With the world reopening driven by the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations in both the UK, Ireland, and elsewhere, we can finally see the return to our more normal way of life. With this view, we are also seeing companies increasingly return to a model whereby their workforce is more in situ rather than remote, and our skies become more readily available again as flight routes reopen.
Crossing the Irish Sea this week, An Tánaiste, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, joined Enterprise Ireland’s Chief Executive Leo Clancy for the start of a three-country trade mission to the UK, France, and Germany. With London being the first leg, the trade mission, organised by Enterprise Ireland, signifies the importance of the partnership with the UK as the neighbouring market to Ireland and the strength of the long-standing trading relationship in place between the two countries.
This will be an important week for several reasons, firstly it demonstrates that life indeed is returning to a level of normality as we emerge to the other side of the pandemic which has challenged us all personally in making changes to our everyday routines from how we work through to how we stay connected to our families. Secondly, by embarking on this important trade mission, we are creating the opportunity to connect in person, rather than virtually, with some of our closest partners, none more so than our closest partner and neighbour, the UK.
Although we have embraced the technology that has enabled us to stay virtually connected, it simply cannot fully replace the experience of meeting in person to hold discussions that enable us to really explore how we continue to build on the strong existing bonds that we have with the country, its business community, and at a Government to Government level.
The UK is important to Ireland, we share the same values, we are countries that are both pro-enterprise and pro-competition, and a belief in working together to realise the mutual benefits of doing so. By collaborating together, we can build greater prosperity for our economies, develop business relationships that bring with it the opportunity for more jobs to be created, and forge greater advances in both productivity and capability as a result of embracing the latest innovation in the products and services that are delivered. This in turn drives our nations to compete strongly in the global arena.
The UK has always been and remains Ireland’s largest single trading partner. The importance of the relationship between our two neighbouring markets cannot be understated with a common travel area, integrated supply chains and approximately £1bn traded each week between both markets in goods and services. Therefore, it is rightly significant that our first trade mission since the onset of Covid-19 and the new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, is to the UK.
I am delighted to see that Irish businesses are thriving in the UK market, and that they are also making a big contribution to the UK. With over 125,000 British jobs created as a result of Irish companies, there are clear benefits being generated to the UK economy. I believe we can still increase this level even further. Over the past 18 months, even against the backdrop of the unfolding pandemic, we have witnessed 67 Irish companies establish a presence in the UK – this is both good for our combined business communities, as well as fuelling our economies. At a human level, it is even more important, lives are being positively impacted with the jobs and careers that are being created.
This week on the trade mission, we are seeing more Irish companies expand their operations in the UK, bringing Irish innovation to the housing and construction sectors, mobility and infrastructure, and in healthcare which has seen collaboration really benefit our healthcare systems as it navigated through the management of the effects of a pandemic, never before seen on this scale.
With the decades of investment made into our national R&D ecosystems, Ireland is delivering cutting edge innovation across many important sectors. Irish construction specialist, ESS Modular has used innovation in its offsite modular construction approach meaning that not only are there sustainability benefits to this, it is up to 50 percent faster than traditional construction methods. The company has grown to become an industry leader in modular construction in both Ireland and the UK and continues to grow further with their expansion in the UK, opening a new office opening in Manchester and creating 70 new jobs.
In healthcare, where innovation is so crucial to ensuring that our communities stay healthy, Ireland and the UK enjoy close cooperation and collaboration. This week, Limerick based Serosep Ltd, a leading supplier to NHS hospital trusts across the UK, announced a seven year contract with Liverpool Laboratory Services to supply their innovative molecular diagnostic solution, EntericBio, which is used to diagnose gastroenteritis.
These collaborations, and there are countless more, contribute to our nations’ ability to thrive, both economically, but also socially. This is why as globalised countries, the UK and Ireland will emerge strongly out of the pandemic era, building back stronger than before, and working in closer partnership to achieve our national ambitions. It’s the responsibility that we share with our business community as well as for communities.
Marina Donohoe is Regional Director – UK, Nordics, CEE, CIS & Russia – for Enterprise Ireland – the Irish Government’s trade and innovation agency – based in their London Office.