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Legal framework is crucial part of location search for enterprise
Pic: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

22 Jun 2021 / business Print

Legal framework crucial in enterprise location search

Data regulation is a key driver in selecting a business location, according to a new global survey published by William Fry. Ireland’s data privacy regulatory regime is held in very high regard internationally, with 89% citing the climate as good to excellent.

Locations for data-related investments in the EU are heavily swayed by the data-related regulatory regime, the survey finds.

The findings build on a 2016 William Fry report, which listed tax as the first and key factor, but which has now slipped to eighth position.

Legal framework remains static, in third place. 

US companies are significantly more likely than European firms to attach high importance to it in making such decisions. 

Ease of business

Ease of doing business has moved down from two to ten as a weighing-up factor.

The current priorities are:

  • Data regulation,
  • Access to talent,
  • The legal framework of the jurisdiction,
  • Language and culture,
  • Political stability, and,
  • Regulatory track record.

While these drivers were important factors in 2016, they have now become the top considerations.

Access to talent (which along with technology and tax are key factors for companies choosing Ireland as an EU location) ranked highly in 2016.

Talent is now an even more important consideration for investment and expansion, according to the William Fry report.

Tax rate

The tax rate remains exceptionally important, though developments, such as the UK’s exit from the EU and the COVID-19 global pandemic, impacted its immediate importance as a location driver.

Culture and language have risen significantly in the rankings, up from 12th to fourth place since 2016. 

European and US headquartered firms place a considerably higher emphasis on language than their Asian counterparts.

William Fry’s Global Trends in Technology & Data report is based on insights from over 300 c-suite executives from leading companies around the world.

Ireland is the sixth-best country globally to invest in, and second-best on a per-capita basis, behind the US, Canada, UK, Australia and Germany.

On a per-capita basis, it is in second place behind the US, but ahead of Canada, Australia and the UK.

In first place on per-capita basis

In Western Europe, Ireland is in third place overall, behind the UK and Germany, and in first spot on a per-capita basis.

One-third of multinationals in Ireland have had operations in the country for over 20 years.

Ireland has been chosen as the base for EU HQs or significant operations by:

  • Nine of the top ten US technology companies,
  • All of the world’s top ten pharmaceutical companies,
  • The top five global software companies,
  • 14 of the top 15 medical technology companies,
  • Eight of the top ten industrial automation companies, and
  • Eight of the top ten financial services companies.

These companies have chosen Ireland for a variety of reasons, including its young and highly-educated workforce, its competitive tax regime, the stable political climate and strong pro-business environment.

Ireland is also in a unique position as one of only two remaining common law jurisdictions within the EU and Eurozone, and has a beneficial geographic location between time zones in the US, Europe and the Far East, the William Fry survey says.

Data-related regulation saw Ireland rated as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ by 92% of participants.

Ireland’s legal regime received ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ ratings from 97% of respondents.

Language and culture

Ratings for language and culture (93%) and political and regulatory stability (90%) scored very highly.

When asked how likely it is that their company will be making significant or further data-related investments in Ireland in the next 18 months, 62% of global c-suite executives said it was ‘likely’, with an additional 31% indicating that it was ‘possible’.

David Cullen, partner and head of William Fry’s Technology Department, noted that: “Comparing this report with our 2016 study, Europe for Big Data, is fascinating.

"Data regulation has replaced tax rate (now number eight) as the top driver for location decisions.

“Talent has become even more important as a consideration whilst the importance of a jurisdiction’s legal framework remains at number three.

"There is also evidence of a significant and favourable shift in attitudes towards Ireland as a suitable location for data-related location or investment since our last report in 2016.”

Harmonisation of data protection laws

Significantly, organisations appear concerned and even confused about some aspects of the implementation of the GDPR data regime in Europe.

For example, 89% of organisations now agree that the interpretation and enforcement of privacy regulations in the EU varies significantly between member states. This suggests a demand for much greater EU-wide co-ordination is essential.

This is up from 61% in 2016 – a very significant increase.

Privacy and information security

Regardless of the business model, country of operation, size, strategy, or industry, every company can become a victim of cyberattacks.

Security of data is key to ensuring the smooth flow of business operations and to mitigate functional risks. A full 73% of organisations are increasing their investment in information security.

Strategic Technologies

Despite the challenges faced in dealing with economic uncertainty and regulatory concerns, businesses are enthusiastic about the part new and emerging technologies will play in their future success.

Artificial Intelligence 

  • Investment in infrastructure assets to facilitate artificial intelligence comes out on top for 79% of respondents.
  • 66% plan to spend on R&D and intellectual property (IP), with 53% on physical facilities.


  • 80% of companies expect significant impact on supply chain and supplier payments.
  • 74% plan to spend on technology assets, 58% on R&D and IP, with 51% on physical facilities.


  • 89% are preparing for changes to new product development,
  • 81% are planning for the impact of 5G on communications security, while
  • 79% are looking at related investment priorities.

Internet of Things

  • The key benefits of the Internet of Things were identified as improving just-in-time ordering and production processes (77%), followed by capturing real-time customer feedback (65%).

David Cullen concluded: “Whilst our 2016 study found that companies across all industries have become data organisations, our latest report suggests that we are truly part of a data culture – adopting fast-evolving radical new technologies that reflect the changing ways in which we now work and live our lives.

"In today’s world, smart data analysis is, more than ever before, a key differentiator for businesses."

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland