As we approach the end of 2021 and look forward to the New Year, change has certainly become our new norm.
The past 18 months saw firms trying to survive, pivot and improvise – and as businesses exit survival mode, it’s important to invest in new skills and technologies to aid recovery and growth says Margaret Hearty, Chief Executive Officer of InterTradeIreland.
2022 will bring both challenges and opportunities and in order to succeed, firms should arm themselves with knowledge of upcoming ‘key trends’.
The importance of ‘online’
The pandemic accelerated the shift to online and during this time, online sales grew exponentially. OFCOM reveals that online retail increased by 48% to £113bn/€€132bn in 2020, compared to 13 per cent in previous years. According to the Central Bank of Ireland, eCommerce card purchases are increasing annually by 25 per cent and the total value of payment transactions increased by 52 per cent in 2020. For small business owners, Covid-19 highlighted the importance of being ‘online’ and with this trend set to continue, it’s worth thinking how you can expand and improve your user experience.
InterTradeIreland’s E-Merge programme - started during the pandemic to help small businesses improve their online presence – has supported over 1000 companies. One firm that benefited was artisan food company Filligans, Co. Donegal who were able to bring their products online, giving access to their customers during Covid-19.
Innovation has been challenged
Covid-19 caused a ‘fragmented organisational structure’ for many firms who may now be removed from their colleagues and customer base. As a result, the opportunity to collaborate has been affected. However, despite businesses struggling in the past 18 months, The Global Innovation report reveals that investment in innovation has been resilient in 2020 and in some sectors has exceeded expectations, with software, health and wellbeing and biotechnology all positively affected.
In 2022, the ‘green economy’ is forecasted to dominate the agenda and become a key driver of growth and opportunity. Breakthroughs in science and technology will be needed to achieve these goals and cross-border collaboration will be crucial.
Through our Synergy Programme, InterTradeIreland has committed to this by funding projects such as the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation to develop an all-island biomap. Additionally, we can fund cross-border collaborative R&D projects to fast track innovative ideas and partnerships. Our Innovation Boost programme helps fund a high calibre science, engineering or technology graduate and partner you with a third level institution, with specific expertise.
Cross-border trade should be part of your growth strategy
Cross-border trade is vital to economic recovery. In the last economic downturn, exporting proved a huge factor for driving growth and recovery. The latest figures from InterTradeIreland show that the value of trading to the opposite jurisdiction is at an all-time high, reaching £7.4billion/€8.6billion. For firms who wish to increase their sales and grow their business it should be a logical step for the New Year. The statistics speak for themselves and despite economic challenges in the past year InterTradeIreland has helped companies generate more than £90.1million/ €100.1million in business development value through its Trade and Innovation programmes, with a total jobs impact of 1,626.
Both North and South economies hold a number of advantages for businesses and for those who need assistance, InterTradeIreland has supports available, including our post-Brexit advice. We can also help firms gain the knowledge and skills to win new business through our sales development programmes, such as the Trade Accelerator Voucher, Elevate and Acumen.
Boost sales and funding
Going forward your business strategy should reflect how you can increase your sales and funding. The public procurement market on the island of Ireland is currently valued in excess of £11bn/€13bn per annum, with £7.6bn/€9bn in Ireland and approximately £3.5bn/€4bn in Northern Ireland presenting a wealth of opportunities for businesses. InterTradeIreland can help SMEs win public sector contracts through our Go-2-Tender programme and Supplier Engagement events can help you gain unique access to key public sector buyers.
For early-stage companies, InterTradeIreland can assist with funding for growth opportunities. Our annual Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition mirrors the real life investment process and companies can receive real feedback. Established firms can also gain advice and expertise on finance, through our Equity Advisory and Funding Advisory services.
2022 will bring challenges but more importantly, new opportunities for firms across the island of Ireland. For companies who wish to re-enter productive growth phases, ‘new normal’ business opportunities are ready to be explored and InterTradeIreland is here to help.