Google has launched its Staying Ahead Digital Roadshow, the first in a series of events held in partnership with Enterprise Ireland which aims to upskill and educate Irish SMEs in reaching new customers, expanding their businesses, and future-proofing their operations for a digital world.

The first event took place in Limerick yesterday and was attended by over 150 people from SMEs across the midwest region. Speakers at the event included Minister Pat Breen, Minister of State for Trade, Business and EU Digital Single Market, Jonathan McMillan of the Enterprise Ireland Brexit Unit and Caroline Dunlea, CEO of Shannon company, Core Optimisation.

The Staying Ahead Digital Roadshow takes its cue from the ‘Digital Garage’ breakfast briefings which run regularly in The Foundry, Google’s innovation centre in Dublin. The series of events will involve talks and workshops on the various Google tools that can help Irish SMEs find and understand new clients overseas, followed by one-to-one sessions with key Google executives.

Speaking at the event, Minister Pat Breen said, “I warmly welcome Google to Limerick for the first of its “Staying Ahead” digital garage workshops outside Dublin. The Digital Economy is an increasingly important driver of economic growth and it critical that SMEs are positioned to participate. I am confident that “Staying Ahead” will give participants valuable insights that will increase their ability to respond to the opportunities that digitalisation brings.”

Fionnuala Meehan, Head of Google Ireland, said: “The midwest region has a strong tradition of innovation which we see every day, working directly with SMEs from the region to help them break into new markets and reach new customers.  With only 17% of Irish businesses selling across borders online, we see huge opportunities for Irish SMEs, including companies in Limerick, Clare and the midwest, to be innovative in the digital marketplace and to become exporters of goods and services”.

Fionnuala Meehan added: “That every month innovative businesses from all parts of Ireland visit Dublin to learn from Google experts – so the company decided to bring its knowledge, expertise and tools on a ‘roadshow’ across Ireland in order to help more companies maximise digital and to stay ahead. “I’m proud to launch the first of these events in Limerick today; we will visit Cork in October, and we look forward to taking the tour to other regional centres in the months ahead”.

The Staying Ahead Digital Roadshow is part of a dedicated programme which has seen Google provide training in digital skills to over 60,000 businesses and individuals across Ireland.  Google is now partnering with Enterprise Ireland and Local Enterprise Offices to bring their Digital Garage to a number of regional locations over the coming months. With over 90% of jobs requiring digital literacy in the near future and small companies growing twice faster when they have a strong web presence, it is crucial that both employers and employees keep up to date with the opportunities presented by online technology.

Jonathan McMillan, Manager of the Enterprise Ireland Brexit Unit, commented, “As uncertainty around outcomes of the Brexit negotiations continues, Enterprise Ireland is focused on supporting companies in taking the necessary steps to reduce risk and ensure they are more innovative and competitive, and to diversify into new markets. Companies with global ambition need to invest in researching international markets. Acquiring valuable intelligence on new customers, channels, competitors, sectors and markets is critical for any company that aims to grow internationally. We are delighted to partner with Google at this event today which is helping Irish SMEs develop the digital skills to more effectively research and target international sales”.

At the launch, Marie Davis, Head of Google Marketing Solutions, introduced attendees to Google’s suite of tools to help their businesses: “The aim of these events is to help SMEs tell their story online in an effective way, to market to new and existing clients, and maintain and grow relationships effectively through digital. At Google we have many different tools and techniques to do this, for example through our recently-launched Market Finder software, which can help any business find out vital information about any market and help them make the best decision about trading with clients in that marketplace. We are eager to meet Irish businesses and SMEs to help make sense of all of the options we can provide and ensure each business gets the most out of what we can offer.”

Caroline Dunlea, CEO of Core Optimisation, a digital marketing agency based in Shannon Co. Clare, added, “Since becoming a Google Premium Partner in 2016 we have significantly grown our client base and seen our revenue grow by 170%. We represent a wide array of clients – both large and small, local and international – and by working closely with Google’s teams we ensure they receive exceptional results and a greatly increased return on investment from their marketing budget. Leveraging the power of Google’s suite of tools and industry expertise is today an essential component of any online marketing strategy and delivers definitive, tangible results, even – and often especially – for the smallest of businesses.”

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