Newsweek

Ireland: New dawn, new opportunit­ies

Irish companies are reacting to COVID-19 and Brexit with more innovation

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One hundred years ago, Ireland was an impoverish­ed agrarian nation on the brink of independen­ce from the U.K. Today, it’s a wealthy, dynamic powerhouse that was the only European Union member to achieve economic growth in 2020. What lies behind this dazzling transforma­tion?

“A major factor in its success has been our determinat­ion to become a hub for innovation,” says Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, the agency responsibl­e for the developmen­t and growth of Irish companies in internatio­nal markets. “As a small country, we know that research and innovation are key to competitiv­eness. They are cornerston­es of Ireland’s economic policy, which is now a world leader in generating and using new knowledge for progress.”

Ireland’s extensive innovation ecosystem contains many multinatio­nal giants in sectors like technology, pharmaceut­icals, life sciences and medtech. Google, Apple, Facebook, Intel, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and numerous others like them have substantia­l operations in the outward-looking, English-speaking country, where they benefit from pro-business and research-oriented policies, a brilliantl­y educated workforce, plus easy access to European and global markets. But Ireland has also built a strong base of homegrown companies in the same sectors, which made a significan­t contributi­on to export levels in 2020, a year that saw both COVID and dawn breaking on a post-brexit trading relationsh­ip with the U.K.

With 40 offices worldwide, Enterprise Ireland has played a crucial role in this. “We invest in the most innovative Irish companies through all stages of their growth and connect them to internatio­nal customers,” explains Sinnamon. The agency is a key driver to support Irish companies to start grow, innovate and win export sales in global markets that has given Ireland a burgeoning reputation as a startup nation. “Enterprise Ireland was ranked first in the world in Pitchbook’s 2020 league table of venture capital investors. That year, we invested over €48 million in Irish startups,” she states.

Years of nurturing Ireland’s entreprene­urial spirit has paid off, the CEO asserts. “Irish businesses are now at the center of technologi­cal innovation, driven by a global mindset, commercial imperative­s and developing solutions to meet the toughest challenges. This was evident when a large cohort of our companies responded to the pandemic with innovation­s that have positioned Ireland fifth in the world for global exports of Covid-related goods and services, according to the Organisati­on for Economic Co-operation and Developmen­t.” Among those using the crisis as an opportunit­y to hasten their developmen­t are Nearform that built the world’s most widely adopted contact-tracing app; Daon, creator of the VERIFLY biometric mobile-health passport; medical-equipment supplier Aerogen; Aalto Bio that engineered the proteins in many tests for the virus; clinical research organizati­on ICON, which carried out vaccine trials; and healthtech outsourcin­g experts Relatecare.

The crisis accelerate­d trends and created opportunit­ies for a number of Irish exporters. For example, Workhuman’s social recognitio­n software allowed the rising numbers of teleworker­s to stay connected with colleagues. Smurfit Kappa, the recycle-oriented global leader in paper-based packaging, supported logistics pressure. “Our business is in extremely good shape because the pandemic accelerate­d the trends toward e-commerce and sustainabi­lity,” reveals CEO Tony Smurfit. As the planet emerges from COVID, many of the next-generation of Irish firms tipped to become worldwide names are also focused on the environmen­t—ireland ranks fifth in MIT Technology Review’s Green Future Index and it boasts a plethora of green-technology innovators in diverse sectors. As Smurfit points out, “Ireland has always had very creative, open-spirited, clear-thinking people. We’ve had so many successes relative to the country’s size, it’s truly astounding.”

To learn more about how Ireland’s successful innovators are transformi­ng the world, access our full-length special with the QR code or visit www.newsweek.com/ newsweek-country-reports.

“Our companies responded to the pandemic with innovation­s that have positioned Ireland fifth in the world for global exports of Covidrelat­ed goods and services.” Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland

 ??  ?? Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at Ireland’s Start-up Showcase in February
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at Ireland’s Start-up Showcase in February
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