Pricing Excellence – Pricing Study 2021 Webinar

This Pricing Study was conducted by Enterprise Ireland in collaboration with Simon-Kucher & Partners.

The study recorded nearly 500 responses with strong representation across all sectors demonstrating that the topic remains a high priority for businesses.

This webinar presents the results of the survey along with guidance on how to develop and implement a price increase process.


Gain key business insights with our on-demand UK webinar series

Designing the workplace of the future – A new guide for all employers

    The world of work was shaken to its core in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Ireland and hundreds of thousands of Irish workers had to suddenly work from home.

    The slow and steady drive towards digitalisation accelerated sharply, and virtual meeting programmes such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams became commonplace. Now, 15 months on, and with the vaccination programme well underway, employers can begin to think about a return to the workplace – hopefully permanently. But the many lessons learned during the pandemic has had both employers and employees thinking about the future workplace – will we ever go back to the way it was? And do we want to?

    Enterprise Ireland has produced a new guide, ‘Emerging Through Covid-19 – The future of work, which aims to help business owners think about the positives and negatives from the last 15 months and to use these to build a sustainable business model for the future. With many employees welcoming the idea of remote working into the future, either full-time or for part of the week, is it time for employers to recognise the positives of remote working and tie it into their company policy on a permanent basis? And if so, how can they make it sustainable?

    “This is a follow-on from last year’s Covid-19 employer guide; last year we looked at the health and safety aspects of returning to work, while the theme of this year’s guide is around the future of work,” explains Karen Hernández, Senior Executive, Client Management Development at Enterprise Ireland. “During Covid, the workplace has changed, the nature of work has changed for a lot of people, and what employees expect from their employers has changed. Our aim is for all companies to be prepared to put in place the right structures and practices that suit their business needs and also the needs of their employees.

    “A large portion of our client base experienced the need to rush into remote working when Covid-19 hit Ireland in 2020. There have been some advantages and opportunities associated with this; some businesses found they’re as productive, if not more productive when working remotely. This guide aims to help companies take what’s worked well over the last 15 months and create some sustainable practices and processes that work for everybody.”

    The guide was developed in partnership with Fredericka Sheppard and Joyce Rigby-Jones of Voltedge, a highly regarded HR consultancy based in Dublin. “The objective with the guide is that it gives you a framework to start developing your own plan for the return to the office,” explains Fredericka. “All organisations are going to have their own dynamic, their own set of circumstances, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this. Our aim was to identify key pillars for organisations to use to develop structure and a suitable framework for their business.”


    The importance of asking questions

    A huge emphasis is placed on the need for communication with employees when making these decisions. “Employers need to engage with and actively listen to their employees, while also driving their business forward,” says Joyce. “This is intended as a broad guide, where employers can pick and choose the relevant pieces to them.”

    “It’s very important that employees feel that they’re being heard,” adds Fredericka. “However, decisions need to be made based on a number of factors, and employee input is just one of those factors. Obviously it’s really important to manage expectations and sometimes it’s just down to how you ask the questions. Give them some context from a business point of view. It’s not just about the employees’ wish-list, it’s also about creating a sustainable workplace for the future.”


    Managing remote workers

    Many employers are looking at keeping some sort of remote or flexible working practices in place – and offering this flexibility can be very positive when it comes to attracting talent. “Almost two-thirds of our client base are saying they find it hard to attract, engage and retain talent,” says Karen. “Companies need to consult and stay close to their employees and ask them what they want – and include aspects like flexibility as part of a value proposition to attract candidates.

    “Many companies that we are working with are looking at some sort of hybrid model, where employees combine time working in the office and time spent working remotely, at home or in co-working spaces. There are huge upsides, such as accessing skills from different parts of the country that they never would have before – offering remote, flexible or hybrid working is attractive to employees.

    However, this can be difficult to manage, and companies need to consider what works for the team as a whole as well as what’s right for individuals within those teams.”

    “There’s a big need for management support and training, especially for middle and line managers and supervisors who are dealing with a remote workforce,” explains Joyce. “It’s difficult for them, but it’s important that they get it right. Ensuring your managers are confident in what they do, and in their engagement with their teams. We are hearing that companies are looking to bring their employees into the office more, but it’s about getting that blend right between remote working and the office. One aspect that we emphasised in the guide is the need to make sure you are not discriminating against employees who are not in the office environment.”

    Identifying and managing issues such as burn-out and isolation is essential if companies are to offer some sort of remote working policy. “Companies that have regular check-ins and meetings with staff and use different methods of communication, such as video calls, emails and direct messaging are more likely to keep employees engaged when working remotely.  It’s also important for employees to have individual focus time, where they are able to detach from colleagues and concentrate on getting their work done without interruption”, says Karen.  “Long term, we don’t know enough about hybrid working for a definite ‘best practice’ but instead companies should pilot different ways of working – for instance, we have some companies who are trialling a ‘team days’ concept – having the whole team in for certain days of the week, then for the rest of the week, they’re working from home.”


    Piloting the new workplace

    The aim of the guide is to pose those broad questions that will help employers in every sector decide on the right workplace for the future of their business – but there is no need to rush into a decision. “The biggest challenge for employers is making the decision as to how you’re going to handle this working environment,” says Joyce. “Are you going to fully return, are you going for a hybrid, can you facilitate a full return in the workspace that you have? Employers need to make very big decisions, and very strategic, long-term decisions, so we’re suggesting that they talk to their employees about what they want and then piloting whatever they plan to do before they make any strategic decisions that will impact on the business going forward.”

    Covid-19 has had a huge effect on how we work – but now is the time to use what we have learned since March 2020 to create a more inclusive, sustainable business model, one that pushes the business forward while creating a culture that values employees and their health and wellbeing more than ever before. This can only be a positive thing.


    To download Enterprise Ireland’s new guide, ‘Emerging Through Covid-19 – The future of work’, click here.

    UK Super Deduction: How it affects your UK customers

    As part of the 2021 UK budget, the British government has introduced the largest tax incentive on plant and equipment capital investments in their history.

    This incentive, known as the super deduction, allows UK companies to claim 130% capital allowances on qualifying plant and machinery investments. This is an increase on the 18% ordinary relief prior and came into effect on 1st April 2021 running until the end of March 2023.

    Alongside the super deduction, the UK government also introduced a 50% first year allowance (FYA) on for special rate assets until 31 March, up from a 6% allowance previously. These changes make the UK capital allowance regime more internationally competitive, lifting the net present value of UK plant and machinery allowances from 30th to 1st in the OECD.

    What does this mean for you and your UK customers?

    This incentive reduces the effective cost of equipment for UK manufacturers, thus making plant and machinery investments more attractive.

    For example, under current rules, if a company invests £100,000 in a piece of equipment they can write off the cost of that equipment against their tax bill. i.e. Since 19% of £100,000 is £19,000, the effective cost of their equipment is £81,000.

    With the new super deduction, you can write off 130% of your investment in “plant and machinery” against your tax bill. i.e. 130% of £100,000 is £130,000, which at the 19% corporate tax rate allows you to write off £24,700. This means the effective cost of your equipment is now £75,300. Therefore, companies are incentivised to move forward or make additional capital investments.

    This is necessary as investment has dropped significantly due to the pandemic in the UK which was on top of historically low business investment relative to the UK’s peers. Chancellor Rishi Sunak reiterated this need for increased investment “With the lowest corporation tax in the G7, we need to do even more to encourage businesses to invest – for decades we have lagged behind our international peers”.

    It is expected that these incentives should act as a catalyst to the return of capital investment in the UK post pandemic with Stephen Phipson of MAKE UK (The UK manufacturer’s association) stating that the super deduction should “turbocharge investment”.

    For many manufacturers in the UK investment cycles have stalled or been delayed due to Covid-19 and Brexit and may now be looking at capital investments for the first time in several years. According to a MAKE UK survey following the budget announcement, almost a quarter (22.6%) of manufacturers stated plans to increase investments in response to the super deduction. Furthermore, 28.1% of those surveyed said they will bring forward planned investments in response.

    This indicates the impact that these incentives will have on investments in 2021 and beyond, potentially making your customer base more receptive to your offering.

    This is one of the first major supports brought in for manufacturers since the UK industrial strategy was axed earlier this year and it is expected that there is further supports to come for UK manufacturers. There has been calls for an overarching plan for business to replace the industrial strategy, bringing together policies around sustainability, skills and trade, but it is uncertain whether such a plan will be put in place.

    Nevertheless, the introduction of incentives like the super deduction are sure to be welcomed by manufacturers in the UK and Irish companies should ensure they are up to date with any supports their customers may be receiving for their product/service. To learn more about Tax super deduction visit

    Stay up to date with Enterprise Ireland UK on LinkedIn or get in touch here.

    The Climate Enterprise Action Fund: helping firms to boost low-carbon agendas

    The Climate Enterprise Action Fund is a new initiative that was recently launched by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister Eamon Ryan with an initial allocation of €10m. The fund, which will be administered by Enterprise Ireland, is designed to help businesses take action to drive down their emissions and embed sustainability in how they work.

    Aidan McKenna, manager of the Climate Enterprise Action Fund at Enterprise Ireland, says the fund is one of a number of actions underway to ensure that Ireland reaches its ambition of reducing emissions by 51% by the end of this decade.

    “The fund builds on work Enterprise Ireland is already carrying out with companies throughout Ireland,” says Aidan. “We know the initiatives that work well and embed change in companies.”


    Low-carbon future

    Reducing emissions will contribute to a more sustainable future for us all. However, along with the moral and political imperative, there is a very strong business case for Irish companies to adopt a low-carbon, sustainable agenda. One of the most important emerging market demands today is the need for companies to demonstrate their commitment to low-carbon production and sustainable business processes. It is vital that these companies are responsive to emerging market conditions.”

    “Many Irish companies sell products and services to larger, international companies at home and abroad. Increasingly, these companies are requiring suppliers to have sustainability at the core of their operations. A failure to show real progress can lock you out of the market.

    “Likewise, many consumers are placing environmental standards at a premium when making purchasing decisions. Issues such as using recyclable packaging, adhering to international sustainability standards and having transparent supply chains are now important factors for more and more consumers. Those that don’t change will miss out on the significant opportunities emerging from the low-carbon transition and risk being left behind.”

    Aidan McKenna says another important factor is that investors and capital funds – which are critical to start-up and growing companies – increasingly factor in environmental impact into their investment decisions.  “What is termed ‘green finance’ is now a reality and will shape investment decisions into the future,” explains Aidan.


    Climate Enterprise Action Fund

    Enterprise Ireland’s new Climate Enterprise Action Fund is designed to assist companies at various stages of engagement with this agenda. It comprises of three main offers:

    • Climate Action Voucher – a €1,800 grant to engage consultants to develop plans in areas such as resource efficiency and renewable energy.
    • GreenStart – up to €5,000 to measure carbon footprint and identify ways to reduce emissions and operate more sustainably.
    • GreenPlus – a fund of up to 50% to develop a multi-annual climate change plan aligned to international standards and frameworks.

    “The first two offers are driven by the principle of ‘what gets measured gets done’,” explains Aidan. “Establishing a baseline of current resource consumption and emissions profile is essential to begin a change process. These offers will be particularly attractive to companies beginning their low-carbon journey. The third offer, Green Plus, is aimed at companies further along the journey align to international standards and frameworks.”

    The Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) network has also recently launched a new scheme, called Green For Micro, designed to help smaller companies prepare for a low-carbon, sustainable future. With the help of a Green Consultant, small businesses with up to ten employees can get free advice and technical support on resource efficiency, how to better understand their carbon footprint and how to implement an environmental management system to reduce costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions.


    Driving change

    “We are acutely aware of the pressure that companies have been under facing up to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and our fundamentally changed trading relationship with the UK. While companies see the value in adopting more sustainable processes in principle, finding the time and resources to dedicate to that mission can be difficult. That is why our new initiative is designed to provide companies with tangible baseline information and a route map of what a low-carbon, sustainable future looks like for them. Having the low-carbon concept broken down into achievable actions makes the journey all that more realistic and the business wins all that more attainable.”

    “The global trading environment is tough and competitive,” says Aidan. “To succeed, companies need to think not just about the next order, but about how their sector will develop in the next five to ten years. Environmental sustainability and responsible production will be key drivers of business success into the future. Now is the time for all Irish businesses to prepare for that future.”

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


    Scale 21 – Helping businesses to get established in the UK

    The UK has always been and remains Irelands largest single trading partner with a wealth of opportunities for Irish companies.

    To support Irish companies to establish themselves in the UK, Enterprise Ireland has run the Scale UK mentoring programme since 2012.

    This year’s Scale 21 invites companies to advance their businesses by finessing their strategies, developing their UK messaging, analysing their sales channels and becoming pitch ready with inputs from our experienced mentors.

    Download more information on Scale 21 or watch our programme overview below.

    Gain insights from a previous participant and mentor who discuss their experiences with Scale UK.

    Gillian Doyle, CEO Cerebreon discusses her experience of participating on Scale UK and gives her advice for companies applying for next year’s programme.

    Carol Ward, President at Man GLG and Scale UK mentor shares her experience of Scale UK, working with fellow mentors and Irish diaspora and the importance of supporting companies with growth ambition for the UK.


    To learn more about the Scale 21 programme download our guide.

    2021 virtual trade mission – Reaching a global audience

    In the not-too-distant past, companies wishing to establish a successful business relationship with firms overseas, would have relied heavily on international travel and perhaps an office or ‘boots-on-the-ground’ in the country in question.

    But these days, there is also another option as there are many international companies located across Ireland who are more than willing to do business with local businesses – and Gerard, Fenner, Senior Executive of Global Sourcing for Enterprise Ireland, says his team can help to bring Irish SMEs and multinational firms together.

    “The combination of modern technology and accessible travel has made the world a much smaller place and opened up a myriad of global opportunities for Irish businesses,” he says.


    Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland collaboration

    “But travelling to or even selling out of this country isn’t the only means for companies at home to expand into the international market as there are hundreds of multinationals right here in Ireland, which are willing and able to engage with indigenous firms. Since its formation in 2012, the Enterprise Ireland Global Sourcing team has been working with colleagues in IDA Ireland to introduce Irish owned businesses to international firms to respond to their specific requirements.

    “Working with companies across every sector, including pharma, medtech, ICT, engineering, financial services and energy, our team helps to develop relationships between Irish companies who are seeking to sell their product or service and multinational firms who wish to purchase same – so our particular focus is on providing sales opportunities and partnerships between Enterprise Ireland client companies and Ireland-based multinationals, predominantly IDA firms.”

    According to Fenner, there are many benefits to both the seller and the buyer in these business relationships and apart from supporting industry at home, it can also lead to opportunities in export markets – and winning a contract with a multinational gives a scaling Irish company a valuable reference site for its move into export markets.

    “We have found that one of the most productive means of securing relationships between Irish firms and multinationals based here is by means of events where introductions can be made, and sellers can have pre-arranged face to face meetings with potential buyers,” he says.


    Developing international relationships

    “In 2014 we organised the first Trade Mission in Ireland. The event was minister led and took place in various regional locations across the country over the course of a couple of days – and since then, it has taken place every year, apart from 2020, due to lockdown restrictions. It has always garnered a lot of interest and helped to develop contracts and future relationships.”

    So it seems that trade missions have long been an effective means of introducing businesses to prospective clients, but since the onset of the pandemic, industry across every sector has had to pivot online and learn how to do business in a virtual world.


    Online introductions and meetings

    As current guidelines continue to prevent physical events of this nature taking place, this year, on May 12th, the first ever virtual Global Sourcing Trade Mission became the alternative.

    Launched by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, the event proved as popular as ever with 65 multinationals and 240 Irish companies registered with over 350 meetings. And according to Gerard Fenner, the online system was popular with both the variety of different international firms and indigenous companies looking to set up new business relationships.

    “When the Enterprise Ireland companies registered on the event platform, they provided some company information about what they do and what their offer is, and this allowed suppliers to search through this information and put in a request for a meeting,” says the international trade expert. “Similarly, the supplier was also able to request a meeting with a buyer in order to pitch a product or service.

    “Although these 15-minute meeting slots were different to how things normally work at a physical trade mission, it proved to be very successful with feedback from both sides indicating their positivity – and early signs show the possibility of new business relationships and further revenue to add to the €32 million in contracts which have been secured from these trade missions.”

    The Global Sourcing Team lead says there was also the added positive bonus of no travel, which meant that the multinational could bring in individuals from different areas of their business to meet potential suppliers – so rather than just one representative attending the event, firms could bring in someone from finance or with technical expertise to liaise directly with companies pitching a particular service.

    “Overall it was a great success and we have run smaller online events similar to this over the past year and many multinational firms have come back to us to say they were impressed with the fact that they got to meet so many different businesses,” he says.

    “So, the trade mission, whether it takes place at a venue or online, is an important platform for raising awareness about the capabilities of innovative Irish SMEs and helping them to establish future business relationships. And given the interest in this year’s event, despite the difficulties surrounding the current global situation, the future looks bright.”

    Sustainability – Sisk Talks Success with GreenPlus

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

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

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


    “It was very enlightening”

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


    21 Targets Linked to the SDGs

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    Helping innovative Irish start-ups to flourish


      In 2018, the Central Statistics Office reported that small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represented 99.8pc of enterprises in Ireland. Small indigenous Irish companies are the backbone of the Irish economy, opening new markets and creating job opportunities.

      “20 years ago, sectoral definitions such as fintech, agtech and digital health were unknown,” says Claire Carroll. “Now we are constantly seeing the emergence of new technologies, be it iterative within existing industries or new and disruptive sectors such as those that are supporting driverless cars, satellites, Artificial Intelligence (AI) or machine learning. In Ireland we must have an environment that contributes to these innovations, stays ahead and relevant so that we can drive jobs and exports.”


      High potential

      Claire says that the genesis for Enterprise Ireland’s Seed & Venture Capital schemes came over 27 years ago when Enterprise Ireland identified  the need for a functioning venture ecosystem to support the emergence of technology companies as it was not feasible for the state to fund a company’s journey “all the way from establishment, right up to the point where they’re able to stand on their own two feet, particularly the typical High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) companies that need to invest heavily in research and innovation, thereby delaying the timeline to cashflow positivity”.

      “Since then, we have had five Seed and Venture Capital Schemes, to help ensure that there is an available and effective overall funding ecosystem in Ireland. To date, €565m has been invested in funds. The most recent scheme of €175m was announced in Budget 2019, and to date four funds have received commitments, whilst a number of others have received an allocation and are scheduled to close over the coming months.”

      Enterprise Ireland recently ran an €82m Call for Expressions of Interest for venture fund managers which will lead to more funds being launched over the coming year.

      Claire says “The vision of the scheme is to foster a strong pipeline of high-growth, innovative businesses in the Irish economy, and help those indigenous companies at the early pre-seed or seed stage move into their scaling, Series A phase.

      “We need to support fast-growing and disruptive sectors such as fintech and agtech, amongst others. In 2019, we invested €10m in a new European agritech venture capital fund run by Yield Lab, a venture capital company for the sector. Up until very recently, there wasn’t a sufficient cohort of companies to require such a specialist fund. Likewise, Enterprise Ireland has invested €20m across two European fintech funds, Finch Capital and MiddleGame Ventures which will support Irish companies in these sectors and help them scale internationally. When Enterprise Ireland invests in a venture fund, the manager will invest twice what Enterprise Ireland has allocated to their fund into Irish companies – this leverage is at the centre of Enterprise Ireland’s strategy to bring external capital into the Irish SME sector.

      Claire highlights the Seed & Venture Capital schemes are also used to drive other aspects of Enterprise Ireland’s strategy such as support for women in business and regional development. The Irish venture sector has an above international average of women involved in investment decision making and we want to grow this further and also, most importantly increase the number of women-led businesses that attract VC funding. We expect our venture managers to ensure they have policies and processes that are supportive and encouraging to women entrepreneurs. Ensuring that Irish businesswomen realise their full business potential is critical to Irish economic prosperity. Likewise, Enterprise Ireland’s decision-making process around commitments to venture funds gives strong consideration to the extent to which the managers will either base themselves regionally or have a strategy to source their investments across the country and not simply around Dublin.


      Leverage investment

      Raising capital is often a challenge for Irish early-stage companies. A key piece of this most recent scheme is that, for those funds focused on the Pre-Seed to Seed Stages of development –  where there’s little revenue in the company – Enterprise Ireland can now invest an increased maximum share of up to 70pc of these funds. This was increased from 50pc in recognition of the challenges finding investors for early stage funds. At this stage of investment, the funds are often co-investing alongside the High Potential Start-Ups (HPSU) programme as companies raise their first external investment.

      “What we aim to do is leverage our money, rather than simply hand it out,” says Claire. “So, fund managers need to raise as much as they can from their own resources by ‘matching money’.

      For example, if they are targeting a €60m fund, they might get €20m from us and must raise the remaining €40m elsewhere. I think this is great, because depending on their strategy, that can effectively treble the leverage of Enterprise Ireland’s capital for Irish SMEs.”

      The €565m funding that has been invested to date has leveraged substantial additional external funding of over €1bn, directly benefiting over 740 Irish companies.

      To learn more about the scheme or to submit an expression of interest visit Seed & Venture Capital Fund





      One Planet. One Health – Danone and GreenPlus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Innovation Arena Awards: showcasing ground-breaking solutions in the agriculture industry

      Innovation emerges when problems need to be solved, so it’s no surprise that some exciting technological advances are coming from one of our most important indigenous industries, agriculture.

      For many years, Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Arena Awards in association with the National Ploughing Association has been an important showcase for entrepreneurs presenting agri-related solutions to the industry. In 2020, with the National Ploughing Championships cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the awards moved online for the first year; with the event in doubt again amid ongoing restrictions, the 2021 awards are now launching online once more.

      “This is the 11th Innovation Arena, and the eighth that Enterprise Ireland has been involved in,” says Enterprise Ireland’s Senior Regional Development Executive James Maloney. “The entries are based around efficiencies in agriculture; that can be from engineering or science, we’re also seeing a lot from the IoT [Internet of things] or robotics side recently, or how technology is helping to modernise agriculture.”

      There are 12 awards in total, with a €5,000 cash prize for each of the winners of the Best Start-Up Award and the Overall Award. Most importantly, however, the awards offer a platform for companies to showcase their solutions to a global audience, which could include potential customers and investors.

      “Last year, the winners of the Overall Awards were Malone Farm Machinery in Mayo, with their Malone Express, a 16-bale trailer that can accommodate 16 round bales on a shorter chassis. Their piece on YouTube attracted 17,000 views in the first week. Because of our global network in Enterprise Ireland, the awards get quite a bit of traction abroad, and Malone would have had interest from overseas markets such as the US, France and Canada. The awards also have the capacity to change the mindset and ambition of the company; for instance, now a company in Mayo can produce machinery for a farmer in the US.”


      Finding solutions

      A 2018 McKinsey report revealed that agriculture is one of the world’s least digitalised sectors in the world, making the industry ripe for innovation, particularly in terms of finding solutions to improve efficiency, sustainability and sector-specific issues such as disease control and carbon emissions.

      “We’ve always been good at farming and good in research; now it’s about bringing science, technology and agriculture together to create solutions,” says James. “The opportunities are there too – agri-engineering exports are worth just over €500 million to Ireland, while agriculture-related exports were worth over €13 billion in 2019.”

      A big issue for agriculture at the moment is the need to lower carbon emissions. “Innovation for a green future in agriculture is a priority for us this year,” says James. “We’ll be looking for innovations that can reduce emissions, improve efficiencies and promote sustainable agriculture for the future. A good example is the winner of the Sustainable Agriculture Award last year, Hexafly, which essentially produces protein from black soldier flies. This is a very environmentally friendly way of producing protein for animal feeds, and is currently being used for fish food at present. As things develop, it could be used elsewhere in the food chain to replace more carbon-heavy protein producers.”

      The need to improve efficiency and reduce waste is also attracting new ideas. “We’ve also seen innovations in using technology and sensors to help farmers optimise the nutrition of both crops and animals, providing benefits on production costs, while also protecting the environment. For instance, if a plant doesn’t need certain nutrients, there are sensors emerging to recognise these characteristics partnered with software to deliver the data to the farmer, to make informed decisions based on science and information.

      “Antibiotic efficacy is a concern across the globe. Micron Agritech has a solution that allows farmers test for worms onsite to determine whether an animal needs an antibiotic treatment or not. The goal of innovative new technology and is to move away from broad-spectrum treatments, into more targeted applications, saving money and reducing resistance and protecting the future for all.”

      There are also many companies using emerging technology to find solutions needed by the global agricultural sector. An example is last year’s winner of the Best Start-Up Award, artificial intelligence and robotics company Iamus Technologies, which is collaborating with a large poultry processor to use its technology to continuously gather data from birds, providing feedback that could save the poultry industry billions of euros annually.


      Entering the awards

      The Innovation Arena Awards is now accepting entries from entrepreneurs with a working prototype or finished product through the Enterprise Ireland website.

      “The entry process is very simple,” James explains. “The application form asks for a 250-word description of your company, what you do, and the problem that your innovation solves. These entries are shortlisted for the next stage, which involves a more detailed entry form and in the past, a pitch on the Innovation Arena stage at the Ploughing Championships; this year, it’s more likely to be a virtual presentation and questions/answers.

      “You can decide what category to enter; occasionally, we may advise that another category is more suitable. All categories are eligible for the top award and cash prizes of €5,000 for Overall Winner and Best Start-Up.”

      Entries for the 2021 Innovation Arena Awards are open until the end of June 2021. Full application details can be found here.



      Plenty to celebrate stateside this St Patrick’s Day

      St Patrick’s Day offers an unrivalled opportunity to showcase Irish business innovation to a US audience.

      The traditional meeting between the Taoiseach and US President is taking place virtually this year, leveraging our important ties and connectivity with our trans-Atlantic neighbour more than ever.  

      The USA remains the world’s largest consumer market, a $22 trillion dollar economy. It grew by 4% in Q4 last year and early projections for 2021 indicate further growth of 3.2%, a strong performance for a developed economy.

      Increasingly Irish companies succeed here by recognising that the USA is no more one market than Europe is, and that to penetrate it they must go in state by state. California’s economy is, after all, approximately the same size as that of the UK. New York’s is approximately the same size as South Korea.


      The Pandemic Pivot

      The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact, with unemployment currently at 6.9%, up from 3.5% prior to Covid, which was a 50-year low. Lockdowns vary by state but as a whole the US is a market where the pivot happened fast, and the return will too.

      One of the biggest trends we see is how major US multinationals, such as Facebook, Microsoft, and many others are embracing the lessons learned. They have ‘leaned in’ to the opportunities that remote working, accelerated technology adoption and virtual collaboration have presented.

      Interestingly, this has also led to a level of economic migration and mobility not seen in generations as more and more people also take advantage of operating remotely and move to less dense population centres.

      The crossing of the digital Rubicon has also led to accelerated growth in sectors that were once described as emerging, these include ecommerce, cybersecurity, and digital health. There has also been a marked increase in the demand for content driven by the rapid growth in usage and choice across stream platforms. These relatively sudden supply and demand shifts always result in direct and tangential opportunities, and threats.

      As people live more online, those providing back end solutions, such as data management (provision and support products and services) and security, are seeing potential for robust growth.


      Building Back Better

      Further bolstering the optimism for strong 2021 GDP growth is the economic stimulus plan put forth by President Biden, further supplemented by significant planned investment in infrastructure and the green economy. At time of writing the $1.9 Trillion stimulus plan has moved back to the US House of Representatives for final ratification, this is expected to provide significant economic stimulus across the US.

      Other sectors are of course challenged. International student numbers from the US to Ireland have fallen for obvious reasons. Consumer retail, for those that have not embraced ecommerce, is struggling, and other sectors that have historically relied on a tactile or physical element to the sales process, e.g. machinery, will naturally struggle more in a virtual environment.

      A big question affecting businesses, and unknown in terms of our ‘new normal’, is what airline travel will look like. Capacity is certainly not what it was pre-Covid and there are complex variables that impact this supply and demand dynamic, not least of which are staff and equipment availability. Thankfully we continue to be relatively well served on the trans-Atlantic route.

      Over the past 12 months Enterprise Ireland has also leaned in to supporting our clients to stabilise, reset and recover. Supports such as the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, Online Retail Scheme, Virtual Selling programme, Competitive Start, our many management training programmes and others have enabled companies not just to cope with the challenges of selling into the US and globally, but to compete for and capture the opportunities that now exist in our new normal.


      Virtual St Patrick’s Day Celebrations

      Enterprise Ireland is walking this walk too in our traditional St Patricks Day events, having taken the traditional week-long programme of events for St Patrick’s Day and working with our Team Ireland colleagues migrating it online. Where Team Ireland would normally have the Taoiseach, Ministers, and a programme of economic, political, social and cultural events from coast to coast and border to border, we have pivoted entirely and will instead be hosting a multi-faceted programme including a series of in-depth sectoral webinars.

      We are running high profile mainstream media and social campaigns this week too, to maximise the impact of St Patrick’s Day, raising the profile of Irish companies and of the Irish Advantage.

      None of us knows what the new normal will look like. We do know that it will not be a simple snapping back into the old ways. Over the past 12 months we have crossed the digital Rubicon. It is now up to all of us to embrace the digital opportunities on the other side. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you cannot, you are right”. We can.


      Join Enterprise Ireland USA for the ‘Ireland and the US: On Track to Getting Back’ virtual event on 16th March where senior business leaders from both sides of the Atlantic will discuss learnings from 2020, and powering growth in 2021. Register here.


      Getting There: Strategies to promote gender diversity in business

      At Enterprise Ireland, we have long since recognised that one of the keys to optimising our start-up sector in Ireland is to boost gender equality in business.

      Diversity in business is vital to reflect our modern, global economy and create growing, sustainable companies. Extensive international research has shown that diversity increases innovation and creativity, while research from McKinsey & Co revealed that gender diversity leads to improved productivity and increased profitability.

      However, promoting gender diversity takes work. “Back in 2011, only 7% of our High-Potential Start-Ups (HPSUs) included a woman on the founding team,” says Sheelagh Daly, Entrepreneurship Manager at Enterprise Ireland. “Seeing this, we put in place specific goals and plans to increase this, and now, in 2020, 24% of our HPSUs have a woman founder.”

      While Enterprise Ireland is well known for its entrepreneurship supports for women, increasing gender diversity in business leadership is a relatively new objective. Towards the end of 2018, Enterprise Ireland embarked on research to look at the broader issue of women in business to assess the current situation in Ireland and to see what could be done to improve the situation. The research revealed some unsettling statistics: that less than 20% of CEOs were women, falling to 9% in larger companies; that Ireland had the highest gender gap in self-employment in the EU; and that less than 10% of venture capital funding was going to companies with female founders. The research led to the publication of the Enterprise Ireland 2020 Action Plan for Women in Business.

      “The plan has four objectives,” explains Sheelagh. “To increase the number of women becoming entrepreneurs, to increase the number of women founders in HPSUs, to increase the number of women-led companies growing internationally, and to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions in companies in Ireland. All these objectives are inter-connected, so to achieve one of them you need to achieve all of them.

      “We’ve set ambitious targets for ourselves – we’d like to double the number of women-led companies in the export market by 2025.” says Daly.

      Promoting female entrepreneurs

      While the figures have improved immensely over the past few years, it’s clear there are still some physical and psychological barriers that pose more of a challenge for women in business. For instance, women still bear the brunt of unpaid work in Ireland; in 2019, the ‘Caring and Unpaid Work in Ireland Report’ from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Economic and Social Research Institute revealed that 45% of women provide care for children and older adults on a daily basis, compared with only 29% of men. Networking opportunities, mentors and the visibility of women leaders in enterprise have also been identified as important for women in business.

      “One of the initiatives we developed to address the barriers to funding for women founders is a women-specific call for the Competitive Start Fund (CSF), a fund for early-stage start-ups with the potential to turn into HPSUs, with specific CSF calls for women entrepreneurs. In 2020, 42% of the CSF projects awarded were led by female founders.” says Daly.

      “We also offer the ‘Innovate’ accelerator programme for women entrepreneurs which provides mentoring and a chance for women entrepreneurs to network and learn from each other.

      This is also what is done in Going for Growth, an initiative supported by Enterprise Ireland to offer peer support along with the mentoring piece from successful women entrepreneurs through interactive round table sessions.”

      “Another important initiative is the Part-time Key Manager Grant, which we introduced last year to facilitate the recruitment of part-time senior managers. The grant is available for both men and women, but aims to attract more women to senior management roles.”


      Accessible help

      While the specific female entrepreneur supports outlined above give gender equality a significant boost, a key aim at Enterprise Ireland is to make every programme accessible for all. For instance, the first stop for most entrepreneurs is Ireland’s network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), with 31 offices in the country. The New Frontiers programme is delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland by Third Level Institutes in 16 locations around Ireland and helps entrepreneurs develop their business in readiness for further investment without significant financial risk.

      “We see really strong companies led by women at every stage of their journey,” says Sheelagh. “The supports are there, and we are really keen for more women to avail of those supports. I do believe that there are a lot of women with great ideas and the ability to put them into action; it’s then about the confidence to take that leap and use supports like the New Frontiers programme and aids from the LEOs. Those supports are there and can lessen the risk for both men and women when developing a new business.”

      “Through these initiatives, Enterprise Ireland seeks to address the challenges facing women in business and to inspire and accelerate the growth of Irish businesses by advancing gender diversity in leadership teams and excellence in our start-up sector.”