Irish businesses urged to take advantage of opportunities in Germany
Enterprise Ireland pushing to reduce UK trade dependency as part of Government’s Brexit strategy to diversify markets
Minister for Business Heather Humphreys: “We want to see more Irish companies scaling up and finding new markets in Germany as part of our Brexit strategy”
Minister for Business Heather Humphreys has urged Irish business owners to embrace opportunities in Germany to help smooth out bumps in the Brexit road ahead.
She was in Munich on Thursday to open a second Enterprise Ireland German office. Along with its German headquarters in Düsseldorf, the capital of North Rhine Westphalia, Enterprise Ireland now has a presence in two federal states with a combined population of 31 million people.
“We want to see more Irish companies scaling up and finding new markets in Germany as part of our Brexit strategy,” she said.
“Whether doing business in Berlin or in Munich, you’re dealing with different cultures, and it’s important to have a local presence to get local knowledge and expertise.”
When the Irish Trade Office opened its first West German office in 1962, Ireland was selling mostly livestock and sewing machines. Now Irish exports to Europe’s largest market include mobile communications, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals.
Enterprise Ireland has 600 companies selling over €1 billion of goods and services into the German market, up 6 per cent last year and up 20 per cent in two years. Some 15,000 people are employed in Germany by 55 Irish companies, with 2,500 employees in Bavaria alone.
As part of a wider Government Brexit strategy, Enterprise Ireland is pushing to reduce UK trade dependency and boost euro zone business. As well as Munich, Enterprise Ireland opened a new French office this week in Lyon.
Exports to the euro zone increased 8 per cent in 2018 to €4.8 billion. The euro zone now makes up a fifth of all exports of Enterprise Ireland-supported companies.
Along with Enterprise Ireland “boots on the ground” in Germany, Mrs Humphreys said more work needed to be done to boost education links and language learning.
Currently 6,247 Irish school-goers are learning German to Leaving Certificate, up a fifth since 2015.
Nearly 4,000 people participated last year in the Erasmus+ exchange programme for university students and trainees, amounting to just 3 per cent of the eligible total. Of those who went on Erasmus exchange, just 15 per cent went to Germany.
“The most significant challenge is changing the mindset of Irish people of leaning on the crutch that English has supplied for us,” said Gerry O’Sullivan, head of international education at the Higher Education Authority.
“Our European partners are learning languages as a normal part of education from the first day of school, while we are struggling with language learning that doesn’t start until secondary.”