A Focus on SMEs

12th July 2019

Posted In: FYI

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, TD, Heather Humphreys, TD, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and Pat Breen, TD, Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market, and Data Protection today {12th July} announced that the Government is developing a major new policy on SMEs and entrepreneurship under Future Jobs Ireland.

They made the announcement as they hosted a conference to discuss a draft roadmap for SME and entrepreneurship policy, which was prepared by the OECD for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. The draft was informed by extensive consultation and is the precursor to a wider review by the OECD.

The review, which will be published in October, will provide comprehensive analysis and recommendations to the Government to inform the development of the new policy. It will include comparisons with international best practice.

The conference brought together SMEs, policy makers, programme providers and international experts to look at a range of policy interventions in the area. Conversations had a particular focus on improving productivity among indigenous SMEs, a cornerstone of Future Jobs Ireland.

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said: “Seventy per cent of people at work in Ireland, work for an SME. Small and medium enterprises are the backbone of our local communities, providing jobs and prosperity across the country. Through Future Jobs, the Government wants to nurture entrepreneurship and do what we can to assist small businesses and help them adapt to the needs of the future.

Every generation needs to shake up its enterprise and jobs model, otherwise it falls backwards.   We need to change the way we work. Today we are focussing on how we can improve productivity. This includes doing things like encouraging more female entrepreneurship, targeted assistance for companies which need it through the Future Growth Loan Scheme and introducing an Operational Excellence programme to drive company transformation.

Employment is now at its highest ever level; with 2.3 million people at work and the lowest unemployment rate in 14 years. Through Future Jobs, we are focussing on the quality of those jobs, to ensure we all have better living standards. I want Ireland to be a country that works to live, not lives to work.”

Minister Humphreys  took the opportunity to announce two new funds worth a combined €3 million, which will enhance the productivity of firms in every region. Both funds will be operated through the network of Local Enterprise Offices, which means that they will reach the country’s smallest indigenous businesses.

The first is the €2.5m Competitive Fund. The LEOs will compete for this on behalf of their clients, whether individually or through collaborating with other LEOs. Projects should focus on the priority areas identified in Future Jobs Ireland, and the Regional Enterprise Plans. For example, they could look at themes like innovation, Brexit readiness or market diversification.

The second is the Productivity Challenge Fund worth €500,000. This is for businesses who are not currently LEO clients. The funding will be used to address productivity gaps, including through the adoption of lean business practices. It will also incorporate business opportunities in the green economy.