Enterprise Ireland recognises strength in collaboration

Start-ups are the lifeblood of a strong economy, and the environment for homegrown Cork businesses will only continue to improve

Martin Corkery, regional director of south and southeast regions for Enterprise Ireland: ‘Those companies we work with in the region that have export ambitions are really resilient and ambitious.’ Picture: Fennell Photography

Representing over 450 clients in the Cork region which employ over 25,000 people, Enterprise Ireland has found the growth in the area has been incredibly positive.

In 2021, it saw a growth of 6 per cent in employment in Cork, a good performance coming out of a major pandemic. Even in 2020, it saw a 2 per cent rise, which is positive considering the challenges faced.

The state agency invested more than €28 million in 125 Irish start-ups in 2021, including 82 high-potential start-ups. It also saw net employment increase by almost 12,000 in the same period, with 68 per cent of those jobs created outside Dublin.

Martin Corkery, regional director of south and southeast regions for Enterprise Ireland, said it was the resilience and ambitions of the companies in Cork that ensured that strong, upward trajectory.

“It really demonstrated that those companies we work with in the region that have export ambitions are really resilient and ambitious. And that they have good products and services to offer both nationally and internationally.”

Cork has been leading the charge nationally in certain areas, with one strong example being the cybersecurity industry. Enterprise Ireland has been heavily involved in developing that cluster, and its work with the IDA has been essential in ensuring it’s up and running in Cork.

While it’s a national initiative with industry and third-level institutions involved, Cork has been taking the lead with it, working with the likes of MTU to develop cyber skills for both the present and future.

“There’s a lot of collaboration going on with companies and third levels all over the country,” Corkery said. “While Cork is willing to put its hand to lead, it’s a national agenda they’re driving here and will build and gain a reputation for leading on that.”

Cork was also leading by example in collaboration on the development of innovation hubs, he said. Enterprise Ireland has been involved in developing innovation hubs for over 20 years, both locally and nationally, and in recent years, that strategy is really bearing fruit.

“The important message isn’t that the building is there; it’s what happens inside the building. The engagement between companies, between peer to peer, and how they support each other on areas of challenges and opportunities. That’s where the secret sauce is.”

While there are major examples such as the Ludgate Hub and Republic of Work in Cork, Corkery mentions Northside for Business campus as a strong example of how much a collaborative approach benefits the city and region.

Forming in an unemployment blackspot, the movement brought programmes and activities together and re-energised the region. Now it has close to 60 full-time employees and 15 part-time employees working in a range of businesses.

The impact isn’t just in the building itself, but the region around it. The next homegrown business could be like Global Shares which JP Morgan acquired for around $800 million, or Keelvar which announced a $24 million investment and Zevas which is building a new facility in Mitchelstown.

“Cork has a good reputation whether you’re a multinational or looking to start your business and grow it,” said Corkery. “Having a strong multinational industry in your region cannot be underestimated but with homegrown businesses, we’ve seen a massive increase in high-quality tech companies in the region over the last ten to 15 years.”

“There’s a huge coordinate approach here on how to drive activity, particularly economic. Stakeholders, both public and private, have a real ‘can do’ attitude but also a real collaborative attitude as well.”