The eurozone accounts for 23pc of Irish exports, twice the level of a decade ago
Like companies in many countries across Europe and indeed around the world, Irish firms have faced several challenging years with Covid and Brexit.
More recently the eurozone continued to grow in 2020, increasing by 1.6pc to €5.85bn, with the eurozone now accounting for 23pc of Irish exports, twice the level ofa decade ago. In addition, Ireland was the only EU state in 2020 which experienced positive economic growth. So despite the challenges of Covid and Brexit, there are plenty of opportunities available for Irish companies across the region, which is comprised of 440 million people and is the biggest free-trading area in the world.
The single market and customs union is an extension to our domestic market and the EU is investing over €2trn to make Europe greener, more digital, and more resilient.
In addition, each member state has committed investment in a range of their own national priority issues – providing great opportunities to leverage the increase in investment.
Of course, like many markets around the world, Covid has had a big impact, particularly on travel and tourism – but numbers have shown that Irish companies have been very resilient throughout the pandemic. The region, as a whole, is now in recovery with a lot of strong optimism, which has been fuelled by the opening up of the leisure and tourism sector – and recovery in Asia is driving business across the eurozone.
Vaccination and the easing of restrictions is also leading to a faster than expected recovery, so the EU and the eurozone are set to expand at the same pace of 4.8pc this year and 4.5pc in 2022.
Enterprise Ireland supports clients across its eight offices in the region and while our good reputation has traditionally stemmed from our food and drink exports, Ireland is increasingly gaining a reputation for innovation. A lot of the markets in the region are sophisticated with local incumbents and alternatives, so the key for Irish companies wanting to scale is to translate this innovation into value and a language the customer understands, which often needs to be tailored market-for-market.
Planning is also so important, and we have seen time and time again that companies which take part in Enterprise Ireland’s Enter the Eurozone programme, or put in the effort to plan early, reap rewards in the end. This also applies to selecting the right market – not all are the same, so I would encourage SMEs not to focus simply on size but to look at what makes it attractive to them and whether or not they have the resources and skills to access it.
They should test and validate their findings and then determine the value proposition for the local market by working out who the target customer will be and what they will be looking for. Then they can determine what value they, as a company, can bring to the table, whether that involves benefits around price, speed, simplicity, or compliance. And as nothing happens without resources, plans should be costed and agreed in advance.
There are many Irish companies that have already achieved success in the region, and each have taken different approaches to build scale across Europe, these include Dennison Trailers who have recruited locally and the Watershed Group in Germany. In France, PEL Waste Reduction use a local distributor and recently won a tender with Metropole of Marseille. In Benelux, Druid Software work with their partner Koning & Hartman – who have enabled them to sell into the Port of Rotterdam.
Enterprise Ireland and the IIEA (Institute of International and European Affairs) have come together to deliver a three-part webinar series entitled Europe is Our Future to highlight the unique trade opportunities for Irish business in Europe. The second webinar of the series took place on July 16 and looked specifically at ‘Building Sales and Marketing for a European Audience’. The webinar explored sales and marketing strategies to engage European buyers and uniquely offered insights from both European and Irish company perspectives on how they approached building European sales and marketing capability.
The first two webinars in the Europe is Our Future series are available to watch back on the IIEA website at IIEA.com. The final webinar in the series takes place on September 24.
Manus Rooney is Country Manager DACH at Enterprise Ireland