1 in 5 Irish businesses invested over €100,000 in digital technology during pandemic – Research 

Five innovative Irish firms in Virgin Media’s Backing Business Initiative successfully complete a digital transformation to help them in their future growth and development


Thursday 21st October 2021: The pandemic has put a much greater emphasis on digital technologies and IT for Irish SMEs with research commissioned by Virgin Media and carried out by Amárach Research showing that 87% of businesses have invested in digital technologies over the past year, and 1 in 5 have already spent over €100,000, with nearly a third of businesses intending to invest that much over the next 2 years.


The research was carried out on 14th and 15th October among over 200 SMEs across the Republic of Ireland.


  • Among the companies surveyed, main areas of investment are IT hardware or infrastructure (32%), IT software and applications (31%), followed by cloud storage or services (12%) and E-commerce and marketplace technologies (12%).
  • Over a quarter (27%) of SMEs surveyed said they’re selling more online this year than last year, and this trend is expected to continue.
  • 6 in 10 of all the businesses surveyed said they expect to have even more online sales a year from now than at present.
  • 38% of businesses - who have not yet put money into their IT infrastructure - expressed a view that to do so would increase their level of online sales.


This latest research coincides with Virgin Media announcing the 5 winning applicants of their Backing Business initiative, launched earlier this year in Munster, and each of which has successful completed a digital transformation.  This is enabling them to offer greater levels of e-commerce functionality and virtual customer support.


The five winning SMEs who have benefited from the Backing Business Digital Transformation are:


  • Cork-based branded homeware company Fervor + Hue who offer an eclectic collection of select-piece furniture, soft furnishings, lighting, wall art and more. www.fervorandhue.com


  • Kerry-based company Grounded Pottery who offer hand-crafted, ceramic reusable travel cups with designs inspired by the Irish countryside. www.groundedpottery.ie


  • Limerick-based company Lucy Erridge – An artist working with watercolours to create paintings inspired by nature and wildlife. www.lucyerridgeart.ie


  • Tipperary-based food company, Rívesci who produce award-winning hand-made condiments which appear on menus in cafés and bistros around the country. www.rivesci.ie


  • Waterford-based company, Dust + Rock, founded by Susan Furniss Radley, designer of the ‘Wrist Pocket’, a unique take on an everyday purse with added functionality and peace of mind due to its really clever design. www.dustandrock.com


The five selected businesses received a total of €100,000 in support and have benefitted greatly from the expertise and insights of each of the Virgin Media ‘Backing Business’ partners including Digital Business Ireland, Milk Bottle Labs, Permanent TSB and their Local Enterprise Office.

Virgin Media and its partners will continue to mentor and support each of these businesses as they continue on their journey to offer the best digital e-commerce platforms and solutions for their customers.


Speaking on today’s announcement Robert Troy TD, Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation said: “The last 18 months have been challenging for many of us, especially Ireland’s SMEs. Many have had to adapt and pivot their business models to address the ever-evolving needs of their customers during the pandemic. I’m delighted to see the transformative journey each of these five businesses have been on so far and wish them every success into the future.


“Digital transformation will be a key part of our post-pandemic recovery. Indeed, the next decade will see a number of profound changes in our economy and society, but we know that adopting new technology can be daunting for enterprises. That is why one of my key priorities is to make digital transition as accessible as possible to Irish SMEs - to continue to facilitate digital adoption and to make technology more readily available to SMEs.


“Along with the continued rollout of the Trading Online Voucher Scheme and increased funding for digital transformation, we will be establishing a number of European Digital Innovation Hubs to assist SMEs on their digital journey as well as developing further awareness and training programmes to encourage enterprises of every size to think digital first.”

Secretary General of Digital Business Ireland, Lorraine Higgins said: 
“Empowering businesses to build and enhance their digital capabilities forms the core of our work at DBI, and we are proud to have proposed a campaign that values this. Through this initiative, five small businesses have elevated their e-commerce offering and expanded their online trading platforms - allowing them to reach new customers across global markets. 

“From the outset, each of the selected businesses displayed true entrepreneurial spirit and we wish them the very best as they begin their digital journeys."


Aidan D’Arcy, Director of Virgin Media Business said: “More than ever, a strong online presence and ability to trade is critical to ensuring your business can thrive in today’s world. Proper e-commerce functionality can help position your business on a global stage and, having just completed their own digital transformation, thanks to Virgin Media’s Backing Business initiative, these 5 businesses are now showcasing what can be achieved. We’ll continue to support these fantastic Irish SMEs on their journeys, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.”

 Matthews, founder of Milk Bottle Labs said: “As Ireland's premier Shopify Experts it's been a pleasure to deliver a best-in-class e-commerce store for these worthy winners. By building a solid online foundation for these ambitious businesses, Milk Bottle Labs are ensuring access to international markets and successful future sales online. We look forward to watching the winners grow and experience continued success on the Shopify platform for many years to come.”

Padraic McElwee, chair of the network of Local Enterprise Offices
, said: “Going online has become a necessity for many small businesses over the past 18 months.  We saw a 950% increase in our Trading Online Voucher scheme in 2020 as the Local Enterprise Offices helped over 13,000 businesses open their virtual doors when their physical doors had to shut.  The focus now is very much on enabling these small businesses to maximise this opportunity through specialised training and mentoring and this initiative was a great way to bring 5 businesses through the process where they can now see the benefits of starting their digitalisation journey.” 


Mags Brennan, Head of Business Banking at Permanent TSB said: “Although it has been a challenging 18 months, Irish businesses have really demonstrated their resilience, with many accelerating their shift to online channels. We are proud to have funded Backing Business, supporting Fervor+Hue, Grounded Pottery, Lucy Erridge, Rívesci and Dust+Rock to transform digitally and operate more efficiently and effectively. We look forward to seeing their continued growth in the ever-changing business market in Ireland.”