Irish high-tech construction companies are delivering some of Benelux's biggest data centre and pharmaceutical projects, on time and on budget. Right now, much of the major construction activity in the Benelux region concerns data centres and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Both are areas in which Irish high-tech construction companies backed by Enterprise Ireland have extensive experience.
This is largely due to the requirements of tech and pharma multinational giants located in Ireland, including Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Google and Microsoft.
Working with top tier multinationals has given Irish high-tech construction companies a leading edge internationally.
Indeed, Ireland has become a data centre hub for many of the world's technology giants, including Microsoft, Vodafone, Google, EMC2 and IBM. It has shaped the growth of a cluster of companies who are leading global providers in data centre design, build and fit out.
Irish construction, engineering and project management companies also have a long history of following multinational clients overseas.
Much of this activity is currently taking place in Benelux. In particular, Belgium and the Netherlands have both seen a spate of data centre construction projects, for companies including Microsoft and Google. Dutch construction companies have even begun to talk of 'the Irish advantage', due to the level of competencies, expertise and knowledge demonstrated locally.
With the current trend for hyperscale data centres and co-locations, it is not just knowledge that Irish companies offer but speed.
They are recognised for their ability to deliver on time, and for having the flexibility to cope with challenging projects.
Many use Building Information Modeling (BIM), an intelligent 3D model-based process that enables more efficient planning, design and construction of buildings.
They operate to the highest health and safety standards, a key differentiator in the marketplace, as putting a premium on safety reduces the risk of reputation damage to their clients.
A recent incident in Belgium, where hundreds of unauthorised construction workers were allegedly forced off the site of a tech giant's data centre, is a case in point.
It was the tech company's name that was in the news, while the large subcontractor wasn't mentioned because, essentially, no one knows who they are. It is why compliance is so important in the sector.
High Irish safety standards are shared by their network of local subcontractors, partners with whom Irish companies have forged very good relations.
They also build partnerships with suppliers and clients, and with service companies such as electricity suppliers.
This has helped them build capability, which is important in a market where, not alone is there an increasing volume of projects, but projects are becoming more complex.
A 2016 John Sisk & Son project in the Netherlands offers a good example of Irish high-tech construction in action.
It involved collaboration between three Irish companies and the design and build of a major development for international pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson in Leiden.
John Sisk & Son was construction manager for the project, which was designed by Irish-headquartered PM Group, with engineering services provided by Dornan Engineering Ireland.
Other Irish construction companies active in Benelux include Ardmac, Anord Mardix, Winthrop, Linesight, Mercury Engineering and Kirby Group Engineering.
Modubuild, who provides fast-track modular construction services to clients throughout Ireland, UK and mainland Europe, recently opened an Amsterdam office.
Jones Engineering Group, an engineering contracting group of companies providing mechanical, electrical, instrumentation, fire protection and maintenance solutions, has opened an office in Utrecht.
DPS Group, an engineering and project management group, recently acquired F4PE, a Belgian specialist engineering group, who provides high-quality services in the field of clean rooms and process facilities for production and laboratory facilities.
PM Group acquired Belgian company Magnet and has moved its office from Zaventem to Puurs to be closer to its clients.
This activity is proof positive that an increasing number of data centre and pharma clients in the Benelux region are benefitting from the Irish advantage.
Richard Engelkes is a senior market adviser for the Benelux region with Enterprise Ireland.