The triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty provides us with a countdown to the UK’s departure from the EU.
It also provides Ireland’s exporters with a clear timeframe in which to plan for the impact of that departure on their business.
The period since the Brexit vote was characterised as one of uncertainty. While the outcome of the exit negotiations cannot be known, what is certain now is that Ireland’s businesses need to start, if they have not already, taking action to prepare for the new era ahead. There is much to do.
Firstly, it is important to reaffirm that the UK is and will remain a key market for Enterprise Ireland clients.
In addition, new opportunities will present themselves on foot of the UK’s departure. For example, Ireland’s businesses face the possibility of increased participation in EU public procurement tenders, filling a gap likely to be left by the UK’s withdrawal. In the EU, the public purchase of goods and services is estimated to account for 16% of GDP.
How Enterprise Ireland can help
Enterprise Ireland will also continue to actively help companies deepen and strengthen their UK presence. Our London office is actively identifying new areas of opportunity, to include infrastructural development, healthcare and fintech, among others.
Enterprise Ireland’s mission is to deliver a major improvement in the international strength of Irish enterprises across all regions. We do this by helping Irish companies transform their innovative and competitive capabilities and we achieve it by inspiring and supporting ambitious business leaders to increase the scale of their businesses and expand their reach into new export markets. Our work on this front will now intensify.
Record Irish exports
Exports of Enterprise Ireland backed companies recently passed the €20 billion mark and employment exceeded 200,000 for the first time. Both were important milestones but are just that— waymarks in a journey that will take us further and deeper into markets around the world.
It will be a bumpy ride. The high levels of uncertainty and volatility experienced in the aftermath of the Brexit vote can be expected to continue throughout the UK departure negotiations.
However, by building on our previous successes, Irish enterprise is well positioned to continue to succeed globally, irrespective of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.
Build scale, Expand reach
Our national response must be to support more Irish companies to achieve greater scale and expand into new export markets, and to have, in short, global ambition.
Enterprise Ireland’s Strategy 2017–2020 is about inspiring and driving just that, assisting client companies to create 60,000 new jobs and to grow annual exports by €5 billion to €26 billion by 2020.
To achieve this, we will focus on addressing the need for greater scale across Irish enterprise. This involves driving innovation in Irish businesses to unprecedented levels with the help of new supports to reach our target figure of €1.25 billion in R&D expenditure annually by 2020.
We will work to improve the competitiveness of Irish companies through the support of our Lean programmes and other targeted supports.
We will work to increase the diversification of our client company exports into new markets, with two thirds of exports going beyond the UK. As part of this, we will place sharp focus on the Eurozone, in which we aim to help our client companies achieve a 50% increase in exports.
The challenges facing Irish business in a post Brexit world are many. This article highlights some of the most pressing issues facing us and outlines practical steps that can be taken to improve competitiveness, boost innovation, diversify export markets and design robust business plans.
The challenges are only part of the journey ahead, however. Our aim, under the same headings, is to equip Irish businesses to see and exploit all the opportunities to be found along the way.
Brexit is, after all, not just the end of an era, but the start of a new one.