Ireland is emerging as a go-to place for many of the technology companies like Facebook, Google, etc. Telematics Wire had an opportunity to discuss with Martin Shanahan and understand about IDA and how one can look for synergy with the Indian ecosystem for technology development.
Could you tell us about yourself and some background on your journey to heading a government agency?
I have been the CEO IDA Ireland – (Industrial Development Agency) since 2014 and was previously Chief Executive of Forfás – Ireland’s policy advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation. My interest has been varied as can be seen from my educational background. I am a masters of research in education degree from Lancaster University, a bachelor of science in management from Trinity College Dublin as well as an H.Dip. and M.Sc. from Dublin Institute of Technology.
I recently took on an additional role of Adjunct Full Professor at Smurfit Graduate School of Business at University College Dublin.
How would you like to define or introduce IDA Ireland to our readers?
I should begin by explaining my organization, IDA Ireland. Our mandate is to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Ireland and work with the companies to ensure that they are successful in Ireland. We are doing this for over 70 years and Ireland’s performance as a hub for FDI is unrivaled. We work with the world’s most innovative and sophisticated companies. Ireland attracts a much higher percentage of FDI than we might be expected to, given our size (about 2-3 times in fact if compared with our share of GDP). We have been very successful in the sectors we have targeted incl. Financial Services, Technology, and Internet-based companies; Biopharmaceuticals; Medical Devices, Manufacturing and Engineering including the Future Mobility sector. Ireland is one of the most globalized countries in the world. That openness has helped Ireland to attract investment, attract talent and to trade.
Ireland is home to many of the world’s leading high-performance companies like Intel, Valeo, IBM, Pfizer, Google, GM, Jaguar Land Rover, Citi, Infosys, Symantec amongst many others. IDA Ireland has played a vital role in the European investment journey of many large multinationals and other companies. My agency believes in nurturing high-growth companies across sectors that are Ireland’s strengths and helping them forge their future success in Ireland.
In the present geopolitical situation, every country wants to attract investment, especially in cutting edge technology development or related applications, how does IDA Ireland differentiate itself.
I completely agree that in today’s era of global competition, technology is the differentiator, and therefore IDA Ireland places a focus on supporting technology intensive sectors and much emphasis is given on research and innovation. Ireland has an open economy that has outpaced many of its European neighbours in terms of GDP growth in recent years and has positioned itself as an epicentre for global trade. IDA’s clients biggest export market is Europe (40%) followed by North America (20%) and the UK (12%).
There are many reasons companies choose Ireland as its location for investment and we have a world-class value proposition. Ireland’s openness to investment, business and international talent is a core strength and this will remain the case regardless of international developments. Different reasons attract companies to Ireland and that includes the ease of doing business in Ireland, with very low bureaucracy; our consistent pro-enterprise policies including our corporate tax rate of 12.5 %; Ireland is the only English-speaking country in the Eurozone post Brexit and one that follows the Common Law system same as India.
Ireland has a heritage in industry sectors such as electronics assembly and manufacturing, biopharma, medical device technologies, financial services and software development. Ireland has a strength in high-value, highly regulated, zero defect manufacturing.
The key reason why major global multi-nationals have chosen Ireland as their location to grow their technology development activity has been the availability of talent. This talent is drawn from across the EU and increasingly other markets including India.
Combined with the availability of talent, a strong ecosystem for research and innovation exists in Ireland. In line with EU State Aid rules, this can also be supported by R&D grants available to companies engaged in product and process R&D in addition to the 25% R&D tax credit available to companies.
As a final comment I can add that the rich pool of multinationals that have not just set up in Ireland but continue to grow their footprint are testament to Ireland’s attractiveness for all companies large and small.
These factors place Ireland in a uniquely strong position vis a vis its other competitors.
There seems to be a trend towards localization with US nudging companies to have production in their own country, India doing the same. Comment.
In the last few years or so we have seen a rise in protectionism in many countries. Ireland is one of the most open globalised economies in the world and is a key part of sophisticated global supply chains.
Through the present Covid-19 pandemic crisis, Ireland’s pro-business ecosystem has supported the continued and seamless functioning of the international value chain. The stability and predictability of Ireland’s approach to international trade and global value chains will further support MNCs in the forthcoming recovery period. The continuity of supply chains is a key focus for the Irish Government and for IDA Ireland.
We must be mindful that while countries may wish their indigenous companies to do everything in their home country, it may not be feasible to do so due to paucity of talent, expertise in a specific technology, economies of scale and most importantly an ecosystem of collaborative companies and institutions. In case of India it has economies of scale when dealing with heavy materials and heavy industrial engineering. In fact, I believe there exists a great deal of potential for synergies between countries like India and Ireland, waiting to be created. This could be achieved through collaborations amongst academic institutions, cluster of companies, industry body and consortiums getting together, as well as working with my team and our sister agency, Enterprise Ireland, that helps Irish companies internationalise.
For Indian technology companies who are looking to move up the value chain by building products for the future, Ireland provides the perfect ecosystem to develop cost-effective technology solutions from the ground up at world class institutes as well as a test bed to validate these systems.
How does investment in hi-tech R & D impact the overall economy of the country in long run?
I believe this works in two ways. Firstly, early investment in creating infrastructure and an industry relevant talent pool is required and that then has to be supported by creating the right ecosystem for companies to thrive and succeed, with the government supporting continuous training and research, development and innovation. The eco-system will automatically develop and continue to flourish.
Over the seven decades of IDA Ireland’s existence, we have worked with relevant government bodies to ensure the right skill-set continues to be available in the market. This has been achieved through providing industry with a talent pool through investment in education as well as Ireland’s traditional welcoming culture which attracts overseas talent.
Having identified the importance of future talent to serve the growth in cutting edge technology and engineering sector, the government proactively tuned its educational system towards industry. Today there exists a strong skills pipeline from the universities, Institutes of Technology and third level institutions. There are a large number of courses up to PhD level across technology areas including artificial intelligence, cyber security, cloud computing, as well as the conventional deep skills in electrical engineering and computer science. A recent example of this industry aligned education system includes online and taught courses in Connected & Autonomous Vehicles Technology, Blockchain Technology as well as Europe’s first Master’s course in Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Ireland also invested in research institutions and Centres of Excellence to support developments within the industry for sectors that Ireland has strengths in. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Ireland’s national foundation for investment in scientific and engineering research, focused on supporting research talent, building a community of world-leading researchers that are engaged in academic collaborations globally. SFI assists industry partnerships through various government funding schemes for collaborative research. Ireland today offers exceptional levels of collaboration between industry, academia, state agencies and regulatory authorities.
To share some research institutes that we have in the field of automotive and future mobility sector – Lero which specialises in adaptive and autonomous systems sensor technology; CONNECT specialising in 5G, IoT and smart sensors; TSSG focussing on V2X, IoT and safety of Autonomous Vehicles; Insight focussing on transportation and smart mobility; MCCI working on CAV network communications; ADAPT working on AI, image and video processing; Tyndall focussing on Antenna design and ICT.
Amongst the much talked about autonomous vehicle, industry 4.0 and others do you see any course correction arising out of Covid19 pandemic.
Undoubtedly the two largest megatrends we see impacting the global mobility market are Autonomous mobility and Industry 4.0. The continued evolution of these megatrends are disrupting markets and growing new alternative markets and business models, while continually evolving.
In Ireland there is focussed research to develop the next autonomous vehicle systems across many areas including autonomous luxury vehicles, tractors, container crane systems, intelligent vision systems and cutting-edge chips and communications devices. Industry 4.0 and the developments in AI, fully electrified, autonomous and intelligent mobility will be the future. While work was being carried out in these areas, I see an immediate application of a number of these technologies, following the Covid-19 pandemic. The current pandemic has pushed companies to accelerate the development of the fully autonomous cars and technologies. The pandemic has pushed us to re-think the application of the driverless autonomous cars to deliver packages instead of transporting people. As we speak, in some countries pods are being utilized to sterilize hospitals, deliver groceries, transport medical aids, and even deliver meals to isolation wards and individuals who tested positive for the virus. I see the application in dense urban centres, ports, and airports. I am proud to say a number of the systems are being developed, supported and built in Ireland.
Again, this pandemic has pushed companies to seriously consider Industry 4.0 and achieve automation and digitisation.
We understand that you are a champion for Diversity & Inclusion. How important is D&I to any company that is focused on the bottom line?
Firstly, Diversity & Inclusion is the ‘Right Thing to Do’. Diversity of ideas aids better business decisions and results in better business outcomes; not to mention the happier and therefore more productive workforce. Companies also need to reflect societal norms which increasingly value diversity and inclusivity. The ethical case aside, there is more than anything, an irrefutable commercial case for real diversity. Bringing in people with different backgrounds and perspectives promotes innovation and creativity. Indeed, organisations with a diverse board see up to 53% higher return on equity and significantly higher earnings according to a McKinsey report. Research published by the Harvard Business Review shows that companies with greater diversity out-innovate and out-perform others. By correlating diversity in leadership with market outcomes as reported by respondents, the research found that employees at more diverse companies are 45% more likely to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% more likely to report that the firm captured a new market. The findings are inescapable, diversity is a prerequisite for business success.
Published in Telematics Wire