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VMblog Expert Interview: IDA Ireland - Why U.S. Tech Companies See Green Fields of Opportunity In Ireland


The recent visit of Ireland's Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney to Silicon Valley last month underscores the longtime partnership between Ireland and U.S. technology companies.

This relationship goes back many decades so, as we head towards St. Patrick's Day on Friday, VMblog spoke with Ivan Houlihan, Head of West Coast US at IDA Ireland to understand why.

VMblog: Why are we seeing so many enterprise software and cloud computing companies expand to Ireland in recent years? 

Ivan Houlihan:  In the technology space, companies look to locations that have a proven track record in establishing international operations and growing them. An existing critical mass of software companies having set up offices and R&D centres in Ireland, for example, lets newer arrivals know that the location must have the infrastructure, talent, investments and support that will help get their business off the ground and enhance its success. In addition, U.S. software companies are attracted by access to the world's largest single market of some 550 million people in Europe, which is a key advantage along with Ireland's well-educated, English-speaking business community.

At this juncture, all of the top-10 cloud leaders (Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, VMware, Salesforce, HP Enterprise, Adobe and Cisco) have Irish locations. In fact, nine of the top-10 U.S. technology companies have offices in Ireland, which includes the top-five global software companies.Enterprise and cloud computing solutions depend on connectivity and Ireland is an established technology hub hosting firms like Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft, , and LinkedIn, .

VMblog: Can you talk to us about how Ireland's climate targets will create opportunity for investment and support companies in Ireland?

Houlihan:  Ireland - and Europe in general - puts a high priority on green energy, which opens the door to American companies wanting to leverage these activities now that interest in renewables is at an all-time high. Europe has a €1 trillion program called "The European Green Deal Investment Plan" that is expected to bring up to €13.3 billion between 2021 and 2027 to Ireland to help transition to a low-carbon economy while Ireland's own climate plan sets clear, legally binding targets, including becoming carbon neutral by 2050, reducing green house gas emissions by 51% by 2030 and receiving 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Amazon's first wind farm project outside the U.S., is located in Cork and delivers clean energy to the grid, other will follow in Galway and Donegal.  And Microsoft is aiming to be carbon negative by 2030, with Irish data centres using 100% renewable energy by 2025. 

VMblog: Given how the world is facing uncertain economic times, how does a young company know when to expand? What should they look for?

Houlihan:  Setting up a European location gives an American companies access to the world's largest single market,. The well-established infrastructure in the EU, including Ireland, can offer companies lower costs overall than, say, is the norm for West Coast tech firms. As for navigating today's economic challenges, there are signs that Europe is in recovery mode, with one example being that passenger traffic across the European airport network in January came the closest ever to a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels.

One intriguing aspect of the pandemic's impact on the business world is that it has supercharged the growth of technology solutions beyond what had been predicted, which opens the door to opportunities for companies in the most promising tech sectors like AI, for example. Pew Research quizzed a range of experts who confirmed that people's relationship with technology will deepen as larger segments of the population come to rely more on digital connections for work, education, health care, daily commercial transactions and essential social interactions.

VMblog: Explain how academia/industry collaboration has helped U.S. firms in Ireland. 

Houlihan:  A longtime part of doing business in Ireland is the government-funded commitment to a high level of collaboration between industry, academia and the state. Government organizations like IDA Ireland help U.S.-based and other foreign companies establish and operate successful Irish locations, sometimes providing some specific funding but in particular linking companies with Irish universities and research centers that can provide not just collaborative R&D but potentially skilled workers.

In a world where finding trained tech employees can be challenging, a new €400,000 research project devoted to developing core digital and data skills will increase the worker supply and demonstrates how industry, government and academia work together in Ireland to achieve common goals. Collaborating are Learnovate, Ireland's future-of-work and learning-research hub in Trinity College Dublin, with partners Cisco and the national workforce development agency Skillnet Ireland. The project's goal is developing a national skills platform prototype to help create additional technologically advanced, highly skilled workers.  

VMblog: Finally, why is the value proposition so strong for tech companies in Ireland? 

Houlihan:  Ireland has been funding a direct foreign investment program for more than 70 years, thus its established track record of more than 900 operations in Ireland of U.S. companies includes many of the world's top technology companies who realized early on the benefits of doing business there. Leaders such as Microsoft, Intel, Apple and Oracle have been in Ireland for 30 plus years.  Companies like Google, Meta, Amazon, eBay and Salesforce have been in Ireland for 10 plus years. In 2022 alone, 44 U.S. West Coast companies - part of 167 U.S. companies overall -- announced expansions to Ireland. 

Doing business in Ireland hasn't been a secret for many years in the tech sphere. Besides the long track record of success for these American companies, the value proposition is based on Ireland's ease of doing business, political stability, a common-law legal system, a dynamic R&D ecosystem and an attractive, transparent and stable tax regime. The Ireland-America longtime relationship is driven by EU and U.S. investments contributing to economic growth and job creation on both sides of the Atlantic.


Published Thursday, March 16, 2023 7:30 AM by David Marshall
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