Innovate to elevate Irish businesses in Australia
Australia's buoyant economy offers an important post-Brexit solution for companies seeking to diversify globally, and a gateway for entry into the wider Asia-Pacific region.
Developing these opportunities was the key driver behind the recent trade and investment programme organised in the context of President Michael D Higgins's state visit to Australia. Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Frances Fitzgerald also joined the programme which was aimed at strengthening economic and export opportunities between Australia and Ireland.
Over the course of eight days, two cities, 14 events and 170 meetings with Australian buyers, new business opportunities were sought for 55 Irish companies, 27 of which had yet to export to Australia, and 16 of which were heavily Brexit-exposed.
Increasingly, Irish businesses are looking to Australia as a key export market. Last year, more than 300 Enterprise Ireland-backed companies exported goods worth €256m to Australia, 14pc more than the previous year.
Australia is also a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region which delivered double-digit growth for Enterprise Ireland firms in 2016. An impressive 16pc year-on- year gain made it the second-fastest growing region for these companies in 2016.
The recent trade mission was the largest programme Enterprise Ireland has ever undertaken in the region. The companies that participated are reflective of a dynamic Ireland that is known the world over for its innovation. During the mission, 14 Enterprise Ireland clients signed significant deals and reached major milestones with Australian partners.
Irish company Brightflag signed a multi-year contract with Telstra, the biggest telco in Australia, affirming that Australian companies are forward-thinking and embrace new technologies which bring value to their business. Cubic Telecom signed a €20m deal with Telstra and Portwest acquired a second Australian workwear company for close to €10m.
Combilift secured a AUS $1m contract with an Australian construction company, while Akari Software signed €5m worth of deals with Australian universities and the Irish startup WeBringg became the new logistics arm for Menulog, the largest food-ordering platform in Australia.
Meanwhile, four Enterprise Ireland-backed companies - Prodigy Learning, WeBringg, GECKO Governance and Poppulo - announced plans to open offices in Australia.
These successes demonstrate that innovation is central to Irish companies' success internationally. Alex Kelly, president and co-founder of Irish company Brightflag, affirmed its importance in Australia. "From our experience, Australian companies are forward-thinking and embrace new technologies which bring value to their business," he said.
For the past two years Ireland has been Europe's fastest-growing economy, a growth that has been innovation-driven.
A long-term economic strategy has helped build a reputation as an 'innovation island'. With global markets undergoing historic change, innovation can help contain the impacts of market volatility and provide long-term benefits. As Enterprise Ireland helps Irish businesses prepare for Brexit, innovation is at the heart of our strategy.
Like Australia, Ireland must be globally competitive in export markets to sustain economic growth. While Australia is beginning a journey with the launch of its Innovation Agenda, Ireland's innovation strategy is deeply embedded and will continue to thrive as we encourage homegrown companies to diversify and expand to bright horizons.
Deepening commercial partnerships between Australia and Ireland will contribute to the future success of all our enterprises.
Mary Kinnane is Enterprise Ireland director for Australia & New Zealand
Sunday Indo Business