based on a solid business case. “It’s quite a simple calculation really”, he says. “While the software providers have different pricing schemes it usually works out that you shouldn’t pay more than €7 to €8 per declaration when using their packages. On the other hand, you’ll pay €50 to €60 when using a broker.”

This may sound like a compelling case for carrying it out internally but that isn’t necessarily so. Dunne explains that a company with very small volumes of declarations may find the expense of training staff and the additional administrative burden mean that outsourcing is the better option.

“If you just deal in one or two products quite often you will get to know the processes involved quite quickly and it will be better to do it in-house”, he adds. “But with small volumes less often it is probably better to try to retain a broker. Also, if you are dealing in unusual products it could be hard to track down their commodity codes so it might be best to have an expert do that. In the end, it’s a fairly straightforward business decision based on available resources and the volume of declarations involved.”

 

Working with a broker

For those who see outsourcing as a necessity he says finding a broker will be the issue. “Revenue estimates that there are about 330 brokers in Ireland,” he notes. “These range from large logistics companies to very small brokers. There is no centralised database. You need to talk to them, assess their capacity to take on your business, and their commitment to your company. That’s really the way to go if you want to outsource.”

 

Preparing to do customs processes in-house

For those companies which wish to handle the process internally or haven’t decided yet, Dunne says training is key. For companies interested in building the capability internally, there are many customs training courses available to give an overview of customs procedures and train staff how to fill in customs documentation.

 

 

Aeriel shot of a large boat with containers in a port

Incoterms – Defining the responsibilities between buyer and seller

 Now that the UK is a third country, there is an extra administration burden on those who trade between the EU and the UK. Import and export declarations now have to be completed for all shipments, and duties may have to be paid. But who is responsible for carrying this extra burden and cost? Is it the buyer or the seller? This is where Incoterms come in.

What are Incoterms?

International commercial terms, or ‘Incoterms’ as they are often called, define where the responsibility lies between the buyer and the seller. Incoterms set rules for the delivery of goods between trading partners and are recognised globally. These rules help to clarify; who is responsible for the costs involved in the delivery of goods, such costs include insurance, freight/shipping and duty and who is responsible for the import/ export declarations and the associated filing costs.

 

Negotiating Incoterms

Companies should try to negotiate the best terms, ensuring that they strike the right balance of keeping buyers satisfied while also ensuring that they are not taking on any extra expenses which they cannot afford or that would make their sales unprofitable. It is important to consider how you will process any declarations and if you can afford to take on the extra costs associated with any of the methods available.

When agreeing on Incoterms, it can often be the case that the buyer has the greatest say and may dictate the terms. Some companies may take on responsibility for the declarations and duties in order to avoid passing the burden on to their end customer especially where it could be easy to find an alternative supplier locally.

 

Incoterms in Practice

There are currently 11 categories of Incoterms but we will look at two to understand how they work in practice.

EX Works (EXW) typically involves the buyer taking on the majority of the risk and costs involved. The seller agrees to have the goods available for collection at an agreed location. The buyer collects the goods and is responsible for both export and import declarations, shipping costs and the payment of duties.

Take for example, a French car manufacturer selling cars to a UK car dealership, under the term ‘Ex Works Paris’. The car manufacturer (the seller) will have the goods available for collection at their factory in Paris. The UK dealership (the buyer) will collect these goods. They will bring them to the port, ensure that they have the correct export documentation submitted. They must pay for the shipping and insurance cost. When they reach the UK, they are responsible for having the correct import documentation completed and that duties are paid. Finally, the UK dealership must pay for the transport from the point of entry at the port to their premises.

Delivered Duty Paid (DDP) is another term that is used regularly. Many large supermarket chains, for example, have stipulated to their suppliers that they must continue to supply goods under DDP terms post- Brexit. This term requires that the seller accepts all responsibility and costs for delivering the goods to the named place of destination. The seller must pay for both the export and import declarations along with taxes, duties, insurance and transport costs.

Take for example, an Irish vegetable producer supplying a supermarket in the UK under the term ‘DDP Birmingham’. The Irish supplier will now have to submit an export declaration for the goods to leave the country. They will have to pay for transport costs and insurance to get the goods to the UK. In order for the goods to be allowed into the UK, the supplier must ensure that they have the correct import documentation and that all duties and taxes have been paid. Once the goods have been imported, the Irish supplier must deliver the goods to the premises of the supermarket (the buyer) in Birmingham.

It is important that all companies are aware of the potential impact and extra cost that an Incoterm may have on their business before agreeing terms with their supplier or buyer.

For companies that feel that their customers could easily find an alternative supplier, it is vital that they take the necessary steps to increase their competitive advantage. Through continued innovation and engagement with their UK customers, companies can ensure that they provide not only a superior product but also better quality service than that of their competitors, making customers less likely to switch.

Further information on incoterms can be found on the International Chamber of Commerce’s website.

Europe is our future

Eurozone: Why trading in the Eurozone equals more profits and less risk for SMEs

As an exporting nation, Ireland really couldn’t be in a better place. We have a strong and enduring relationship with both the US and the UK markets, but we also are a pivotal part of the Eurozone, a huge market that is incredibly open to ambitious Irish companies. 

Anne Lanigan, Regional Director, Eurozone, at Enterprise Ireland believes that the Eurozone represents a huge opportunity for Irish companies, particularly at this time of recovery.

 

“The market in the Eurozone is five times that of the UK, yet, Irish industry exports from Enterprise Ireland supported companies are just 80% of what they are to the UK. That highlights the opportunity in Europe – we have really only just scratched the surface. It’s a huge market and it’s an easy market in terms of the lack of infrastructure barriers.” says Lanigan

“In general, Europe is very open to working with Irish companies, not just because we’re Irish but also because we’re innovative, we’re very flexible and friendly to work with, and we are very good at customising our product to suit the customer – and that is very much valued in Europe. We’re pushing an open door in Europe. The challenge is in our own mindset.”

 

Fewer overheads, more profit

But the most attractive part of trading in the Eurozone is the fact that we are operating in the same currency. Investment and financial advisor John Power says that the positives of the single currency cannot be underestimated for SMEs. “When you bring it down to brass tacks, for SMEs, anything that requires intervention, eg if you have to manage currency, is an overhead. I think that some smaller companies often forget that managing a currency is an overhead, and removing an overhead is always going to have an immediate effect on your profits.”

Language is often cited as a barrier to Irish companies trading in Europe, but the positives of dealing in the single currency override any such barriers. “Language is a barrier but we think that habit might play a part too,” says Anne. “Irish companies know how to deal with currency as we have traded with the UK and with the US for years, but even if you have the capability to deal with currency, it is still an overhead. It’s a good thing that our companies are able to deal with currency issues, as the UK, the US and other countries are very important markets for us, but Europe does offer a market that removes this overhead, so your profitability is higher when you’re dealing in the same currency as your customers and your suppliers.”

There is a second reason why the single currency is invaluable for Irish SMEs – the volatility of exchange rates. “When Brexit was voted upon, we saw the volatility of sterling and the damage that it did to Irish companies,” explains John. “We saw massive margin erosion and margin uncertainty. We saw that margin uncertainty happened throughout the sales cycle, so the margin that a company thought they would get at the start of the sales cycle could be completely eroded by the end of it. It was then that we saw the real damage that currency volatility can do.

“When you’re an SME working in international markets, the more risk you can eliminate, the better. One of those risks is currency and as an asset class, it’s probably the most volatile. If you can eliminate that, it has to be a huge positive because you’re eliminating a huge overhead and a risk at the same time.” explains Power

 

Lack of barriers

But there are plenty of other advantages to trading within the Eurozone. For one thing, the lack of barriers in the European Single Market means that trading is quick and straightforward. “Mainland Europe operates much like the States in terms of there’s no real land borders to trade between member countries,” says John. “Our traditional trading relationship with the UK and the US may have resulted in us partly ignoring the opportunities in the Eurozone, yet it’s possibly the nearest and the easiest trading relationship we have.

“We are the only English-speaking nation in the EU, we have a great position on the edge of Europe and we share the single currency. This puts us at a unique trading advantage right now.”

And, financial transactions are fast and easier too, John explains. “We are also members of SEPA, the Single Euro Payments Area, which significantly reduces transaction costs and the time it takes to make a payment. Along with the single currency, this make it far easier for small companies to forecast revenue, and to receive and make payments.”

All these financial factors have the potential to transform profitability for Irish SMEs, at a time when revenues and profits are in danger of being squeezed. Luckily for us too, Europe welcomes products and solutions from Irish companies, and we have a great reputation in the most in-demand sectors right now.

“We have companies excelling across a wide range of sectors,” says Anne. “The most important right now would be high-tech construction, ICT – which fits into every sector – agritech & agriculture engineering, automotive and life sciences. But broadly speaking, we have companies providing solutions for every sector in Europe.”

Put simply, the Eurozone is a huge market full of opportunity for Ireland – and a market that actively welcoming Irish companies. Time, then, to think European.

 

Enterprise Ireland and the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) presented at three part series; Europe is our future. Watch the final webinar from Sept 24th below:

 

 

Net Zero: Time for Irish companies in the UK to prioritise strategies to tackle climate change 

Net Zero

Irish companies operating in the UK have had quite a turbulent few years. Not only have they worked through the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected literally every part of the business world, but they have also come through the preparation and implementation of Brexit. But now there’s another issue that is becoming ever more urgent by the day – climate change – and it’s time now for Irish companies in the UK to start implementing strategies to make their business more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

While climate change is an urgent issue in every country, an even closer light has been cast on the changing environmental and sustainability conditions of the UK market. The UK was the first industrialised nation to enshrine its climate targets in law, pledging to cut carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 78% by 2035 and to reach net zero by 2050. This has been supplemented by recent UK government announcements including its ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution (published in December 2020), a new hydrogen strategy and an offshore wind sector deal. COP26 is taking place in Glasgow this autumn, and to coincide with its launch, the UK government is planning to publish a comprehensive cross-sectoral net zero roadmap, which should provide greater clarity for all sectors.

By and large, net zero been welcomed by the market, as businesses can see the opportunities that come with such a move, but the details still need to be sorted out,” explains Darragh Cotter, Senior Market Advisor, Industrial and Cleantech, at Enterprise Ireland. “The comprehensive roadmap to be published ahead of COP in November is expected to include all the important steps to take the UK to their net zero target, including the level of investment the government is willing to put into it.”

 

Already an urgent issue

With such ambitious targets, it’s clear that this will result in fundamental changes across the business community. Already, the UK net zero challenge is rapidly impacting government policy and legislation, influencing consumer preferences, impacting investor decision making and changing the way major corporates work with supply chain partners.

If you already have a presence in the UK, you must become conscious of the net zero ambitions of your customer base and the changing dynamics,” says Darragh. “For instance, already a lot of public procurement is building in environmental criteria into their tender assessments. That will be the same in the construction and agricultural sectors. So our message is that this is a critical issue for Irish businesses if they want to continue working in the UK because everything from procurement to the type of products and services will undergo fundamental change as we journey towards net zero.

“For us in the Enterprise Ireland London office, it’s the number one issue facing businesses today; we want to educate our clients on the issues facing them, find out what’s required by their customers and potential customers in the UK and relay that information to our client companies. For instance, we are seeing more and more UK corporates looking for their supply chain to have achieved environmental accreditation through certification such as ISO 50001 and ISO 14001. Our client companies need to be aware of the criteria they need to fulfil in order to continue doing business in the UK.”

To help, Enterprise Ireland has launched Net Zero UK: Ready for a Green Future, a proactive market intelligence and insights campaign that is designed to keep Irish business informed of the UK’s net zero plans and their impact on business. Through webinars, podcasts and reports, the campaign will highlight technologies and verticals that are likely to decline and those that will grow and emerge, along with the evolving expectations of major UK corporates. These insights can inform the strategic planning and R&D activities of Irish companies operating in the UK to both protect and to grow their business over the coming years.

Opportunities

Of course, with every change there’s opportunity, and working with Irish SMEs to identify new and relevant business opportunities is a key goal of Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign. “Net Zero will affect every sector, but some sectors would require different measures to others,” says Darragh. “For Irish companies, there are opportunities across all sectors related to net zero, not just in renewable energy – there are also opportunities in construction, engineering, manufacturing, local authorities, finance, business technology and more.”

Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign is complemented by the €10 million Climate Enterprise Action Fund, which provides a suite of products to help Irish companies assess their current carbon footprint and develop a concrete decarbonisation strategy to help future-proof their business. These financial aids work alongside the focused sector insights provided by the Net Zero UK campaign.

Despite Brexit, the UK remains one of Ireland’s most important export partners, and it’s vital that Irish companies take action now to address the opportunities and risks brought about by the growth of UK’s green economy. Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign aims to support Irish exporters and help them to emerge stronger, more successful and more sustainable than ever.

Net Zero UK is part of Enterprise Ireland’s Evolve UK campaign. Find out more here.