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Today, over 1,800 leading global names call Ireland home for their operations. With a resilient economy, a growing talent pool, and a variety of places to set up, Ireland offers a compelling case as a leading destination for FDI in Europe. 

It takes a special place to convince a company to press ahead with setting up its office in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Or to welcome a continent’s largest semiconductor investment to an island on its westernmost edge. Or to produce a university spinout that wins a prestigious contract to help build internet connectivity infrastructure in space.
That place is Ireland.
Whether it’s for talent, technology, or ease of doing business, Ireland has much to offer investors from across the globe. As an English-speaking country in the European Union, the world’s largest trading area with more than 448 million consumers, it’s the ideal location for an EMEA HQ within the bloc.
What’s more, Ireland is ideally situated between time zones, so it can serve the European market while connecting easily to a company’s offices in North American or eastwards to hubs in MENA or Asian regions.

A leading destination for foreign direct investment

As a small, open, globalised economy, Ireland has weathered strong headwinds: despite an extremely challenging global financial climate since the start of the decade, Ireland remains a competitive destination for foreign direct investment, number 11 in Europe according to EY, which took the pulse of global investor sentiment in its EY Europe Attractiveness Survey 2024.
In EY’s survey of FDI performance across 44 countries, 80% of respondents believe Ireland’s appeal will improve or remain the same over the next three years.

More than two-thirds of overseas businesses established in Ireland (71%) plan to increase investment in the country over the next year. 

IDA Ireland’s latest investment figures support this finding. In 2023, there were 248 investments into Ireland, a 2.5% increase on 2022. These projects are expected to deliver close to 19,000 jobs to the economy over the next two years. Today, there are over 1,800 companies in IDA Ireland’s portfolio, collectively employing more than 300,000 people.

One of those companies is the governance software provider Diligent. It announced a European hub in Galway, in the West of Ireland, in 2020. Then COVID-19 struck. But despite the challenging conditions, the company successfully set up and was able to recruit staff for important customer service roles from industries like hospitality which had been badly hit by the pandemic. Its choice of location also bore fruit, as the company has since acquired an Irish-founded tech startup, Accuvio. 

A resilient economy

Ireland’s Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney, said IDA Ireland’s most recent results are a sign of “a resilient Ireland that, despite huge global challenges, remains an attractive destination for global companies to locate, build and grow their business”.

This continued high level of FDI interest is a result of the Irish government’s long-term commitment to placing technology at the heart of its economic strategy, which helped Ireland’s GDP grow by 12% in 2022.

Impressive track record 

It builds upon an impressive track record in attracting leading companies and high-growth businesses into Ireland, across a broad range of industries. In financial services, 20 of the top 25 companies have a presence in Ireland; eight of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies and 14 of the top 15 medtech companies also have extensive bases in Ireland. Eight of the top 10 US semiconductors and electronics companies have an operation in Ireland (including Intel whose Fab 34 production hub is the product of a €7 billion investment and is the largest of its kind in Europe).
It’s also telling that Ireland strikes a balance between attracting new investment and encouraging existing projects to deepen their ties to the country. For the 2023 investments, one-third of those projects (83), were brand new greenfield or first-time investments. The remainder came from companies with an existing presence on the island – surely no better endorsement of what Ireland offers as a place to do business.

Deep roots: companies commit to the long term in Ireland 

When multinationals come to Ireland, many stay for the long term: 33% of IDA Ireland clients have been in Ireland for over 20 years; names include Apple, Baxter, Boston Scientific, Citi, IBM, Intel and more. More than 900 multinationals – 50% of the total – have had an Irish presence for more than a decade, including Amazon, Google, Meta, Salesforce and more.

33% of IDA Ireland clients have been in Ireland for over 20 years 

In the 75 years since IDA Ireland began attracting foreign direct investment into Ireland, a consistent trend has been for many companies to reinvent their Irish operations over time, adapting to changing industry trends.
In many cases, the highly skilled, high-value work these companies carry out in Ireland today bears little resemblance to how they began here. Many of the earliest arrivals built on their foundations by expanding their original sites, bringing further investment and creating more jobs.
One example of this continued growth is Verizon, one of the world’s leading consumer and enterprise communications service providers. Already employing 1,000 skilled professionals in Dublin, in late 2023 the company doubled down on Ireland by announcing a Global Centre of Excellence in Limerick, Ireland, creating hundreds of jobs over the next two years.
Craig Silliman, President, Verizon Global Services, said: “The Centre of Excellence will bring together key functions in a creative, collaborative environment that leverages global talent and maximises our shared services model to best deliver for our businesses globally.”

A choice of location options across Ireland

Over recent years, IDA Ireland has pursued a deliberate strategy to further diversify investment locations around the country, and in many places, hubs have sprung up around industries like cybersecurity – in Cork, to the south – or medical devices makers clustered around Galway in the West of Ireland.

In 2023, 54% of total investments into Ireland were outside of Dublin.

Among the benefits of choosing a regional location are connectivity, lifestyle and cost-effectiveness. That’s borne out by external data: the Mid-West region, made up of counties Clare, Limerick, and Tipperary, came top in the ‘FDI Strategy’ category within fDi Intelligence’s ‘Small European Regions of the Future 2024’ ranking.

Similarly, Cork, the capital of the South-West Region, was recognised for its ‘economic potential’ and ‘business friendliness’ in the ‘Small European Cities of the Future 2024’ category. Its ranking came from its performance and prospects measured by GDP, population growth, innovation and ease of doing business. The region around Cork is home to a vibrant cluster of companies in fields like financial services, life sciences, and cybersecurity. 

No matter where in Ireland a company chooses to locate, some factors are consistent: “Where Ireland is competing and winning, it’s talent, it’s innovation, it’s pro-enterprise, and it’s stability and certainty,” said IDA Ireland CEO Michael Lohan in an interview with CNBC’s Last Call.
Ireland’s position as an island nation is no hindrance to attracting talent, he added: 30% of the workforce in FDI companies comes from outside Ireland. The IDA chief said “How we attract the talent is through two means: we’re developing that talent ourselves through our own education system, and secondly, we’re an open economy so we attract a lot of talent in. We have free flow of talent from around the globe into Ireland.”

Skilled, young talent on tap

Today, Ireland has the EU’s youngest population and the highest percentage of people in the EU working in high-tech manufacturing and knowledge-intensive service sectors. And the workforce is ready for the latest developments. A global study by Bloomberg shed light on the reasons for this, finding that 51% of companies planning to invest in Ireland within the next one to three years are motivated by Ireland’s expertise in advanced technologies, such as AI and robotics, compared to 36% of FDI investors globally.

Ireland has the EU’s youngest population 

Life sciences companies in Ireland are an excellent example of how Ireland helps multinationals to arrive and thrive. Together, there are close to 100,000 people working across 250 IDA Ireland-supported medical technology and biopharmaceutical companies. One of the flagship companies is Pfizer, whose story in Ireland dates back to 1969 when it established a site at Ringaskiddy, County Cork. Today, the company employs close to 5,000 people across six sites between Cork, Dublin and Kildare.

Valued partnerships

At an event to mark the contribution of life sciences companies to Ireland, Pfizer’s Global Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said: “Having operated in Ireland for more than 50 years, Pfizer has enjoyed a valued partnership with the country as we have built out our manufacturing, research and innovation capabilities for the benefit of patients.”
As well as manufacturing leading medicines and vaccines, Pfizer’s Irish operations include shared finance and business services, scientific R&D, treasury and commercial operations. The company has made capital investment in Ireland of more than $9 billion, and it continues to invest in its Irish operations today, including part of its worldwide R&D. In 2022, Pfizer announced investment of over €1.2 billion at its Grange Castle site, with a new facility that will double capacity for biological drug substance manufacturing at the site, creating hundreds of jobs.

An ecosystem dedicated to innovation

Ireland’s infrastructure goes beyond the many multinationals successfully attracted to these shores. In addition to foreign direct investment, there is also an active cluster of research centres tied to universities, investigating and innovating in fields like artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, semiconductor design, 3D printing, virtual reality and marine science, to name a few. 

Mbryonics is a spinout from a research team at the University of Galway that It recently won a prestigious contract with the US agency DARPA, to provide a critical component of a project to help satellites in the Earth’s orbit to communicate with each other using cutting-edge photonics technology. Or as CEO and co-founder John Mackey puts it succinctly: “We design and manufacture space lasers.”

Looking to the future, Ireland’s welcome remains strong. So is its continued support for the companies that already call the country their home. Many are looking to make their operations sustainable: in 2023, IDA Ireland approved 25 sustainability projects focused on carbon abatement and building Ireland’s green economy. In the same period, IDA clients committed more than €1.4bn on research and innovation projects during the year, while others invested more than €77 million on talent development.
As multinational companies embrace R&D, sustainability, digitalisation and talent development, Ireland is well placed to be part of these transformational initiatives.