Ireland eyes up technology opportunities in Central Europe as nearly a third of Irish CEOs target the region

Since 2004, Irish exports to the 11 EU countries in Central Europe have grown over 300% to €2.2bn

Central Europe countries are expected to continue growing faster than those of Western Europe, generating wide ranging export opportunities for Irish companies

Exports of Irish indigenous companies to the region have reached €400m in 2013

The Irish Chamber of Commerce in Central Europe (i-Cham CE) will host a Central European Technology Conference in Dublin this morning, Monday 3 November, 2014 at the CCD, sponsored by PwC.  The event will focus on bringing together Irish and Central European based technology companies with a view to developing new cross-border business relationships and partnerships.

Nearly a third (30%) of Irish CEOs plan to target Central and Eastern Europe, up from 19% last year, according to PwC’s 2014 CEO Pulse Survey.  The conference will provide a unique platform for developing new business prospects, strengthening the existing links and driving Ireland’s on-going engagement with the region to connect around bilateral Trade and Investment opportunities and policy.

iCham photo

Central Europe, with its pool of top IT talent, presents huge opportunities for Ireland

The Tech sector represents the area where there are most synergies between Ireland and Central Europe. Central Europe has a reputation for turning out among the top IT professionals in the World. This region consistently ranks at the very top of the world ranks in educational achievement in maths, science and technology. In 2013, 16 out of the 24 finalists of Google’s annual Code Jam programming competition were from Central Europe. From this pool of the top IT talent in the World, Central Europe has produced global tech companies such as ESET from Slovakia, AVG and Avast from the Czech Republic, Nordeus from Serbia, Filestube from Poland, BitDefender and Soft32 from Romania, Prezi from Hungary, and Skype from Estonia.

Likewise, Dublin has a booming tech sector and is host to the European Headquarters of all major Silicon Valley companies, Google (who will address the conference), eBay, Twitter, PayPal, Zynga, AirBnB and Facebook. We also have a dynamic domestic technology eco-system that has produced international tech companies such as Stripe and arguably the most vibrant technology start-up scene in Europe. Dublin’s reputation in this sector is further cemented and validated by the fact that the Web Summit, Europe’s largest annual technology event, began here just 4 years ago and when it opens tomorrow will welcome over 20,000 people through its doors.

Speakers at the event include:

  • Conor Fahy, Regional Director, Central Europe  & High Growth Markets, Enterprise Ireland
  • Stephen Caulfield, Executive Director, Dell EMEA and General Manager, Dell Slovakia
  • David Sneddon, Director, Large Customer Sales, Germany, Austria & Switzerland, Google
  • Barry O’Brien, Managing Director, Silicon Valley Bank
  • Mary Moloney, Global CEO, CoderDojo Foundation

i-Cham CE President David Pierce commented “During the most high profile week for technology globally at the Dublin Web Summit, i-Cham is very proud to promote the top IT talent from Europe.  There is a huge opportunity for Ireland now to really look East to Central Europe in terms of opportunities for Irish exports and collaborate on the IT talent pool in  the region.”

John Murphy, Tax Director, PwC and primary sponsor to the event, said: "Nearly one third (30%) of Irish CEOs are targeting Central and Eastern Europe, up from 19% last year, according to PwC's 2014 CEO Pulse Survey.  There is an untapped opportunity for Irish and Central European businesses to work more closely together.  With many of the key US technology companies in Ireland, we have a unique opportunity to be a 'tech hub' for Central European companies looking to access the US market.  Central Europe also offers a perfect location for Irish companies seeking to expand into new export markets or source key talent or new partners to develop their business."

Simon McKeever, Chief Executive of the Irish Exporters Association:“The Irish Exporters Association is delighted to be the Dublin Hub of i-Cham CE, which provides support to Irish SMEs and indigenous exporting firms looking to compete in the CE Region and assist Irish companies to develop in a competitive global market. This initiative not only gives confidence to Irish exporters at each stage of their exporting journey but seeks to educate and inform companies around best practice in the region.”

Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Director Conor Fahy said: ‘Ireland ‘s technology and start-up eco-system is  uniquely located to provide a platform for Central European companies in the ICT and Technology  space to expand into US and UK markets, while providing a dynamic environment for Central European entrepreneurs to migrate their ideas into businesses. Enterprise Ireland is pleased to support such Start-ups, and events such as the Central European Technology Conference are a key channel to heighten awareness of Ireland’s Start-Up advantage’.

Margaret Byrne, Market Development Manager, Vhi International commented “As the leading health insurance provider in the Irish Market, Vhi Healthcare is pleased to partner with i-Cham on this Central European Technology Conference.  This provides fantastic opportunities for all of the companies involved in developing cross-border business relationships and partnerships.  Vhi International provides innovative ex-patriate health insurance policy for those planning to relocate abroad for a number of years. We work closely with companies in the technology sector to provide cover for professionals moving abroad for extended periods of time, and have seen first-hand the exciting opportunities this can bring.  We are proud to support today’s event and hope it benefits all involved.”



Key facts:

  • It has been 10 years since 8 Central European (CE) countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia) became members of the EU during the Irish EU presidency in 2004. Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia joined EU in 2007 and 2014.
  • Four of the 11 EU CE countries (Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia and Slovenia) are now Eurozone members, and a fifth Lithuania with join in 2015.
  • Since 2004, Irish exports of goods to the 11 EU countries in the Central Europe region have grown over 300% to Euros 2.2bn.
  • Nationals from the 11 EU CE account for over 5% of Ireland’s population and they work across the Irish industrial and sector spectrum and are an invaluable conduit to bring Irish companies into CE markets.
  • CE languages are widely spoken in Ireland countering the long held export barrier of lack of language expertise.
  • EF English Proficiency Index for Europe ranks Estonia, Poland, Hungary and Slovenia in Europe’s Top 10 for English Language Proficiency just behind Sweden, Denmark and Norway. All 11 EU CE countries rank higher than France, Italy, Spain or the BRIC countries.
  • Exports of Irish indigenous companies have grown even faster over that period and reached Euros 400m in 2013.
  • CE countries have a higher propensity to buy Irish indigenous products as compared to Western European countries, for example only the UK buys proportionately more indigenous Irish products than Poland.
  • Estonia, Poland and Czech are bigger consumers of Irish indigenous products per head of population that more established markets such as Austria, and are on a par with countries such as Spain and Italy.
  • 8 of the capitals cities of the 11 EU CE countries can be accessed from Ireland by direct low-cost air connections. 11 cities in Poland can be accessed directly by flights from Ireland.
  • Thanks to the continued “catch-up” dynamic, consisting of lower wage costs, well-trained labour force, healthier banking sector, and less public and private debt, Central European economies are expected to continue growing faster than those of Western Europe, generating wide ranging export opportunities for Irish companies.
  • The 11 EU CE countries benefit from structural and cohesion funds. For illustration, in the 2007 -2013 period the 10 CEE countries had access to Euros 178.9 billion in EU funds, i.e. from ERDF, CF and ESF excluding any national public and private contributions. Similar funding levels have been allocated between 2014-2020.
  • With the exception of Romania and Bulgaria, all 11 CE EU countries are classified by the World Bank as high income countries, and have escaped the so-called Middle Income gap – unlike the situation in many of the BRIC and MINT countries.


Other Notes to editor:

The Irish Chamber of Commerce in Central Europe’s 3 goals in the technology sector are as follows:

  1. Facilitate and promote cooperation and trade among domestic Irish and Central European technology companies.
  2. Promote Ireland as the most natural gateway to the US tech market for Central European tech companies due to the presence locally of all the top US tech companies. We want young Central European tech companies to establish their first overseas office here and use Ireland as their base to develop their first US and international clients. 
  3. Facilitate Irish technology companies to get a foothold and develop relationships in the Central European tech markets. The 11 countries of Central Europe represent a vast market of 110,000,000 people. 

About i-Cham Central Europe 

i-Cham CE is a new initiative which aims to bring the Irish business diasporas in Central Europe together through an integrated bi-lateral chamber umbrella. The organisation aims to provide practical and on-the ground support to Irish SMEs who are entering or exploring these markets with the aim of increasing Irish exports and raising the profile of Irish products and services in Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.  

The Central European Chamber was launched just in April of this year as the result of a joint effort by Enterprise Ireland, The Irish Exporter’s Association, the local Irish Chambers of Commerce in the region, with the backing of the associated regional embassies and generous funding support of VHI International and CooneyCarey. The view among those Irish businesspeople  who have spent years out in Central Europe, is that a massive opportunity is being missed by export focused Irish companies not understanding this huge market and the potential it holds. iCham CE now represents an access point for companies who want to begin doing business out in the region.