The Level Project: Promoting gender balance in leadership teams

The Level Project: Promoting gender balance in leadership roles

 

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

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

 

What is The Level Project?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Striving for better

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Introducing the Toolkit

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Key takeouts

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

 


 

What is NextGenerationEU?

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

What does the Eurozone recovery plan mean for Irish SMEs?

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

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

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

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

 


 

Core focus on green and digital

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

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

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

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

 


 

Leaning into Irish tech expertise

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

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

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

 


 

Breaking into a new European market

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

Finding the right market to target

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

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

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

 


 

How will the Eurozone recovery funding work in practice?

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

 


 

Rising to the export challenge

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Med in Ireland 2021

Med in Ireland: Showcasing Ireland’s strength in the global medtech industry

Med in Ireland 2021

Ireland has long been known as one of the epicentres of the medtech world. Not only has our country been chosen as a base for many of the biggest medtech companies in the world, thanks to our excellent talent base and reputation for timely research and development, but we have also been responsible for producing our own ground-breaking companies, some of which have made a real impact on a global scale.

In fact, Ireland is now one of the top five global medtech hubs and home to up to 350 companies in the sector, including 14 of the world’s top 15 medtech companies. We are also the largest medtech employer per capita in Europe, with 45,000 people employed in the sector. Our medtech industry exports over €13 billion to over 100 countries every year, positioning Ireland as the second-largest exporter of medtech products in Europe.

Over 200 of those medtech companies are Irish, and one in five of those working in the sector are employed directly by Irish-owned medtech companies. The impact of these companies on the economy is significant – in 2020, Enterprise Ireland life sciences clients achieved exports of €1.9 billion.

“Ireland has long been a leader in the medtech world,” says Deirdre Glenn, Director, Life Sciences Sector at Enterprise Ireland.

“Our success is down to a combination of track record and forward thinking and a deep pool of experience and highly trained talent. This is boosted by a fertile ecosystem that integrates industry, research and the clinical community to promote high-quality innovation.”

Never has our strength in medtech been so needed than over the last 18 months, when the world found itself in the grips of the Covid-19 pandemic. Numerous Irish companies reacted quickly to the crisis, pivoting their offerings to create valuable solutions to aspects of the pandemic or ramping up production to supply essential devices to hospitals around the world. In fact, Ireland is currently ranked fifth in the world for Covid-19 related goods, with companies such as, Aerogen, patientMPower and PMD Solutions leading the way in medtech innovation.

 

Med in Ireland

Now, however, we are moving into a post-pandemic world, a world where healthcare needs have changed significantly and medtech innovations are needed more than ever before. And once again, Irish innovators are responding quickly with some great innovations.

“Irish medtech companies proved how agile and flexible they were during the pandemic,” says Deirdre. “Our focus has now turned to the post-Covid world, and how the pandemic has changed healthcare, both in terms of how we access it and in terms of how it is delivered. A lot of eyes are on Irish innovators, some of whom have already come up with exciting solutions.”

Many of these were showcased in Med in Ireland, which took place virtually on 3-4 November 2021. A biennial event, Med in Ireland is a high-profile national showcase for the entire spectrum of the Irish medtech sector, encompassing medical devices, medical sub-supply,  diagnostics, digital health, healthcare providers, clinicians and research professionals. This year, 81 Irish manufacturing and healthcare solution providers took part in the event, meeting with international healthcare buyers in a series of virtual one-to-one meetings arranged by Enterprise Ireland. Ireland’s collaborative supports that drive company innovation were also a key focus of the event, while the Innovation Zone showcased some truly exciting start-ups of the future.

“The focus at this year’s Med in Ireland is very much on the themes shaping the post-pandemic healthcare world,” says Deirdre. “These include industry changes such as the move to preventative care, the role of digitalisation in the shift to healthcare outside of hospital settings, the emergence of technologies that reduce environmental impact and improve competitiveness, and the development of new distribution and inventory management models to supply chain weaknesses.”

These themes were at the forefront of the event from the very start, with a special conference featuring a keynote speech from Lorna Ross, Chief Innovation Officer at VHI Health & Wellbeing, and a panel discussion on the future of global healthcare.

Participants could then enjoy example after example of how Irish innovators are responding the needs of healthcare in the post-Covid world. “We have a number of really impressive client companies producing solutions that are required on a global scale,” says Deirdre. “These include LetsGetChecked, a virtual care company that offers over 30 different at-home tests that act as an alternative to traditional in-person medical visits; Swiftqueue, a company offering a self-service portal that allows patients to manage medical appointments across multiple clinic settings; and Vitalograph, a global leader in respiratory diagnostics and clinical trials that offers remote monitoring of lung function and disorders.”

Once again, Med in Ireland attracted leading healthcare providers from all over the world, all of whom look to Ireland for solutions, with the hope of co-developing and commercialising new medical technologies with Irish innovation at its core. Ireland has clearly played a huge role in shaping global healthcare – and that role looks to be growing even further as we move through this period of recovery.

Visit www.medinireland.ie or watch the conference below.

SPEEDIER breaking down barriers to energy efficiency for SMEs

“Horizon funding enables you to carry out high quality, robust research that can influence policy, and policy can change behaviour”

Dr Pádraig Lyons, Head of Group, International Energy Research Centre, and coordinator of SPEEDIER

Case Study: SPEEDIER

The European Union’s Energy Efficiency Directive has set an ambitious target of a 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. With small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) responsible for approximately 13% of Europe’s total energy demand, their contribution to achieving the target is vital.

However, little of this potential has so far been realised with studies estimating that only 25% of SMEs in Europe have undertaken an energy audit. The reasons cited range from lack of time, resource, in-house expertise and finance, to the low priority given to energy efficiency compared to other business needs.

To address these barriers the SPEEDIER (SME Program for Energy Efficiency Through Delivery and Implementation of EneRgy Audits) project was established. Funded by Horizon 2020 and led by the International Energy Research Centre (IERC) in Cork, the project developed an integrated approach to energy management for SMEs, providing information, capacity building, energy auditing, financing, implementation of energy efficiency solutions and monitoring of impacts.

Dr Pádraig Lyons, Head of Group, IERC, and coordinator of SPEEDIER, explains how it differs from other energy efficiency supports.

At IERC we’ve done a number of projects in this space and are learning about the challenges that SMEs are facing. One of these is the difficulty getting finance for decarbonization projects. So we came up with the SPEEDIER concept which is essentially a self-funding approach to becoming energy efficient.” says Lyons

The model developed is a novel funding mechanism, which builds from no-cost energy conservation activities up to higher cost activities, using the savings from each to finance the next level of investment.

“This approach creates a revolving energy efficiency fund for the business, removing any barriers relating to lack of finance, and providing an external source of expertise via the SPEEDIER consultants,” says Lyons.

 

The advantages of collaboration

SPEEDIER involved nine partners across four countries – Ireland, Spain, Italy and Romania – testing the concept in different contexts from hotels to office blocks and across a range of manufacturers.

One of the benefits of this kind of European-wide collaboration is the information we could gather across a broad range of SME types and a wide geographical area.” 

That has enabled us to draw conclusions about how we can move SPEEDIER forward post project and how it should be tailored to different sectors and countries”, says Lyons.

Although the project was hampered by the Covid pandemic, which restricted the implementation of the SPEEDIER service across businesses and meant some targets set at the start of the project had to be revised, Lyons considers that it was a success.

“It’s less about ticking boxes to say we involved this number of companies or trained that number of consultants and more about generating interest in the concept, validating and evaluating the concept and getting companies on a path. And we’re seeing a lot of interest in the SPEEDIER approach.”

 

Focus on the learning

As coordinator of SPEEDIER, Lyons, who took over the reins mid project, is realistic about the administration that comes with involvement in a Horizon project.

“There is a lot of reporting required and as project coordinators that fell to us at IERC. It’s challenging but that’s the reality of being part of a project with this level of funding. And of course, as the coordinator you have ultimate responsibility for the project so that can be an added pressure.

“Having said that, the substantial funding that’s available from Horizon projects enables you to carry out robust research where the findings are backed up with strong evidence. That kind of research can influence policy, and policy can change behaviour. That’s really important. I believe that there is no use completing a research project and then writing a report that just sits on a shelf. Turning results into information that somebody can actually use is the vital part of any research project.

“Horizon 2020, and now Horizon Europe, offer great opportunities to carry out high quality research if you make the time and space to get involved. But you need to stay focused on the learning as well as the deliverables and objectives set out at the start of the project. It’s the learning that can be commercialized, drive policy change and create the changes that are needed.”

Horizon Europe has a budget of over  €95 billion and one of its core aims is to tackle climate change in line with the European Green Deal and boost to the EU’s competitiveness and growth through excellent research, innovation and collaboration. Enterprise Ireland provides a number of supports for institutions and businesses who are interested in participating in a Horizon Europe project.

Learn more about SPEEDIER, or for information on applying for support from Horizon Europe, the successor programme to Horizon 2020, please contact HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.ie.

 

H2020 success stories banner link

 

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:

 

 

 

 

 

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

Customs – What is an EORI Number used for?

 

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

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

 

Register for your EORI number

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

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

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

UKCA Marking webinar

UKCA Marking – Key Steps to ensure your products are compliant

This webinar outlines the practical steps Irish engineering companies can take to ensure products are compliant with the new UK product marking, UKCA.

The UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) marking is the new UK product marking for goods placed on the market in Great Britain, replacing the EU’s CE marking. This mark will be used to certify that a wide range of products meet safety standards in the UK, covering most products that previously required the CE mark.

While the UKCA marking came into effect on 1st January 2021, businesses are still able to use CE marking until 1st January 2023 allowing Irish companies exporting to the market to prepare for the new marking.

Presented by Mike Whiting, Compliance Engineer, Newmac Ltd, topics included:

  • What is the UKCA and how does it differ from CE?

  • Aligning your UKCA and CE compliance roadmap

  • How UKCA effects the supply of second hand equipment in the market?

  • UKCA/CE and Northern Ireland

Large ship with containers in port

Customs – Country of Origin

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

 

Preferential Countries

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

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

 

Non-Preferential Countries

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

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

 

Value-Added Rule

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

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

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

 

Certificates of Origin

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

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

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

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

Vivian Farrell, CEO Modular Automation

Modular Automation: Creating and nurturing the women leaders of tomorrow in Ireland’s engineering sector  

What do you do to promote gender balance in an industry when there are simply not enough women actually coming through the educational process? This was the issue faced by Shannon-based Modular Automation, a cutting-edge provider of complete automation integration solutions for the medtech sector in Ireland, Europe, North America and beyond. Engineering, particularly electrical and mechanical, tends to be very male-dominated, a fact discovered by Modular’s CEO, Vivian Farrell.

With a background in strategic marketing and working at a management level in Bank of Ireland, Sherry Fitzgerald and Vodafone, Vivian joined Modular seven years ago to head up their brand marketing and communications. “After spending 11 years with Vodafone in their headquarters, I wanted to explore something different as I had three small children by then. I decided to move back to Tipperary, near to where I was from, and discovered that the west of the country was a hotbed for medtech, with a lot of big names here. I didn’t know a lot about the industry but I was interested, and when a marketing role came up in Modular, I decided to go for it.”

As a non-engineer and a woman, Vivian found herself something of a rarity in the industry. “It’s unusual to come across another female CEO in these circles, or women in leadership roles, because engineering tends to be quite male-dominated. Things are changing but it’s slow.

Currently, there are 170 people on the Modular team. Creating a gender balance is extremely important to us and we have a number of initiatives to boost this.” says Farrell.

“Currently we’re at 10%, which isn’t exactly where we want to be, but it reflects the type of business that we’re in. We’ve set ourselves a target as a management team of getting to 30% by 2025. The 10% are mostly outside of the core engineering roles in our business.”

 

New initiatives

Their gender-balance target is ambitious, but Vivian says they are working hard to achieve it. “In the last 12 months we introduced paid maternity leave, something that’s very common in the multinational space, but more unusual for an SME. We put this into place to promote a better gender balance – but also to compete with those multinationals for talent. We also celebrate any big days, for instance, we celebrated International Women’s Day by giving every woman in the business a copy of Michelle Obama’s book, ‘Becoming’.

“We’re also very vocal about being inclusive as a company and talking about our 30% goal – this in a way is setting out our stall for potential employees.” says Farrell.

Like many companies in the sector, Modular also offers an apprentice scheme. “Traditionally our apprentice schemes would be in electrical engineering and tool-making – we have not had even a single female application for these. But we are rolling out new apprenticeships to other areas of the business, and I think that will provide another career path for women.”

 

Back to the start

In such a male-dominated industry, change takes time, and Vivian believes it needs to go back to the schools. “Female applicants are still few and far between. So it’s a long game – we need to be engaging with girls at Junior Cert stage or even earlier. We are seeing little glimmers of success; for me, in the role that I’m in, I feel the responsibility of showing girls that they can get to a leadership role in the industry.

“I’m involved in an initiative called Explore Engineering, which is led by key business leaders in the Midwest, along with the two main educators, UL and LIT. Our role is to increase the supply of engineers into the Midwest region; a key part of that is to get girls to consider engineering as a career choice. So for us at Modular, we are going to schools and talking to the students, building relationships with the principals and career guidance teachers, encouraging skill-building visits to us and other businesses, getting them to meet some of our younger engineers to learn more about the job.”

The battle, then, is to get women into the industry first, then to nurture their talent to get them into a leadership role. “It’s not easy to be the only woman in a big team of men and it’s about nurturing them and keeping an eye on them to make sure they progress. As a leader, you have to be aware of that and ensure you have strategies in place to help them prosper in those types of environments. For instance, offering greater flexibility so parents can juggle caring and their jobs by offering working from home options or allowing flexible working hours to accommodate the school run – which I have myself.

“Being a working mum myself, I know what it’s like and what you need, so I can bring that understanding to the organisation to try and make it a better place for women to work.”

Ultimately, however, getting that balance is worthwhile on a business level, Vivian explains.

“Our business is built on designing and building equipment, creating new solutions; that environment requires a high level of creativity and idea generation so therefore needs as much diversity of thought and opinions as possible.

But while organisations can make a change on a small and local level, ultimately, we need to change on a national level. “This is such a difficult, complicated topic, and it has to be a national conversation in order to change things,” says Vivian. “Organisations like Enterprise Ireland have a part to play, and something like The Level Project will certainly help to bring the topic into the spotlight. Having two daughters myself, I’ve seen the lack of awareness as they go through school. It’s a cultural change so it takes time.”

 

Start improving gender balance in your company with The Level Project Toolkit.

Paul McCloskey, Tyndall Institute

LEDLUM, a shining light in LED efficiency  

LEDLUM

Horizon 2020 was about putting together the right consortium that could do cutting-edge research and also produce something that can be commercialized in the near future.

Paul McCloskey, Head of Integrated Magnetics group at Tyndall National Institute

Key Takeouts:

  • Tyndall Institute played a key role in a recently completed project that aimed to significantly reduce the size and weight of LED drivers while increasing their lifetime expectancy.
  • The ambitious 3.5-year project received €4.1m from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
  • The outcomes included near-market LED driver prototypes with 40% volume and 59% weight reduction, a research prototype with a volume of just 12% of current best in class, and significant advancement in the field of magnetics on silicon.

H2020 Case Study: LEDLUM

As the world faces the imminent impact of climate change, there has never been a greater focus on environmental issues nor a greater sense of urgency. While governments debate macro issues, some researchers are looking at small concerns that can have a big impact. One of these is LED drivers.

LED light bulbs are much more energy efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional bulbs. They can last up to 20 times longer than standard forms of lighting, so fewer bulbs need to be manufactured, they can be up to 80% more energy efficient than conventional bulbs and they contain no toxic elements that require specialist disposal.

The fly in the ointment, however, is the LED AC/DC converter, known as a driver, which is not only much less reliable than the bulbs themselves but also bulky and difficult to integrate into the light fitting.

This driver was the focus of LEDLUM, a Horizon 2020-funded project involving seven European partners drawn from business and academia, and over €4 million in EU funding. LEDLUM’s objectives were to make major improvements to the volume, weight, lifetime and size of the driver to create a more environmentally friendly product.

Among the partners was Tyndall National Institute in County Cork, which brought its expertise in the area of magnetics on silicon to the table. Paul McCloskey, Head of Integrated Magnetics group at the Institute, led the ‘passive components’ work package. He explains how the consortium took a pragmatic approach to achieving the project’s aims.

“Horizon 2020 projects are a combination of research that pushes the boundaries and the development of something that companies can commercialise.” says McCloskey

Within LEDLUM there was initially a little built of tension between those two objectives as the companies in the consortium were more focused on the commercialisation of a product and the universities on pushing the science. So as a consortium we came up with the idea of having two tracks. The development track aimed to get close to something that businesses could use in the near future to create a product, while the research track had a lower level of technology readiness and an emphasis on demonstrating how the challenging goals set might ultimately be achieved. I believe the project delivered on both.”

LEDLUM’s outcomes included the development of near-market LED driver prototypes with 40% volume and 59% weight reduction, a research prototype with a volume of just 12% of current best in class, and significant advancement in the field of magnetics on silicon.

“Horizon 2020 is a way of getting involved with companies that will ultimately use the science in a real-world application.” says McCloskey

One of the outcomes of this project was the licensing of Tyndall’s magnetics on silicon technology. We’ve developed a capability and reputation in this area over many years. Through LEDLUM we further developed the technology and were able to transfer it to one of the biggest silicon foundries in the world with the production scale up at a facility in Europe. That’s a major achievement for us. That’s tying our research into a real-world product,” says McCloskey.

 

Competition and support

Running from 2021 to 2027, Horizon 2020’s successor, Horizon Europe, has a €95 billion funding pot and the triple aim of developing scientific excellence, tackling global and industrial challenges and supporting innovation and inclusivity across Europe. And like Horizon 2020, it is a highly competitive arena.

“There are a lot of organizations chasing this funding. But Ireland performs above average in terms of winning this type of EU funding and Tyndall is one of the most successful institutes. We’ve been involved in these kinds of projects for many years as our research depends on securing this type of funding,” says McCloskey

To help research institutes and businesses to secure Horizon Europe funding, Enterprise Ireland regularly gives talks highlighting what Horizon calls are coming up, how to go about getting involved and how to build a consortium. They also fund travel costs associated with building the consortium and offer support to write the proposal.

 

Advantages of collaboration

Horizon 2020, and now Horizon Europe, is about putting together the right consortium that can do cutting-edge research and also produce something that can be commercialized in the near future.

“That opportunity for collaboration is hugely important. You get the chance to work with other universities and businesses throughout Europe. When you talk to companies you hear what the real-world problems are; understanding that is a terrific insight for a researcher. Overall, I found the LEDLUM project to be an enjoyable and instructive process,” says McCloskey.

For advice or further information about applying for Horizon Europe support, please contact HorizonSupport@enterprise-ireland.com or consult www.horizoneurope.ie

H2020 success stories banner link

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.