“What kind of future do we want to imagine for ourselves – and for the planet? How can we improve the quality of life for all humanity? These are the kinds of future-facing questions that innovative Irish companies are answering right now,” says Julie Sinnamon, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency.
“They are big questions. They challenge and perplex all of us but they also drive us on to find big answers. It is those answers that will help create a brighter future for everyone.”
Watch the video: Small Country, Big Impact
As the pace of change accelerates, the need for questioning grows. “People are increasingly searching for ways to capitalise on change while at the same time ensuring it is the right kind of change – the kind that helps people and the environment, that promotes diversity or improves conditions for those in need,” says Sinnamon.
Such existential questions require vision from innovators who can look into the future and see the bigger picture, but also get things done in the here and now.
“Irish businesses are at the centre of technological innovation and are driven by commercial imperatives but also by a desire for a fairer, more equitable future,” says Sinnamon.
“This is not just an aspiration. It’s something Irish businesses are achieving right now. It’s why Ireland is the second largest medtech exporter in Europe and is a fintech leader across payments, regtech and funds. Ireland is also a global centre for agritech innovation and has a world-class track record delivering large and complex high-tech construction projects around the world,” says Sinnamon.
“Whatever the sector, Irish businesses are out in the world developing solutions to meet the toughest challenges facing it, bringing what we know to be the ‘Irish Advantage’ to business partners around the world.”
Irish companies are currently achieving international sales at record levels. “They are doing that by driving innovation,” says Carol Gibbons, Department Manager Digital Technology & Director ICT Commercialisation at Enterprise Ireland.
“Innovation is a game changer in relation to a company’s ability to compete and, in the 2017 European Innovation Scoreboard, Ireland was ranked number one for innovative capability. That is what distinguishes us and enables us compete in global markets.”
It’s not just Enterprise Ireland saying that. “We have a global presence with offices around the world and people on the ground. We spend a lot of time talking to the international customers of our client companies. The feedback we consistently get is that Irish companies all go ‘the extra mile’,” says Gibbons.
“We hear time and again that Irish companies work as trusted partners. They look at the demands their customers are facing, talk to them about the markets they are in and the products they need, and then innovate new products and services to suit. That is how Irish companies compete globally and why so many are leaders in their market segments, with technology playing a key role.”
So, how will we improve quality of life for all of humanity?
With innovators such as Aerogen, the world’s leading medical device company specialising in aerosol drug delivery systems; and Nuritas, which combines artificial intelligence and genomics to discover and unlock natural bioactive peptides, changing the lives of billions of people worldwide.
How will we sustain our growing global population?
How can we grow yet preserve the environment for the next generation?
Thanks to businesses like C&F Green Energy, which is powered by a mission to make wind energy affordable, and NVP Energy, whose smart business solutions take wastewater from production lines and turn it into an energy source.
Can we get the most from machines, without losing our essential humanness?
Absolutely, with companies such as Aylien, a developer of AI-driven content analysis solutions that make it easy to understand vast amounts of human text using deep learning and advanced natural language processing; Artomatix, creator of the world’s first 3D art engine; and Pointy, a revolutionary new system that automatically displays retailers’ products online, using algorithms and machine learning to estimate stock levels and helping traditional retailers compete with e-commerce ones.
How will our physical world merge with our digital world?
With the help of innovators such as Soapbox Labs, who develops speech recognition solutions specifically for children’s voices to ensure the highest accuracy possible; RecommenderX, who uses machine learning to guide enterprise teams to better, data driven decision making; and VR Education, whose virtual and augmented software is changing how educational and training is delivered.
Is it possible to connect people so that they can transact more easily, securely – and fairly?
Yes, as a result of pioneers such as AID:Tech, who uses blockchain technology to revolutionise how governments, corporate and NGOs deliver charitable aid and benefits across the world; and Sysnet Global Solutions, developer of compliance security solutions that protect us online.
That there are many more innovative Irish companies just like these is down to a unique environment. “Ireland has a strong entrepreneurial agenda, is very agile in looking for international opportunities and has a highly educated, flexible workforce with a forward looking mindset,” says Gibbons.
“They are supported by initiatives such as Technology Centres, which bridge commercial knowledge with academic research, ensuring Irish companies are ready for future developments, particularly in relation to artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
Its business community is supported by a world class R&D ecosystem and operates alongside some of the world’ biggest names in technology, life sciences and financial services, all areas for which Ireland is a global hub. The result is that Irish companies grow up meeting the standards of global leaders.
Ireland is a country where entrepreneurs are held in high esteem at home, and are ambitious for success abroad.
They succeed not despite coming from a small island in the Atlantic but because of it. “We have always been outward looking,” says Gibbons. “We are natural networkers and we gain through our networks. It means that when we look at a new market, we can gain good entry quickly. That’s a real positive.”
Ireland makes an impact on the world stage in all walks of life, from arts and literature to humanitarianism, so it’s no surprise to that it does so in business too. “We are a small country but we have big ideas – global ones,” Gibbons says.
“Don’t be deceived by our size”, cautions Sinnamon: “we’re a small country that makes a big impact.”