Expert: Clusters would benefit exporting SMEs

Irish SMEs looking to overseas markets are suffering from a lack of resources and understanding of export markets but would benefit from government policies that support clustering.

Expert: Clusters would benefit exporting SMEs

John Hobbs, senior lecturer at the Department of Management and Enterprise at CIT, said a new wave of internationalisation has begun which presents challenges as well as opportunities for smaller exporting firms.

National policies that encourage clustering would help smaller firms overcome these obstacles by enabling greater levels of research, Mr Hobbs said.

“In Ireland, we consider ourselves an exporting nation. However, the majority of our exports are confined to either large indigenous companies, multinational corporations and the FDI sector.

“Our smaller indigenous businesses are less inclined to export their products and services outside of Ireland, due to lack of resources, time and market intelligence.

"We need to ensure policies have a global dimension to support the innovative capacities and international growth trajectory of SMEs which can have a multiplicative impact on Ireland’s continued economic recovery.

“An opportunity exists for national government in the context of the European Commission’s Smart Specialisation Strategies to support national clustering policy – similar to those being operating in Spain, Finland and Austria to support Irish SMEs to develop collaborative B2B [business to business] research and innovation connections both nationally and internationally,” Mr Hobbs said.

Mr Hobbs was speaking after a recent EuroTech Connect event which saw delegations from Spain, Slovenia and the UK spend three days in Cork meeting with the region’s information, communications and technology (ICT) firms.

The EuroTech Connect event was designed to foster greater ICT collaboration among a group of seven European clusters known as the Be Wiser Consortium.

The seven clusters are based in Ireland, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Slovenia and Cyprus. The Irish cluster is made up of CIT, Cork County Council and it@Cork.

Eoin Byrne of CIT’s Visualisation of Linkages in Networked Clusters (V-LINC) team said Cork was now establishing itself internationally.

“The buy-in from ICT companies [during the three-day trade mission] in Cork was fantastic. From site visits to EMC, Tyxo, DePuy and Janssen to the attendance of firms at the networking breakfast in CIT, it showed the strength of the ICT cluster.

“Cork is now making a name for itself across Europe as a vibrant and internationally focused cluster and it’s a testament to the ecosystem here that one of the Slovenian firms who attended the trade mission is actively pursuing setting up offices in Cork,” Mr Byrne said.

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