This was my first visit to the Interceltique festival in Lorient to participate in the Interceltic Business Forum led by Charles Kergaravat the founder of Breizh Amerika, a diaspora network for Bretons. The festival has been running for 50 years and attracts some 700,000 visitors to the modest town coastal (not sure calling the 4th city of Brittany “modest” will please everyone, especially if you are trying to sell them something, how about “vibrant coastal city”) of Lorient in North West France with some 60,000 inhabitants. It is a 10 day celebration of music, culture, history and food that the Celtic nations share, and has lately developed a business stream through the Forum, now in its 3rd year. Brittany, Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall, and Wales were represented, including Niall Burgess the Irish Ambassador to France, Mark Drakeford the First Minister of Wales, Jean-Yves Le Drian a former major of Lorient and Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Fabrice Loher the Mayor of Lorient and Président de Lorient Agglomération, and Allan Mulrooney CEO of Ireland Western Development Commission.
The global pandemic, Brexit, war in Ukraine, Economic nationalism and protectionism, and isolation of China has made international trade an investment particularly difficult to navigate for national governments in Europe. In order to thrive, business needs stability, access to networks, trust and confidence in leadership, connectivity and infrastructure, and some shared ambitions. What delighted me about this conference was the openness and enthusiasm for commercial co-operation between the celtique nations built on years of cultural and civic exchanges.
All of the participants define their identity and values differently from their nation states and in many cases have more in common with other Celtic nations. This is equally true in their economic challenges and priorities which include reversal of depopulation trends, remote working, investment in digital and physical infrastructure, focus on sustainable industries (wind, tidal, biomass and renewables), coastal and maritime heritage and adjacent industries- fishing, boatbuilding, aquaculture and tourism, and creative industries.
The presentations and panel discussions showcasing the ambitions around the Lorient Composite Valley with a focus on marine technology, and offshore wind resonated with many of the participants and align with OCO recent work in establishing trade corridors between regions and centres of excellence with shared ambitions such as Belfast Baltimore Cyber corridor, and could connect with other similar composites centres like Maine (US) or NE Scotland.
I would like to thank Charles and the organising committee for their leadership and vision and look forward to participating in future forums including the Winter 2024 event in the West of Ireland hosted by Western Development Commission.
OCO Global supports companies with expansion into new markets and we welcome the chance to support individual companies, regional delegations and clusters from the Celtic regions to navigate new markets and expand their horizons and business ambitions. Contact Laurent Sansoucy in France, Killian Cawley in Ireland or Colin McCullagh in UK. Get in touch HERE