The Level Project: Promoting gender balance in leadership teams

The Level Project: Promoting gender balance in leadership roles

 

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

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

 

What is The Level Project?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Striving for better

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Introducing the Toolkit

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Key takeouts

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

 


 

What is NextGenerationEU?

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

What does the Eurozone recovery plan mean for Irish SMEs?

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

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

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

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

 


 

Core focus on green and digital

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

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

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

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

 


 

Leaning into Irish tech expertise

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

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

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

 


 

Breaking into a new European market

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

Finding the right market to target

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

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

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

 


 

How will the Eurozone recovery funding work in practice?

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

 


 

Rising to the export challenge

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Creating innovative solutions to new and emerging threats

Cybersecurity solutions that address new and emerging threats

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

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

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

 

Irish cybersecurity solutions

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

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

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

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

 

Remote working challenges

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

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

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

 

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

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

Customs – What is an EORI Number used for?

 

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

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

 

Register for your EORI number

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

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

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

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.

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

Using market intelligence to inform your export plan

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

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

 

Market Research Centre

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

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

 

Using market intelligence to assess new markets

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

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

 

Using insights to make an impact

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

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

 

Growing your business using market intelligence

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

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

Contact the Market Research Centre today.

COGNIPLANT team

COGNIPLANT optimising production plants in the process industries

COGNIPLANT team

“Horizon 2020 helps us to look 10 years into the future and enables us to tap into the huge R&D capability across Europe.”

Eoin Keane, Energy Specialist, COGNIPLANT Horizon 2020 project

Key Takeouts:

  • Aughinish Alumina (AAL), part of the RUSAL group and one of the world’s major producers of aluminium and alumina, is taking part in a project to develop an innovative approach to the advanced digitization and intelligent management of production plants.
  • The COGNIPLANT project has received €8.5m in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
  • AAL helped to define the requirements for the design of the COGNIPLANT solution and its County Limerick facility is currently testing and demonstrating the solutions identified by the COGNIPLANT consortium.

H2020 Case Study: COGNIPLANT

A global shortage of raw materials, increasing energy prices and environmental concerns have made the goal of improving the performance and energy efficiency of process industries a European imperative.

Among many initiatives tackling the issue is the COGNIPLANT Horizon 2020 project. Using the latest developments in advanced analytics and cognitive reasoning, coupled with the digital twin concept (a computer model that simulates the operation of the plant), it aims to design a monitoring and control solution that will significantly improve the performance of production plants and reduce CO2 emissions.

The COGNIPLANT consortium involves 14 partners from universities and businesses across Europe including four production sites that are testing and demonstrating the technology. One of these is County Limerick company Aughinish Alumina (AAL), part of the RUSAL group and one of the world’s major producers of aluminium and alumina.

The best-in-class company has the reputation of being forward-thinking and innovative and has set itself ambitious carbon reduction targets. Taking part in the COGNIPLANT project was an opportunity to help develop the technology that will contribute to it achieving those targets.

“The COGNIPLANT solution is aligned with the decarbonisation goals of the company where advanced process control techniques are used to minimise energy usage,” explains Eoin Keane, AAL’s Energy Specialist

“Currently there are hundreds of sensors installed on the plant relaying information into a central data storage system. The operations teams and engineers review this information continuously to ensure the process is running smoothly. The goal of COGNIPLANT is to make this intelligence available 24/7 to the control room operator so that they can make informed decisions when the wider team is not available.”

The COGNIPLANT consortium includes expert modellers who are using the data and expertise gathered from the test sites to identify opportunities to optimise the plants. It’s an iterative process, which over the next 12 months should culminate in a packaged solution for process industries.

 

The Horizon advantage

Having been involved in Horizon 2020 projects before, AAL was aware of the benefits of pan- European collaboration.

“We’ve done Horizon 2020 projects in the past and benefitted immensely from them, including building up relationships with experts across many disciplines. When this opportunity arose, which is looking at energy-intensive industries, the co-ordinator of COGNIPLANT, Ibermática, asked us if we wanted to come on board and we were keen to get involved,” says Keane.

“Being part of COGNIPLANT gives us the opportunity to develop detailed and insightful models of the process beyond what is currently available to us. The modellers bring in expertise from many different areas that we would otherwise not be able to access.”

The sharing of knowledge between the partners in the consortium is a valuable aspect of the Horizon experience, even when it does not directly relate to the core project deliverables.

“We’ve been able to share our knowledge and experience of sensors with the lime plant in Italy which was installing a particle-size sensor and we’ve also shared our experience of data handling. We’re building connections with other industries too, for example, the group of researchers in Munich who are working in the field of chemicals in heavy industry. We’re thinking about building on that connection in the future around decarbonization and climate action goals. Horizon Europe will be the route we’ll go down to develop actions in this area,” says Keane.

On a personal level, Keane feels he has greatly benefitted from the opportunity to network with people from other disciplines and backgrounds, to get an insight into what other companies across Europe are working on and see the synergies around climate change.

 

Navigating the Horizon environment with Enterprise Ireland’s support

Identifying the best-fit Horizon project, negotiating the consortium build and keeping on top of pan-European developments can be challenging, but AAL has found Enterprise Ireland’s help to be invaluable.

“Enterprise Ireland helps to identify suitable matchmaking events for us to attend, which help in forming a consortium. They are also available to answer any questions or offer support when needed.” explains Keane

 At the moment they are helping us with the next round of calls for Horizon Europe, pinpointing future projects around climate change and the circular economy. These are areas where you need to think outside the box and that’s why Horizon is so important to us; it allows us to tap into the huge R&D capability across Europe, which is very exciting. Horizon really helps us to look 10 years into the future.”

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

Aeriel shot of a large boat with containers in a port

Incoterms – Defining the responsibilities between buyer and seller

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

What are Incoterms?

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

 

Negotiating Incoterms

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

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

 

Incoterms in Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image of Mo Harvey

 The future looks regulated – regtech report

Photo of Mo Harvey, fintech advisor

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

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

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

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

 

Global Regtech Market

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

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

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

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

 

Expanding the Irish Regtech Footprint

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

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

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

 

Plenty of opportunity for Irish firms

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

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

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

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

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

 

 Ireland’s Regtech Cluster of Excellence

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

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

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

 

To learn more download our State of Regtech APAC report.

Jenny Melia, Minister Damien English, Katie Farrell

SQUID: Enabling every business reap the rewards of a customer loyalty scheme through a handy app

At a time when business recovery is on everybody’s mind, winning the loyalty of customers and ensuring repeat business has never been so important. Exactly in the right place at the right time is a new Irish company with a unique product that allows businesses of all sizes implement an effective loyalty scheme for a small price each month.

Established by engineering graduates and best friends Katie Farrell and Matthew Coffey, and supported by Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund, SQUID is an innovative loyalty app that is free for customers to download and can hold “virtual” loyalty cards for a range of businesses.

“It was something that a few people were talking about,” explains Katie. “For instance, for food delivery, you have Deliveroo, Just Eat and so on, but for loyalty, many businesses were still using swipe cards, paper cards or their own app. People tend not to want to sign up to too many loyalty schemes because they mightn’t want a load of cards or different accounts.”

The concept is simple so it’s no surprise that Katie and Matthew quickly found several businesses interested in their idea. “It’s a free app, and currently we have over 600 sites on it. We have about 60,000 people using it now.

“The business gets a small device that the customer simply taps with their phone and it adds a “stamp” to their virtual card for that business.” explains Farrell

 This is the basic offering but we’ve added a lot more since then; for instance businesses can now reach out to their customers through push notifications. We’re also looking at doing more integrations as well, for example with food ordering and booking – so in other words, we’re looking at anything a business has to do to drive loyalty, and then we want to simplify it.”

 

Benefits for a small investment

The rewards to the business are significant, especially as the basic package costs just €20 per month. “The app is affordable, it’s free for the users, and it’s more eco-friendly than the printed cards. But people engage with it a lot more than with a paper cards. For instance, 91% of people that placed their first loyalty stamp with SQUID this year have gone on to make another purchase and get another loyalty stamp. And then there’s the ability to actually reach out to your customers as well. We also have a discovery page so you can find new businesses in your area. 

“Each business has their own branded profile page with opening hours, location, social media links, menu etc, so it’s a way of finding new customers too.” says Farrell

Another key benefit is that the business doesn’t have to worry about GDPR. “The contact details and identity of individuals are hidden from the business owners, so they don’t know who they’re talking to or can’t contact them individually by name,” says Katie. “So in a way it saves the businesses the worry about GDPR and for the customer, they can simply turn off the push notifications if they don’t want to receive communications.”

 

Working through Covid

The app launched in October 2019, as Katie and Matthew had put together a small waiting list of customers who were interested in the scheme when they heard about it through SQUID’s initial market research. “We launched with the first five customers in September 2019,” explained Katie. “We decided to start small and grow from there as we were a small team, but we started getting a lot of interest and were onboarding people regularly until Covid hit.”

The beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a significant shift in the company’s clients. “We began with a lot of city centre cafés and their customers would be office workers getting a coffee on their way to work. We could see a spike in the morning and then at lunchtime. But when people started working from home, that changed. We were worried at the start, but the café industry did recover and a lot of new places opened up in the suburbs.

“The lockdown gave us time to look at strategy and to market online through social media. To keep some sort of cashflow going, we also added a voucher market feature into the app so people could buy gift vouchers from the businesses they wanted to support during lockdown.”

SQUID had also won funding from Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF), which allowed them to really establish the business before Covid hit and develop the app. Most significantly, Katie applied for the 2019 call for Women Entrepreneurs, which included a business accelerator programme that proved to be invaluable for the ongoing sustainability of the business during Covid.

“I applied for the CSF before we launched and had a waiting list of customers. We put a lot of work into the application and the pitch, and we got it. Before that we were self-funded, so getting the funds from the CSF was our first opportunity to do some more product development – to move it from being just a prototype to becoming an established business.

“I was part of the call for women entrepreneurs, which included participation in the Innovate programme. Each week we got to attend different workshops and talks from entrepreneurs and marketing experts. I found this great as I was able to meet other entrepreneurs who might be a little further along their path than me; I learnt a lot from the workshops and the various talks too. It was also great to get that day just to take a step back from the everyday challenges and work on the overall strategy of the business – I learnt a lot from this programme which definitely helped with the success of the business so far through a challenging time.”

Visit this page for more information about the Competitive Start Fund.

Update on the AMP7 spending cycle and Green Webinar title: UK Water Sector, Recovery Investment Plans

The UK Water Sector and the AMP7 spending cycle – Webinar

This webinar provides an update to the UK Water Sector and the AMP7 spending cycle and Green Recovery Investment Plans.

Hosted by Enterprise Ireland and British Water the webinar discusses the key topics facing the sector with insights provide by industry experts:

  • Lee Horrocks, Director, LCH Executive

  • Lila Thompson, Chief Executive, British Water

  • Matt Lewis, Water Innovation Portfolio Manager, Severn Trent

  • Paul Gardner, Managing Director, Glanagua (UK)

  • Mike Froom, BD Director, TE Tech solutions (part of the Trant Group)

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

    The Future of UK Ports – Overview, trends and opportunities

    As the UK ports industry enters a time of significant transformation, we hear from leading market experts on the latest trends and opportunities for Irish suppliers in the sector.

    This webinar examines:

    • Ports for offshore wind

    • Freeports

    • Port decarbonisation

    • Smart ports and digitalisation

     

    Contact our UK Cleantech Market Executive or gain key business insights with our on-demand UK webinar series.