Building on its existing support service for local businesses through Enterprise Europe Network (EEN), the Malta Business Bureau (MBB)* has been establishing a business-twinning model with Ireland, further expanding the pool of opportunities for local businesses to grow their operations overseas. But for its CEO, Joe Tanti, the connection with Ireland was established a while back.
“My connections with Ireland date back to the noughties, prior to my time here at the MBB when I was at the Malta Tourism Authority, primarily engaged in the areas of people development, tourism and hospitality services. Since then, I have considered Ireland as a best practice and an excellent place to network,” Mr Tanti says.
“Recently, through the MBB’s work and with the support of Professor in Entrepreneurship Thomas M Cooney, I have had the pleasure to establish a new link with the Cork entrepreneurship and business network. It made me realise there is much that Malta and Cork can do together and much that both sides have to offer and share in terms of their respective pioneering initiatives.”
Mr Tanti also sees similarities between Malta and Cork in terms of demographics and economic opportunities. “Cork is Ireland’s second-largest financial services hub. The plan for Cork as an international financial services location is progressive and ambitious.
“Malta and Cork share a similar population size and our businesses also face the same challenges that island states are faced with. Additionally, both Cork and Malta are focused on economic growth strategies.”
Cork Innovates Partnership was established in 2012, a pioneering initiative that managed to bring the best regional stakeholders together, including local government, state agencies, educational institutions, business support organisations, entrepreneurs and the extended Cork business community to engage in a collaborative and complementary manner, promoting the Cork story.
“The Partnership represents the leading agencies, business organisations and third-level institutions across Cork promoting their mantra that ‘Cork offers the right mix for success in Ireland, the best small place in the world for business’. I think we can take a page out of the Cork story book here,” he points out.
Siobhán Finn, Project Director at the Cork Innovates Partnership, agrees that the Irish city and the smallest EU country can learn a lot from each other.
“There are strong political, economic and cultural ties between Ireland and Malta that go back many years. Malta will be the only other English-speaking country left in the EU after the UK’s departure and for both of us, as island nations on the periphery of Europe, Ireland and Malta must learn from each other and work in collaboration to build strong and sustainable economics into the future.”
“Cork has a number of pre-existing twinning relationships that have been successful and have delivered economic, cultural and networking benefits,” she notes. “There are many benefits to be gained by formalising the relationship between Cork and Malta in the future, in line with the city’s approach to the establishment of twinning relationships.”
Mr Tanti explains that, following his recent visits to Cork, it seemed right to organise an outgoing company mission as part of the MBB’s Enterprise Europe Network business support service. The aim of the mission, is to create an environment that will encourage and foster new collaboration and potential business partnerships between the regions.
“Our delegation is composed of top calibre companies targeting quality sectors such as accredited training and education, IT, Artificial Intelligence (AI), FinTech, digital transformation and advisory,” Mr Tanti says.
“By showcasing what Malta has to offer and also with the exchange of best practices and sharing of knowledge, I am sure that both sides will benefit from this mission.”
Ms Finn adds that the focused Maltese delegation of businesses in the ICT sector will connect with leading cluster organisations and companies in the Cork region.
“Cybersecurity, in particular, is one of Cork’s fastest-growing sectors, with Cork home to a significant and fast-growing cluster of leading cybersecurity companies including Trend Micro, FireEye, Cylance and
Johnson Controls, in addition to an emerging indigenous base,” she remarks. “Recognised as the leading location for cybersecurity in Ireland, Cork has been selected by global investors over many other major European locations due to the strength of the ecosystem.”
In view of the upcoming business mission and looking beyond, Ms Finn believes the new flight route operated by Ryanair between Cork and Malta has created valuable opportunities to extend and build upon economic and business collaborations going forward, though not necessarily limited to the ICT sector.
“Cork has both breadth and depth across a range of high-growth sectors in addition to a number of cluster networks, including CyberIreland, Energy Cork, IT@ Cork and Taste Cork. In December, through a series of meetings over the course of two days, the Cork business community (via Enterprise Europe Network Cork and Cork City Council) will facilitate business partnering and collaboration opportunities across geographies and sectors,” she says.
She adds that the Malta company mission will empower Irish and Maltese companies to gain valuable market insights into Malta and Ireland, along with meeting new companies and creating a basis for relationships.
“It is an opportunity to promote their business in the minds of prospective buyers and partners in the Irish and Maltese markets, to learn from the experience of peers and to avail of new opportunities that support competitive advantage.”
Ms Finn continues that, once a company invests in Cork, it is provided with a range of support from IDA, Ireland’s inward investment promotion agency, on an ongoing basis. “These
include acting as a key contact for networking opportunities and connections with public bodies, Irish firms and other multinational companies.”
Mr Tanti is confident that MBB’s mission to Cork will render positive results for the Enterprise Europe Network participant businesses. A few years back, the MBB had organised an outgoing company mission to Tallinn, Estonia, which was coupled with the Design For Europe’s ‘Powering Innovation’ Summit that welcomed over 200 pioneering individuals and organisations at the forefront of design-driven innovation.
“It was a great opportunity for our delegation to gain insight into the best trends and practices on what generates success in business. Our local companies also participated in a number of tailored businessto-business meetings,” he recalls. “For one business in particular, the meetings served as inspiration when submitting a tender application, which was a success.”
*This interview appeared in the winter 2019/2020 edition of the Malta Business Bureau's bi-annual publication, Businesss Agenda