Irish companies will generate more than €1bn in new export sales in 2007, Enterprise Ireland anticipates.
Growth has not been as strong as in 2006 and 2007 but overall the State agency has exceeded targets it laid down in its three-year strategy announced in 2005. During the period €3.9bn in new export sales were generated by Irish companies, exceeding the strategy objective of €3bn.
Some 221 high-potential start-up companies were established in the period, exceeding the 2005 target of 210. There were 344 productivity fund approvals, compared with an original target of 300. The number of companies investing more than €100k a year in research and development (R&D) now stands at 619, two higher than the strategy objective of 617, and the amount of companies investing more than €2m a year stands at 43, one more than the strategy target of 42.
The 2005 Enterprise Ireland three-year strategy 2005 – 2007: Transforming Irish Industry was the first official report that set targets for new export sales, the numbers of companies engaged in R&D, the number of start-ups with high export growth potential and the number of companies implementing productivity and competitiveness improvement projects.
“Strong results were recorded in both 2005 and 2006 and this momentum continued in 2007, albeit tempered by a more challenging economic environment,” said Frank Ryan, CEO, Enterprise Ireland. “Increased international competition in many overseas markets, moderating global growth, fluctuating exchange rates and the international credit crisis combined to make the international trading environment much more difficult.
“Notwithstanding this, steady progress was made by our clients in deepening existing customer relationships and developing new markets for innovative products and services. Irish companies are very adept at pursuing new market opportunities and their tenacity has resulted in a third successive year of export gains.”
In 2007 Enterprise Ireland supported 70 new high-potential start-ups and refined its scaling engagement model.
The software sector contributed significantly to the strong export growth in recent years, along with food and industrial products, and it is expected this will continue.
Specific sub-sectors in medical devices, construction products, telecoms and proprietary engineering have also experienced high growth rates and Enterprise Ireland is looking to develop these areas.
“This third successive year of impressive growth by Irish business, with the support of Enterprise Ireland, puts us in a strong position to meet the challenges of the global business environment,” commented Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheal Martin TD.
“The fact that key targets for R&D were exceeded during the period also shows that Irish business is determined to remain at the cutting edge into the future. Enterprise Ireland has been at the forefront of the growth in R&D by actively encouraging increased links between colleges and businesses, while its Innovation Voucher Scheme has made research accessible to firms of all sizes.
“There are challenges to be met as we head into 2008. Enterprise Ireland through its new strategy is ready to support Irish businesses as they expand in existing markets and move into new markets across Asia, the Middle East as well as Central and South America,” the Minister added.
“Enterprise Ireland’s new strategy will be rolled out in an economic global environment that will be significantly more testing than we experienced in the 2005-2007 period,” said Ryan. “Growth has continued across all our main trading partners (US, UK, Europe and Asia) but realistically all signals point to a more difficult period over the next couple of years.
“This will especially be the case in the US and the UK. Helping companies grow export share in the emerging markets of China, India, Brazil, Japan, Russia and the Gulf States will be critical to the success of the strategy.”
By Niall Byrne