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Northern lights shine bright for Irish exporters at SLUSH


Helsinki, one of the Nordics capitals. Picture by Oleksiy Mark

Helsinki, one of the Nordics capitals. Picture by Oleksiy Mark

Helsinki, one of the Nordics capitals. Picture by Oleksiy Mark

Irish companies are finding new markets in every corner of the world with our reputation for innovation and entrepreneurship. While the US, the UK, France and Germany remain strategic export partners for us, other markets are emerging to offer significant opportunity for ambitious Irish companies.

One region that is proving a great fit for Irish innovation is the Nordics, made up of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland. It is home to 26 million inhabitants and forms the 11th largest economy in the world. Irish companies have a strong track record and reputation here. Currently, over 450 Enterprise Ireland supported companies export to the Nordics, with exports reaching a remarkable €1.16bn in 2020.

The Nordics is known for being progressive, stable, and open to new technology. As a region that is culturally and geographically close to Ireland, these countries should be considered our home markets and natural partners in terms of trade and business cooperation. English is widely spoken and like Ireland, a huge emphasis is placed on innovation.

Within the Nordic ecosystem you will find global companies like H&M, Nokia, Volvo, Maersk and Ericsson, as well as a dynamic start-up ecosystem unmatched by other parts of the world. Outside of Silicon Valley, the Nordics have generated the highest number of unicorns per capita globally including companies like Spotify, Mojang (creators of Minecraft), Oatly and Klarna. So, how have they been so successful?

They have created a fertile ground for innovation and entrepreneurship. Their comprehensive welfare state provides citizens with free education, healthcare and social security, and their public sector provides a strong framework for the ecosystem with opportunities for funding and other supports. There is also a dedicated focus on R&D and in general they are a population of early adopters of new technology. Thus, the Nordic regions provide a great starting point for Irish companies looking to establish a foothold in the European markets and scale their businesses internationally from here.

Irish tech innovators have recognised this, offering clever solutions in several different areas. For example, WAZP, an Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) specialising in the production of 3D printing materials, has forged a partnership with IKEA, one of the most globally recognised brands. iCabbi, a Dublin cloud-based taxi firm, has a contract with Finnish taxi company Meneva, which has grown its fleet from 100 cars to over 1,500 since joining iCabbi over two years ago.

The Nordic countries have also been recognised for their leadership in sustainability – a significant area of growth as we race towards ambitious goals of net zero emissions. One evident example when you arrive in the region is how these countries are embracing the use of public scooters, in a bid to promote greener methods of transport. Irish companies are playing their part here also: Luna Technologies, which develops AI tech for the e-scooter market has partnered with Swedish scooter giant Voi, while Zeus has rolled out scooters in Oslo, Halmstad, and Karlstad.

These companies demonstrate the significance of the region for ambitious Irish companies – and there is much more out there to be won. To further highlight the opportunities here, Enterprise Ireland will be showcasing Irish innovation at SLUSH, a global-leading event for start-ups and the largest of its kind in the Nordics, beginning on December 1 in Helsinki. This year’s event will attract 8,000 attendees, over 3,200 start-up founders, and 1,500 investors – travelling from every part of the world.

At Slush, Enterprise Ireland aims to showcase the Irish Advantage in areas of importance to the Nordic economy. Irish attendees include seven companies, some already successful in the region along with some newcomers that have compelling offerings for this market. These include Boundless (B2B SaaS technology), MyPatientSpace (life sciences), Educatly (higher education), PlantQuest (oil and gas and data centres), Zeus (transport and mobility), Social Talent (learning and development), and Tito (events and ticketing).

Our northern neighbours comprise a strong prospect for Irish companies wanting to grow globally, and SLUSH provides an ideal platform to kick-start that journey.

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Eoghan O’Connor is Market Executive, ICT & Start Ups at Enterprise Ireland

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