The Rubicon Centre, Ireland's leading business innovation hub in association with the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) at Cork Chamber played host to a special market day for Irish start ups planning on expanding their business to the UK. The Stepping Stones to the UK Market event saw Irish and UK specialists address more than 50 delegates on how to successfully plan and build strategic alliances for an easier entry to the lucrative UK market.
The number of Irish companies targeting the UK has doubled over the past four years with almost €1.5billion of trade in goods and services carried out between the two countries every week. The UK is a key market for Irish companies and accounts for €4 out of every €10 generated in total worldwide export sales from Ireland, with an estimated 48,000 Irish people running their business in Britain. The event also addressed the debate on UK's 'Brexit' referendum in June and how this may impact on Irish businesses economic relationship with the UK.
Speaking at the event, Shirley McCay, Director of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) said "It is imperative for Irish businesses to demonstrate their accessibility to the UK market if they are serious about doing business and for start ups the best port of call is through the Local Enterprise Offices (LEO's), Enterprise Ireland and UKTI for larger start ups. With a population of 64 million, the UK is a significant market as the sixth largest export country in the world. By being present in the UK, Irish companies are connected to a wealth of opportunities, especially in Construction/Engineering, Technology, Business and Financial Services, Food and Drink, and Agritech."
Dirk Schaefer of University of Warwick Science Park spoke about their thirty years experience in helping start ups and advised companies looking to the UK to carry out their own in-depth desktop research on competitors as well as looking to other locations outside of London. As well as providing market research, product testing and offices to Irish companies, Warwick Science Park has a successful history of angel investment in start up companies. They have worked on over a 12 Irish projects in association with the Rubicon Centre over the past two years with this hoped to grow in the future. Also speaking of his experiences of accessing the UK market was Justin McInerney of Accuflow and board member of the British and Irish Trading Alliance (BITA). McInerney reiterated that although the two markets hold many similarities, they are very different in terms of sales and marketing and he urged all Irish businesses to exercise caution before jumping in, recounting some of his own mistakes when setting up in 2003. "London is a great but expensive city to do business. You need to invest time and money into being a success and this requires many months of advance planning and budgeting. Many do not realise at the beginning that travel and operating costs can easily reach £1,000 a week."
Speaking of the event, Paul Healy, General Manager of the Rubicon Centre said, "We were delighted to play host to such an event which will no doubt help start ups to increase their profile and grow their sales in the UK market. With €1.5billion worth of goods and services traded between Ireland and the UK each week, it is vital for Irish businesses to be given support to access this vital market for continued growth. Last year was an extremely positive one for Irish businesses accessing the UK market and with this further strategic business advice, market research, and lead generation, it is possible that the coming twelve months can surpass this.