Sector-specific opportunities in Ireland

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Access all Irish public sector procurement opportunities via Etenders, the official Irish government procurement site. See:

There will be UK export opportunities for quality, competitively priced products and services, across all sectors in Ireland.

[Source: UK Trade & Investment/ (Feb 2016)]


Agriculture and food & drink

The manufacture of food and drink products is Ireland's most important indigenous industry (Bord Bia). The sector has a turnover approaching EUR €26 billion and an annual payroll of EUR €1.8 billion making it Ireland’s largest manufacturing sector (accounting for 7% of GDP). 230,000 jobs are linked to the sector in communities big and small throughout the country. Ireland exported EUR €10.5 billion in 2014, with 40% destined for the UK.

A large number of well-known indigenous and multinational agri-food companies have significant operations in Ireland. Uniquely, these activities are consistently dispersed throughout all regions of Ireland, especially rural areas. The agri-food sector is therefore also at heart of the social fabric of rural Ireland.

Ireland imported more than £3 billion worth of food and drink goods from the UK in 2014 (United Kingdom Balance of Payments – The Pink Book: 2015). Ireland is the UK’s largest export market for food and drink. By export value, the main sub sectors are:

  • cereals and cereal preparations

  • dairy products and birds’ eggs

  • meat and meat preparations

  • beverages

  • coffee, tea, cocoa, spices and manufactures

At the time of going to print, health foods (particularly snacks and drinks), unique products, speciality diets (gluten free, lactose free, etc) and confectionery are in demand in the Irish market. Many of the same products that are sold in the UK can be bought in Ireland, with some differences. Irish consumers are interested in the story behind a product, as well as the origin and quality (Source: Bord Bia).

There are three multiples (Dunnes Stores, Supervalu and Tesco) and two discounters (Aldi and Lidl) in the market, as well as a range of convenience stores and a variety of speciality stores.

There are many routes to market to consider: agent, distributor, direct sales. It is important to come to Ireland to understand the market – including price points, competition, target customers and buyers.

Contact for more information on opportunities in the agri-food sector.

[Sources: UK Trade & Investment/ (Feb 2016), Bord Bia, Food and Drink Industry Ireland (FDII), United Kingdom Balance of Payments – The Pink Book: 2015, Teagasc]



Output in the construction industry has finally begun to recover, but the sector continues to face a number of challenges. The gross value of output recovered to EUR €11 billion in 2014, having reached its lowest value in 2012.

The Irish Government have announced a capital investment plan for 2016 to 2021 worth EUR €42 billion and have made significant financial commitments to a number of Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects. Examples of these projects (some of which have already been awarded) include:

  • 12 primary healthcare centres with a budgeted cost projected at EUR €115 million and expected maintenance contract time span of 25 years

  • EUR €300 million Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) at Grangegorman, the biggest ongoing educational construction project in western Europe with expected completion in 2017

  • EUR €650 million National Children’s Hospital in Dublin, the largest and most complex capital investment healthcare project ever undertaken in Ireland with expected completion in 2019

  • About  EUR €1.77 billion to be invested in Irish Water for the provision of water metering, upgrades and waste treatment

Tenders for all Irish public sector projects are advertised via the E-Tenders online procurement website: For future projects and opportunities, keep an eye on the e-tenders website.

Contact for more information on opportunities in the construction sector.

[Source: UK Trade & Investment/ (Feb 2016), National Development Finance Agency (NDFA)]



The educational sector in Ireland is small in comparison to the UK. There are approximately 3,200 primary schools in Ireland, serving 500,000 students, in comparison with 5 million primary school students in the UK. There are also approximately 720 secondary schools in Ireland, serving 333,000 students.

Primary Schools
The primary education sector in Ireland includes state-funded primary schools, special schools and private primary schools. The state-funded schools include religious schools, non-denominational schools, multi-denominational schools and Gaelscoileanna (Irish-medium schools).

Post-Primary Schools
The post-primary education sector comprises secondary, vocational, community and comprehensive schools. Secondary schools are privately owned and managed. Vocational schools are state-established and administered by Education and Training Boards (ETBs), while community and comprehensive schools are managed by Boards of Management of differing compositions. Post-primary education consists of a three-year Junior Cycle (lower secondary), followed by a two or three year Senior Cycle (upper secondary), depending on whether the optional Transition Year (TY) is taken.

Transition Year
Transition year or ‘4th year’ occurs when schools provide multiple activities to the students outside of the normal curriculum. This is often an optional year for students. Many decide to forego this year and reduce their Senior Cycle to two years.

There is also a significant difference in how schools are funded between the UK and Ireland. Schools in Ireland have more discretion when it comes to allocating their funding. In Ireland, schools receive a block grant from the government and then additional funding depending on the number of pupils it has attending it. The school is then free to spend the money how they see fit; the wages of staff are paid through the Department of Education.

It is important to be aware that schools in Ireland are currently limited on their expenditure and allocate their budget resources to essential requirements such as heating, materials and maintenance. In contrast, in the UK’s local authorities play a much more active role in schools and have a major say in how funding is spent.

Third Level
There are 26 Higher Education Authority (HEA) funded institutions in Ireland – 7 Universities, 14 Institutes of Technology, and 5 Teacher Training Colleges. There are 42, 375 undergraduate students and 17,647 postgraduate students in Ireland

[Source: UK Trade & Investment 2016, Higher Education Authority (HEA)]



The energy sector is one of Ireland’s main industrial sectors and makes a very significant contribution to the Irish economy. This can be measured not only in terms of economic activity, but also employment and contribution to the Exchequer.

The energy sector buys many goods and services from other sectors, for example, electricity generation relies on a range of inputs such as fuel, construction and IT services.

Ireland is focusing on developing renewable energy sources. It aims to reach a 2020 target of generating 40% of energy with renewable energies, particularly by developing wind farms. Its strategic location provides a natural advantage for the generation of renewable energy in the areas of wind and wave power. There is ongoing public and private sector investment for wind, wave and solar energy.

There are also opportunities for biomass technologies.

Contact for more information on opportunities in the energy sector.

[Source: UK Trade & Investment/ (Feb 2016)]



Ireland has built an international reputation over the past thirty years as a centre of technology excellence. The industry in Ireland has two complementary elements: a strong presence of international companies that are global market leaders, and a larger number of indigenous companies who have achieved significant success on the world stage. The sector directly employs over 105,000 people, with 75% employed in multinational companies and the remainder in indigenous software companies. This indigenous sector is continuing to grow, with almost 730 Irish software companies currently in operation. The Irish tech sector is recognised internationally as being highly innovative, technically expert, and commercially adept.

Ireland’s world renowned indigenous and multinational ICT sector has all of the world’s top ten ICT companies located in-market. These include firms involved in:

  • hardware and software

  • data centres

  • cyber security

  • mobile gaming

  • social and digital media

  • cloud computing

Companies with significant operations in Ireland include Intel, Microsoft, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and Dropbox.

Contact for more information on opportunities in the ICT sector.

[Source: UK Trade & Investment/ (Feb 2016), Irish Software Association (ISA), ICT Ireland]


Life sciences and healthcare

Four decades of continuous investment has established Ireland the location of choice for international and indigenous life sciences companies. The industry employs over 50,000 people with 27,000 employed in the medical technology sector alone, making Ireland one of largest employers of medical technology professionals in Europe.

9 of the top 10 global biopharmaceutical companies and 18 of the top 25 global medical technology companies have an international base in Ireland. 6 of the world’s top 10 selling pharmaceutical products are exclusively produced in Ireland. The country is the 8th largest pharmaceutical manufacturer globally and one of the largest exporters of medical products in Europe with annual exports of EUR €8.5 billion. Companies here directly export to over 100 countries worldwide.

Companies in Ireland are involved in:

  • diagnostic

  • hospital and homecare products

  • ophthalmic

  • orthopaedic

  • vascular

  • contract research and development/manufacturing

  • connected health

  • services

Companies with major operations in Ireland are Abbott, GSK, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Takeda, Roche and Genzyme.

A potential benefit of selling to European headquarters of multinational firms in Ireland can be access to wider opportunities with their parent companies globally. Often the opportunity is often not merely in increased sales, but from the association of having engaged with world leading companies.

The international nature of the sector has other benefits too: aside from the Irish market, most firms primarily serve multiple markets and regions, including EMEA and North America. Indeed, if successful in obtaining business from an Irish based firm, this may also offer supply chain access to many of the world’s top life sciences and medical device firms. 

With a EUR €13 Billion budget annually, the Irish public health service, the Health Service Executive (‘HSE’), accounts for 40% of total Government spending. Private healthcare providers are also present, with full or partial private health insurance common.

Unlike other western European countries, Ireland does not have a universal health system, rather a mixed system based on need and personal choice. This means that there are three common types of hospital: public hospitals, voluntary public hospitals: and private hospitals. The latter are limited to mostly urban areas.

National healthcare policy is currently being changed to have a series of local primary health care centres, while universal healthcare provision is also planned.

What are the opportunities in the sector?
There are many, from routine healthcare consumables and services, to specialist medical equipment.

As most hospitals are publically funded, most service and product needs are sourced through publically advertised procurement procedures. These opportunities are typically listed on the official procurement website: Private hospitals are fewer, but they operate their own separate procurement competitions. A direct approach to these is best. Opportunities are usually listed on their respective websites.

Where can I find out about companies present in Ireland?
A comprehensive list of public hospitals can be accessed on the Irish national health services website (the HSE): Many private hospitals are listed on the main trade body website:

Contact for more information on opportunities in the healthcare sector.

[Sources: UK Trade & Investment/ (Feb 2016), Irish Medical Devices Association (IMDA), BioPharmaChem Ireland, Enterprise Ireland]



Many UK retail outlets have branches in the UK, such as Topshop, Oasis, Harvey Nichols and Debenhams. Ireland is an important market for clothing and footwear exports from the UK.

The Irish retail sector employs almost 275,000 people. There are 42,000 retail and wholesale businesses operating in Ireland of which 83% are Irish owned and operated. Many of these are independently run shops.

Due to increasing levels of employment and salary increase, consumer confidence improved which led to increased consumer spending. It was estimated that Irish consumers spent approximately EUR €90 billion in 2015.

Contact the UKTI Ireland team at to get advice on the best approach for your product in the Irish market

[Source: UK Trade & Investment, Retail Ireland, Irish Times] 



Public transport, airport and port operations are owned and maintained by the Irish state though designated semi-state organisations.  There is significant public sector involvement in the majority of infrastructure projects through public/private partnerships.

On a per capita basis, Ireland’s road network is relatively large when compared to other European countries. The network comprises 100,000 km of road (81.4% local, 13.2% regional and 5.4% national), of which approximately 900 km is motorway. There have been substantial investments and improvements made over the last number of years, with a modern motorway network now linking Dublin with the major towns and cities across Ireland.

The Irish rail sector is relatively small when compared to other EU countries, although the past decade has seen significant infrastructural improvements and investments in rolling stock. There is nearly 2,400 km of heavy rail track nationwide, (of which 4.5% is electrified) in addition to a 37km light rail system servicing Dublin and surrounding suburbs.

Rail freight traffic in the Republic of Ireland is low in comparison with other EU countries and almost insignificant when compared with road haulage. 

Sea Ports
As an island nation, Ireland’s commercial sea ports are vital for exporting and importing, as well as for the country’s important tourism sector. In terms of freight activity, the largest ports are Dublin, Shannon Foynes, Cork, Rosslare, Bantry Bay and Waterford.

International air connectivity is crucial for Irish business travel and tourism, with the sector benefiting from continued investment in expansion of the infrastructure, maintenance, safety and security.  Dublin Airport is Ireland's largest airport, followed by Cork and Shannon, while regional airports are located at Knock, Kerry, Waterford and Donegal.

Access to market & opportunities
Tenders for all Irish public sector projects including transport are advertised via the E-Tenders online procurement website:

The Irish Government through the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has allocated EUR €10 billion over the next seven years to allow for appropriate levels of investment to be made in public transport to maintain and improve the existing network. EUR €6 billion is being made available to support the development of Ireland’s road network, while provision has also been made for a strategic rail line (Metro North) to serve the transport needs of North Dublin.

[Sources: UK Trade & Investment, Irish Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport, Engineers Ireland]


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