Monday 23 October 2017

Multinationals on doorstep should be first port of call

Ireland has a successful track record in attracting some of the world's biggest multinationals including Apple. Photo: PA
Ireland has a successful track record in attracting some of the world's biggest multinationals including Apple. Photo: PA

Enda McDonnell

Ireland has a successful track record in attracting some of the world's biggest multinationals (MNCs) to locate operations here.

They don't just bring investment, R&D, and employment, they also bring significant sales and contract opportunities for home-grown companies. In parallel, more Irish companies are undertaking innovation-led activities and are more focused on international markets than ever before.

The opportunities are extensive and don't only relate to the selling of goods and services into MNCs based here. Many Irish firms have already successfully leveraged their approved supplier status with multinationals here to supply operations in other countries too.

Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland hosted a major global sourcing initiative recently to promote such opportunities. Held over a two-day period in Dublin, Cork, and Galway, almost 500 one-to-one meetings took place between Irish exporters and multinationals.

This event is the fourth national Trade and Investment Mission organised by the two agencies. It forms part of an agreed joint approach to drive this agenda. This includes a specific global sourcing team within Enterprise Ireland to work with both MNCs and Irish-owned businesses, to make strong connections. Since it was launched in 2013, approximately 60 new contracts have been secured, to a value in excess of €20m.

This year's event was the first one since the Brexit vote. It was also the biggest, providing MNCs with direct access to potential suppliers, and raising awareness of the innovative capabilities of SMEs across a range of sectors, including medtech, pharma, and software.

Increasing integration between the indigenous sector and the MNCs helps embed existing FDI in Ireland, and adds to the overall narrative of what Ireland can offer when enticing future FDI. For Irish companies, it can act as an invaluable way to gain credible access to procurement teams in global MNCs.

A key element of Enterprise Ireland's 2017-2020 strategy is to help Irish companies scale up and expand their reach globally. In the context of Brexit, it is imperative that Irish companies look to do so outside the UK market. Equally, Irish companies in sectors such as business process outsourcing can step up to meet interest among multinationals establishing a base here in a post-Brexit environment as an outsourcing partner of choice.

As well as being an important way of recognising the continued growth of multinational firms here, and their contribution to the economy through their level of sourcing from Irish companies, the global sourcing initiative develops and consolidates relationships.

In light of Brexit, it is crucial Irish firms build such links, and grow sales, outside the UK market. Ireland's strong MNC base, much of which is headquartered in the US, presents a good opportunity from which to achieve this.

Having them as customers in Ireland also equips the indigenous sector with valuable local reference sites for their overseas market entry strategy. The Trade and Investment Mission to Ireland was a highly structured networking event. Participants heard speakers representing companies such as Liebherr, Accenture, and Abbot Diagnostics, which provided practical supplier tips. One of the clear messages to emerge was that sometimes Irish companies seem reluctant to make themselves known as possible suppliers to multinationals.

Exploiting opportunities will take time even for the most experienced companies providing innovation and services. There is no one simple approach. But regardless of location, MNCs will seek companies that are innovative, value-adding, competitive and reliable. When it works, the rewards for both parties can be significant.

That is something we need to be aware of if we are to drive towards opportunity wherever it lies, whether around the world or right here at home, starting with the multinationals on our doorstep.

  • Enda McDonnell is manager, global sourcing at Enterprise Ireland

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