Airlines, hospitality brands finding new ways to work but clear information needed to restore international traveller confidence

In the search for comparisons, travel industry experts have so far come up short. This has been unchartered territory. Most analysts agree, however, that the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have hit international travel harder than 9/11 and the ruinous 2008 recession put together.

The good news is that the worst seems to have passed. Domestic travel is already starting to bounce back, while search data shows that people have not lost their desire to get on a plane. Innovation and technology are helping the recovery process, which will be further boosted by clarity around post-Covid travel requirements. Not out of the woods, but certainly in a position to ask: just how bad has this been?

“It was even worse than people feared,” says Máire P. Walsh, SVP Digital Technologies with Enterprise Ireland, and one of the most knowledgeable voices in travel tech. “What made it so bad is that everything happened all at once. Travel just shut down, almost overnight.

“On the industry side, one of the biggest issues is that sellers were hit by an immediate wave of cancellations,” she says. “Pretty much anything that had been booked for April, May, early summer, was all cancelled and that had an immediate impact on cashflow. It was a lot to try and absorb all at once.

“But we’re seeing signs of recovery,” she says. “If we look at the data, it’s clear that in every country, domestic travel will be the first to recover. We can see that happening already in the US, where close to 90% of revenue is driven by domestic travel. We’re also seeing pick-up in the rental market including the likes of Airbnb and car rental.

“What’s going to take longer to recover is international travel and that’s primarily because of the 14-day quarantine rule,” says Walsh. “Search data is showing clearly that a lot of people want to start travelling again but as things stand, they are not sure what the rules are. I think most industry people would agree that we need clarification and consistency on what is allowed.”

In a bid to kickstart the tourism sector, the EU has now launched an app and website that provide travelers with real-time information about coronavirus rules and the status of infections in each European country. Disappointingly, the UK declined to be involved in the data-sharing project.

“There’s still a lot of confusion about quarantine and that’s going to push out the recovery timeline for international travel,” says Máire P. Walsh. “What will also take longer is the events industry. The smaller events, 50 people and less, is already starting to come back to life in a physical/virtual hybrid way but the bigger stuff, international conferences and exhibitions, will need more time to recover.

“The nature of travel is also going to change, we know that for certain,” she goes on. “To give one example, where previously we might have booked our holiday three to six months out, now we’re seeing nearly all near-term bookings, zero to 14 days out.”

In terms of disruption, this is the tip of the iceberg, with most experts agreeing that what 9/11 did for travel security, Covid-19 will do for health and hygiene regulation.

“Most airlines and hospitality brands are looking to innovate and there are a lot of Irish travel tech specialists creating solutions to satisfy that demand,” says Máire P. Walsh. “You’re going to see a lot of innovation focussing on journey touchpoints aimed at making people safer and bringing back confidence.”

She mentions i-Hotelligence, an Irish firm with a software platform that allows travelers to manage all aspects of their hotel stay, from check-in to room access to ordering food and drink, via their phone.

“There’s also Mobility Mojo, whose core product is a toolkit for hotel accessibility,” she says. “They now offer a hygiene rating feature for hotels, so travelers know what sort of hygiene protocols and criteria their hotel adheres to. This is the sort of information people now demand and it can help the industry to recover.”

Anyone who has set foot in an airport lately will be familiar with that new staple of the travel experience – getting temperature checked before being allowed to board. Here, Ventilux has developed a mass screening intelligent body temperature detection system using AI-powered sensor technology.

In a similar space, Daon is working with Denver International Airport to provide contactless and biometric solutions that enhance traveler safety (and confidence) and streamline airport operations. There will be a focus on biometrics to reduce physical contact throughout the journey, give travelers an opportunity to assert their health status, and provide touchless retail at airport stores and restaurants.

To monitor people movement as they travel, Taoglas CROWD Insights™ is a new analytics platform that gives hotels, airports and other venues real-time information about crowd sizes and social distancing.

“Another piece of Irish innovation is from HaloSOS, which started as a live reporting mechanism for major events but which can now be deployed to inform staff if they have been in contact with a Covid-19 infected colleague,” says Maire P. Walsh.

On the customer service front, Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, has deployed Cation Consulting’s leading ‘conversational AI’ platform Parly to automatically handle thousands of customer enquiries every day, and provide meaningful, instant responses to those enquiries before they reach any contact centre. They handle all messaging channels including web, email and social, in multiple languages as well as IVR/Phone and smart speakers Alexa and Google.

Finally, with a surge in data attacks targeting loyalty programmes, Irish fraud specialist UrbanFox is helping travel brands to identify weaknesses in their information management and safeguard their data.

“Companies are looking to do things better and create a more compelling travel journey,” says Enterprise Ireland’s Máire P. Walsh. “Well, the whiteboard is now clean and there’s an opportunity to do that. Crisis creates innovation and we’re definitely seeing green shoots starting to reappear.”

Discover more in the upcoming webinar The Digital Customer Journey is broken. Let’s fix it.
With Travel Industry Analyst, Henry Harteveldt and Enterprise Ireland’s SVP Digital Technologies, Máire P. Walsh

Thursday, 6th August, 11am ET – Register now

As countries around the world seek ways to live alongside Covid-19, social distancing becomes more important than ever.  For organisations and businesses, achieving it while minimising damage to productivity is vital.
A raft of highly effective solutions has emerged from Ireland to help.

For innovation watchers, that’s no surprise. A recent international survey placed Ireland 6th in a global ranking of countries responding best in terms of innovation to the pandemic, just behind innovators such as the US, Canada and Israel.
Enterprise Ireland client companies have been leading the way.

That includes companies such as UtilityAR, which specialises in augmented reality (AR) solutions for Industry 4.0, working with clients in sectors such as manufacturing, pharmaceutical, utilities and data centres.

Right now it is enabling workers separated by Covid-19 – either because of social distancing or because one may be in quarantine – to continue to work together.

As UtilityAR CEO and founder Patrick Liddy explains: “Over the past couple of months the buzzword has been business continuity. We are now moving to return to work and the issue is how that can be done safely.”

“We produce systems for technical workers to help them get the job done in cases where, traditionally, they would have worked side by side, whether for oversight, guidance, trouble shooting or simply to have a second pair of eyes.”

Its high tech AR eye glasses allow the wearer share what he or she is seeing with a colleague on another part of the site, allowing socially distanced collaboration.

With fewer workers expected to work alongside one another as a result of Covid protocols, including staggered start times and shift changes, it allows workers to receive guidance or ensure they are following correct procedures, and allows co-workers or advisors to assess their progress remotely.

Irish construction services technology company GoContractor quickly identified challenges for the construction industry in relation to induction and training.

Much of this traditionally takes place in person, either in a work trailer or classroom environment, and involves the sharing and copying of documents. Clocking on too, whether paper based, touch screen or turnstile, risks spreading germs.

Prior to Covid-19 GoContractor’s contractor management platform automated and moved a construction site’s orientations and registrations online, saving safety and project management personnel thousands of hours of teaching and registration time over the life of a project.

Since Covid it has been enabling the construction industry to get back to work by providing a socially distanced ‘no touch’ method for site orientations, registrations and access control.

Instead of a worker having to physically provide documents to site safety personnel or a site manager, GoContractor allows workers to upload their credentials directly to the GoContractor platform, from anywhere. Instead of having to show up a work trailer to do paperwork, a worker can complete everything online the night before so they can stay socially distanced and safe during the registration process.

 It solves the problem of training too by allowing workers and subcontractors to login to GoContractor to undertake all their training and orientations online prior to coming on a worksite, removing the need to break social distancing protocol to be properly on-boarded onto a site.

For clocking on and off, GoContractor allows site security or other check-in personnel to scan a QR code to pull up their information, making sure they are properly trained and registered to be on site, and then checking them into the worksite.

GoContractor also allows for hard hat stickers with QR codes, meaning workers can simply have their hard hat scanned on the way in and out of a site to be checked in and out at a distance.

The company has clients in the USA, Canada, UK and across Europe, including  some international construction companies such as Lendlease, AECOM and Skanska.

Irish software firm Solgari has an integrated communications solutions for the fintech sector offer voice, video, chat, SMS and co-browsing options that are both fully integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and support regulatory compliance, from GDPR to MiFID II, to customers around the world.

Since Covid-19 the company has been helping distance-working by ensuring that all company communications are recorded, and the data extracted efficiently, regardless of geography or medium. This means companies whose staff are working remotely can keep up to date records of all client interactions.

Internet of things specialist Taoglas has launched CROWD Insights, an IoT solution that supports social distancing. Its cloud-based analytics platform uses existing WiFi infrastructure to measure, monitor, predict, alert and notify social distancing breaches in public gatherings in both indoor and outdoor venues.

The solution can also provide a CROWD Insights Wearable Tag, similar in size to an identity badge worn with a lanyard, that delivers automatic contact tracing capability. This is proving vital to business and factory owners as they deploy solutions to ensure business continuity in the event of further outbreaks.

“We believe this will be vital in the days and months to come, to allow people to move around safely without fear and to get the economy moving again and help business to stay open,” says Ronan Quinlan, co-chief executive and founder of Taoglas.

The solution is quick and easy to install, using existing Wifi systems and collecting anonymised data via smartphones. It offers same day deployment – remotely – via a cloud management platform, whether to healthcare facilities, venues, retail stores, restaurants, airports, cities or towns.

Where social distancing breaches occur, software company NearForm’s mobile tracing app rapidly notifies those who have been in contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.

The new real-time symptom tracking and digital contact tracing app helps curtail the spread of the virus and eliminate the growth of clusters.

Lastly, because social distancing doesn’t reduce the risks posed by the shared use of touch screen devices, Irish coatings specialist Kastus pioneered a solution.

Such devices see high public usage at airport terminals and fast food restaurants. Kastus’s patented technology uses ambient moisture and light as a fuel source to generate oxygen radicals, a type of unstable molecule that contains oxygen, which attach to bacteria and viruses and works to kill them.

Its antimicrobial surface coating is already used by makers of floor tiles for residential, commercial and healthcare settings.

For Kastus founder and CEO John Browne, news that independent testing had proven its efficacy against the novel coronavirus was no surprise. “Our coating is designed to kill superbugs such as e.coli and MRSA but we had a strong degree of confidence that it would work against coronavirus too, and it does,” he says.

Kastus ensures our germs too remain socially distanced.

Enterprise Ireland client companies have helped put Ireland into the top echelon of countries whose innovative solutions are helping to reduce the impact of Covid-19.

A global survey ranks Ireland among the top countries in the world for producing innovative solutions to the current crisis.  Ireland has come sixth in a global ranking of those responding best in terms of innovation to the pandemic.

Inventive solutions coming out of Ireland span everything from med tech devices to diagnostics solutions and contact tracing software, and place the country just behind innovators such as the US, Canada and Israel.

The survey is compiled by StartupBlink, a Swiss-Israeli producer of global startup ecosystem maps, in association with the UN-backed Health Innovation Index (HIEx) and partners such as Crunchbase, a US business information platform.

Ireland’s top ranking position reflects the fact that within weeks of the World Health Organisation declaring the pandemic, on 11th March, more than 100 Enterprise Ireland client companies had responded with innovative solutions.

As a result Ireland is one of just a few in the Top 20 country ranking which is singled out by the report’s authors for “over-performing in Covid-related innovation”.

The rankings consider the number of innovations in each country, giving extra points for those which it selects as ‘outstanding’ in the fight against the virus.

The scale and scope of Ireland’s innovation response to the pandemic is immense. It includes examples such as nutraceuticals firm Mervue Labs in Cork partnering with iconic drinks maker Irish Distillers to create hand sanitisers.

Similar initiatives are to be seen among human and animal health companies such as Univet, Chanelle and Ovelle.

Irish mask maker Irema, a contract manufacturer to US conglomerate 3M and other medical device suppliers, has expanded its workforce and built a new production line to ramp up production of reusable respirator-grade masks.

Ireland’s engineering sector stepped up to the plate quickly too. Long established companies such as Automatic Plastics and Key Plastics, whose clients range from pharmaceutical and food packaging to telecoms and aerospace, pivoted to manufacture face shields for use by health service workers.

High potential start ups are responding fast too, with CALT Dynamics, a 3-D printing company backed by Stanley Black & Decker, making protective visors.

Software companies have risen to the challenge with alacrity.  Clinical practice management solutions company Wellola launched a secure patient communication portal for general practitioners in Ireland’s national health service, the HSE. By providing treatment remotely, it is helping to keep queues and wait times down, while at the same time protecting both doctor and patient from the spread of Covid-19.

Scheduling software company Swiftqueue is optimising appointments at Covid-19 urgent test centres.

Irish medical devices innovators are coming to the rescue too. PMD Solutions, creator of pioneering patient monitoring devices, is trialling a new respiratory monitoring solution in one of Dublin’s biggest hospitals.

Jinga Life allows people to securely record, store and share their own medical information. By providing for the digital transfer of things such as CT scans, MRIs and x-rays, it reduces the risk of infection from handling current technologies such as CDs.

Digital healthcare company PatientMpower provides tech solutions for people living with long term illnesses. Its remote monitoring enables clinicians to provide continued high quality care to vulnerable patients without the need for hospital visits during the Covid-19 crisis.

One of the world’s leading digital mental health providers, SilverCloud Health, is opening up part of its platform free of charge to help millions of people cope with the impact of Covid-19.

The Irish company has offices in Boston, Dublin and London and clients such as Ireland’s HSE and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and Canadian retail pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart. It is providing programmes on stress, sleep and resilience for free to its clients’ 150 million customers.

Tracking and tracing is an effective weapon in the fight against Covid-19 and Waterford based software development company NearForm is working with Ireland’s HSE to develop a mobile tracing app for the disease.

The potentially life-saving app will facilitate the rapid notification of people who have been in contact with someone who is subsequently been found have tested positive for the virus.

Irish artificial intelligence start up Oblivious AI has developed a Covid19 contact tracing solution that provides accurate information at speed while at the same time protecting people’s privacy. It is being piloted in India.

Internet of Things specialist Taoglas is helping public and private sector organisations to manage crowd sizes in order to maintain social distancing in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

Augmented reality hand washing app SureWash, which is already used by healthcare workers globally to ensure proper hand hygiene, has been made available by the company to the general public, to stem the spread of the virus in the community.

Dublin based HiberGene Diagnostics, a developer of molecular diagnostics tests for human infectious diseases, is developing a new and rapid test for the novel coronavirus, based on non-invasive human samples such as swabs.

Because it is a “near patient test”, samples will be taken and tested on location, without needing to be sent offsite to a laboratory. It could produce a positive COVID 19 result many times faster than the fastest existing molecular diagnostic tests.

Fellow Irish biotech company Aalto Bio Reagents has launched a new protein with the power to fight the Covid-19 on three fronts – diagnosis, vaccines and research.

Irish med tech company Aerogen has pioneered new ways to help people in respiratory distress using aerosol drug delivery technology.

Unlike conventional nebulisers, Aerogen has an in-line circuit design, which means the ventilation circuit does not need to be broken for drug delivery. Its management team believes it could therefore be a viable option to help deliver industry-leading care to patients infected with Covid-19.

Finally, innovative plasma technology developed by Irish company Novaerus is helping to close the infection control loop of hands, surfaces and now air. It uses a patented technology that kills airborne viruses by sucking air from a room and passing it through patented plasma coils which destroy them, reducing the risk of cross-infection.

Irish companies are continuing to respond to the pandemic challenge with resourcefulness and creativity, says Tom Kelly, Enterprise Ireland’s divisional manager for innovation and competitiveness. “We are seeing companies innovating, adapting and creating new solutions.”

Market Advisor Anne Corr is excited about the career opportunities for new entrants, but the industry could do more to spread the good news.

Mention “Construction Industry” at a careers event and it’s not hard to guess what people are thinking: hard hats, cranes, burly blokes in hi-vis and concrete everywhere. You can’t blame them. There are no shortage of TV films and dramas where professions of every kind are featured in a glamorous, interesting and sympathetic light – from forensic science to veterinary medicine, the law and business of course, police work, the list goes on. But the construction industry? The Lego Movie anyone? Bob the Builder?

Putting Construction in the spotlight

Say the words ‘Building Design’, ‘Land Management’ or ‘Property Development’ and suddenly a more interesting set of images appear with skills and expertise that feel more relatable in 2019 – skills that people can get excited about one day developing for themselves. The fact is, the construction industry has been slow to market the wider range of opportunities it offers, and as a consequence, it is not an obvious career choice for many, especially women.

Construction is a people business and needs team building and good old-fashioned management skills relevant to the modern world. The industry doesn’t just require people who can dig and build, but also those who can plan, design, survey, manufacture, finish and sell. None of these skills are gender-specific.

Earlier this year, Enterprise Ireland hosted She Built That, to shine a light on the breadth of career options available in the construction industry, and to discuss the associated opportunities and challenges. While the gender imbalance in the sector was acknowledged, many agreed that the industry is changing for the better.

Challenges and opportunities

The Construction Industry Training Board estimates that the sector will grow at a rate of 1.3% over the next five years. By 2024 an additional 168,500 new workers will be needed to meet this demand. A great proportion of that influx will be women. More and more, construction firms are recognising that diverse businesses are simply more competitive, come up with better (more profitable) ideas, can respond to market changes with greater speed and imagination and attract the best talent.

“The long-reaching consequences of the previous recession are the skills-gap and workforce shortfall in the construction industry that we are now experiencing,” remarked Brendan Mahon, Managing Director at Banagher Precast Concrete.

“The sector is quite simply not attracting the workforce necessary for the future although the opportunities are there,” he elaborated. “A wide gap has developed where school leavers didn’t take up college spaces for construction related courses, and trade apprenticeships experienced a huge fall-down, with the result that construction is now facing a crisis.

“I believe it is the responsibility of companies in the supply-chain and contractors alike to ensure the future of construction by advocating apprenticeships, through education and training, by breaking gender bias and to actively encourage people in the industry – the opportunities are there, we just need to offer some guidance.”

The great secret of construction as a professional choice is that it is simply great fun to be in. All the panelists at She Built That agreed that making great buildings and being able to point to one and say “I built that” is a fantastic thing to be able to do. The research supports this: the Dutch multinational human resources firm Randstad carried out an extensive survey into women in the construction industry in 2018 and it revealed some startling results.

Over 77% of the women surveyed said they were proud to be working in the construction industry, yet only 14% of the workforce is female, and only 21% of board members are women. Clearly, it is a rewarding industry, but all stakeholders must do more to promote awareness of this.

The She Built That panel

Learning by example

It was inspiring to hear the story of one of the panelists, Jacqui O’Donovan, who at 19 took on the family waste management firm following the sudden death of her 51-year-old father. She turned the £175,000 business she inherited into one with a turnover of £21M.

A lot of the skills and experience that gave Jacqui the confidence to flourish as a teenage MD came from days in the office watching the work of her father, her inspiration and mentor. That theme came up repeatedly with our panelists – sympathetic, trusted mentors and role models are great for anyone starting out. Having someone you can identify with helps build self-confidence and -belief and can go a long way towards overcoming obstacles along the path to success.

By the end of our She Built That event, the 20 invited women from Newham Council’s employment agency Newham Workplace were being let in on the secret, as volunteer mentors from a number of Enterprise Ireland’s construction client companies talked them through the business. You could feel a buzz of excitement in the room. We need more of that.

Attending the event was Ruth Kelly Waskett, a daylight designer at an engineering consultancy. Impressed by the event, she said, “One of the things I liked about She Built That is that it shows the diversity of women in the construction industry. The women on the panel, they all started from very different starting points – they are involved in different sectors of the construction industry – the difference between property development and civil engineering is a very wide range, an example of how diverse the industry is in terms of the activities that go on within it.”

Aíne Kelly, Technical Design Manager at property development firm St George Plc, was pleased to have an opportunity to share her experience through mentoring. She said, “I have been saying to everyone I speak to ‘come to our site, come to our department, come and see how the construction industry operates. Have a look and we can do some mentoring; any questions that you have before and after the visit, let us know.’ I’ve also been explaining the graduate schemes that are available in the industry at the moment. This event is an opportunity to give back really, that was really helpful for me. I think that’s what it’s really all about.”

Female role models in construction are still too few and there is an attrition of senior women who struggle to balance family and professional demands.  But the numbers are growing, 6% in 2005, 16% in 2015. The growth of organisations enabling women to get on in the industry is also encouraging, as well as the growth of girls studying STEM subjects in school.

All of these promising developments will be greatly improved if the industry starts selling itself more as an exciting and varied place where everyone can flourish. UK manufacturing, fashion and tech have all had enormous PR boosts in the last decade – it’s time for Construction to have its moment.

By John Hunt, Senior Market Advisor for Construction at Enterprise Ireland, UK

The UK construction industry currently faces a number of challenges, not least how to modernise, increase productivity and harness technological innovation. At the heart of overcoming these challenges will be an efficient marketplace for digital products and services that connects the needs of companies of all sizes with the most appropriate solutions. Further, the market must support an evolving innovation ecosystem that can attract, connect and support the investors, researchers, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and new entrants it needs.

Enterprise Ireland, as one of just a handful of early stage investors working across both construction and technology, understands that this ecosystem is globally still at a nascent stage. The underlying reasons for this are well documented, and we observe that they are closely aligned to the fragmentation and the lack of long-term thinking that have historically led to low levels of technology adoption and R&D spend. If the incumbents don’t see a commensurate return on investing, how can the industry attract new players?

A digital transition

Although the industrialisation of the sector falls well behind others, the potential for sustained growth, through the economic cycle, has been driven by a growing global drive for better utilisation of resources and lower emissions of carbon.

Nonetheless, the digital transition of the construction industry has begun, and the knowledge and capability to tackle waste, carbon and inefficiency, already exist, albeit poorly distributed across the globe. The challenge is not only to share this knowledge in the spirit of collaboration, but to help define new markets for the buyers and sellers of innovative digital products and services.

Strategic policy-making

Government interventions have also helped considerably, beginning with the UK Government’s preparations for a building information modelling (BIM) mandate in 2016 standing out as one notable example.

Perhaps the single most significant consequence of the mandate was the focus and profile afforded to BS 1192 and the subsequent PAS1192-2 standard. A single, common process for the design and build of assets (let alone the connection of the asset to the user and the wider world of Internet Of Things) has this year been accelerated through to an international standard (ISO).

If implemented effectively, the ISO 19650 standard will not only provide a consistent technology interface to identify and replace inefficient processes between and across organisations, it has the added potential for scalability. The application of the standard across many other sector verticals and international markets is likely to drive nationally significant levels of investment.

Fostering the ecosystem

Enterprise Ireland’s investment in and support for start-ups, and even to mature organisations in neighbouring sectors that are diversifying, offer us lower volume than other sectors. But as the industry transitions, our engagements have been growing, and we are keen to appraise and work with other ambitious partners.

Currently, we are actively supporting a portfolio of more than 30 digital companies across international construction markets. These include a wide range of organisations that tackle customer requirements across areas including data analytics, VR and AR environments, asset data management, AI, PPM, logistics and site/field communication platforms.

Notwithstanding, the UK market for construction technology is becoming increasingly confused, as the needs and priorities of construction companies are still difficult to anticipate and capture. Huge variability in the decision-making process across the technology stack is leading to long and unpredictable sales cycles, which in many cases has seen our client companies prioritising North America over European countries as the market of choice to scale in.

Digital innovators in the spotlight

GoContractor is an example of a new sector entrant that now has operations in the UK, Ireland, US and Canada. An Enterprise Ireland start-up that has developed a world-class contractor induction platform, it now has over 300,000 users and hundreds of global customers.

Cora Systems is an example of an international client that has successfully diversified into the UK construction sector, having developed an industry specific Project and Programme Management application. WSP Global has over 50 UK offices and has partnered with Cora PPM to power a wide range of their projects and helping to make them ‘Future Ready’ – their program to see the future more clearly, and to work with clients to design for this future as well as for today’s needs.

This article originally appeared on BDaily.

 

 

More than 800 executives from the global medical technology and healthcare sectors will attend Med in Ireland, a major international business event taking place in Dublin, Ireland, on October 10, 2019.

The invite-only event, includes a full day’s conference with presentations from top executives and key opinion leaders from around the world. It provides an opportunity for international visitors to experience the future of medtech, in a country acknowledged as a global medtech hub.

Med in Ireland is a one-day event exploring how innovative Irish companies are transforming the future of healthcare and manufacturing. Discover the secrets behind the success of the Irish medtech ecosystem and meet the innovators changing what’s possible. The event brings together innovative Irish medtech companies with healthcare providers and manufacturing partners from around the world.

For many visitors, the primary attraction is the chance to participate in a tailored program of visits to some of Ireland’s most innovative medtech and healthcare companies, organized by Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency, for introductions to potential research, innovation, and manufacturing partners.

Med in Ireland provides a chance for visitors to experience first-hand Ireland’s highly innovative medtech sector and to understand how a small country on the western periphery of Europe is producing so many groundbreaking medtech companies.

The country’s achievements in the sector are rooted in a unique government-backed, industry-supported, and research-led ecosystem, which helps to create, grow and scale Irish medtech innovators around the world. This approach has enabled Ireland to become internationally recognised as a location of choice for medtech activity, exporting £11.2 billion worth of goods to 100 countries each year.

That’s why at the last biennial Med in Ireland event in 2017, buyers from 43 countries visited the RDS in Dublin, at which 1,200 business partnering meetings took place. In addition, over 140 bespoke buyer visits to Irish company sites took place.

Medtech sales worldwide are forecast to reach more than £470 billion by 2024. It’s the most innovative sector in Europe, resulting in 13,795 patents filed with the European Patent Office. Digital health alone is forecast to have sales of £13.9 billion by 2024.

Irish companies will make a significant contribution to this growth, helping to define the future of healthcare globally. The country hosts almost 300 homegrown medtech businesses supported by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, the biggest seed investor of start-ups in Europe.

Med in Ireland 2019 will deliver opportunities to network with innovative Irish medtech companies transforming the future of the industry, and the chance to conduct on-site visits with exhibitors and arrange one-to-one meetings. Insights into medtech trends from inspiring keynote speakers and exciting innovations within the sector will help provide a deeper understanding of the collaborative medtech research taking place in Ireland’s Higher Education Institutes.

For more information on Med in Ireland 2019, please visit https://medinireland.ie/.

Celebrating its 23rd year, the annual Timber Trade Journal Awards were held in London’s Bankside Hotel to recognise the achievements of the Timber Trade Industry. Amongst the winners on the evening was Enterprise Ireland-backed company, Glennon Brothers.

Glennon Brothers, with three sites in Ireland and three more in the UK, was nominated for two prestigious awards: Softwood Trader of the Year Award, and the Smart Manufacturing Award.

Softwood Trader of the Year Award

Softwood Trader of the Year is one of the TTJ’s most coveted awards and is open to companies across the UK and Ireland, who were given the chance to vote for their choice of ‘Best in Class’ timber supplier. Glennon Brothers went on to win Softwood Trader of the Year and is the first ever Irish timber supplier to do so.

Speaking of the win, Mike Glennon, Joint Managing Director said: “This is the first time Glennon Brothers entered the TTJ Awards. We are delighted to be nominated for the ‘Softwood Trader of the Year’ Award, as providing excellent customer support and reliability to our customers is key. It’s a great reflection of the hard work and effort everyone in Glennon Brothers puts in, as we strive to deliver high quality products and excellent customer service, from forest to front door.”

Smart Manufacturing Award

The Smart Manufacturing Award is open to all companies who are involved in the timber products supply chain, and recognises both UK and global companies who have undertaken investment initiatives in machinery and technology which have delivered significant improvement in production efficiency in the timber trade.

One of only three finalists in this category, Glennon Brothers earned their nomination following the creation of a £14 million biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant project at their Troon facility in Scotland. The plant, which was completed in 2018, produces 2.5MW of electrical power, sufficient to supply the entire site. Surplus energy generated is exported to the UK national grid. As part of the project, a new progressive kiln was installed which considerably increased annual timber drying capacity.

The state-of-the-art low emission plant conserves fossil fuels and significantly reduces the company’s carbon footprint. By using renewable materials such as wood chip, buttchip and bark to generate the heat for drying timber, it replaces the need for gas in the process. The use of renewables onsite, has also resulted in reducing road haulage by 50%, which further helps reduce CO2 emissions.

Pat Glennon, Joint Managing Director, commented on the nomination; “It is a recognition of the focus we put on pushing the boundaries of innovation and quality of home-grown timber, through the early adoption of new technology and state of the art equipment. The biomass CHP completed in the Troon facility is a great example of where we endeavour to improve our efficiency and product quality.”

Counsellor for Economic and Trade Affairs, Páraig Hennessy, and Enterprise Ireland last night welcomed 20 young women to the Embassy of Ireland to break the stereotypes in today’s construction industry and to showcase the diverse range of career paths available. Designed to address the skills gap and lack of awareness currently challenging the UK construction sector, Enterprise Ireland assembled an audience from Newham Workplace alongside a panel of leading experts to shine a spotlight on the breadth and diversity of career opportunities available to them.

Speaking at the event, Enterprise Ireland Construction Market Advisor, Anne Corr, said, “Many people think careers in construction are limited to working on-site in hard hats and steel-toe boots. With She Built That, we wanted to highlight that there is so much more in the sector for young people to consider – be it interior fit-out, offsite construction, planning or design, to name but a few.”

The evening opened with welcome addresses from Counsellor Hennessy, and Enterprise Ireland UK Manager, Deirdre McPartlin, before moving onto a panel discussion exploring the varied career paths available in construction.

Irish contributions to the UK construction industry are strong, with exports increasing by 14% in 2018. The Enterprise Ireland panel convened leading talents from the UK construction sector together, including, Eilis McShane, Façade Specialist; Jacqui O’Donovan, Managing Director at O’Donovan Waste; Alison Nicholl, Head of Constructing Excellence; and Kate McMillan, Development Consultant.

Nuala Forsey, Facilitator and Coach at Being The Change, closed the session with an inspirational speech before attendees had the chance to network and discuss the ideas raised during a networking session.

Enterprise Ireland works with a range of Irish construction client companies in the UK market which enjoy success and create jobs country-wide. Several of these companies, such as ESS Modular, Castlebrook and Techcrete also attended She Built That, and kindly offered work experience opportunities to candidates at the event, as well as tours of current and completed projects, and visits to their factories.

Anne Corr remarked, “We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our client companies. They have put together stimulating tours and work experience programmes which will be offered to candidates from Newham Workplace.

“In overcoming the skills gap facing the UK construction industry, it’s so important that young people are given the chance to understand first-hand how many career paths are available to them within the wider construction industry.”

UK Financial Institutions and Irish Fintechs Demonstrate the Profits of Collaboration

Written by: Jack F. Clarke, Financial Services and FinTech Market Advisor at Enterprise Ireland

The UK is the largest export market for Enterprise Ireland clients (€7.9 billion in 2018). The market grew by 4% in 2018 with all sectors recording growth most interestingly, fintech grew by 17%.

The very strong growth in fintech is in no small part a result of the IFS2020 strategy document, that has driven growth in the Irish financial services sector. The strategy document gave a clear mandate to the government agencies – Enterprise Ireland, IDA and Science Foundation Ireland – to grow and harness the financial services acumen within the economy.

The results we are seeing now are the culmination of many years of hard work and the many wonderful entrepreneurs who drive exports in this sector. 

Enterprise Ireland client companies have remained committed to the UK market and it’s short/medium-term growth potential. This commitment manifests itself in a number of ways; more companies are opening UK offices than before, more companies are applying for regulation with the FCA to mitigate the end of the equivalency regime that governs all EU member regulators and finally, more people – roughly 100,000 employed in the UK by exporting Irish companies.

Collaboration from Fintechs and large Financial Institutions (FI) is the trend we are seeing with more Irish companies achieving strategic partnerships with UK based firms.

Looking a little closer at that number of 17% growth in Fintech exports we can see a number of interesting trends. Namely, Ireland has developed a strong cluster of Regtech firms. Geraldine Gibson, AQ Metrics CEO has described the current climate as an ‘Era of unprecedented regulatory change.’ This has certainly been a driving factor in the widespread adoption of Regtech software.

On the larger side, companies like Fenergo are gaining global traction with their client lifecycle management software solution. Corlytics, another Irish Regtech firm views regulatory compliance as a risk, an approach that resonates with many in the finance world.

In fact, 15% of all fintech exports to the UK last year came from the Regtech cluster. That is quite a significant amount for a subsector that didn’t really exist 10 years ago.

There is no doubt that the largest driver of fintech growth from the Irish market is in the FX and payments sector. Market giants like Fexco, Monex and the quickly growing Transfermate are driving very large export numbers in the sector. Irish companies have been at the forefront of the Direct Currency Conversion (DCC). Transfermate, a spin out of Taxback is very quickly gaining traction in the UK market and were very busy in 2018 adding an e-wallet functionality for users and announcing a strategic partnership with ING.

Growth in FX and payments was in the region of 40% last year. An eye watering figure that will enhance the reputation of the companies in that sector internationally.   

Some challenges for clients in the market remain and can be grouped as follows:

  • overall Brexit uncertainty in terms of evolution of UK sectors and UK customer response in the short and medium-term
  • possibility that Brexit will make our least challenging export market more complex to trade with than has been the case to date
  • all of the other known challenges that start-ups, SMEs and early mid-cap companies face when starting in a market or seek to maximise their potential and market share (understanding the market, how it is structured, competitor mix, best route to market etc)

Now, more than ever before, Enterprise Ireland’s presence and activity in the UK is critical for client success, particularly as the UK will continue to be the market to start in and achieve scale for the majority of clients due to its proximity, common language and business culture.

Enterprise Ireland’s response in the marketplace is threefold:

  1. assist clients accessing growth opportunities in their sector or adjacent sectors/sub-sectors
  2. work with clients on a cluster basis to maximise impact and on an individual level to address specific needs
  3. assist clients to expand their customer reach and diversify their geographic footprint in the UK

We are on the wave of a technology boom. The wave hasn’t broken yet, advances in quantum computing, AI and ML will drive innovation in the next 5 years. By then, Ireland will have a new strategy – Ireland for Finance 2025 – to work off. If it is as successful as the last document, Minister Michael D’Arcy, chief patron of the strategy can be very proud of his work.

The strong tech focus of the Irish economy coupled with the large numbers of professionals working in Ireland’s International Financial Services Centre, (IFSC) means there will always be a fertile breeding ground for innovative Irish Fintech firms to sprout up and flourish.

UK financial services remains a pillar of the UK economy and is an industry that should be protected as much as possible throughout any Brexit process. According to the British Venture Capital Association, £32bn has been invested in over 2,500 companies in the past 5 years.

Sustained economic growth, rising interest rates and higher investment incomes are among the positive factors bolstering results in the insurance industry – another major export subsector for Irish fintech.

Compliance, Regtech and Security continue to grow as the regulator expands the reach of sandboxes and as new legislation such as open banking comes into effect.

Now, more than ever before, it is of the greatest importance to demonstrate the value Ireland places in maintaining the closest possible trading relationship and business ties between Ireland and the UK. This is best achieved through partnership and collaboration.

Dynamic regions need dynamic partners – Ireland is the highest growth economy in the EU and has characteristics which make it a strong partner for collaboration and knowledge exchange:

  • most innovative SMEs in the EU
  • Irish workforce ranked as most productive workforce in the world by OECD
  • 1st in the EU for getting economic value out of research
  • 10th in global rankings for quality of its scientific research

With such strong historic, cultural and heritage ties between Ireland and the UK, we are hoping that Brexit can embolden companies to drive cross-border collaboration, partnership and investment.

Enterprise Ireland will use its presence here to ensure that the UK remains a strategic and successful market for its Irish company base. The new strategy should give a mandate to companies to grow and innovate in this market.

This article originally appeared on the The Fintech Times.

Enterprise Ireland’s experienced market advisors (MAs) provide expert guidance to Irish businesses expanding into the UK market and engaging with their British clients. In the first of our series of MA Q & As, we get to know David Corcoran, Senior UK Market Advisor for the talent and technology sectors.

Hi David, let’s jump straight in – what can you tell us about the talent and technology sector?

“Well, talent affects every single industry – so the first thing I would say is, that makes it a really interesting space to work in. Right now, there is a strong cluster of Irish businesses coming through at the intersection between talent and technology with impressive solutions to offer in supporting UK companies to realise their potential.

“The UK is usually the first port of call for these Irish companies looking to grow overseas. Where I come in is helping to facilitate the relationships between those UK businesses with talent challenges and the Irish technology companies who can solve these challenges for them.”

That does sound like an interesting role. What led you to it?

“My background is in technology and business. Before moving to the UK, I lived in the Netherlands for 9 years, and have worked in a number of different industries including financial services and pharma.

“I joined Enterprise Ireland originally in 2008, and what I really enjoy is that my role pulls together those different skill sets, interests and experiences I have. Specialising in talent management allows me to work closely with an impressive group of entrepreneurs, innovators, and thought leaders, while taking deep dives into a range of businesses. The technology side is fast-paced; it’s always evolving and never gets boring.”

And what does a typical day look like working for Enterprise Ireland?

“I try and structure my days in two halves. In the morning I work with Irish companies, advising strategically on how to develop and scale into the UK, or strengthen their existing UK presence. I try to help them craft their value proposition and validate opportunities within the British marketplace.

“In the afternoons I make time to research industries and engage with my broader network to connect capable Irish businesses with UK opportunities. A couple of evenings a week I can be be found at peer-to-peer and technology networking events.”

You’re a busy man! What are you working on at the moment?

“I’m helping redesign our talent management portfolio at the moment and to identify the Irish companies who have the capacity to scale and diversify further internationally, and as part of this I’m in regular contact with my Enterprise Ireland counterparts in the US and Ireland to share knowledge and develop a strategy for the redesign.

“I’m really excited about an employee engagement focused event that I’m developing in Ireland. I’m organizing the agenda and topics at the moment and identifying UK companies who have an interest in this topic and would be keen to travel to Ireland to meet with companies in our portfolio.

“Later this year, we will have an Irish area at the well known TRU recruitment conference in the UK, which will enable our client companies to demo their technology to talent acquisition directors so I’m planning our approach for this event, and already beginning to lay the foundations for our own talent event in London, NexTech20 in January 2020, which will be a follow up to our very successful NexTech19 event earlier this year.”

You mention industry trends – what are the main ones you’re seeing right now?

“It’s hard to avoid AI at the moment as it is discussed at every technology and talent conference. How it can be used to aid the recruitment process and find the best talent ahead of the competition is very relevant. Any technology that can automate and accelerate processes that will, in turn, allow recruiters to free up time to focus on securing the best fit, will always be appealing to industry.

“Engaging and retaining talent is another focus point for Irish companies in this sector, particularly programmes and solutions built around developing employee wellbeing and recognition. I’ve also seen a huge amount of growth for companies and technologies that are specialising in remote working. More and more people seek flexible working environments and having the right tech to support and enable this is essential.”

Are there any companies you’re really excited about working with right now?

“I support over 120 Irish talent management companies operating in the UK – so it’s hard to make a choice like that! My portfolio spans everything from employee engagement, and professional learning to talent acquisition, and workforce management.

“Some of the most innovative companies that I’m currently working with are a number of our high potential start-up companies, including BidRecruit, HireUp, and Wrkit, all of whom have made impressive entries to the UK market. BidRecruit is smart, fast and cost-effective A.I. and automation recruitment software for HR and hiring managers. HireUp provides a cloud-based solution that simplifies and revolutionises employee referral programmes, and Wrkit has developed an employee engagement platform that inspires better, healthier, working environments and counts Deliveroo as one of their leading clients in the UK.

“All three are at a really exciting point in their UK growth and are just a snapshot of the impressive calibre of Irish companies we have in our talent management portfolio.”

And your thoughts on industry challenges in the future?

“The war for talent will continue, but it has evolved into a war for skilled workers. The power in the recruitment process has certainly switched sides to the candidate, so employers will need to distinguish themselves throughout the recruitment and onboarding process, and then offer flexible solutions, such as remote working to retain their best talent once they find it.

This will be a challenge for some traditional employers in the UK initially, but there is a wealth of innovative talent technologies available, with Irish companies leading the charge, and the UK companies who adapt to the new world of work will have a bright future in these uncertain times.”

Following a meeting of the British Irish Council this morning in Manchester, Ireland’s Prime Minister, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar will this afternoon meet with six CEOs of leading Irish companies who are growing their business in Manchester, part of the dynamic growing ‘Northern Powerhouse’ region of the UK. The Enterprise Ireland roundtable event will take place at ESB Energy’s new office in Manchester, which An Taoiseach will officially open today.

The Irish companies taking part in the roundtable engagement with An Taoiseach include; Malone Group, John Sisk & Son, Glanbia Cheese, ESB Energy, TTM Healthcare, Nolan Transport who all have a strong and growing presence in Manchester. Discussions at the roundtable will focus on Irish capability and achievements in the region as well discussions on the current view of the market, including future challenges and opportunities.

The Taoiseach will also visit Sisk’s ‘Circle Square’ development, which is one of the largest schemes in Central Manchester. Sisk is due to complete all current contract works on the project during 2021. Valued at £240 million, at its peak the project will employ a workforce of 1,300.

This visit comes at a time when Enterprise Ireland recently announced its Irish client base increased exports to the UK by 4% to €7.9bn in 2018.  The Irish construction sector recorded the fastest growth up 14% on 2017, while Ireland’s fintech sector exports grew by 15%, cleantech grew by 9% and engineering grew by 5%. Enterprise Ireland client companies are employing more than 100,000 people in the UK.

Speaking during the visit to Manchester today, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, said: “This afternoon’s meetings provide me with a valuable opportunity to hear directly from a number of top Irish companies who are among our biggest exporters to the UK. The UK market is evolving and there are significant opportunities for Irish companies operating in the growing Northern Powerhouse region. Despite the major challenges posed by Brexit, Irish companies are part of the UK business landscape, and the Government, through Enterprise Ireland, wants to help them diversify and grow that business in the years ahead.”

Hosting Enterprise Ireland’s CEO Roundtable, Marina Donohoe, Enterprise Ireland’s Director of UK, Nordics, CEECIS & Russia, said “An Taoiseach’s trade visit to Manchester, supports Enterprise Ireland’s diversification agenda by raising awareness of the opportunities in the UK, particularly in Manchester. Although Brexit introduces challenges and complexity to the market, the UK will continue to be a key market for Irish companies and our exports results to the UK in 2018 reflect this, with a 4% increase on 2017. The opening of Enterprise Ireland’s office in Manchester this year highlights our commitment to the region and the new office will be dedicated to securing business in areas of growth throughout the Northern Powerhouse region.”

Today, An Taoiseach will also officially open the new ESB Energy offices in Manchester during his visit. In 2017 ESB Energy was launched in Great Britain, offering electricity and gas supply to residential customers. The opening of the new ESB Energy office in Manchester provides a base for their UK team to support growth in the Northern UK region, with over 50,000 customers and plans to grow substantially over the next 3 years.

Marguerite Sayers, ESB Executive Director, Customer Solutions, says that the opening of the ESB Energy’s Manchester office by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD marks a significant milestone in the company’s longstanding presence in the UK: “ESB Energy entered the UK retail energy market in 2017 with a pledge to be the most innovative, responsible and easy-to-deal-with energy supplier for electricity and gas customers in Great Britain. With a customer base now in excess of 50,000, ESB Energy’s presence builds on our investment in Britain’s energy sector for over the last 27 years. In that time, we have invested in flexible and renewable generation assets in gas, wind and biomass, including the UK’s most efficient thermal power plant at nearby Carrington. With ESB electric vehicle rapid chargers already on the streets of London and Coventry, we are also developing an extensive network of car charging points across Great Britain. This network – along with the services offered by our new low carbon heating team based in Coventry – supports ESB’s vision of a brighter, low-carbon future for all the communities we serve.”

Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s trade and innovation agency, today announced that its Irish client base increased exports to the UK by 4% to €7.9bn in 2018. With increased business to the UK, Irish companies continue to contribute significantly to the economic success of the UK, with Enterprise Ireland clients employing over 100,000 people in the UK.

Commenting on the results, Marina Donohoe, Enterprise Ireland Director of the UK, Nordics, CEECIS & Russia said: “Irish companies are proven to be dynamic partners to their UK counterparts and in a post-Brexit era, Ireland wants the closest possible trading relationship with the UK as this benefits business on both sides of the Irish sea. Irish companies’ commitment to the UK market and maintaining the strongest trading relationship with the UK, is very much reflected in our clients export results and the opportunities that we see in the market. Despite the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty, we are pleased to see that exports to the UK, our number one trading partner, have remained steady and have increased by 4%. The growth was particularly strong across a number of key sectors for Irish exporters including construction and cleantech infrastructure, fintech, digital, aerospace and lifesciences. We are also seeing strong growth in the Northern Powerhouse region, and this year Enterprise Ireland opened a second office in the UK, based in Manchester, to support growth opportunities in this region.”

Globally, Enterprise Ireland announced that the agency’s clients recorded export sales of €23.8bn in 2018, representing a 6 percent increase on 2017. The Irish construction sector recorded the fastest growth up 14% on 2017. Ireland’s fintech sector exports grew by 15%, while cleantech grew by 9%and engineering grew by 5%. Consumer retail saw growth of 6%.