The Business Environment for Small and Medium Enterprises in Ireland

Ireland is quickly becoming a hot destination for business oriented expats, and it’s a small wonder why. 

Following an economic crisis in the late 2000s, the country has bounced back in a big way. Their economic growth rate and recovery rates from the financial crisis are some of the highest of OECD countries, with higher average income and lower income equality than the averages for other countries in the intergovernmental organization. The business environment for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Ireland has, in turn, grown as well, making doing business in Ireland an attractive prospect.

Innovative Business Environment for SMEs in Ireland

With over 40% of all Irish SMEs angling to combine process innovation with organizational innovation strategies, the country has the most innovative SMEs in the OECD group and, in several cases, even outperforms the EU. The country is categorized as a “strong innovator” when compared to other EU countries, and a lot of this is thanks to how easy it is doing business in Ireland. 

The country ranked 23 on a worldwide ranking conducted by the World Bank. In terms of starting a business, paying taxes, and protecting minority investors, Ireland ranked particularly well. These rankings are important for all businesses, granted, but favorable regulatory business environments are particularly good for small businesses with fewer resources to deal with red tape. 

Population Growth in Ireland

Ireland’s population growth is nothing short of amazing. It remains the only European country with a population smaller than 170 years ago and simultaneously the only European nation with a population 78 percent greater than 60 years ago. What this indicates is a time of great population degrowth that Ireland is finally recovering from. As of 2021, the country’s population topped 5 million, putting it in line with numbers from 1851, and indicating that the country is reversing from its years of emigration and healing from its infamous famine. Compared to all other EU27 countries, Ireland enjoys the highest birth rate and the lowest death rate, according to the CSO’s 2021 studies.

Notable economists from Ireland believe that Ireland’s rapid population growth is more than a little responsible for its seemingly sudden economic windfalls. This takes the form of a larger labor force and decreased pressure to succeed based on age. The increased number of young professionals means Ireland has a large number of educated youth, and emigration is focused on the economic boon presented by this fact. 

What Cities are Best for Doing Business in Ireland

Ireland is a great place for business, offering an educated and large workforce, relatively low governmental regulations, and good trade relations with the second largest economy in the world. Cities such as Dublin, Cork, and Galway should make the top of your list.


Doing Business in Dublin

As of the beginning of 2022, ranked Dublin as the fourth best city in which to launch a startup. Notably, this puts it ahead of other cities in the British Isles that are hotbeds for startups, such as London and Manchester.

One of the biggest highlights for Dublin was its relatively low corporate tax rates which stand at just 12.5%. Passive rates are 25%, and capital gains rates are 33%. Social security rates were also favorable to businesses at 15.05%.

Finally, Dublin offers what they call a startup ecosystem. Through their local enterprise offices, new businesses can expect the training, mentoring, and strong networking events. Because the Irish state is always encouraging new businesses of all sizes, investment opportunities are also very strong. 


Doing Business in Cork

Cork was also named as a top ten city for startups. Launching a startup in Cork was also favorable due to the low corporate tax rate, passive rate, and capital gains taxes. It also features business support through its partnership with CORE and its launch of the “We are Cork ” initiative that seeks to showcase Cork as a good place for families, investments, academics, and work. 

The city features a very high young professional and student population, which is perfect for having access to bright newcomers who are looking for their first steps in the industry. 

Aside from the talented workforce, the city’s location is perfectly suited for easy connections as it is less than 3 hours from the Dublin city centre and about an hour’s flight from London. Apple, Facebook, and Eventbrite are already doing business in Ireland and have all opened branches in Cork for the small city environment and attractive business amenities. 

Cork also has a local enterprise office that offers training, mentoring, and grant services to help kickstart new businesses. 


Doing Business in Galway

In 2019, the World Bank ranked Galway as the best city in Ireland for starting a business, and not much has changed in 2022. The city scores particularly high marks for the quality of land administration and efficiency. It is the easiest city to register property in, so if you’re looking for a long term stay, Galway may be the best choice. 

Through the Local Enterprise Office, doing business in Ireland can be a breeze. New startups can expect direct financial support for micro businesses, training on how to meet the needs of your business, advisory and enterprise support and services, advice on alternative funding options, forward planning services, connections to state resources, and much more.

Galway is the smallest of the three cities but still has attractive corporate tax rates, passive rates, and capital gains rates that are present throughout Ireland. 

What Business in Ireland is Needed?

If you’re planning on moving your business to Ireland, know that the country favors new businesses that fulfill the current needs of the country. Like in any country, there is a strong demand for certain sectors. 

Construction Businesses

The value of the building industry in Ireland is rising steadily, driven by the need for housing, residential accommodation, transport infrastructure, and more. The Irish government subscribes to a National Development Plan that has invested over €100 billion in national infrastructure, so if you can start a business in either construction or importing materials, you could have a strong business in no time. Currently, the country is looking for supply in:

  • HVAC supplies like electrical, air conditioning, and lighting.
  • Iron and Steel to be used in structures.
  • Hand held tools, bolts, and nails.
  • Building bricks and blocks.
  • Aluminum, stone, steel, plaster, and glass.
  • The construction of plants and prefab buildings.

Drink and Food Exporting

Ireland has a very high market share for exporting food and beverages. Ireland exports roughly 90% of its production of food and beverage, meaning that there is no shortage of supply. 

To start a business like this, you will need to have a local branch that can work with Ireland’s locally produced goods suppliers and form trade routes to the EU and further. Irish goods are heavily promoted from Ireland, so much of the legwork for brand recognition is already done. All you have to do is find a way to move the product to hungry consumers.


Communication and Information Technology

Ireland is the world’s second largest exporter of IT, computer, and communication technology. This is why the country has attracted the attention of giants like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter. Currently, they are in need of several different specialities involved in the technology sector, including:

  • Cyber Security
  • Smart city integration
  • E-health and health care
  • Software and IT Specialists
  • Financial automation services and FinTech

How a Company Moves to Ireland

Besides moving costs, there are several areas you should mark before moving your business to Ireland. Thankfully, services exist in virtually every city in the country to help you find a foothold. 

  • You will need to identify an office space if you intend to run your business from a central location, and it’s a good idea to start early, and business registration in Ireland can be a lengthy process. 
  • While not immediately important, working with Irish business consultation to identify tax incentives can save you some headaches down the road. Ireland offers plenty of business tax incentives to attract new businesses to the island. 
  • Look into grants and business funding. Again, Ireland is pulling out the stops to get new businesses involved in the country, meaning that your business likely has options for additional startup funding. 
  • Finally, registration and legal matters are important steps in your relocation. Registration is not terribly difficult, but it is one of the lengthier processes in business development in Ireland. Start early so you can dot your Is and cross your Ts. 


Ireland is an exciting place for startups and new businesses. It’s uniquely positioned as a nation in the British Isles that is still part of the EU, giving it a huge benefit for trade and access to a huge market. The Irish government knows this and, with its population boom, is now pushing hard to attract new businesses to their small island nation. If you’re looking for a new place to move your start up or your business, you could do a lot of work doing business in Ireland.