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Sectors to watch which are capable of delivering results

A notable feature of Ireland’s success in attracting FDI has been its ability to adapt to rapid changes in the industrial landscape

Promotional material dealing with Ireland's attractiveness as a location for inward investment almost invariably includes the fact that the country already hosts the world's leading IT, pharma and medtech companies. Household names like Intel, Microsoft, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and a legion of others have chosen to invest here over the years.

Over a third of US multinationals in Ireland have been in Ireland longer than 20 years, says Ciara Rushe, membership manager at the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland. Recently, however, they have been joined by a growing number of less well known companies which are making a name for themselves on the global stage.

“Our track record of attracting high growth companies also remains strong, with an increasing number of high growth companies using Ireland to scale up and internationalise their operations,” says Rushe.

Of late, they have been joined by a growing number of less well known companies which are making a name for themselves on the global stage. "Ireland has seen a number of the key born on the internet and data driven companies announce new operations or expand their existing operations here," says KPMG head of tech and media Anna Scally. "In fact, March was a huge month for announcements. Workday announced the creation of 400 new jobs at its European HQ, and Stripe announced that it would significantly expand its operations in Dublin and create up to 1,000 jobs over the next five years."


She also notes the announcement of new Irish operations for TripActions and Varonis.

Biotech is a common theme of this new wave of investment, according to Scally. "We've seen the well-reported news that Pfizer is to invest $40 million in the expansion of its Grange Castle site to allow for extra production of a Covid-19 vaccine drug substance, creating 75 new jobs. There has also been other regional investment in this space, with biotech company Horizon Therapeutics plc announcing that it will expand its Irish operations to establish a manufacturing facility in Waterford, employing 90 people. Ireland is fast evolving into a global hub for biopharmaceutical manufacturing and we expect to see many more investments in this area."

Digital payments

Digital payments is a theme noted by Louise McNabola, banking finance partner with William Fry. "Some of the more recent high-profile digital payment providers that have established new European headquarters in Ireland include Payoneer Europe, SumUp and Modulr FS Europe," she says. "Other players that have been here for a while, such as Stripe and Facebook, have reinforced their commitment to Ireland by announcing the creation of new job opportunities over the next number of years. The social media platform giant, Tik Tok, has also recently established a significant investment in Ireland."

Fintech firms

Ireland has been extremely successful in attracting new fintech entities, including household names like Google, Facebook and Mastercard, she adds. "Ireland's strong technology and financial services sectors make it a natural choice for born on the internet and data driven companies, which can benefit from Ireland's pro-business environment and skilled workforce. The Central Bank of Ireland's commitment to effective engagement with industry stakeholders such as the Fintech & Payments Association of Ireland and via its Innovation Hub launched in 2018, has opened Ireland up as an attractive and transparent financial services market."

Consumer tech

Consumer technology is also strongly represented. "So far this year we have heard of large scale investments by the global marketplace Etsy, blockchain fintech company TrustLabs, and 1,000 new jobs to be added by Stripe," says Mazars international tax partner Cormac Kelleher. "We are also aware of companies in clinical testing and data management who are in the process of establishing in Ireland. It is positive that not all these announcements are Dublin centric. Investments are being made in Dundalk, Waterford, Galway and Sligo."

Cork is performing well in attracting new investment, he adds. “The at-home fitness phenomenon, Peleton, is understood to have chosen Cork as its location for a major European expansion.”

For Kelleher, the common thread linking many of the latest investments is consumer services delivered by technology. “With a continued migration of consumerism online, data security, payment platforms, data analytics have never been so important,” he points out. “There is a common theme in the investment announcements of developing teams to undertake R&D activities in these spaces, as well as providing customer support.”


Success begets success in many of these areas, notes William Fry technology partner David Kirton. “We are now at a point where a number of very significant clusters in Ireland, in particular in the technology, data, financial services and life sciences spaces, have reached a critical mass. What we are seeing is a kind of snowball effect, where the decision to locate in Ireland becomes an easier one to take because companies know that many of their competitors are already here. Take hiring for example: where many international companies may historically have looked to recruit key talent abroad and move those people to Ireland, they can now draw on a very established pool of specialist talent, both Irish and international, that is already based here. These clusters are now of a size and depth that would be impressive in any country, let alone one of five million people.”

We are also seeing examples of these clusters coming together to create something new, he adds. “For example, right now we are seeing a huge level of growth in the fintech space. At least in part, this results from a combination of financial services businesses which have turned to Ireland as a European base post-Brexit and have collided with the burgeoning Irish tech ecosystem. The combination of the two has resulted in Dublin becoming a leading global fintech hub.”


Ireland remains attractive for manufacturing industry as well, according to Mark Keogh, VP for Buildings and Industry Business at Schneider Electric Ireland. "Globalisation and technological advances have transformed the manufacturing industry over the last decade – yet Ireland continues to maintain its strong track record. Global companies in the life sciences, engineering and data centre have capitalised on Ireland's experience and expanded their manufacturing operations."

Talent is key to Ireland’s success in this area. “Manufacturing is a high-value sector demanding the brightest talent and services across the entire service chain from R&D to design and product engineering,” Keogh adds. “Sustaining this competitive advantage requires specific skills sets, which Ireland’s talent pool and knowledge-based economy delivers. Looking ahead, embracing the possibilities of smart manufacturing to secure both superior efficiency and high-quality performance will ensure that Ireland is prepared to face the next global market challenge.”

EY head of FDI Feargal de Freine believes Ireland can maintain its advantages in areas where it already has a strong manufacturing footprint such as medical devices, biopharma and so on. “We need to keep pace with developments in areas like industry 4.0 and high end automation,” he adds. “Interestingly, the IDA will open an advanced manufacturing centre in Limerick for existing companies to explore and test new technologies and to showcase what Ireland has to offer prospective investors.”

Changes in the nature of healthcare will also create opportunities for Ireland, de Freine points out. “Pharma is becoming increasingly personalised. And this will bring completely new ways of manufacturing and managing supply chains. Cell and gene therapies, for example, have very complicated supply chains. Medicine is personalised to the patient and the flow of product to the patient in very different. Payment will often be linked to outcomes and that will bring a whole new set of challenges including managing relationships with payers. There will be lots of really interesting opportunities there for Ireland.”


Some of the more recent FDI announcements.

  • TripActions, the leading cloud-based travel and spend management platform is among the new wave of companies to choose Ireland as a location. The company's new dedicated sales hub in Dublin will serve an international clientele with support in multiple languages. Initial recruitment is scheduled to reach 25 employees in the first year.
  • In June Varonis Systems, a pioneer in data security and analytics, announced the opening of its new and expanded office space in Cork city. The company is expected to double its employee headcount, creating approximately 60 jobs – ranging from tech support, research and development, human resources, and sales – over the next three years.
  • The previous month, A-LIGN, a global security and compliance solutions provider, announced the establishment of its EMEA Business HQ in Galway, with the creation of approximately 40 roles, over the next five years.
  • Also in May, Tigera, the Kubernetes security and observability specialist, has chosen Cork for its first European base where it will create 35 new jobs.
  • In the life sciences arena, Ortec, a supplier of contract formulation and manufacturing services announced in May that construction has begun on its European headquarters, manufacturing and operations centre in Newcastle West, Co Limerick. Phase one of the project includes a dedicated manufacturing facility which will give Irish and European manufacturers a local option when looking to source new or existing process chemicals where quality and consistency are critical parameters.
  • Also in life sciences, Antylia Scientific, a specialist in peristaltic and associated fluid path products providing bioprocessing solutions, and a diverse portfolio of life sciences and diagnostic products for the pharma, biopharma, healthcare, and environmental markets, has announced the creation of approximately 60 roles with the establishment of its Masterflex bioprocessing facility in the National Science Park, Mullingar.

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times