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Major New SME Policy

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Major New SME Policy

Major New SME Policy
July 15
14:44 2019

The Government is developing a major new policy on SMEs and entrepreneurship under Future Jobs Ireland, the new plan to prepare the economy, businesses and workers for the future. A draft roadmap for SME and entrepreneurship policy has been 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.

Some of the emerging OECD recommendations include:

  • Draft an SME and entrepreneurship strategy document, which will take in entrepreneurship, start-ups and SMEs.
  • Scale up current initiatives to support SME exports, such as Trading Online Vouchers, Enterprise Ireland’s Exporter Development Department and InterTrade Ireland’s grants and funding Advisory Service.
  • Scale-up the policy focus of Local Enterprise Offices to include SMEs and incentivise them to reach out to local SMEs in their activities;
  • Establish an interdepartmental committee on SMEs and entrepreneurship;
  • Simplify the process for applying for Research and Development tax credits, to reduce the uncertainty and encourage more take-up by SMEs;
  • Encourage a wider take-up of Skillnet Ireland programmes to develop management capabilities in Irish SMEs, with a particular focus on technology skills;
  • Implement a simple online diagnostic assessment tool for micro and small enterprises by the LEOs to better match the enterprise with advisory and mentoring services;
  • Promote the role of standards to drive enterprise competitiveness. Standards development and use can enhance productivity in SMEs, facilitate supply chain linkages and international collaborations, and enhance spill-overs from multinationals to SMEs.

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.”

The Government has also announced two new funds worth a combined €3 million, designed to enhance the productivity of firms in every region. Both funds will be operated through the network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), which means that they will reach our smallest indigenous businesses.

The first is the €2.5 million 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.

Heather Humphreys, TD, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, said: “As we work to boost productivity levels in our enterprise base, these new funds, combined with existing supports, will ensure that we can reach even the smallest business in the most rural area Supporting micro-businesses right across the country will be central to our success.”

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