FDI into Ireland has created a feedstock for the indigenous ecosystem: raising the bar for standards and technology, contributing to the experience of the workforce, and providing a strong customer and partner base for Irish enterprises. Over the years, the indigenous sector has matured, and today, its companies are making a name for themselves all over the world.
Frank Ryan, CEO of Enterprise Ireland, the state agency responsible for fostering the growth of Irish companies, describes a marked shift: “Once upon a time,” Ryan says, “we had mainly sub-supply companies, who serviced the needs of the multinationals that had invested in the country. While we still have a number of such companies, many of our players have evolved to offer design and development activities, and many now act as strategic partners to multinationals outside of Irish borders. We find that, today, many of our companies engage with major life science companies all over the world—even before they engage with them in Ireland.”
PM Group, Ireland’s leading indigenous engineering and project management company, has worked on many of the country’s landmark pharma projects. Dave Murphy, CEO, says that PM’s early growth was fueled by servicing multinationals that had invested in Ireland—but that its later growth came from following those same multinationals abroad.
Murphy tells Pharma Boardroom, “over the years, as we developed relationships with companies like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, we followed them to foreign markets. We developed a much deeper understanding of their business, to the point where we became seen as a preferred partner.”
PM Group reported €400 million ($520 MM) in new projects in China last year. Just as the local market is only a small pool for the multinationals, Ireland became too small for PM.
Meanwhile, local law firm Byrne Wallace’s Catherine Guy, Colin Sainsbury, and Tom Maher—the managing partner and life science leads of the firm—believe in promoting Ireland first, and promoting their own services second. Lately, they have been selling Ireland to the next expected wave of investors—so-called “micro-multinationals,” smaller international companies that are very selective about expansion. What is most exciting about that wave? According to Maher, just as the influx of larger foreign investors did, “the influx of micro multinationals is spawning new, indigenous companies, which will in turn spawn new companies of their own—and so on into the future!”
Perhaps the benefit is mutual. Enterprise Ireland’s life science manager Brian O’Neill stresses that the indigenous sector has evolved so much, it is no longer just an effect of the foreign investment: it is a draw for it. “I would cite indigenous companies,” O’Neill says, “as one of the most important magnets for FDI into this country.”
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