By @SimonCocking. Great interview with H.E. Michael Collins, Ambassador of Ireland to Germany

What is your background?

I have been here in Berlin as Ireland’s Ambassador to Germany for the last three years. Prior to that I spent six years as Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States. This followed a period in Ireland where I worked in our Taoiseach ‘s (Prime Minister’s) office and was responsible for matters relating to the Peace Process in Northern Ireland in addition to EU and international affairs. I have also previously served as Ireland’s Ambassador to the Czech Republic and to Saudi Arabia.

How much is tech part of your brief in Berlin? Which Irish tech companies are doing well in Berlin / Germany?

In my role as Ambassador of Ireland to Germany I am mandated to expand the bilateral trade relationship between Ireland and Germany. The relationship is already very strong, our trade is in the region of €25 billion per annum. Germany is Ireland’s second largest inward investor, fourth largest merchandise trading partner, third largest source of tourists and sixth largest market for Irish food and drink. We work very closely with the Irish State Agencies in Germany (IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Bord Bia) to expand these ties across all areas of industry, including of course in the area of technology. As you know Ireland has a very strong technology sector given the presence of all of the top technology multinationals in Ireland and the very strong indigenous ecosystem which has developed alongside the multinational sector. We see great opportunity for Irish technology companies here in Germany, particularly as German Industry embraces the Digital Agenda. Just last year for example Irish software company Cubic Telecom was awarded the contract to provide the wifi technology for all new Audis being manufactured. Berlin itself of course has also become Germany’s digital and technology hub and we see great similarities with Ireland’s digital and technology sector and opportunities for further connections between Berlin and Ireland in this area.

What sort of Irish involvement can we expect in the Dublin leg of the Re:public event?

I hope that the Re:publica Dublin event will generate lots of interest. The digital, tech and social media sector is evolving at a very fast pace and with that comes a whole set of issues and perceptions. It is great to have a forum like Re:publica where issues and possibilities are discussed and particularly this year that we can encourage dialogue between Berlin and Ireland in this space.

What trends are you excited about in tech and innovation?

Few countries have benefited from the transformative power of the Internet, socially and economically, to the extent that Ireland has. We are home to nine of the top 10 global software companies, 10 of the top global ICT companies, and the top 10 “born on the internet companies”. Because we are an island, we have long been limited by the simple facts of geography in trade, transport, energy, and access to markets. But online, we are no longer an island. The growth of online and weightless services has allowed us become a hub for a range of businesses. We have realised many of the benefits that greater connectivity brings, be it through improved access to information and learning, better access to public services, or less tangible things like the ability to speak face-to-face with loved ones across great distances. I am excited to see further developments in areas where Ireland has existing strength such as Fintech and Ag Tech, both of which have great potential for us.

What tech has been made your life easier?

My iPhone has certainly made my life easier and I can’t imagine my life without it!

What tips would you give to new companies starting out in terms of getting a foothold in a new market, Irish, German or other?

I would advise Irish companies looking at the German market or German companies looking at the Irish market to contact our State Agencies, IDA Ireland (responsible for inward investment) and Enterprise Ireland (responsible for outward investment by Irish indigenous companies) to seek further advice and assistance. Both State Agencies have a wealth of expertise and experience and can assist companies with assessing opportunities in a particular market, identifying the possible routes to market, finding distribution partners and potential customers, assessing competition, introducing you to buyers and assisting you to establish in the market.

Will you be attending the Dublin event?

No as I will be here in Berlin but I am greatly looking forward to hosting the reception the evening prior to the Dublin event in the Embassy and to meeting all those involved in Re:publica Berlin.


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