Region/Countries: Europe Industry: Biosciences / Medical Devices Date: July 2020

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Especially after Brexit, Ireland provides a good entry point for English-speaking companies into the European market.

Before the start of the pandemic, Ireland was the fastest-growing economy in the Euro zone, with an economic growth of 4.1% in 2019 and an expected growth of 3.1% for 2020. After struggling for several years, the Irish government had committed itself to a sustainable public finance management, leading to Ireland being rated "A" by all major rating agencies. In addition, positive developments within the EU single market, together with measures such as the introduction of low corporate taxes, allowed the Irish economy to flourish. For foreign companies, Ireland proves to be especially attractive due to the higher price level (29.2 % above EU average in 2018) and the resulting high margins. However, the global pandemic has also affected Ireland: For 2020, total economic activity as measured by real GDP is forecasted to decline by up to 13%, depending on the duration of the restrictions. In order to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on Ireland’s economy, the government has set up a stimulus package that especially aims to strengthen the disposable income of the most vulnerable household groups in urban and rural areas.

Since the 1960s, the Irish biotech sector has steadily gained global importance. The formation of cooperative clusters in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices and diagnostics has been a key element in the remarkable growth of this sector, which directly employs 30,000 people and comprises more than 85 biopharmaceutical companies. Of the top 10 of the world-leading pharmaceutical companies, all 10 have extensive operations in Ireland.

In January 2020, Allergan plc, the world's leading integrated biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Ireland, opened its new €160 million state-of-the-art Biologics 2 facility. This brings Allergan’s total investment in Ireland since the start of operations to more than €750 million. Even amid the pandemic, companies continue to invest: In July 2020, Gilead Sciences Inc. announced plans to invest approximately €7 million in the company’s Irish operations and open a new base in Dublin. As part of this expansion, the company will also establish a pediatric center of excellence in Ireland. Consequently, opportunities for U.S. companies exporting to the Irish market also increase.

As the world market for biotechnologies and pharmaceuticals is steadily growing, biopharmaceuticals are expected to become mainstream in the near future. The pandemic has drawn additional attention to the industry and has also shown the importance of investing in new methods to combat diseases. Due to its strength in biotech, Ireland is the ideal location to advance new developments in the industry and therefore not only attracts the big players but also many startups. In addition to potential opportunities in supplying to and cooperating with those companies, the country can also act as an entry point to some of the world’s largest consumer markets, with its geographic proximity to the the UK, France and Germany. Since Ireland is the only English-speaking country in the EU post-Brexit, it is especially well positioned to serve as an entry point to the European single market for U.S. companies.

In 2019, Ireland as among Wisconsin’s top five trading partners. Total exports from Wisconsin to Ireland reached $90 million. Medical and scientific instruments already make up a significant proportion—17%—and it presents opportunities for further growth, since companies are increasingly attempting to mitigate the risk of delivery bottlenecks by sourcing from additional suppliers in different locations, as the pandemic has highlighted supply chain vulnerabilities.

Manufacturers of medical technology, and especially biopharmaceuticals, can find a wide range of opportunities in Ireland. For further insights into the market and to establish initial contacts, trade fairs like the Medical Technology Ireland Exhibition & Conference (Oct. 14-15, 2020;see for details) or the National Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Expo (Jan. 27–28, 2021; see for details) are a good option.