IDA identifies competitive challenge for multinationals

15 May 2003

IDA Ireland launched its new Strategic Competitiveness Programme at this month’s inaugural Strategic Competitiveness Conference, jointly organised with the American Chamber of Commerce. The main objective is to assist overseas companies develop current activities and move up the value chain.

According to a series of speakers, multinationals based in Ireland need to extend their range of activities and strategically reposition themselves for the next phase of economic growth.

“While a growing number of companies have deepened and repositioned their Irish operations, others need to act if the competitiveness of [their] Irish operations is not to be eroded. Undertaking higher value added activities will be key to improving competitiveness,” Frank Ryan, IDA’s executive director, told executives. IDA Ireland wants to see more companies undertake R&D in Ireland to enhance the competitiveness of existing operations and shorten time to market.
Austin McCabe, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland and CEO of US e-security firm Symantec echoed the theme: “As chief executives we can no longer sit back and rest on our laurels,” he said. “We are extremely vulnerable to competition from low cost countries if our role within the corporation is solely manufacturing. The onus is on each one of us to aggressively market our facilities within our global corporations as viable locations for functions such as R&D, shared services, sales and marketing and supply chain management. Only by moving up the value chain can we safeguard investment and jobs.”
“As Ireland has achieved a status as a location of excellence for manufacturing we must now achieve a similar reputation as a location of excellence for value added services,” said Ryan, who praised the role of senior management teams in overseas companies in Ireland citing their performance as “a key differentiating factor in the performance of the Irish economy”.
Welcoming the launch of IDA’s new programme, McCabe said, “The current model for attracting foreign investment is running into the sand. We need to reinvent how we sell Ireland abroad,” he said. However, he warned that the ability of chief executives to secure EMEA Headquarter status and functions for Irish subsidiaries was severely hampered on a number of fronts and that these needed to be addressed if Ireland wasn’t to lose additional investment.”
The US remains the single largest source of inward investment in Ireland. Almost 90,000 people are employed in 510 IDA assisted US companies in Ireland accounting for 65pc of all IDA supported employment. Almost a quarter of all new greenfield US investment into Europe comes to Ireland.

By Brian Skelly