Enterprise Ireland Outlines Performance & Priorities

12th January 2021

Posted In: Entrepreneurship

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, TD, and Enterprise Ireland today announced that total employment in Enterprise Ireland supported companies was 220,613 at the end of 2020.

Job creation closely matched the performance in 2019, with 16,496 new jobs created in Enterprise Ireland backed companies last year.  However, job losses increased to 17,368 which resulted in net job losses of 872.

Enterprise Ireland client companies in some sectors saw significant growth in 2020, including Life Sciences (6.8% employment growth), Cleantech (6% employment growth) and Construction (4.7% employment growth), while some saw overall job losses, for example clients in the food sector (-1.5%). It is important to note that there has been significant disruption to all workers throughout the year.

€124m in Covid-19 funding under the Sustaining Enterprise Fund helped sustain 418 companies and 17,710 jobs across the country.

In total, €142m in funding was provided to 1,919 companies under a range of Covid-19 funding initiatives introduced in response to the pandemic, including €11.8m under the Online Retail Scheme.  There was also €8.2m approved under the Enterprise Centres Fund. In addition, 8,650 companies were supported through Enterprise Ireland’s Covid-19 information hub, online support and helpline.

Speaking at the launch of the report today Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, TD, said: “We all know the remarkable challenges that Irish businesses faced in 2020. Our priority throughout the pandemic has been to sustain as many jobs as possible and to help businesses adapt their company to a radically different trading environment.  Enterprise Ireland played a critical role in delivering on these priorities in 2020. I know many businesses across the country really relied on their local enterprise office for advice, training and financial help during these difficult few months.

“We know that some sectors were more seriously affected than others. Among Enterprise Ireland client companies we can see that there has actually been significant employment growth among their clients in some areas such as Life Sciences, Cleantech and Construction, although I know that those sectors, especially construction, have also seen very serious disruption over the past year too. Workers in most areas have paid a price to protect public health and limit the spread of the virus over the past year.

“The good news is that we now have vaccines, which will, over the course of the year allow us to reduce restrictions and get those sectors back on their feet. We will also continue to invest in research and innovation to ensure our economy is prepared for the jobs of the future and to capitalise on new technology and opportunities as they arise.

According to Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon: “2020 was a very challenging year for Irish enterprise due to the dual threats of Covid-19 and Brexit. Our client companies, which employ over 220,000 people, showed resilience and sustained their businesses and jobs throughout the pandemic.

“Following the introduction of new liquidity measures from Government in April and in the July Jobs Stimulus, our priority was to help Irish companies to survive and sustain jobs.  This was achieved through a range of initiatives, the most important of which was the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, under which we approved €124m to ensure that viable companies could access the funding they needed to reset and recover from the impact of Covid-19.”

Enterprise Ireland also continued its focus on assisting Irish businesses to prepare for Brexit in 2020 and approved €7.6m to support 1,000 customs roles to help Irish exporters to the UK to strengthen their capability to comply with new customs rules arising from Brexit.

According to the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, TD: “Enterprise Ireland has been to the forefront in helping businesses get prepared for new customs arrangements and changes to their supply chain in light of the UK’s departure from the European Union. Diversifying export markets will be really important over the coming period and I know Enterprise Ireland will continue to help businesses seek out new markets for their products over the coming months.”

Julie Sinnamon said: “The trade agreement reached on Christmas Eve provides certainty for exporters. Our plan now is to help exporters to the UK in three main areas; helping businesses who haven’t yet put in place people and processes to handle new customs procedures for exporting to the UK to do so; ensuring exporters remain competitive in the UK by engaging with their supply chain and customers; and helping them identify new opportunities for growth both in the UK market, and also in Europe and beyond.”


Enterprise Ireland also announced its new strategic priorities for 2021 which has set out ambitions to sustain and increase employment to 222,000, support a recovery in exports, with a continued focus on market diversification, in particular to the Eurozone, and to increase the level of R&D investment by Irish companies to €1.25bn.

Julie Sinnamon said the new plan is based on three core pillars:

•Strengthening Irish enterprise to respond to Covid-19 and Brexit

•Driving transformational change, through accelerating the pace of innovation, digitalisation and the transition to a low carbon economy;

•Scaling and growing the export and start-up base, across regions, sectors and companies of all sizes.

She added: “Last year underlined the importance of efficiency, agility and innovation in business.  In 2021 we will support transformational change within our client base and, in particular, help more Irish SMEs to adapt their business models and invest in R&D, increase adoption of digital technologies, and respond to climate change and carbon reduction opportunities for future business growth.

“Another priority area for 2021 is to maximise the number of start-up companies, increase the number of high growth clients achieving scale and expand the number of exporting companies.

Having strong, innovative, regionally based exporting companies is vital to balanced economic development and sustaining and creating high value jobs into the future.  2021 will be a critical year for Irish enterprise and we will work closely with Irish businesses to help them accelerate the recovery”.

The Enterprise Ireland End of Year Statement 2020 report is available here.

Enterprise Ireland’s Strategic Priorities 2021 is available here.