Business Strengths

Ireland’s open economy, young and educated workforce and developed infrastructure have long attracted many high-performing industries and multinational companies.

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Ireland is an attractive base for many companies worldwide, primarily as a result of positive leadership and policies. The Irish Government is committed to the sustainable management of public finances and Ireland receives an ‘A’ grade from all major credit rating agencies.

Ireland is a committed member of the EU Single Market and the Euro Zone with strong public support. The EU and the USA are the country’s main export markets in sectors including pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, medical devices, computer services, business services and financial and insurance services. Many of these export markets are intrinsically connected to the existing and emerging marine sectors represented by the Marine Ireland Industry Network.

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Top 10
Ireland ranks top 10 according to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2019.
6 billion
approx. annual turnover generated by Ocean Economy
in the European Innovation Scoreboard 2020


Ireland’s marine and maritime economy comprises a multitude of small, medium and large enterprises operating across a spectrum of sectors at varying levels of maturity. The established industries in the marine and maritime sector account for 93% of total marine turnover. This is dominated by both shipping and maritime transport, as well as tourism and leisure in marine and coastal areas.

Irish SMEs offer a diverse range of marine products including:

  • Civil engineering associated with ports
  • Bulk cargo handling technologies
  • High spec pilot boats
  • Build and fit out of fishing vessels
  • Unmanned Surface Vessels for seabed mapping
  • Subsea cable repair technologies and much more

Explore our Network Directory to get a better understanding of Irish capability in the marine sector.

Our ocean economy makes a significant contribution to the wider economy with an annual turnover of approximately €6bn and contributing close to €2bn in value added.

Opportunities exist in Ireland’s economy to continue to grow and build a stronger ocean economy. These opportunities include:

  • Marinisation of existing industries like ICT, Food, Clean/Green, Finance into a range of new marine related markets e.g. ICT for the sea, marine biotechnology and maritime commerce.

  • Focusing on strengthening established marine industries that rely on Ireland’s abundant marine resources such as fisheries, aquaculture and tourism. Supporting these industries to move further up the value chain, by adding value to their products and services, while sustaining their existing activity in a competitive global market.

  • Utilising more of Ireland’s existing marine resources in new ways, with investment in infrastructure, new skills and knowledge which will result in the development of new solutions for marine renewable energy, marine manufacturing and engineering, and other offshore support services.

Research & Innovation

Innovation and further growth in emerging sectors represent a significant potential for sustainable economic growth, particularly where the experience and know-how from more established sectors can be combined with new innovations.

Ireland has strong national capabilities in the areas of ICT, IoT, Communications, Big Data and Data Analytics – all essential industry skillsets for future innovation in the Blue Economy. Ireland also has a rapidly developing SME capability that can service the needs of the expanding Offshore Wind Industry.

The Irish Government’s Innovation 2020 strategy sets out the roadmap for research and development, science and technology innovation to position Ireland as a Global Innovation Leader. Of the six priority areas identified by Innovation 2020, many of the subsectors are directly aligned to the emerging marine sectors supported by Marine Ireland Industry Network such as:

  • Energy climate action
  • Sustainable living
  • Sustainable food production
  • Advanced and smart manufacturing
  • Manufacturing and novel materials
  • ICT, networks, communications, data analytics
  • IOT
  • Therapeutics

One of the key actions in the Innovation 2020 strategy is to increase public and private investment in R&D. An example of this investment is the €500m Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF) which aims to drive collaboration between Ireland’s research base and industry. This investment in the research, development and deployment of disruptive technologies and applications, puts Ireland to the forefront in R&D collaborations.

Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres are instrumental in the innovation ecosystem in Ireland, there are 16 SFI research centres addressing the priority areas identified in the Innovation 2020 strategy. SFI Research Centres attracted €158 million of research funding between 2013 and 2017 from private enterprise and a further €152 million from international sources. The Exchequer also contributed €111 million through other Exchequer sources, such as Enterprise Ireland.

Of note for the marine & maritime industries in Ireland are:

  • MaREI: SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine Research and Innovation.
  • Insight: SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics
  • iCRAG: SFI Research Centre in Applied Geosciences
  • LERO: SFI Research Centre for Software
  • Connect: SFI Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications
  • iFORM: SFI Research Centre for Advanced Manufacturing

Further information on SFI research centres is available here.

Ireland also benefits from access to EU funding, through Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe, ERDF funding, and co-fund initiatives such as the US-Ireland Partnership Programme.

Further Information:

IDA facts about Ireland 

SEMRU: Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit