The eurozone, made up of 19 countries, including Germany, France and Italy, represents a significant opportunity for Irish companies.
For Enterprise Ireland, the eurozone continues to be a key market of focus in terms of exports. Export figures for Enterprise Ireland client companies have demonstrated the level of opportunity across the bloc.
In 2019, export figures to the eurozone amongst our client companies grew by 15pc overall, with a 25pc growth reported in non-food sectors. Other sectors, such as construction, delivered growth as high as 89pc.
With no customs or tariffs and relative regulatory alignment, the single market of the EU offers enormous opportunity for Ireland. The single currency also reduces costs and increases transparency for our clients' businesses. On top of that, the sheer size of the eurozone - 340 million people and gross domestic product (GDP) of €13trn - underlines the potential. Fundamentally, we should see the eurozone as an extension of our domestic market.
These are the factors which lead to the development of our 'Enter the eurozone' programme. Enterprise Ireland have just launched our second programme which will support a further 20 companies - with two senior managers from each - in entering and exporting into the region successfully.
The programme is designed for those who have not exported to the eurozone before - although many have experience of exporting to more traditional markets like the UK.
Throughout the four-month programme, which is run by ESMT, the top business school in Germany, in partnership with IMS, a Galway-based consultancy firm, the companies will research their potential markets.
And together with these experts, participants will develop a comprehensive market entry plan to commence their entry into the eurozone, where Irish businesses, products and services enjoy a solid reputation.
I am blown away when I speak to buyers and influencers in Europe and hear how open they are to working with Irish companies. This openness is down to three things. Firstly it's the innovation which is consistently coming out of Ireland. Secondly, it's the flexibility and willingness of many Irish companies to adapt and customise, a lot of whom are smaller and more agile. The Irish are very good in a crisis and have an invaluable ability to work around a situation and find solutions.
The third reason for the openness of European buyers to do business with Irish companies is because the Europeans typically like the Irish. The American affection for Ireland is often talked about, but the same can be said for Europe, so we are pushing an open door.
There is a lot of goodwill towards us - Brexit generates some of it with the recognition that Ireland is likely to be hit harder than any other country in the EU, and they want to help us if they can.
So, we are excited to roll out our second 'Enter the eurozone' programme. The first year was very successful, demonstrated by the top-class market entry plans delivered by participants. I have seen a lot of market entry plans in my time, but I have to say that I was impressed by the quality of these plans.
It was evident that a considerable amount of work had gone into the plans but, more importantly, they addressed all the key issues - market validation, value proposition, competitive analysis, resourcing, communication, sales process and route to market.
Kooba Digital Design and Campion are two participating companies who developed robust market plans and are now on the cusp of real success in the eurozone.
Kooba has launched its new product, Lead Captur, a high-quality landing pages solution aimed at chief marketing officers (CMOs) and chief technology officers (CTOs). Campion has developed its Campion Connect solution which provides live monitoring, control and data capturing on all aspects of service pumping systems. Campion is currently trialling software with three manufacturers in Italy.
Spanish Point Software is another company winning business in the eurozone thanks to the programme. Its 'matching engine' technology acts as a support for copyright claims.
The first year of the programme included learning modules in Berlin, Paris, and Dublin. Unfortunately, Covid-19 knocked this physical attendance on the head, and the programme has since been run virtually. Of course, there is a considerable benefit to meeting people face-to-face, but delivering the programme online enables clients to get ready now, ahead of when travel opens up again. And we hope that there will be some physical attendance towards the end of the course.
We have seen very positive results from last year's participants, which included companies from across diverse sectors. A further twenty firms have started this second programme and we look forward to working with them towards successful entry into the eurozone over the coming months. Our third programme is now open for applications.
Anne Lanigan is regional director - eurozone for Enterprise Ireland
Sunday Indo Business