Keeping connections between Portugal and Ireland strong and open
Exploring business diversity across all sectors, keeping and increasing channels of communication open between Portuguese and Irish business and official entities and expanding business to different areas will be the focus of tenure for new Ireland Portugal Business Network chairperson, Aoife Healy.
Aoife Healy, who is a Partner of Pathway Consulting, a company that helps businesses adopt the right strategies and effective management for success, takes over from outgoing chairman Tony Boyle after a three year mandate.
The Ireland Portugal Business Network was created to stimulate and increase trade between the two countries by helping Irish and Portuguese companies to broaden their network, make contacts and drive sales and increase business.
Its main sectors focus are Technology & Startups, Tourism & Leisure, Food & Agriculture, Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare and Professional Services among others, all sectors which are important for both economies.
“Through my Dublin and Lisbon based company I am uniquely placed to know the business environment in both markets and to have a huge and diverse range of connections in both Portugal and Ireland as a result,” says Aoife.
“Starting the Ireland Portugal Business Network is also an achievement we are very proud of — we have run great events, the membership is growing every day (currently around 100 companies) and the network is becoming a very valuable resource for business looking to Portugal or to Ireland for opportunities and assistance,” she adds.
The new chair explains that her task for 2019-2020 is to continue growing trade, making sure connections are open and facilitate members and interested business parties to be able to network and meet each other at the growing number of diverse events held both in Lisbon and the Algarve.
Events such as ‘The Future of the Algarve: Circular Economy & Smart Sustainability Development’ on 30 May at the Vale d’Oliveiras Quinta Resort & Spa which follows the well attended and successful Lisbon event held in March at the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and Industry “Sustainability Forum’ focusing on business opportunities in SMART cities, or the upcoming ICT Trade Mission to Ireland which will take place on 12 June in Dublin.
On the Algarve event, Aoife says, “The Algarve as a region is a living one and we need a complete new approach to a circular and sustainable economy that can sustain the local community: visiting tourists, biodiversity, food, fauna and wildlife, without contributing to global problems.
“This also represents a massive business opportunity to redesign the infrastructure, housing, energy, water and food supplies and approach to healthcare and wellness that we all want to see our children and grandchildren enjoy.
“The UN has designed a framework for this called the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) and at this event we will discuss how the Algarve can respond to these goals. Indeed, an opportunity exists for the Algarve to be an example to other regions of how future communities can coexist with nature and how tourism developments can be compatible with ecological and community sustainability” she explains.
Tech and health tourism
Aoife believes that both Portugal and Ireland are attractive investment and business destinations for one another because the two economies “share many similar traits”.
“There is an openness to new ideas and innovation which makes it very attractive to any company like us that works with small businesses and start-ups,” she explains.
Aoife Healy believes that a number of sectors of the economy will be important to both countries in the coming years with the tech sector set to grow enormously.
“Technology will be used to service and drive innovation in all of the major sectoral industries of both countries, but particularly in areas of tourism, healthcare and agriculture.
“I think tourism will continue to perform strongly with increased air connections to all destinations and there is huge scope to develop attractions and niche products or services such as health tourism in both markets which have access to wild, unspoilt coastlines, incredible inland scenery and thriving modern cities for those who want to escape to a different environment,” she adds.
Environmental sustainability is a theme that will underpin the production and exports of most goods and services produced by both Portugal and Ireland which according to the latest figures from Portugal’s exports agency AICEP Irish exports to Portugal stood at €440 million and Portuguese expirts to Ireland stood at €200 million not inluding €500 million from inbound toutism from Ireland.
“Without a doubt, with growing global populations, agriculture will continue to develop and be an important part of both economies and advances in technology will drive efficiencies and innovations meaning we will be able to produce food and other agricultural products more sustainably, using less water and creating less waste.
Since starting the IPBN it has allowed members to connect to a vast number of people from different sectors and with different ambitions and success stories to tell. These have included people that members may not normally have had the chance to meet such as Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, EU Commissioner Carlos Moedas, the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins and many other business leaders.
“We have watched our members make great connections and grow towards achieving their aims, we have been at the forefront of growing trade between Ireland and Portugal and we will continue to do so and of course we have made friends and met clients through the network,” concludes Aoife Healy.