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

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

Global Recovery. Irish Opportunity

International Markets Week 2021: Green agenda and digitalisation key areas for growth  

Global Recovery - Irish Opportunity

It’s been said many times that exports are crucial to Ireland’s recovery in the post-pandemic world – and Enterprise Ireland is committed to ensuring that Irish companies take advantage of the many opportunities around the world to increase their business and bolster our economy as a result.

A crucial event in the Enterprise Ireland year is International Markets Week, and this year, for the second year running, it was held as a virtual event over five busy days in October 2021.

“When Covid hit, we decided that the event was too important to miss, particularly in the context of a global pandemic,” explains Anne Lanigan, Regional Director, Eurozone, at Enterprise Ireland. “This is a time when it’s even more important for our clients to keep their exports going, so we decided to go onto a virtual platform, with our market advisors available for a full week.

“The market advisors are the boots on the floor, the people who can introduce client companies to potential buyers, so it’s a very practical week for people who want to do business.”

This year, the theme of the event was Global Recovery. Irish Opportunity, recognising that the global economy is experiencing significant disruption – but while this disruption brings challenges, there are also significant opportunities.

“Enterprise Ireland client companies enjoyed excellent overall export growth in 2019 of 8%,  with particularly strong growth in the Eurozone and North America of 15% and 16% respectively,” says Anne

 “In 2020, these figures stabilised, which was a very good result in the context of a global pandemic, but now we need to get back to 2019 levels of growth.”

Opportunities for Irish companies lie in many areas, including the green agenda and digitisation. Throughout the world, companies are investing in green and digital strategies and governments are putting stimulus packages in place to drive a recovery based on a green and digital future. This investment represents huge opportunity for innovative Irish companies.

“The current disruption in global supply chains also poses significant opportunity,” says Anne. “The drive by manufacturers in developed economies, in particular, to strengthen the reliability of their supply chains so that they are more easily accessed from a geographic and an administrative perspective, creates the opportunity for Ireland to embed themselves in these new supply chains. Ireland’s location on the edge of Europe puts us in a key position to capitalise on this move towards regionalisation of supply chains.”

 

Finding opportunities

It’s clear from this year’s International Markets Week that Enterprise Ireland client companies have recognised the importance of building a robust strategy to take advantage of these growth opportunities. A total of 710 Enterprise Ireland client companies registered for the event, booking a total of 1,663 meetings with market advisors from across the world.

To get an indication of how companies were faring as the world’s economy recovers from the challenges of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, Enterprise Ireland conducted a survey of the participants ahead of the event. The results were positive: 56% of businesses indicated that they have seen an increase in exports in 2021 compared to 2020, with only 11% reporting a decrease. And, 91% of companies expect sales to increase again in 2022. In terms of trends, the survey revealed that 80% of businesses viewed digitalisation as vital over the next 12 months, while 63% said that advancing their sustainability agenda was a priority.

These results proved accurate throughout the event, which was officially launched by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, and Enterprise Ireland CEO Leo Clancy. Lydia Rogers, country manager for Enterprise Ireland in Canada, reported a real hunger in Irish companies to take advantage of the many opportunities out there. “I met many client companies at various stages of their export journey, from those accelerating their international growth and diversifying into new global markets to ambitious start-ups keen to explore the export opportunities in Canada. The week proved that Canada is a very attractive market for Irish companies in many sectors, including cleantech, consumer retail, engineering, life sciences, fintech and BPO, and a large proportion of digital technologies companies.

“In addition, Canada was also identified by many client companies as an entry point and as a lower-cost gateway into the wider North America market.”

And, as predicted, the green agenda and digitalisation opportunities were noted by Lydia as strong trends for Irish companies looking to Canada for growth. “Our team met many companies with innovative digitalisation solutions across travel tech, retail tech, ed tech, digital health, fintech, HR & talent tech, and IoT. There were also many SMEs with innovative solutions in areas including cleantech, mobility, smart energy and environment. Consumer retail was also a significant area of interest – a sector that experienced growth in 2020 despite the challenges of Covid-19. All in all, it was clear from this year’s International Markets Week that Irish companies have recognised Ireland and Canada make great business partners and are ready to reap the rewards from this vibrant and welcoming country.”

 

View the virtual launch event from Enterprise Ireland’s International Markets Week 2021 below:

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Digitalisation: a key strategy in ensuring export success

Start your digital journey

During this period of recovery, Irish companies are looking at every way possible to grow and increase their business. While finding new markets for your offerings is an important strategy, the role that digital transformation can play in business growth cannot be underestimated. According to the World Economic Forum, over $3.1 trillion in productivity gains could be added to the global economy by digital initiatives by 2025.

To ensure they share in these gains, Irish businesses are primed to drive their digital transformation strategies but it’s important that they take a holistic approach so their digital plan can evolve as the business grows.

“Most Irish companies are somewhere along the digital maturity curve,” says Conor O’Donovan, Head of Marketing Communications and the Client Digitalisation Unit at Enterprise Ireland. “Some are at the very early stage, which means they have only begun to look at ways to optimise their business through moving to the cloud for example, or implementing a CRM to improve how they engage and record customer data and interactions. Other companies are further along the journey, and are embedding automation to streamline manual repetitive tasks, while others are adopting data analytics and AI into to improve data analysis and predicting trends that impact their businesses and providing real time customer or supplier information upon which they can make informed decisions.”

 

Challenges and developing a digital mindset

While the advantages of adopting a robust a robust digital plan are clear and plentiful, there are challenges facing SMEs. “Knowledge and awareness are key issues,” explains Conor.

“Many businesses don’t know where to begin or who to speak with about their digital roadmap, and therefore find it challenging to select the right partner and vendor. Another key challenge is access to skills, both strategic and technical. says O’Donovan

“Ensuring that these skills are available to the business either internally or externally are key success factors, as is developing a digital mindset across the business. Finally, the availability of finance can be a key challenge in implementing the right solutions.”

Many businesses mistakenly believe that digitalisation is just about expensive technology, but this is only part of the story. According to Conor, there are four key aspects to a successful digital strategy, all of which need carefully addressing.

“Firstly, ask yourself why you need a digital strategy. It’s easy to read about a new platform or technology solution but a good digital strategy must be aligned to your business strategy. Ask yourself a number of key questions. For example, what business objective can be enabled by the digital plan? Is it about finding new customers or increasing sales with existing ones? Is it about improving production efficiencies or about strategic decision-making, which requires the availability of real-time accurate information drawing from several business units or locations? These are all important questions that must be answered before you start.

“The second key factor is process. It is hugely important to review and optimise processes before layering on digital technologies. An inefficient process before digital will remain an inefficient process after digital. Talk to Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices for help on this; we have LEAN programmes to support process optimisation.

“The third key element is people. Digital strategies will only work if people at the senior levels and across the organisation understand digital possibilities, see the benefits to the business and champion its adoption. says O’Donovan

“It must be driven by multiple people across the organisation and developing a digital culture and mindset across the business is key. There are multiple programmes on digital available from Skillsnet, the IMI and others to support this.

“Then finally we get to the technology piece. This part can be daunting for companies with limited budget, so it’s vital to take the time to really assess the technology required. It’s also important to ensure interoperability as new technology comes on stream as part of a multi-year plan – so the technology ‘speaks to each other’. This will avoid expensive integration and data extraction issues at a future date.”

 

Supports progress your digital journey

While the above might feel daunting, especially for businesses at an early stage in their digital journey, there is plenty of help available. Enterprise Ireland can help Irish exporting businesses to focus on and develop their digital strategy. The new Digital Ready Scorecard is a short self-assessment online tool that enables businesses to assess their current digital readiness and identify any gaps. The scorecard also signposts supports from Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices and across Government. More information can be found on the Enterprise Ireland website.

Enterprise Ireland also offers a €9k fully funded Digitalisation Voucher for eligible companies to engage independent experts to develop their digital strategies before purchasing any technology. All these aids will ensure that Irish exporters can reap the significant rewards of a robust and dynamic digital strategy.

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.

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.

Building an online presence in Germany

Building your German online presence – Best practice in localisation and eCommerce

Building an online presence in Germany

 

Selecting the route to market can be one of the main challenges for any business looking to export to Germany. While in the past there may have been a preferred or single route to market, businesses are achieving success using multi-channel approach to engage the market at different levels.

Enterprise Ireland’s team in Germany has seen the importance of online to not only sell products and services but also to support the German customer in their buying journey. Buying decision are often made well in advance of the first contact. Your online presence is a key factor in informing and influencing your customer about your business and why they should consider you for their needs.

Enterprise Ireland has vast experience in advising businesses on German customers’ perspectives and expectations and how to develop an effective German online presence. In conjunction with Glocafy, Enterprise Ireland has developed this Best Practice guide with sectoral insights and advice from companies already trading in Germany.

Help your business to succeed locally, download your Best Practice Guide to Building your German online presence.

Paula Carroll

New Frontiers: The first step for ambitious entrepreneurs

IPaula Carroll - New Frontiers National Programme Manager

Ireland has a fine reputation around the world for being a country of innovators – indeed, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have an idea for a new product or service, or a vision to make an existing solution even better. But translating that idea into a viable business is a massive jump – which is where the New Frontiers programme comes in.

Delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland in 18 Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities across Ireland, New Frontiers is Ireland’s national entrepreneurial development programme, as Paula Carroll, New Frontiers National Programme Manager, explains:

“It’s a programme designed to support early-stage entrepreneurs, from when they have that business idea in their head right through to when they bring that product to market. It offers a structured and supportive environment and runs across three stages.” 

Delivered in three phases, the New Frontiers programme is designed to be as user-friendly as possible, allowing you to explore and develop your idea over a number of phases

“In Phase 1, someone may come in with a sketchy idea and want to explore and validate it,” explains Paula. “Within six to eight weeks, they work on the idea and find out if it can become a valid business that’s worth progressing. It’s part-time so requires no commitment; the participant can complete the phase in the evenings or at the weekend without it affecting their job. It consists mostly of interactive workshops.

“After Phase 1, participants can apply for Phase 2, which is an intensive six-month immersive programme.

“In Phase 2, participants work on their business idea full-time; the programme includes interactive workshops, five one-to-one mentoring sessions and a €15,000 stipend.” 

They also get a lot of support within the colleges or universities in which the programme is being run, and have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. During this phase they get milestone reviews, to ensure they stay on track as six months can pass very quickly indeed.

“At the end of the six months, sometimes participants can look for additional support either from the Local Enterprise Office or from the High Potential Start Up team in Enterprise Ireland. They could also stay on for Phase 3, which is another three months of support.”

 

Creating success stories

Enterprise Ireland has been managing the programme since 2012, and since then, approximately 4,900 individuals have participated in New Frontiers, with 1,500 going on to the immersive Phase 2 of the programme.

“We also did an evaluation at the end of 2019,” says Paula, “and out of the people we surveyed who had completed the programme, over 83% were still in business. Plus the turnover of those people surveyed was over €300 million.”

Some of those still in business are genuine Irish success stories. For instance, a 2019 participant is Uccello Designs, a design and manufacturing company providing stylish assisted-living devices such as an innovative no-pour kettle; Uccello Designs now employs 11 people in Ireland, Australia and the UK. Another success story is 2017 participant Kianda Technologies, which has developed a no-code business process automation platform that allows business users address core business process management needs without the need for outside help. Now supported by Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up unit, Kianda recently experienced a 40% increase in their customer base and is aiming to triple the size of their team by the end of the year. And, Immersive VR Education in Waterford, one of the 2016 participants, raised €6.75 million following a successful IPO in 2018.

 

Supporting every corner of the country

The regional aspect of the programme plays an important role in Enterprise Ireland’s commitment to developing sustainable businesses all over Ireland. “It’s offered in 18 institutions throughout Ireland,” says Paula. “With Covid, obviously, it all went online but post-Covid, Phase 1 will remain online – which makes it accessible to everyone, regardless of where you live – but Phase 2 will have face-to-face meetings, interaction and networking, as well as some online.

“Having that interaction is so important when building a business as other people can challenge an idea within a safe environment, and give participants the opportunity to practise their pitch in front of mentors and peers. 

“New Frontiers encourages people to pitch from day one; we get them to deliver an elevated pitch at the very start, and by the end of even Stage 1, that pitch has been refined and developed through practice.”

The New Frontiers programme is open to early-stage entrepreneurs based in Ireland over the age of 18 with an idea that has employment and export potential. Start dates vary according to your chosen location, but the application process is quick and easy. Simply fill in the online form available on www.newfrontiers.ie and a programme manager will get in touch to discuss your project and send you an application form

Visit www.newfrontiers.ie for details on how to apply.

Image of Mo Harvey

 The future looks regulated – regtech report

Photo of Mo Harvey, fintech advisor

The Irish fintech sector has long been dominated by the payments industry but the regtech (regulatory technology) sector in particular has been quietly achieving great heights globally and without much fanfare, until now.

Mo Harvey, Financial Services & FinTech Advisor, Hong Kong, says the sector is often overlooked as it is not consumer-facing, but in fact regtech has been steadily growing in sophistication and applicability.

“There are varying definitions out there (as to what regtech is) but, at its core, it is the use of new technologies by institutions, banks, insurance companies or any regulated entity to meet regulatory compliance challenges in a more efficient way,” she explains. “It transforms risk management and compliance functions and enables companies to strategise and grow while complying with even the most complex regulations.

“Ireland is an important centre for international financial services with a high-quality talent pool working in legal, risk and compliance functions – currently, regtech is the largest indigenous fintech sub-sector and it is bubbling with promise.” says Harvey. 

 

Global Regtech Market

According to Harvey, regtech is the ‘unsung hero’ of the fintech sector and the Asia-Pacific region is ripe for Irish firms within in the sector.

“Pre-pandemic, the global regtech market was predicted to grow from USD$6.3 billion in 2020 to USD$16.0 billion by 2025, a rate of over 20% per year, with Asia-Pacific accounting for the highest growth rate over this period,” she says.  “However, COVID-19 caused an acceleration in adoption in tandem with a fintech boom so the market could hit as high as USD$30 billion by 2025.

“Market and industry drivers such as the 2008 financial crisis, increasing regulatory enforcement actions and fines, proactive regulators encouraging regtech adoption, digital banks, payments and lending, virtual assets and remote onboarding are just some of the contributing factors which have created opportunity for specialised solutions.

“Regtech adoption is mature in Europe and the USA, but Asia-Pacific presents an interesting opportunity for regtech companies. It is a uniquely fragmented region of developed and developing markets, with a number of sophisticated financial ecosystems and complex regulatory environments.” confirms Harvey. 

 

Expanding the Irish Regtech Footprint

Enterprise Ireland began its Asia-Pacific wide regtech initiative over three years ago and has just released its ground-breaking report on The State of RegTech in APAC, and Mo Harvey says the report has even garnered support from all the key fintech ecosystem players throwing their weight behind it, from the APAC RegTech Network and The Regtech Association of Australia to the FinTech Associations of Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and Malaysia.

“We could see an increasing number of regtech companies coming out of Ireland and an alignment in terms of potential and opportunity in Asia-Pacific,” she says. “What started as an exclusive market research for Irish regtech companies to help them understand the nuances of the region, has now become the authority on regtech in Asia-Pacific.

“Consequently, people are starting to take note of what Irish regtechs have to offer out here.”

 

Plenty of opportunity for Irish firms

Covid 19 may have caused many problems for industry in every sector across the globe but the fintech expert says it has brought about some positivity for companies in the regtech sector.

Right now, we have a perfect storm of opportunity,” says Harvey. “Regtech adoption in Australia is well-advanced but it is at a relatively early stage in the Asian banking market with opportunities for further growth.

“While many banks have started using regtech, most commonly in financial crime, regtech is employed in a low percentage of risk management and regulatory compliance activities.

“The breadth of regtech adoption is expected to increase over the next year, especially in the areas of conduct, customer protection, regulatory and tax reporting, and regulatory compliance obligations.” says Harvey. 

“In addition, we are seeing regulators in key markets such as Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan, all encouraging the adoption of regtech (some regulators going as far as incentivising banks to buy regtech solutions). So now is a good time for regtechs to start building at least one Asia-Pacific market into their expansion strategy.”

 

 Ireland’s Regtech Cluster of Excellence

In outposts around the world, Enterprise Ireland is working hard on behalf of Irish businesses and its strategy with regard to regtech is to help the sector cluster in Ireland to be synonymous with excellence.

“There are a number of Irish companies already enjoying global success,” says Mo Harvey. “These include Fenergo, Vizor, Daon, MyComplianceOffice and Know Your Customer, while AQMetrics, Cerebreon, Sedicii and DX Compliance are gaining international traction. Hopefully more can follow in their footsteps.

“Marrying Europe’s position as a global leader in regulatory and compliance standards with Enterprise Ireland’s investment in innovative technology-driven companies, has provided fertile soil for Ireland to have a world-class regtech cluster and support the imminent global regtech boom.”

 

To learn more download our State of Regtech APAC report.

Pricing Excellence: Irish exporters need to develop a robust pricing structure to safeguard their business

We are currently entering a period of high inflation, with prices rising in the EU, the UK and the US. Even at home, the Irish Consumer Price Index rose to 1.7% for the year to May 2021. But after several years of stable prices, many companies are unprepared for the commercial implications of inflation, leaving them vulnerable both now and in the future – and this, according to the results of the Pricing Excellence study recently commissioned by Enterprise Ireland, is a very real worry for Irish companies operating in every country.

Having a robust pricing strategy is important in every sector, but thanks to a prolonged period of low inflation, this skill has been underused and underdeveloped. “Pricing is a fundamental capability and relevant in every market,” says Deirdre McPartlin, Director UK at Enterprise Ireland. “It’s not a dark art or something mysterious, it’s a strategy that companies need to develop and fine-tune over many years. It has even been described as a ‘memory muscle’ that unfortunately has weakened over the years of low inflation. A pricing strategy requires both skill and confidence, and these can – and must – be learned and developed.”

Why a good pricing strategy is so vital

“For business to business companies, many of the SMEs we look after are dealing with powerful procurement departments that are highly skilled at getting the lowest prices,” says Deirdre. “Or they may be going up against bigger corporates that have very sophisticated pricing systems and strategies. And with online marketplaces and increased digitalisation, pricing is more transparent than ever – but it’s hard to explain value in those instances or compare like with like. And then there are companies with something completely new – how do you set a pricing strategy in a brand-new market?”

 

Not charging enough

An increasing number of Enterprise Ireland client companies have reported that they are finding the subject of pricing strategy more challenging recently. “We see clients that are so skilled at innovating, that work incredibly hard in winning a customer and in keeping a customer,” says Deirdre. “But they say that trying to monetise that innovation requires skill and confidence, so that pricing is not just ‘cost plus’.

We see customers with order books going out 18 months and yet they’re operating on the thinnest of margins – so they clearly have a very valuable product or they have customers that they’ve maintained for 10 years but they’re not getting the profit margin.” says McPartlin

If you are struggling to find the margin to invest in sales & marketing or R&D to grow and protect your business, but you’re keeping your customers, then maybe you’re not charging for all you provide.”

To look at the challenges being face by Irish companies around the area of pricing, Enterprise Ireland partnered with international pricing and strategy consultancy Simon-Kucher & Partners to conduct a survey of Enterprise Ireland client companies on pricing strategy. This was the first multi-sectoral pricing survey of Irish companies, and the results were compared with the global averages from Simon-Kucher & Partner’s Global Pricing Study 2021, which evaluates the pricing and growth strategies of companies across all industries worldwide.

The study involved a survey of nearly 500 Enterprise Ireland client companies covering 12 industries. The sample included respondents across top and middle management positions in a range of B2B and B2C industries. And the results echoed what Enterprise Ireland has been hearing since the end of 2000 – that Irish companies were still producing goods and solutions valued by the market, but that profit margins were increasingly under pressure.

According to the survey, Irish exporters have shown great resilience through the challenges posed by both Brexit and Covid-19, with 54% of companies reporting improving profits in 2020, comparing well with the global average of 59%. 

According to the survey, Irish exporters have shown great resilience through the challenges posed by both Brexit and Covid-19, with 54% of companies reporting improving profits in 2020, comparing well with the global average of 59%.

But with volume gain consistently identified as the key profit driver, and only 8% predicting that these improvements in profits will be sustainable in the long term, any profit gains are highly vulnerable to the impact of inflation rises.

From the survey, 71% of respondents were planning a price increase in 2021, with 35% of respondents targeting price increases above the inflation rate and 34% planning a price increase in line with inflation. But the average realisation rate for price increases was 21%, which means that a company trying to raise prices by 2% would only achieve around a 0.4% increase on average. This puts many companies at risk of significant margin erosion – even if they were targeting for increases above inflation rates.

 

Building skills and confidence in pricing strategy

Price is the strongest profit lever for companies ahead of cost control and increase in sales volume, and these results clearly show that Irish exporters need to develop a sustainable pricing strategy. Not only is this important to protect profit margins, but it’s also needed to future-proof the business, by giving them the resources to invest in research and development, as well as the means to invest in important business functions like sales and marketing activities.

“It’s not price gouging or exploitation, it’s about getting a fair price for the value that you are delivering,” says Deirdre. “We’re living in a time of inflation, which is relatively new for a lot of companies – for instance, we talked to some clients who hadn’t put in place a price increase for nine years. The study clearly shows the need for companies to invest time and skills into a pricing strategy that will equip the company for future growth and success.”

Watch our on-demand webinar with Mark Billige, CEO of Simon-Kucher & Partners to learn the steps needed to implement a price increase process.