UK Opportunities for Irish Exporters

The UK will continue to be a key export market for Irish firms, writes Marina Donohoe, Enterprise Ireland Director UK and Northern Europe


Despite understandable concern over the UK’s departure from the EU, our nearest neighbours will remain a natural first market for Irish exporters due to proximity, a shared language and similar business cultures. While strategies to offset whatever consequences arise from the UK departure are advised, businesses in Ireland would be missing a trick if they discounted the UK market. In fact, Enterprise Ireland has determined seven key opportunities for Irish companies based on government initiatives and evidence of sectoral growth:


  1. The National Infrastructure Delivery Plan
  2. The Northern Powerhouse Agenda
  3. Scottish Government Investment Plan
  4. National Health Service’s “Five Year Forward View”
  5. Water Market
  6. Financial Services/Fintech
  7. Aerospace


Financial Services/Fintech


With over 250 foreign banks; expertise across retail banking, insurance, capital markets, bonds, equities, currency, payments, regulation; and allied sector-specific advisory, legal and professional services, the breadth of UK Financial Services sector is huge. The sector employs 2.2 million people in the UK. It is important to recognise that the sector is a truly global centre of expertise, and one where there will continue to be opportunity for fintech companies after any UK exit from the EU. Opportunities will also emerge during any exit negotiations. Particularly for legal, advisory, professional services and IT solution providers, as firms may seek new structures around regulation, compliance, currency handling, money laundering and data handling. This is a sector where Enterprise Ireland has been working for many years and is well positioned to introduce our clients to key decision makers.




UK Aerospace Industry captures 17% of the global market and is considered the largest player in Europe and second globally after the US. Turnover in 2015 rose by £1.9bn to £31.1bn. Enterprise Ireland’s participation at the Farnborough Airshow is a key initiative to support Irish companies secure business in this growth sector. Aerospace is vastly outperforming the wider UK economy with productivity up 30% over the past five years, compared with the national average of 2%. Through the Aerospace Growth Partnership (AGP), industry and Government are working together to ensure the UK is well placed for future growth opportunities. Investment in skills, technology and the competitiveness of the UK supply base is making a difference.


National Health Service (NHS)


In 2014 the NHS outlined their proposed capital outlay of £8by by 2020 towards transforming the NHS led by improved efficiency.   Within the strategic plans key areas of our interest to EI and highly relevant to our Connected Health/ Medical Devices/ Services clients include: Several initiatives underway to win business for our clients including a report which will shortly be released mapping out key opportunities.


  • £1.8bn to create a paper-free NHS
  • £1bn on cyber security/privacy
  • £750m updating remote care
  • £400m digitising the NHS (Apps/Telehealth)
  • £250m on data for outcomes research


National Infrastructure Delivery Plan


The NIDP envisages £483 billion of investment in over 600 infrastructure projects and programmes in all sectors across the UK, to 2021 and beyond. Irish companies are operating in these sectors already and there are huge opportunities with investment such as these:


Northern Powerhouse


The UK government intends to spend £134bn over the period 2016-21, 32% of which will be spent in the North. The goal of this initiative is to rebalance the country’s economy and establish the North as a global powerhouse. Cities include Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull, as well as Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire, North Yorkshire and the Tees Valley. The opportunity lies in supporting initiatives in road, rail, freight, aerospace and skills development. Key deliverables include improving freight capacity, and road and rail infrastructure. For example, the HS2 high-speed train network will cost £55.7 billion.


Scottish Government’s Investment Plan


Enterprise Ireland continues to have a strong geographical focus and plan within the Scottish market. Holyrood has highlighted the strategic, large scale investments they intend to take forward within a number of key sectors over the next 10 – 20 years. Key areas of investment which will provide opportunity for clients include Energy, Water and Housing.  For instance, the Housing Supply budget was set at £690 million for 2016-17 to deliver between 8,000 – 9,000 affordable homes, 28% more than the average output in the 2 previous years.


Water Market Opportunity


UK water utilities are planning a total expenditure of £41 billion from April 2015 to March 2020. Enterprise Ireland is working with UK and global buyers who have access to this opportunity which could also be a stepping-stone to international projects.

Learn more about the UK market and Enterprise Ireland’s new Evolve UK strategy on Global Ambition UK.