The US-Ireland business relationship is very much a two-way street, according to American Chamber of Commerce chief executive Mark Redmond. "There has been a huge amount of activity by the American Chamber on the other side of the Atlantic during the first half of 2018," he points out. "We organised events in Washington DC, New York city, Boston, Chicago and in St Louis, Missouri. All of these engagements underlined Ireland's ever more critical role as a gateway to Europe for US investment."
That role has been strengthened by what he describes as the “unfortunate decision” by the UK to leave the EU. “This has left Ireland as the only English-speaking common law jurisdiction in the EU,” Redmond notes.
The American Chamber also launched the latest phase of its Emerging FDI programme in the US during the first half of the year. "This phase is for emerging Irish FDI establishing in the US and we are running it in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland. We have a pool of mentors in the US who are giving of their time pro bono to help these companies establish in the US. We also participated in the St Patrick's Week programme of events. We were there at the White House event where the Taoiseach spoke and we were very pleased to hear that the Taoiseach is so steadfast in his support for US FDI in Ireland and all the factors that make it so successful."
While talk of trade wars abounds, Redmond stresses that the EU is by far the most important market for the US. "Some 15 million jobs are supported by EU-US trade," he says. "The trading relationship is worth $600 billion each year. Fifty-four per cent of all FDI into the US comes from Europe; that is four times that of Asia. We believe Ireland has a pivotal role to play as a bridge or gateway linking these two partners. Now is the time to deepen the relationship further rather than putting up barriers."
Back on this side of the Atlantic, one of the key initiatives being run by the Chamber is its Leaders of the Future programme. “This is one of our most important initiatives. We are helping the next wave of leaders in member companies to develop the skills they will need for the future and to expand their network. The flagship event for this programme is our annual Hackathon. This year, we had 100 participants from 80 organisations at DCU who worked together to find ways for Ireland to be a great place to live, work and learn. We came away with great ideas from a confident and diverse bunch of people from all over the world who put their minds to work on making Ireland a better place.”
The innovation agenda also remains a top priority. "On May 18th last, we had a packed house in the Clayton Hotel where eight finalists from industry and the higher-education sector competed for US-Ireland Innovation Awards. Entries ranged from projects to improve sound quality across media streaming, efficiencies in waste water treatment, a drug eluting stent, and an AI coach for elite athletes. The awards showcase the tremendous innovation happening in Ireland thanks to US investment here. We were really, really impressed by all the entries. Xilinx won for the second time, demonstrating the important semiconductor research happening here.
“We also showcased the BT Young Scientist competition on the night. People were blown away by fact that it is more than 50 years old and has attracted more than three quarters of a million entries over the years,” he continues. “In a nice touch, the winner in the Higher Education Institution category had been a Young Scientist contestant in his youth.”
More recently, the Chamber honoured Ray Stata, the founder and chairman of Analog Devices. "He made the key decision in 1976 to establish Analog in Limerick," says Redmond. "That was the beginning of the Irish semiconductor story which continues to this day in firms like Xilinx. On the same day, we held our board meeting in Limerick to plan the American Chamber strategy for 2021; the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the State. The American Chamber has played an important role in the economy and society and more than 7,000 community projects have been supported by our members over the years. They have also contributed to improved living standards, education, and skills.
“We are now look forward to the next wave of opportunities in areas such as Industry 4.0, robotics, AI, machine learning, and IoT. We will continue to play our role in helping the country stay ahead of global competition in these areas. There is also a massive opportunity for Ireland to become a global centre of excellence in cybersecurity. This is the sort of area where a partnership between the public and private sectors can help make Ireland a world leader.”