An unprecedented drive is underway by US multinationals in Ireland — which see their Irish operations as ever more critical to their global business — to continue to bring innovation and crucial R&D to this country, writes Áilín Quinlan.
That’s according to Mark Redmond, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce.
“We have never before seen the level of ambition being displayed by US multinationals in Ireland as we are seeing now; firstly to continue to bring valuable research development and innovation into Ireland, and secondly to really elevate Ireland’s global strategy internationally,” he declares.
The Irish operations of US multinationals are becoming ever more critical to the global business of these international firms, partly as a result of the high level of talent available in Ireland’s increasingly diverse workforce, he says.
Another factor, Redmond observes, is the ground-breaking innovation that is currently taking place in every multinational sector here, from pharma to IT.
“Ireland has a growing reputation as a centre of innovation and talent,” he says, adding that inclusion is a very important issue for the multinational sector here.
Some of the multinational firms based in this country have as many as 90 nationalities working with them, something which is very important, he adds: “If you’re serving a global market it’s very important to have a global workforce.”
The American Chamber, he declares, believes Ireland now has a superb opportunity to be perceived globally as a location where ambitious employees can hone their talents and improve crucial workplace skills.
It’s a view which is roundly endorsed by the general public - Redmond points to an independent survey of public opinion by the American Chamber of Commerce last July which shows that 84% of the general public believe the US is critical to Ireland’s future, while 71% believed that the quality of Ireland’s workforce was the main driver in attracting further investment.
“We fully endorse that,” Mark said, adding that other factors, such as the strength of Ireland’s education system, its personal tax regime, the availability of rental residential accommodation and easy access to high quality broadband as well as the provision of an adequate transport infrastructure, public and private, were all crucial to the country’s continued success in attracting ongoing foreign investment.
In terms of education, the requirement that our education system meets the ever-changing needs of the workforce cannot be over-stated, he insists — this is essential in a global economy where the skills required, and the roles being created are continually changing.
High quality broadband access is required to facilitate flexible working and to ensure that Ireland’s SMEs had access to the necessary markets internationally, Mark warns, adding:
We also need to make sure that we future-proof Ireland’s capacity to be the location for future waves of foreign investment.
The Chamber, he reveals, is strongly focused on advocating for gender balance and equality, and has developed a number of programmes to create awareness of these issues and to help women advance their careers and ascend to more senior positions.
One of these, its Leaders of Impact programme, which is currently running in Cork, Dublin, Limerick and Galway, is designed to assist women to develop their influence, impact, self-confidence and networking skills.
In the coming year, Mr Redmond remarks, the American Chamber will focus very strongly on the southern region.
The American Chamber of Commerce Southern Region Conference, to be held in Cork on September 26 and hosted by UCC, is a prestigious event designed to spotlight opportunities in the southern region in terms of job creation, R&D investment and its reputation as a location where strong collaboration between the third-level sector and industry is a priority.
That evening a high-profile dinner, to be attended by all stakeholders from the multinational sector to representatives of local business, education, chambers of commerce and elected representatives, will feature the presentation of two new awards.
The Cairdeas Award - the word ‘cairdeas’ means friendship in Irish - will be presented to an industry or organisation which has strongly promoted community impact in the southern region.
“It is striking how dynamic #Cork is” @PresidentIRL tells @CorkChamber #CorkChamber200 Dinner - President Bill O’Connell talks about “the global composition & outlook of Cork” as exemplified by @DellEMC & @Apple - 👏🏼 @CorkChamber Team for amazing event pic.twitter.com/5bi16HgmH8— Mark Redmond (@MarkFXRedmond) February 2, 2019
The second prize, the Creáfog Award — ‘créafóg’ is the Irish word for earth — will be presented to a multinational firm which has demonstrated real excellence in terms of sustainability and environmental awareness.
The dinner will be attended by representatives of all the major multinational firms in the southern region, as well as local business representatives, educational institutions, local chambers of commerce, elected officials and NGOs.
A similar programme will take place in Galway next June and then in Limerick in October.
Another significant initiative for 2019 will be a major transatlantic conference on March 7 at Croke Park Conference Centre, which will showcase Ireland’s status as a critical centre between the US and the EU.
This event will feature speakers from the USA, Brussels and Ireland who will point to Ireland’s ever more crucial industry role, says Mr Redmond.
“Because of the very unfortunate departure of the UK from the EU we are being told that Ireland is seen as having an even more critical role to play in terms of the Brussels table,” Mr Redmond explains.
The American Chamber of Commerce, he says, is seeing real opportunities as well as further investment set to come to Ireland in the future.
However, the key to achieving, he warns, is not to become complacent but to “stay agile and move quickly”.
“Ireland’s ability to be speedy of execution in terms of key physical infrastructure such as the M20 or the Ringaskiddy linkup or, indeed, the rollout of Broadband is crucial,” he warns.
“We need to move fast. Good work is being done but we are saying the key to our success is the ability to execute effectively and swiftly.”