Today (12 July), the Irish government announced the development of a major new SME policy as part of Future Jobs Ireland from the Aviva Stadium in Dublin .
An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD; Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, TD; and Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market, and Data Protection, Pat Breen, TD were present at the announcement.
The announcement was made at a conference which was held to discuss a draft roadmap for SME and entrepreneurship policy, which was prepared with extensive consultation by the OECD for the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.
Aside from the TDs in attendance, the conference also hosted SMEs, policy makers, programme providers and international experts to look at a range of policy interventions in the area. Discussions at the conference had a focus on improving productivity among indigenous SMEs, which is a cornerstone of Future Jobs Ireland.
Speakers at the SME conference included Claudia Dorr-Voss, State Secretary from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, and Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen, Deputy Secretary General of the OECD.
Minister Humphrey’s announced two new funds worth a combined €3m, which will be used to enhance the productivity of firms in every region. Both of these funds will be operated through the network of Local Enterprise Offices, making them accessible to small indigenous businesses across the country.
The first of these two funds is worth €2.5m, and is the Competitive Fund. LEOs will compete for this on behalf of their clients, whether individually or through collaborating with other LEOs. There have been priority areas in Future Jobs Ireland that have been identified, where these projects should place a focus.
The second fund is worth €500,000 and it is called the Productivity Challenge Fund. This is for businesses who are not LEO clients. This funding will address productivity gaps, including through the adoption of lean business practices. It will also incorporate business opportunities in the green economy.
Upon announcing the fund, Minister Humphreys 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.”
At the event, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar said: “70pc 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.”
The OECD’s draft roadmap which was also released made a number of recommendations. Among them was the establishment of an interdepartmental committee on SMEs and entrepreneurship, and the simplification of the process for applying for Research and Development tax credits to reduce uncertainty and encourage more take-up by SMEs.
The OECD also suggested the promotion of the role of standards to drive enterprise competitiveness, and the encouragement of a wider take-up of Skillnet Ireland programmes to develop management capabilities in Irish SMEs, with a particular focus on technology skills.
You can read the entire list of recommendations here.
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