What innovation means to Enterprise Ireland
Enterprise Ireland sees a multidimensional approach to innovation as more likely to deliver the improved business results and strengthen the competitiveness of Irish companies in international markets.
Innovation is essential for all businesses to ensure they sustain competitiveness, improve productivity, and build resilience. As the global rate of change continues to accelerate, the case for prioritising innovation has become even more compelling. Increasingly, we at Enterprise Ireland have observed that the companies who perform best are innovating right across their business – whether this applies to their processes, products, or even their entire business model.
The challenge for companies who have such a broad range of innovation choices available to them, and who are operating within competitive environments that are becoming more and more complex, is no longer just about prioritising innovation but understanding how to do it effectively – by choosing the right innovation options, and executing quickly. This is where we at Enterprise Ireland see our role in supporting companies on their innovation journeys.
As the government agency responsible for the growth of Irish-owned businesses abroad, we work in partnership with companies we support, to help them to start, grow, innovate and win export sales in global markets.
Traditionally, we’ve observed that most companies think first of product innovation, developing their solutions to respond to advances in technology and changes in customer demand, in order to grow and maintain sales. It is our view that considering the business’s capacity for making processes such as manufacturing more effective, or adapting the business model to, for example, target new markets, is equally essential.
This multidimensional approach is more likely to deliver the improved business results that help to grow exports and strengthen the competitiveness of Irish companies in international markets.
To drive this innovation agenda, Enterprise Ireland works with Irish research institutions to secure commercial purposes for technologies and ideas developed within them. We do this by providing direct funding to researchers to commercialise their work and to drive the commercial return on the State’s research investment.
In addition, Enterprise Ireland provides support direct to companies to develop new technologies and processes that will lead to increased competitiveness and market opportunities for their businesses.
We also provide funding specifically for projects focused on radical changes to how a company does business. Such projects may involve a profound change to the business model, such as implementing a new service delivery or production method. The most truly innovative projects often involve a level of risk, beyond the more common implementations of routine changes and adoption of best practices.
While all companies engage in innovation, those who engage with focus and commitment within a multifaceted approach enjoy better results when translating their innovation effort into commercial performance. The very essence of innovation is to engage in developing better customer offers, in reducing waste, shortening timescales, increasing output – and ultimately, in delivering enhanced customer value.
A focus on innovation drives organisations forward, whether by using continuous improvement to maintain competitiveness, developing or refreshing products to extend their lifecycles, or creating new services, operating and business models. A multifaceted innovation focus approaches the business’s products, processes and plans cohesively with an eye to how each can best be adapted to scale growth.
International competitors are continually developing, by offering new ways to do business and leveraging the capabilities of new technologies. We must ensure that Irish enterprises drive innovation investment, and the right kind of innovation investment, to continue to grow and diversify in the face of this increasingly competitive marketplace.
The pace of change will never be slower than it is today, and we must adapt to this challenge. It is essential that the companies we support have market attractive offerings that generate sufficient margins to enable them to address turbulent market conditions and reinvest in growing their businesses. This is a key factor if we are to grow companies of scale.
The evidence gathered over several years across our client base points to superior performance by those firms who consistently invest in innovation, and importantly, in the right kinds of innovation. It is particularly pleasing to note that firms who work with Enterprise Ireland and avail of our innovation supports and incentives perform substantially better in turnover, exports and added value. The data also shows that firms who collaborate with others, particularly the research community, generate even better outcomes.
Enterprise Ireland is conscious that many of our clients are necessarily focused on dealing with the urgent issues of the day, not least the impact of Brexit. Nevertheless, we urge that they should not lose sight of the need to continually develop their market offers to remain competitive. With these major issues at play, we must be mindful of the vital importance of ensuring a continual focus on innovation to build resilience and to successfully address the significant challenges facing us all.