News & Events

Enterprise Ireland client company exports increase to a record €23.8 billion

• Exports to the UK grow by 4% but overall concentration of exports to UK has reduced
• New survey: 40% of exporters negatively impacted due to Brexit
• Exporters must accelerate R&D investment to meet challenging global trading conditions – Julie Sinnamon

Thursday, 30th May 2019: Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, and Enterprise Ireland, the state agency responsible for helping Irish companies export to international markets, have announced that the agency’s clients recorded export sales of €23.8bn in 2018, representing a 6 percent increase on 2017.

The Eurozone region, which is a key focus of Enterprise Ireland’s diversification strategy, saw growth of 7.6 percent to €4.8bn, with Germany, France and the Netherlands each exceeding €1bn in exports. Exports to North America increased from €3.87bn in 2017 to €4.08bn in 2018, an increase of 5.5 percent.

Despite the uncertainty of Brexit, exports to the UK were up 4 percent when compared with 2017 to €7.9bn. The overall dependency of Irish exporters to the UK, however, declined to 33 percent, a target Enterprise Ireland has set for 2020.

The construction sector recorded the fastest growth up 22 percent on 2017 to €1.97bn. Other sectors driving export growth in 2018 were:

• Fintech grew by 17 percent to €829m;
• Engineering grew by 9 percent to €1.6bn;
• Digital technologies grew by 6 percent to €2.2bn and;
• Food grew 1 percent to €11.68bn.

Welcoming today’s results, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD said: “I am delighted to see Irish exporters achieve record levels of export growth of €23.8bn against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty. Increasing the export sales of these companies translates into sustaining and creating high-quality, sustainable jobs across the country – something that this Government is firmly focused on through the Future Jobs Ireland framework. In addition, I am pleased to see that we have reduced our dependency on the UK to 33 percent of Enterprise Ireland exports, down from 44 percent in 2007.

Diversification is a key part of our Brexit response and trade missions provide a key opportunity for Irish exporters to access new markets. Next week I am leading a trade mission to New Zealand to promote opportunities for the agri-tech sector, which will further support this objective.”

Julie Sinnamon, Chief Executive of Enterprise Ireland said: “These record export results show the resilience of Irish exporters to grow their global footprint in uncertain times. Our target is to increase exports to €26bn per annum by 2020 which we are on track to do. However, a hard Brexit and challenging global trading conditions will negatively impact on export growth for the year ahead.

“We are also working to help Irish exporters increase their levels of investment in R&D which is critical to mitigating the impact of Brexit and to successfully compete in international markets. Our research shows that companies who invest in R&D and take up R&D supports achieve an average of 67 percent growth in global sales.

“While overall investment in R&D by Enterprise Ireland client companies increased by 5.6 percent to €970m in 2018, stronger growth is required to reach our 2020 target for companies to spend €1.25bn on R&D. The industrial sector increased investment in R&D by an average of 8 percent, the digital sector by 5 percent and the food sector increased by 1 percent. While overall R&D expenditure grew in 2018, as a share of company sales it remained flat. Accelerated investment in innovation is critical across all sectors to underpin export growth and maintain competitiveness.”

Brexit Survey

To accompany the results, Enterprise Ireland released the findings of a recent Brexit survey of over 2,000 clients, which found that Brexit had already negatively impacted 40 percent of exporters, rising to 60 percent in the food sector.

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, the survey results show that:

• 38 percent of companies surveyed expect revenue to be negatively impacted in 2019,
• 40 percent of companies expect profitability to be negatively impacted in 2019 and,
• 29 percent of companies expect their ability to invest to be negatively impacted.

Commenting on the Brexit survey results, Minister Humphreys said: “As we get closer to 31st October with no resolution, a no deal Brexit becomes more likely. We hope it never comes to that, but we won’t be taking any risks. That’s why the Government continues to be 100% committed to preparing the country for the worst, while negotiating for the best. My message to businesses is this: the Government is here to help.

“We have a wide range of supports on offer including the €300m Working Capital Loan Scheme, the €300m Future Growth Scheme and various initiatives through Enterprise Ireland, the LEOs and InterTrade Ireland.

“I am urging every business to appoint one person with responsibility for Brexit, who should come and talk to us and see how we can help. My key goal is to ensure that regardless of sector or region, businesses right across the country have easy access to information on the many supports that are available to them.”

Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen TD stated that the steady momentum towards capturing an ever-increasing share in export markets was a testament to the good work undertaken by Enterprise Ireland and the supports and policy directions given to the Agency by Government. “Market diversification has been a vital component of the Government’s Brexit supports strategy and so I want to commend the many businesses that have been successful in penetrating new export markets. My Department, through Enterprise Ireland, will continue to provide extensive supports, schemes and advice to ensure businesses are prepared for Brexit. These measures assist businesses in identifying the risks they face because of Brexit and offer support for the actions they need to take to mitigate these risks.”

Commenting on the Brexit survey results, Julie Sinnamon said: “Our client survey shows that Irish exporters have already experienced a negative impact from Brexit and expect to continue to do so this year with 40 percent expecting it to impact profitability.

"Enterprise Ireland’s focus between now and 31st October, when the UK is due to exit the EU, is to continue to help Irish businesses to prepare for a hard Brexit by working on improving their levels of planning, innovation, diversification and competitiveness.”


The Enterprise Ireland Export Performance in Global Markets 2018 report is available here

Photographs will be issued by SON Photographic

For reference, please contact:

Conor O’Donovan, Head of Communications, Enterprise Ireland
Tel: 01-7272912 / 087-9671342

Nicola Corboy, Press & Media Relations, Enterprise Ireland
01 727 2149 / 086 0210114