This article featured in the Irish Examiner special report on US Business in Ireland, February 10th 2023.
On January 1st 1973, Ireland formally joined the European Economic Community, today known as the European Union. This year, Ireland celebrates the 50th anniversary of what is often recognised as a pivotal moment in opening the country to a more global outlook. Over the last half-century, Ireland has changed dramatically across our political and social landscape, and our global connectivity and influence has grown immeasurably. This evolution has come as a result of a confluence of factors, but it is hard to overstate the influence of investment from the US multinationals who have selected Ireland as their European base.
As the only English-speaking, common-law country in the European Union, Ireland is ideally positioned as a gateway to the single market for the US. The country has become the first choice for US organisations who are seeking to expand into Europe, and beyond into the wider EMEA region. Ireland provides an ideal geographic location andis one of the most open and globally connected countries, allowing entry to the largest markets in the world, providing access to the EU and Eurozone markets, as well as strong transport links to Europe and further afield, through our ports and airports.
With many of the largest companies in the world, such as Apple, Pfizer, Stryker and J&J, currently based in Ireland, it is evident that the benefit of choosing Ireland as a location is recognised across all industry sectors. In the last decade, the number of high-profile businesses choosing Ireland to launch their European and EMEA Headquarters has continued to increase.
The availability of talent is key in the expansion of international operations in Ireland. This is evident across the island, with many companies selecting regional locations, close to third level institutions and key infrastructure. Ireland has one of the most educated workforces in the world., ranking third in the OECD for the rate of 3rd level education attainment, at 54% compared to the average of 41%. In 2021, more than half of all multinational investment went to regional locations.
US-companies select Ireland as their EMEA HQ, and recognise the location for expansion and continued investment. This, in turn, has resulted in Irish operations becoming the most significant location outside America for many companies. Over the last number of years, we have seen that this initial decision continued,with many companies celebrating significant milestones of shared history. In 2019, Pfizer celebrated 50 years of operations in Ireland. From an initial investment of €10 million in 1969, Pfizer’s total investment in Ireland reached €8 billion by 2019. In 2020, Apple celebrated 40 years in Ireland. Opening with 80 employees in 1980, Apple currently employs more than 6,000 people at its Cork campus.
As European headquarters opened across Ireland, operations became more than simply a bridge to other destinations. Irish facilities are home to global leadership roles across many companies, making Ireland a place where decisions are made that impact on operations world-wide. Ireland is often described as a gateway location and, while this is true, Ireland is also a destination in its own right.
A culture of innovation
Ireland is home to world-class research and development facilities and expertise, as well as being the internet and games capital of Europe. An innovation ecosystem has developed in this country due to the high levels of collaboration and partnerships that exist between academia, industry and the State. The Irish government has played a key role in supporting innovation through various initiatives and funding programmes. Research centres like Science Foundation Ireland, Insight, CÚRAM, Nimbus, NIBRT, Tyndall National Institute and Lero, are helping to establish Ireland as a global leader in innovation.
Inward investment has necessitated the development of these partnerships between academia, industry and the State. Additionally, the interdisciplinary research centres that they have created act as a key differentiator in attracting US multinationals, who see the opportunity to operate in an environment that creates, retains and attracts the best and brightest minds and fosters a culture of entrepreneurship.
Ireland’s innovation landscape has attracted FDI, but it has also allowed indigenous start-ups to flourish and make significant contributions to Ireland’s economy and, in some cases, the US economy. Stripe’s rise to prominence is one of the country’s biggest success stories of the last decade. Now serving businesses in over 40 countries around the world, it is an example of what Irish start-ups can achieve, partly as a result of the access to world-leading research. AMCS is another company that has developed into a global leader in its field, providing software solutions for the waste and recycling industry. Start-ups have benefitted from the ability of multinationals to attract talented workers to Ireland, coupled with the culture of innovation that has developed over the decades.
Due to its location, innovative ecosystem and culture, and skilled talent pool, Ireland is a destination of choice for many multinationals around the world. The strength of this relationship, and significant synergies between the US and Ireland, continues to have an extremely positive impact on the Irish economy.