At the height of the recession, Irish software companies grew their exports by 6pc. Companies like these in sectors like mobile and telecoms will be in the vanguard of a new era of development and it is vital the digital infrastructure is there to support them, said Enterprise Ireland CEO Frank Ryan.
“The greatest mishap for this country was the recession, because any reduction in global demand hits us very hard,” Ryan said, addressing TIF’s annual conference yesterday.
He said that over the past two years his agency, as well as finding new markets and growing companies, were heavily involved in stabilising Irish businesses, including intervening with banks. “This included internationalising Ireland’s construction industry into an industry that is globally focused with Ireland as a hub. “The good news is the key markets for Ireland have already emerged from recession.”
Through 2009, he said the software sector continued on its growth curve and grew exports 6pc.
Getting the economy back on track
Ryan said that 70pc of export losses incurred during the recession will be recovered in 2010, and exports as a whole will start to grow again. “GDP in the UK, the US and Germany are back up to between 2pc and 3pc. Those conditions didn’t exist in 2009. We can be confident about winning those exports back.”
He said that Enterprise Ireland is on track with a strategy to generate 60,000 new jobs by the end of 2015, which will have a further impact of 100,000 additional jobs in the wider economy.
Ryan said that every month his 30 offices overseas track the export performance of Irish firms using metrics that have always been accurate. “Since 2009, Irish companies have been increasing exports. May was the highest growth month in our history.”
He described the internet and telecoms industry as “a dynamic sector, a creative sector, an ambitious sector. It creates the image of Ireland we all need to work towards.”
He said Irish telecoms technology companies offer unparallelled opportunities for growth. “At the GSMA Mobile World Congress in February, Enterprise Ireland-backed companies won two of the top 10 prizes. Some 80pc of companies in the sector were established since 1999 – that is 150 companies whose main markets are the UK, the US, the Eurozone and are making increasing inroads into BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) locations.
“There are considerable opportunities going forward as telecom operators become global digital companies providing end-to-end IT services, e-health, applications, security and machine-to-machine (M2M) services. Cloud computing and open-source software are lowering barriers to entry to overseas markets and significant investments in innovation have been made by Science Foundation Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.”
Ryan said it is vital Ireland as a country takes advantage of the strong global telecoms and internet ecosystem in the country, which comprises global telephony giants Vodafone, 3 and O2, as well as global technology companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Intel. “Allied with this is the world-class research teams that are basing themselves here and the work of world-class research centres like DERI and TSSG."
A new era in development
“We are on the cusp of a new era in development. The jobs will come from new growth sectors as well as micro enterprises. The entrepreneur is now at the centre of Ireland’s new economic future.
“We must have world-leading digital infrastructure. Companies have been trying to hold onto existing customers and this focus will continue but it is also important that we grow.”
By 2020, 70pc of Irish exports will be in traded services and for this digital infrastructure will be a prerequisite.
“We have 30 offices overseas and we follow the telecoms companies and internet companies in search of new markets. Irish exporters have to be in China, for example, it will be the largest economy in the world by 2030.”
Irish companies like CR2 in Arabia and Shenick in Asia are spearheading exporters’ advance into these new economic zones.
In conclusion, Ryan said the traditional Irish export footprint will have to change remarkably. “We have set about developing networks in governments and private sectors in key economic regions. The growth economies will be economies we haven’t had strengths in before.
“Ireland has every reason to be confident. We suffered a setback, we have taken the pain and we have to move on. I am proud of the companies and what they are doing.”