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Good morning, everyone.
It is a pleasure to be here with you all today, at an event that is focused on ambition, achievement, and moving Ireland forward.
Firstly, a big thank you for the kind invitation to attend the ‘Export Summit’.
I have just come from Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up Summit, and I have to say - between the two events, it’s been a very inspiring start to the day.
So, I’m delighted to be in a room full of such bright sparks for the second time this morning.
As we all know, digital is a key enabler for companies to find new markets and new customers.
So, I warmly welcome the launch of Google’s Market Finder, as an additional support to help Irish businesses respond to Brexit by accelerating their market diversification efforts.
This is very poignant, because Ireland’s economy has undergone a complete transformation over the years.
- We have moved from a predominantly agricultural economy, to one that is open and exports with the world.
- We are recognised as a world-class economy, and our growth has brought numerous tangible benefits to our society.
We have a lot to be proud of, but I believe that our best is yet to come.
No discussion about business can take place without considering Brexit.
We may not know much about what the final exit deal will look like, but what we do know is that we cannot stay still.
If we are to succeed, we need to innovate, strengthen our businesses, and diversify our export base.
The UK has historically been an important trading partner for us.
They are our second largest export market.
And it’s is our belief that the UK will continue to be an important market for us going forward.
However, with Brexit on the horizon, the prudent thing to do is expand our export footprint – both in the Eurozone and beyond.
Even if Brexit were not happening, this would still be a good thing to do.
Because we cannot maintain market resilience by being complacent.
For this very reason, our Government Agency, Enterprise Ireland, developed a new Market Discovery Fund, which aims to support client companies to diversify into new markets, and promote new products to existing markets.
There are three levels of funding available to companies through this fund; up to €35,000, up to €75,000 and up to €150,000.
This work is clearly complemented by initiatives in the private sector like Google’s Market Finder.
The Market Discovery Fund, along with Enterprise Ireland’s intensive international programme of export-focused trade missions, and the recently introduced Agile Innovation Fund, are crucial supports.
And, without a doubt, they will be instrumental in helping more companies grow, and reach new export markets.
Enterprise Ireland has also launched a new Eurozone Strategy, aimed at increasing exports to Eurozone countries by 50% by 2020.
The Government Agency organised more than 140 trade promotion events during 2017, to support clients in maintaining and growing the UK market, and to find new markets outside of the UK.
Its online ‘Brexit SME Scorecard’, helps companies to identify vulnerable areas, and suggests some good next steps to take.
It has also launched a €5000 “Be Prepared Grant” for SME clients, which supports the costs involved in preparing a plan to mitigate risks, and optimise opportunities arising from Brexit.
Furthermore, a number of “Prepare for Brexit” Breakfast Roadshows are taking place throughout the country, to engage with companies.
And, since I’m in a room full of SMEs, I’m not going to miss the shameless PR opportunity to plug the events!
So, if anyone here is interested, the Roadshows will take place in the following locations:
- 22nd February in Portlaoise
- 7th March in Mayo
- 22nd March in Cavan
- 11th April in Cork
This work is supported by 3 new strategic communications campaigns:
- ‘Global Ambition’ to get more companies exporting;
- ‘PrepareforBrexit’ to highlight action required by companies; and
- a new ‘Irish Advantage’ campaign, which will target Eurozone buyers to buy Irish innovation in key Brexit impacted sectors.
These are some of the designated supports that Enterprise Ireland, which is funded by my Department, offers.
However, the whole organisation is dedicated to helping Irish firms succeed in world markets.
So, I would encourage any companies with global ambitions, who haven’t yet approached Enterprise Ireland, to talk to them and explore the suite of supports available.
They will help you come up with a tailored approach that will suit your company.
In my role as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I have had the opportunity to meet a range of different businesses.
From microenterprises, to SMEs, and large multinationals, these companies come from a broad range of sectors, and are located throughout the country.
Despite the differences in the way that these companies operate, and the services or products they offer, they all share a strong sense of ambition, and a belief that Irish goods and services have something of value to offer the world.
And, Irish companies are achieving on the world stage.
Enterprise Ireland announced their end of year results for 2017, with a record number of people employed in their client companies.
Not only that, but these companies saw growth in every county in Ireland, and in every sector.
This is a tremendous achievement by any measure, but particularly against the backdrop of global economic uncertainty.
We are still waiting for the export figures for 2017, but the figures from 2016 were very strong, and show that there are extensive opportunities across international markets.
Enterprise Ireland reported an improvement in export performance from over €18.6bn in 2014 to €21.6bn in 2016.
- USA/Canada exports increased by 19%
- Latin American exports increased by 17%
- Asia Pacific exports increased by 16%
- Northern Europe exports increased by 3%
- Southern European, Middle Eastern, African and Indian exports increased by 3%
- UK exports increased by 2%
Committing to exporting can be daunting – particularly in markets where English is not the primary language of business.
Scoping out opportunities can be a time-consuming and expensive process.
That is why Enterprise Ireland - and its global network of 33 offices - is so important.
Events like this are also crucial.
Crucial because they allow the opportunity for businesses and stakeholders to come together, to share knowledge and empower each other to succeed.
And we can succeed.
There are challenges ahead, but there are also real opportunities.
And these opportunities are reserved for companies like your own, who invest the time and effort into preparing for them, and who have the courage to take a step into the unknown.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh!