Woman scientist in the lab in a lab coat

Knowledge Transfer Ireland: Turning cutting-edge research into profitable business

It is widely acknowledged that investing in research and development (R&D) is essential for every company in order to stay relevant and competitive in today’s fast-moving world. Us Irish thrive on exciting and innovative ideas, and our colleges and universities are producing some of the most exciting cutting-edge R&D. But while we have the ideas and the talent to develop them, R&D can be costly, in terms of both time and money, and many SMEs struggle in funding adequate R&D.

The Irish Government and Enterprise Ireland has long recognised that the key to ensuring that great ideas can evolve into new products and solutions is developing and strengthening links between public research opportunities and business. To help, in 2013, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment established Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) to help get technology, ideas and expertise from State-funded research into the hands of every business.

“We believe that our potential as a country can be unlimited when the forces of third level research and businesses are combined with a common goal and purpose to deliver more advanced solutions for industry and society,” explains Elizabeth Carvill, Senior Executive at KTI.

Essentially, KTI acts as a signpost for all businesses, from start-ups to multinationals, allowing them access to Ireland’s research system quickly, easily and effectively and allowing them to engage in the process of knowledge transfer.

“Knowledge transfer is an effective way to help companies build on key areas of innovation capability,” says Elizabeth. “Knowledge transfer is enabled through collaborative or contract research engagements between business and the third level. Outputs from these engagements, such as new technologies or intellectual property, can be used to develop new products, processes and services. This research also underpins the creation of spin-out companies.”

KTI is based in Enterprise Ireland’s headquarters in Dublin and acts as a national office making the knowledge transfer system more simple for business to access. “Part of this is to manage a funding programme on behalf of Enterprise Ireland to support Ireland’s network of Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs), also known at Innovation Offices,” says Elizabeth. “These skilled teams based in universities and Institutes of Technology oversee the process of knowledge transfer and managing relationships with companies seeking to benefit from the access to skills, technology and intellectual property from within Ireland’s third level and other research organisations.’

 

Quantifiable success

The success of KTI can be seen in the Annual Knowledge Transfer Survey, which is produced every year by KTI. The latest report covered 2020, a challenging year for many thanks to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, yet the statistics are impressive. “The 2020 Survey revealed that 3,681 new R&D and consultancy agreements were made between companies and non-commercial entities and higher education institutions during the year, an increase of 39% on the previous year,” says Elizabeth. “Three-quarters of these agreements involved Irish SMEs.

“The survey also revealed that 30 spin-out companies were formed in 2020, and that there are now 128 spin-out companies still active three-plus years after incorporation. The same year saw a record number of spin-out company acquisitions (nine) with a combined value of €7.9 million, proving how attractive Irish spin-outs are to external investment.”

Elizabeth explains that many of these spin-out companies go on to become High-Potential Start-Ups, supported by Enterprise Ireland. “Some recent examples include TU Dublin spin-out Ocumetra, UCD spin-out Sirius XT, NUI Galway spin-out Neurent Medical, and Dundalk IT spin-out Nova Leah. In fact, Ocumetra, which developed a pioneering eye monitoring tool that can identify abnormal (myopic) eye growth, became an HPSU just six months after its foundation.”

 

Exciting success stories

And when research bodies work with commercial enterprises, some really exciting products and solutions are produced. “For example, Inferneco Ltd and IT Carlow to bring to market a bottle-sanitising system for the hospitality industry using UV light,” says Elizabeth. “Another great example is the collaboration between Grian Water and Letterkenny IT, to develop a new prototype of its MyGug water treatment product, which turns organic matter into renewable fuel.”

To enable as many businesses as possible benefit from the innovative ideas produced by our research bodies, KTI has worked hard to ensure that companies can quickly and easily find the right support for them.

“Our website contains a range of downloadable materials and resources including a research map of Ireland, a downloadable national directory of research supports and an interactive funding finder tool,” Elizabeth finishes.

 

For more on KTI and the range of R&D supports available for companies, log on to www.knowledgetransferireland.com

Enter the Eurozone

How Enter the Eurozone is helping Irish companies just like yours to do just that

 

Companies all over Ireland are winning new business across Europe with the help of Enter the Eurozone, an innovative business development programme from Enterprise Ireland that provides tailored market entry support.

The five-month programme was launched in 2019 and is currently on its fifth intake.

To date 102 companies have come through it. Of these 37 have taken steps towards operating in European markets.

“When you consider that typical business to business cycles take 18-months to complete, and that the bulk of participants have been on the programme during Covid, that’s a remarkable success rate,” says Paul Browne, Programme Manager International Partnering at Enterprise Ireland, who runs Enter the Eurozone.

 

Opportunity on your doorstep

 

The programme is designed to help Irish companies take advantage of the fact that one of the most dynamic, prosperous and stable markets in the world is on their doorstep.

“As a region with a population in excess of 340 million, the opportunity the Eurozone presents to Irish business is enormous,” he adds.

“Yet we are still merely scratching the surface. Despite the fact that the Eurozone has five times the population of the UK, it has less than two thirds of the exports from Irish companies.”

Brexit has encouraged many businesses to see the Eurozone with fresh eyes, appreciative of the fact that it offers a single market, freedom of movement for people, goods and services, a single currency, regulatory alignment and zero customs barriers.

“The Eurozone offers significant and untapped opportunities for Irish companies and Enterprise Ireland has developed a unique programme to help you take advantage of them,” says Browne.

 

Market entry plan

 

The five-month programme opens Europe’s doors to ambitious Irish exporters. It is delivered by ESMT European School of Management and Technology, Berlin, Germany’s number one business school.

It is supported by IMS Marketing, seasoned providers of one-to-one business advice for those developing a European market entry plan.

“In developing the programme, we recognised that while management teams know training is great, what they really want to know is what will it mean for their business,” says Browne.

“So, at the end of this programme, each participant comes out with a clearly defined market entry plan bespoke to their business. It contains clear, practical steps which, if taken, will see them win contracts abroad.”

 

Enterprise Ireland’s Eurozone team, based in market, then works with the client to help them to execute that plan, backed by its network of in-market expertise.

 

Unique products and services sought

Irish companies have unique products and services in an array of areas, including software, data centre systems, medical devices, and ag-tech.

“We take for granted that our companies are exposed to US multinational companies without realising that it gives us enormous advantages in terms of experience, standards and service levels. Irish companies are already selling to the best in the world at home. That level of expertise and experience is sought all over Europe too,” he adds.

Campion Pumps in Tipperary used the Enter the Eurozone programme to develop a market entry strategy for Italy.

Its experience in pumping equipment led it to develop software that allows pumps to communicate with computers. It has hundreds of pumping station customers linked to its cloud-based server. What’s innovative about its solutions is that its software can work with anyone’s equipment, providing it with a valuable USP (unique selling point).

Having a unique solution is hugely compelling, in any market, says Browne. “If I go to a potential customer in, say, the Netherlands, the first thing he or she will say to me is ‘Why should I buy from you, when I’ve five guys down the road I could go to? But when you go in pitching something that is innovative and unique, why wouldn’t they talk to you?”

In Leitrim, Archway Products already had success working with local authorities in the UK, attracted by its highly innovative, cost effective and environmentally sound processes for fixing road defects.  The inventor of the Roadmaster Spray Injection Patching machine, which fixes all types of road defects, is now gaining traction in Germany too.

Shamrock Farm Enterprises, a maker of equine and agricultural supplements, also in Tipperary, recently secured a distributor in France.

Louth firm Aphix Software has developed an integrated suite of eCommerce and mobile ordering products.

“Any solution that helps with stock control, and whose software helps you move online, is a pitch to which a lot of companies across the Eurozone are very open to now,” says Browne.

Applied Concepts, Ireland’s sole manufacturer of CE approved blasting machines, has already developed an international presence, driven by innovations such as a compressed air machine that sits on a tractor and uses less carbon.

“Ireland is already renowned for food, so if you are going to Europe and say your farm equipment is terrific too, people will listen,” says Browne.

 

Start your export journey

His message to innovative Irish businesses looking to start their export journey is clear.

“Enterprise Ireland is very open to helping companies that want to export. We have a range of programmes and workshops to help, including Enter the Eurozone. Remember, it’s companies like yours that are doing this, so get in touch,” he adds.

 

To find out how you could expand into the Eurozone, see our Enter the Eurozone Programme.

 

Managing people, driving performance - Implementing successful performance management practices

Implementing successful performance management practices in the new workplace

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on the way we work in Ireland. We were suddenly thrown into an emergency situation, during which many of us had to work remotely.

Thanks to the success of the vaccination rollout, we are now entering into the recovery phase of the pandemic. However, it’s clear that what’s normal in the world of work has shifted.

 

Changed working practices

 

Several surveys have indicated a strong preference by employees for continuing remote or hybrid working into the future, and many companies are now looking at how to make these new working practices sustainable into the future – both to attract and retain talent and to ensure that strategic goals are achieved. But with this change comes a number of challenges.

“One such concern is how to drive employee performance to continue to deliver business results as we move into the new world of work,” explains Lola Ade-Onojobi, People & Management Specialist at Enterprise Ireland.

“Pre-pandemic, performance management practices had already evolved significantly, and the pandemic only further accelerated this evolution. A sudden move to remote working, along with significant personal upheaval such as having childcare responsibilities during the day or looking after vulnerable family members, forced many employers to adjust their management and leadership practices to better support their employees during this time of uncertainty.”

“Now that we are moving into a period of recovery, it is essential for companies to focus their efforts on building sustainable practices to support employee engagement, performance and, ultimately, business growth.”

 

Implementing successful performance management

 

To help companies implement successful performance management in the new workplace, Enterprise Ireland has launched a new guide in partnership with performance management experts ‘Our Tandem’.

Entitled ‘Managing People, Driving Performance: A Good Practice Guide’, this is the latest in a series of guides for employers on navigating the post-Covid workplace and is free for all employers to download.

“While recognising that performance management requires a tailored approach by every company, this guide provides valuable information, based on best practice and latest business theory, that helps employers rethink their approach to performance management,” says Lola.

“The guide examines the evolution of performance management best practice over the years and how it has been affected by the pandemic. It also highlights the foundations of good performance management such as goal setting, check-in conversations, fluid feedback, performance reviews, and reward and recognition practices.”

“Crucially, the guide provides relevant tips on embedding a strong performance culture within a company, on how managers can become coaching leaders, and on building communication to ensure that the changes are implemented successfully.”

This is a practical guide, with templates that are useful for every company, regardless of sector, size or maturity, to identify the changes needed within their own performance management process and implement them successfully and sustainably.

 

Supports to complement our performance management guide

 

For Enterprise Ireland-supported companies, the guide complements a range of financial and non-financial supports currently available.

“Non-financial support includes access to our e-learning platform (eiLearn.ie), which contains many articles, podcasts, videos and downloadable content on people management,” Lola says.

“We also offer a range of financial supports such as business growth advisor and strategic consultancy grants, which contribute to the cost of engaging external consultants to help companies address business challenges. More details on these supports are available from your Enterprise Ireland Development Advisor.”

It’s clear that every company must carefully examine the way in which they operate and ensure that it’s suitable for the new world of work – and to do this as soon as possible in order to maintain optimal performance and retain and attract talent.

A key part of this, according to Lola, is enacting the right performance management framework, both for the company’s sake and to support employees during this time of change.

“The benefits of a performance management framework are clear – for employee engagement, retention, team spirit and ultimately positive bottom-line results for the business.”

 

Download Enterprise Ireland’s performance management guide here.

Irish companies are rocketing into the space industry - Image of space and galaxies

How Irish companies are rocketing into the space industry

 

Ireland may not be the first country to spring to mind when you talk about space travel or exploration, but recently this industry has proved itself to have plenty of opportunities for Irish innovation, both from companies and research bodies.

 

The James Webb Space Telescope

 

Many businesses based in Ireland are already working in the area, thanks to our involvement with the European Space Agency (ESA). What’s more, several Irish companies are now playing a pivotal role in some of the most thrilling and high-profile space missions.

One such mission was the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, or simply Webb), the next great space science observatory following the famous Hubble Telescope.

The Webb was launched from ESA’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on Christmas Day 2021. It now resides one-and-a-half million kilometres from Earth, hovering in line with our planet as it orbits the sun.

Over 25 years in development, the Webb telescope has the ability to look back 13.5 billion years in time to observe the birth of the first galaxies and the lifecycle of stars and exoplanets.

Webb follows the Hubble Telescope in the line of great space observatories. Both have different scientific capabilities and will operate together, complementing each other, for several years.

In fact, according to Bryan Rodgers, Senior Development Executive at Enterprise Ireland and a member of the Irish delegation to the ESA, Webb has the capacity to do far more than the Hubble.

“The Webb has over six times the light-gathering capacity and is a hundred times more sensitive, with the ability to peer through clouds of dust by capturing light in the infrared part of the spectrum.”

“By looking back to the early universe using infrared detectors, Webb hopes to answer some vital questions about the formation of our universe, the make-up of so-called dark matter, and what the development of galaxies can tell us about the future of the universe.”

 

How Irish companies contributed to the development and launch of the JWST

 

Webb is the result of an international project led by NASA with the ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Within the ESA’s contribution, two Irish companies and an Irish research institute played significant roles in the development of the Webb’s scientific instruments and in its launch into space.

“Firstly, there was significant Irish input into the development of the infrared detector technology,” comments Bryan. “Professor Tom Ray of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) was Co-Principal Investigator for the Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) on Webb, which will produce images and spectra with unprecedented sharpness and sensitivity.”

“Professor Tom Ray and his team from DIAS also provided MIRI’s infrared filters, which breaks up the light into its various components, and imaging software that will analyse the instrument data sent back to Earth and produce scientific images.”

An Irish company also played an important role in Webb’s launch into space via an Ariane 5 launcher.

Réaltra Space Systems Engineering designed and manufactured the video imaging system onboard the Ariane 5 launch vehicle, which gave us impressive high-definition video images of the separation of the launcher’s fairing and separation of the telescope itself,” says Bryan.

“The final images of Webb moving into space on Christmas Day in 2021 came from Réaltra’s technology.”

Interestingly, Réaltra’s system was originally designed for the Ariane 6 launch vehicle, which is due its first flight in the second half of 2022.

“In addition, a second Irish company, Nammo Ireland, provided structural supports for the Vulcain engine that powers Ariane 5 – and will be involved in producing components for both the Vulcain and Vinci engines on the new Ariane 6 launch vehicle.”

 

Opportunities for Irish businesses in the space industry

 

The involvement of these Irish entities came about as a result of Ireland’s membership of the ESA, which is managed through the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Enterprise Ireland plays a huge role in enabling this work, by supporting and guiding Irish companies and research institutes in developing technologies through ESA programmes, and in commercialising these technologies in the worldwide space market, with over 100 companies supported to date.

“The success of the Irish entities involved in the ground-breaking JWST project underlines the growth in opportunities in the commercial space market for innovative Irish companies with exciting technologies that can be used in many different sectors, such as automotive and medical,” notes Bryan.

“These opportunities will only become more plentiful as our understanding of space grows and develops. We are confident that more Irish companies will be involved in such thrilling projects in the future.”

 

Contact Bryan Rodgers to find out how Enterprise Ireland can help you successfully bid for European Space Agency contracts or explore other opportunities in the space industry.

 

People working at a co-working hub in the National Hub Network

National Hub Network: Bringing Irish workplaces into a new era

 

There’s no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world of work forever. While we’re not out of the woods just yet, slowly but surely we are all looking to recovery and what work might look like post-pandemic. And it’s looking like a whole new world for many.

 

Designing a workplace for the future

In 2021, Enterprise Ireland released a new guide, ‘Designing a workplace for the future’, which was written to help employers navigate their way into the new world of work, including remote/hybrid working and other more flexible forms of work.

The guide recognised that company owners are now aware that offering a degree of flexibility has many advantages for their business in attracting and retaining talent, as well as for the Irish economy overall.

However, most are still in the early stages of working out how these can be optimised within their own companies.

 

The right to request remote work

What’s more, the matter is becoming more urgent, thanks to the upcoming legislation on the right to request remote work. When enacted, it will act as a lynchpin for HR strategy and implementation.

This legislation is due to come into effect in 2022, so it’s essential that every employer considers the best solution for their company sooner rather than later.

 

The National Hub Network

An integral part of the new world of work is the growth of the National Hub Network, which enables workers to carry out their jobs in a social space with excellent amenities.

The networks also play a valuable role in driving vibrant regional economies across Ireland, as Clare Power, Enterprise Ireland’s lead on Regional Remote Working, explains.

“These hubs are far more than just buildings for workers,” Clare explains.

“They are part of the regional ecosystem, a go-to place for local start-ups through to established SMEs looking to grow and scale their businesses.”

“These co-working hubs are a valuable contributor to a vibrant local economy, a wonderful opportunity for employees from diverse backgrounds who want to progress their careers outside of the big cities, and an important enabler for collaboration and networking across sectors and disciplines.”

“In short, these hubs will play a crucial role in Ireland’s future of work landscape.”

 

The evolution of co-working hubs in Ireland

Co-working hubs existed before the pandemic. In fact, they were highlighted in Enterprise Ireland’s 2019 ‘Powering the regions’ plan.

However, they’ve taken on a new level of significance since Covid-19 hit in March 2020.

“There have been examples of successful co-working hubs already,” says Clare. “These include Dogpatch Labs and Guinness Enterprise Centre in Dublin, The Mill in Drogheda, Wexford Enterprise Centre, Merits in Naas, PorterShed in Galway and Ludgate in Skibbereen.”

“Their success is down to their excellent facilities, including reliable wi-fi, excellent cybersecurity, access to the latest digital tools, meeting spaces and 24-hour access.”

 

The Quality Standards Framework for the National Hub Network

Recognising the importance of these hub networks to both regional development and Irish SMEs, Enterprise Ireland has led significant infrastructural investments initiatives on behalf of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

“We have a relationship with the Community Enterprise Association Ireland (CEAI) spanning two decades, and have supported CEAI as the co-ordinator of a world first, the development of the Quality Standards Framework for the National Hub Network, known as QHubs,” explains Clare.

“The Quality Standards Framework aims to provide a world-class facility and service for enterprise at all stages of growth, enable hub owners and managers deliver excellent service to their users, and help the National Hub Network to work collectively towards future self-sustainability.”

To help embed QHubs, CEAI launched a free preparatory development programme for enterprise hub owners and managers, delivered in partnership with Skillnet Ireland.

 

Supporting co-working and remote working

“Enterprise Ireland is also involved in many other initiatives to support the National Hub Network.”

“These include Grow Remote, a not-for-profit agency working in the fields of networking, job market connection, community development and free nationwide remote training. Grow Remote has published a playbook to equip SMEs with the tools to successfully implement remote work permanently. We also point employers to the Western Development Commission-led ConnectedHubs portal in searching and sourcing for their ideal co-working spaces.”

According to Clare, “it’s clear that regional hubs have a vital role to play as we slowly get back to ‘the new normal’.

Perhaps the growth and development of these hubs – and the subsequent positive effect on our lifestyles, families and rural areas – will emerge as something positive to come out of the last two years of upheaval and change.”

 

Download Enterprise Ireland’s ‘Designing the workplace of the future’ guide here.

Minister Robert Troy in the Nordics attending SLUSH

The Nordics: Opportunities abound for ambitious Irish exporters

 

As an island nation, the export economy is essential for the health and growth of Irish companies. Our reputation for innovation and entrepreneurship has served us well in that regard, with Irish companies finding huge success in every corner of the world. Key markets such as the UK, the US, France and Germany remain hugely important, but ambitious Irish exporters are exploring other countries that are actively looking for the products and solutions produced by Irish entrepreneurs – and finding a whole new world of opportunity. A region that is growing rapidly in importance for Irish business is the Nordics, an area made up of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.

Currently, over 450 Enterprise Ireland supported companies export to the Nordics, with exports reaching a remarkable €1.16 billion in 2020. It’s easy to see why this region is so attractive, home to 26 million inhabitants, the Nordic region is the 11th largest economy in the world. 

 

The Nordic market

Irish companies have a strong track record and reputation here, says Eoghan O’Connor, Market Executive, ICT & Start Ups, Enterprise Ireland. “The Nordics are known for being progressive, stable, and open to new technology.”

“As a region that is culturally and geographically close to Ireland, Nordic countries should be considered our home markets and natural partners in terms of trade and business cooperation. English is widely spoken and like Ireland, a huge emphasis is placed on innovation.”

Eoghan O Connor Enterprise Ireland

This innovation can be seen in the number of household names from the Nordics. For instance, within the Nordic ecosystem are global companies like H&MNokiaVolvo, Maersk, and Ericsson. In addition, outside of Silicon Valley, the Nordics have generated the highest number of unicorns per capita globally, including companies like Spotify, Mojang (creators of Minecraft), Oatly, and Klarna

“The success of these companies is down to the ecosystem, which is a fertile ground for innovation and entrepreneurship,” explains Eoghan. “Their comprehensive welfare state provides citizens with free education, healthcare, and social security and their public sector provides a strong framework for the ecosystem with opportunities for funding and other supports. There is also a dedicated focus on R&D and in general they are a population of early adopters of new technology.”

“This makes the Nordic region a great starting point for Irish companies looking to establish a foothold in the European markets and scale their businesses internationally from here.”

 

Success for Irish companies in the Nordics

Already there are several very successful Irish companies in the region, all of which offer clever solutions in several different areas. “These include WAZP, an Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) that specialises in the production of 3D printing materials, which has forged a partnership with IKEA, one of the most globally recognised brands,” says Eoghan.

“In addition, iCabbi, a Dublin cloud-based taxi firm, have a contract with Finnish taxi company Meneva, which has grown its fleet from 100 cars to over 1,500 since joining iCabbi over two years ago.”

Minister Robert Troy in front of a Meneva taxi

A key term in today’s global business world is sustainability, a significant area of growth as we race towards ambitious goals of net zero emissions. The Nordic countries have been long considered leaders in this field, especially in the area of environmentally friendly transport options, such as public scooter schemes.

“Irish companies are playing their part here also,” says Eoghan. “For instance, Luna Technologies, which develops AI tech for the e-scooter market, has partnered with Swedish scooter giant Voi, while Zeus has rolled out scooters in Oslo, Halmstad, and Karlstad.”

 

Springboard to success

These Irish companies have found huge success in the region – but there’s plenty more opportunity for ambitious Irish exporters who will find an open and welcoming market for their innovative products and solutions. To demonstrate the Irish Advantage to the Nordics, Enterprise Ireland showcased Irish innovation at SLUSH, a global-leading event for start-ups and the largest of its kind in the Nordics, which took place in December 2021 in Helsinki.

The event is considered a hotbed of start-up talent; the sold-out 2021 event attracted 8,000 attendees, over 3,200 start-up founders, and 1,500 investors, all of whom travelled from every part of the world. Irish attendees included seven companies, some already successful in the region along with some newcomers that have compelling offerings for this market.

 

 

These included Boundless (B2B SaaS technology), MyPatientSpace (life sciences), Educatly (higher education), PlantQuest (oil & gas and data centres), Zeus (transport and mobility), Social Talent (learning and development), and Tito (events & ticketing).  

The event acted as a springboard for Irish companies looking to expand their offerings in this prosperous region, keen to avail of the positives of trading in an area that values innovation, flexible working relationships and timely solutions to the issues that really matter in today’s world – everything that Irish enterprise is revered for.

 

If you’re interested in exporting to the Nordics, contact the Enterprise Ireland Nordics team.

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.