Sustainability through Innovation in the Gateway of the EU. CIBER Visit to Ireland 2024.

FIU CIBER and LMU CIBER Participants at the University of Galway in Ireland
By Karen Paul, Professor, Department of International Business

Professors came from more than a dozen universities, including those in marketing, accounting, organizational psychology and international business. It was a faculty development trip sponsored by FIU’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), housed at FIU Business, and Loyola Marymount University’s CIBER.

Themed “Sustainability through Innovation in the Gateway of the EU,” in May 2024 we visited the University of Galway and Trinity University in Ireland, and Queen’s University in Northern Ireland. A panel in Galway featured Aerogen, Enterprise Ireland, Industrial Development Authority and the American Chamber of Commerce.

During the seven-day trip, our group visited Accenture consulting firm, Medtronics, Signify Health (owned by CVS) and Guinness, a brewery which predates the nation of Ireland. The faculty development trip included stops in Dublin on Ireland’s East Coast, Galway on Ireland’s West Coast, the small historic village of Athlone in rural Ireland and Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Ireland occupies a particularly strategic position in the European economy. Northern Ireland is still a part of Great Britain, and consequently left the European Union in 2020 (“Brexit”), while Ireland remains a part of the European Union (EU). Physical movement of persons driving between the two generally involves no formalities at all, although crossing the border by plane or ship does.

Since our faculty group was traveling in a tour bus, we were told to bring our passports because theoretically they could be checked, but we simply observed a change in the color of road striping which was the only indication of changing countries.

In recent years, Ireland has attracted a large number of international companies who regard it as a bridge between the EU and Great Britain. We noted a cluster of high-tech companies around Dublin and a cluster of pharmaceutical firms around Galway. The CIBER program included the entrepreneur who founded Aerogen, a company that focuses on medical devices like those used in respirators. One innovative technology delivers drugs to intubated patients, including high-risk premature infants, using a vibrating mesh that runs at a speed of over 100,000 vibrations per second to obtain the tiniest particles of drugs delivered to the lung tissue. From a business perspective, he emphasized the importance of maintaining control of the brand rather than allowing it to be absorbed by a larger, more established company.

Medtronics Lab, Galway, Ireland
Medtronics Lab, Galway, Ireland

A visit to Accenture showed us the newest trends in knowledge innovation, both in technology developments and in the human-technology interface. Particularly interesting was the whole section devoted to behavioral scientists who were assessing the ethical and even human rights issues that might result from new technologies.

“Sustainability through Innovation in the Gateway of the EU” was the theme of the trip. Sustainability was observed everywhere, from the hotels that provided “bottled water” in biodegradable paper containers rather than plastic, to the companies we visited that minimized paper and emphasized multiuse offices and flexible workspaces. Accenture had open offices, but also had spaces that resembled old-fashioned telephone booths, where a worker could park a computer, close the door and have a quiet space for just the time needed.

Karen Paul at University of Belfast
Karen Paul at University of Belfast

Sustainability also involves the re-use of existing materials and the upgrading of skills for workers far from high tech centers. One professor at the University of Belfast is working with maize farmers in Uganda to help them upgrade their produce to products that can bring more value to the farmers themselves rather than what they get by just selling the raw maize - think bags of popcorn snacks rather than bushels of raw corn.

Tools for Solidarity is a nonprofit organization based in Belfast that collects sewing machines now considered obsolete in Great Britain (like the old Singer treadle machines you see in antique shops in the U.S.), restores them, and sends them to Africa, mainly Tanzania, to enable entrepreneurship of women who can work from their homes and grow family incomes.

Irish Countryside
Irish Countryside

The CIBER trip included sightseeing. On the West Coast, we experienced the famous Cliffs of Moher. In Dublin, we saw the 1200-year-old manuscript, the Book of Kells. In Belfast, we toured neighborhoods where “the Troubles” raged between Catholic and Protestant areas until the 1990s, when peace was negotiated between warring factions. Participants on the trip found an amazing variety of other “extracurricular” activities. One person went to a game of Gaelic football, derived from a traditional game now called “ancient mob football,” or, in Gaelic, “Caid.” Another visited the EPIC museum, which documents the Irish diaspora around the world and the history of Ireland. Genealogists are available there to help trace your family’s history if you have Irish ancestors, but that requires a special appointment.

Cliffs of Moher
Cliffs of Moher

Ireland is a fascinating country, serving as an economic and technological bridge between Great Britain and the European Union. Northern Ireland illustrates how conflict resolution can be achieved, and the positive impact it has on the economy.

The connections made on this trip are already enabling U.S. and Irish business school professors to collaborate in teaching and research and giving participants deeper understanding of the unique position of Ireland in Europe and in the world economy.

Driven by its mission of bringing business and cultural awareness to U.S. educators, FIU’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) sponsored its first trip to Ireland in 2024.

Sumit Kundu, James K. Batten Eminent Scholar Chair in International Business and associate dean for CIBER and international affairs at FIU Business, led the Faculty Development in International Business trip.

The program, sponsored by FIU’s CIBER and Loyola Marymount University CIBER, was geared toward teaching American academics about Ireland so they could bring experiences back to their students and colleagues, as well as launch research projects.