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Canadian market poses significant opportunity for Irish SMEs

Canada has always been an important economic market for Irish companies


Toronto is the second-largest financial services hub in North America

Toronto is the second-largest financial services hub in North America

Toronto is the second-largest financial services hub in North America

Last week’s flagship global Enterprise Ireland event – International Markets Week – was an inspiring reminder of the high level of innovation and entrepreneurship in Ireland.

Launched by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, and Enterprise Ireland CEO Leo Clancy, the event showed the resilience and ambition of Irish SMEs to maximise global business opportunities as the world recovers.

More than 700 companies met with 140 market advisors from 40 overseas offices in more than 1,600 individual meetings during the virtual event.

The showcase also gave Enterprise Ireland the chance to see how our client companies were faring as the world’s economy recovers from the challenges of Brexit and the pandemic.

Thankfully, the future looks promising. In a survey of the participants ahead of the event, 56pc of businesses indicated that they have seen an increase in exports in 2021 compared to 2020, with only 11pc reporting a decrease.

And 91pc of companies expect sales to increase again in 2022.

As the country manager in Canada for Enterprise Ireland, I had the pleasure of virtually meeting with many client companies at various stages of their export journey – from those accelerating international growth and diversifying into new global markets, to ambitious startups keen to explore the export opportunities in Canada.

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The week proved that Canada is a very attractive market for Irish companies in many sectors, including cleantech, consumer retail, engineering, life sciences, fintech and BPO, and a large proportion of digital technology companies.

Canada was also identified by many client companies as an entry point and as a lower-cost gateway into the wider North America market.

Digitalisation and climate change were key trends across all international markets. The survey revealed that 80pc of firms viewed digitalisation as vital over the next 12 months, while 63pc said that advancing their sustainability agenda was a priority.

We saw those trends in the companies looking into Canada as a potential export partner. Our team met many companies with innovative digitalisation solutions across travel tech, retail tech, ed tech, digital health, fintech, HR & talent tech, and IoT. And just weeks before the launch of COP26 in Glasgow, there were many SMEs with innovative solutions in areas including cleantech, mobility, smart energy and environment.

Consumer retail was also a significant area of interest – a sector that experienced growth in 2020 despite the challenges presented by Covid.

Canada has always been an important economic market for Irish companies – and last week’s event proved that this economic relationship is only getting stronger. The ninth largest economy in the world, Canada is a welcoming country with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and a ‘can-do’ attitude – much like Ireland.

Toronto, the country’s business capital, is one of the fastest-growing global tech hubs, the second-largest financial services hub in North America and a globally recognised home of fintech innovation – all areas in which Irish SMEs excel.

Canada is also a relatively easy market for Irish companies to navigate, thanks to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and Europe. Since the provisional application of this free trade agreement in 2017, Irish companies working in the Canadian market have enjoyed the elimination of 98.6pc of all Canadian tariff lines, as well as the opening of the Canadian services market to Irish firms.

Enterprise Ireland has had a presence in Toronto since 2006. In recent years, more than 500 Enterprise Ireland clients are doing business in the Canadian market, employing over 6,000 people.

Now, EI has opened a second Canadian office in Montréal. A city with close historic ties with Ireland, Montréal is the fifth fastest growing metropolitan area in North America, offering plenty of opportunity for ambitious Irish SMEs. It’s clear from the 2021 International Markets Week that Irish companies have recognised Ireland and Canada make great business partners, and are ready to reap the rewards from this vibrant and welcoming country.

Lydia Rogers is country manager and senior vice president Canada at Enterprise Ireland. View the virtual launch of International Markets Week at www.youtube.com/watch?v=zam4NhG6ImE

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