Tech ties with Ireland’s closest EU neighbour are flourishing

17 Nov 2023

French prime minister Élisabeth Borne. Image: Dogpatch Labs

French PM Élisabeth Borne was at Dublin’s Dogpatch Labs earlier this week to stress the country’s growing tech start-up partnerships with the Irish ecosystem.

It is now 50 years since Ireland joined the EU and 30 years since it became a part of the European Single Market. Since then, Ireland has steadily fostered trade and business relations with various member states over and above our strong links with the UK, our closest neighbour.

But a disruption in ‘business as usual’ caused by the Brexit vote in 2016 meant that Irish leaders had to look to the continent for stable economic ties. Fortunately, around the same time, France was undergoing a tech upsurge, with French president Emmanuel Macron declaring in 2017 that he wanted the country to become a start-up nation.

Six years later, at a gathering in Dogpatch Labs this week, French prime minister Élisabeth Borne told an audience of Irish founders, investors and media as well as their counterparts from France that this refocus has “transformed” the country.

For one, France only had 1,000 start-ups and one unicorn 10 years ago, according to Borne. Today, the nation has 25,000 start-ups and around 30 unicorns.

What’s more, while France had raised only €1bn in venture capital in 2013, that figure is more than €13bn today as the country leads the EU in capital investments.

“It is a collective success, driven by the French state and shared by all actors: entrepreneurs, investors, employees and government agents,” said Borne, who is a member of Macron’s Renaissance party and has been prime minister since May last year.

“This proves two things: the innovation economy is real and it works! And the innovation economy is for today, not just for tomorrow. And I know that we should be able to export this French model, both at European level and to all countries.”

A tale of two countries

Ripples of this French success have made their way to Irish shores. Today, 300 French companies have a presence in Ireland, including 28 of the top 40 listed companies in France.

A report on the French economic footprint in Ireland published this week by the Economic Department of the French Embassy in Dublin shows that eight out of 10 French companies intend to maintain or grow their businesses in Ireland.

It also states that French exports to Ireland have tripled in 10 years, and that France is Ireland’s top EU supplier of goods and investment. Together, French companies operating in Ireland are estimated to have created more than 30,000 jobs in the Irish economy.

“France has demonstrated a commitment to fostering an environment where tech start-ups thrive,” said Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney, TD, at the Dogpatch Labs event on Monday, referring to Station F, the world’s biggest start-up hub.

“President Macron’s vision of a France where new industries emerge and flourish aligns closely with our own here in Ireland. This makes France an important partner for Ireland in pursuit of a more innovative and resilient Europe, where we create global companies of the future.

“The relationship between Ireland and France is strengthened by more than just shared goals. It is the culture, economic and technical synergies that offer a framework for start-ups to collaborate on projects that could redefine many industries today.”


The fruits of this relationship were also seen at an event last night (16 November) at the Ireland France Business Awards 2023, where three Irish and French companies were recognised for their contributions to growing business relations between the two nations.

Servier, a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Arklow, Co Wicklow, bagged the award for the Best French Company in Ireland, while Ecocem Global, which manufactures low-carbon cement, won the Best Irish Company in France award.

Réaltra, a space-tech start-up based in Dublin, was recognised as Franco-Irish Business Newcomer of the Year. A division of Paddy White’s Realtime Technologies, Réaltra provided the HD video telemetry system on Ariane 5 for the James Webb Space Telescope launch.

“For years, Ireland has been a very good place to run a business. And for four years now, France has been the leading destination for foreign investment projects in Europe,” said Oliver Becht, French minister delegate for foreign trade, in the report published this week.

“By working together as Europeans, we will make the EU a winner in the next wave of investments linked to the green and digital transitions. We also share responsibility to support our own companies, from SMEs to multinationals, as they invest in other parts of the world.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic