For the fourth straight year, Ireland emerged as Europe's fastest-growing economy, consolidating its position as the region’s most attractive investment destination. As the remaining English-speaking European country with friction-less access to the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States, Ireland also has developed dynamic industries, such as ICT, medical technology and life science.
With Takeda’s takeover of Irish biotech company Shire, the largest overseas acquisition by a Japanese company, Japan has cemented its status as the largest Asian investor in the country, bolstering the Japanese presence in the business landscape.
The Japan Times, in partnership with Global Media Inc., is tentatively set to publish a Special Report on Ireland in October. The report will celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Japan by highlighting the success stories of this bilateral relationship and identifying more opportunities for growth.
Ireland’s tech industry is known for its highly skilled, multilingual workforce, advanced technology infrastructure, ease of doing business, and thriving startup scene. The country’s tech ecosystem is characterized as a maturing, self-powered juggernaut, teeming both in inbound and outbound investments.
One of the countries which has forged partnerships with the Irish tech sector is Japan. The Japanese government recently lowered its corporate tax scheme and struck a trade deal with the EU, lowering tariffs and boosting trade. These initiatives, along with cultural similarities between Japan and Ireland, set in place an ideal business environment.
Fexco, an emerging Irish financial services company, is among the Irish tech startups which are setting sights on the Japanese market. Group Executive Joe Redmond shares that Japan is the best launch pad for companies looking to expand worldwide.
“Irish firms should look to Japan into their international expansion as a very sophisticated, well-educated consumer market where there are opportunities for big companies to do different or do better,” Redmond said.
Established in 1980 in Ireland, Fexco operates in 22 countries and has more than 2,500 employees. Its unique selling point is its homegrown Dynamic Currency Conversion Technology, which has garnered the attention of financial industry giants such as Mitsubishi UFJ Group. Redmond sees Japan as the ideal entryway to Asia. With three high profile negotiations underway, Fexco is heavily investing on getting a foothold of the Japanese market.
“Asia is a key priority, Japan is our biggest priority. We see greater opportunity for our foreign distribution models, and their technology. A lot of Irish companies are well-positioned to work in partnership with [the] Japanese. One thing I learned [is] the Japanese are looking for something unique. You’ve got to bring something different to the table,” Redmond said.
While Fexco is working on closing deals with the Japanese, Daon, a biometric and identity assurance company established in Dublin, is introducing its innovations through partnerships with Japanese firms.
Twenty years ago, Daon Founder Dermot Desmond envisioned the increasing importance of biometrics in payment services and as the next title of security. After years of research and development in biometric types, Daon began looking for application channels for their technology. An early adopter of their service is the Japan Ministry of Justice.
“In 2006, the Japan Ministry of Justice gave us a contract for the Japan Board Control System. So, when foreigners arrive in Japan today, they have two fingerprints and their face taken that uses our software. They process about 10 million passengers a year. That relationship is being continued until 2022 at the moment and we hope it will be continued further,” said Daon EMEA and APAC President Clive Bourke.
From success with the Japanese public sector, Daon is now working in a joint venture with Japanese companies Sumitomo SMFG, SMBC and NTT Data called Polarify. Polarify sees smartphones as the new endpoint of biometric technology.
“The point of the app is to allow consumers for e-commerce, online banking, or for anything like that to be able to authenticate using their biometrics; simply look at the device and do facial recognition. We’re introducing new biometric types which includes reading your palm, and then you can do things like log onto websites, approve transactions using the app. That was launched mid-last year,” Bourke also said.
For Daon, the Japanese are ideal partners in elevating their technology and succeeding in the global market.
“In the Asian strategy, Japan is like a beacon to the other countries, even stretching to Australia and New Zealand. They usually say, if your technology can succeed in Japan, it’s good enough for us. In the global scheme of things, Polarify is the template for how we can expand our business. We can say to our partners, this type of venture, platform to consumers is something [the Japanese] market felt is a good idea. It’s a good starting point for discussions for other potential partners,” Bourke said.