I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss the Department’s statement of strategy. I am very pleased to meet the committee members. I had met some of them previously, but it is an opportunity since my appointment as Secretary General in October 2016 and I look forward to our discussion. I would like to introduce my accompanying colleagues, all of whom are members of the management board. Ms Breda Power looks after commerce, consumer and competition, which covers many of the Department's regulatory agencies. Mr. Dermot Mulligan is the assistant secretary looking after the investment and innovation division, covering the foreign direct investment side and the science and innovation side. Mr. David Hegarty covers the strategic policy division, which encompasses the Action Plan for Jobs for the Department. The management board is relatively small. We are missing three other colleagues who are away on business at the moment. They cover Brexit, trade, workplace relations and indigenous industry.
Our previous statement of strategy, which covered the period 2016 to 2019, was only published in January 2017. However, a new statement of strategy was required, under the Public Service Management Act, following the appointment of the Minister, Deputy Humphreys. This gave us an opportunity to revisit and update our current strategy, which was published in April 2018.
The Department, with six offices and eight agencies and working closely with the local enterprise offices and InterTradeIreland, has a broad remit across a wide range of areas of responsibility. Our strategy summarises the outcomes to which we aspire and actions we hope to deliver under a number of broad goals. I have appended to my statement a list of the offices and agencies of the Department.
Our job is to support the Minister, Government, Parliament and the many stakeholders we represent, both nationally and internationally. I tend to think the work of the Department can be understood as comprising three main areas: enterprise, regulation and workplace relations. That is pretty much everything that impacts on companies in Ireland and working abroad. We also have a significant international role, particularly regarding trade.
The work of the Department is structured across six divisions: indigenous enterprise development division; innovation and investment division; EU affairs, trade policy and licensing division; commerce, consumer and competition division; workplace regulation and economic migration division; and strategic policy division. Each division is led by an assistant secretary and we meet weekly as a management board to oversee and monitor our progress.
The statement of strategy sets out seven goals. I can summarise them as: facilitating our indigenous enterprises to grow, innovate and deepen export opportunities across all regions of the country and internationally; ensuring that we maintain a pipeline of foreign direct investment with particular emphasis on securing investment across all regions of the country; working with colleagues across all Departments to improve the competitiveness and productivity of the economy; promoting innovation and growth through investment in research and development; ensuring that our regulation facilitates business investment and development, competition in the marketplace, high standards of consumer protection and corporate governance; and safeguarding workers’ rights and facilitating a positive industrial relations environment, with well-functioning dispute-resolution mechanisms.
Our strategy aims to ensure that we build on the very strong progress achieved in recent years and sets a vision of making Ireland the best place to succeed in business, delivering sustainable full employment and higher standards of living across all regions of the country.
We acknowledge the increasing complexity in the global economic environment in which the Department, its offices and agencies operate and the international challenges that face us. Economic uncertainty remains high and we have placed a heightened emphasis on ensuring that Ireland’s interests are strongly represented and robustly defended in international forums. It is also vital that we work to ensure that enterprise policy and other relevant policy areas, many of which fall in the remit of other Departments, are oriented towards achieving a strong and innovative enterprise sector, sustaining competitiveness and promoting our resilience in the face of challenge.
The decision of the UK to leave the EU and the related global trade uncertainty present immediate and significant challenges for Irish business and for all aspects of the Department’s remit. On this we work closely with colleagues in the EU and the World Trade Organization. The UK’s exit from the EU will have short, medium and long-term implications across a range of policy areas. It represents a particular risk to some of our enterprise sectors. In many cases, these sectors are particularly labour-intensive, have lower profit margins and have a strong regional footprint. Agriculture is a classic example. This will require varied responses from the Department and our offices and agencies at a policy and an operational level. Our strategy is to ensure the continued growth and resilience of enterprises post-Brexit by supporting companies to compete, innovate and diversify trade, and by working to ensure that we support Government to get the best possible outcome.
Our statement of strategy is underpinned by a number of other key strategies and frameworks. These include Enterprise 2025 Renewed, which we revisited and renewed this year in light of global challenges; our annual Action Plan for Jobs, which was recently adopted by Government; and Innovation 2020, which outlines how we plan to move towards Ireland becoming a global innovation leader, driving a strong, sustainable, high-employment economy and a better society.
As I said earlier, many of our policies are dependent on working closely with colleagues in other Departments. Some of the policy issues that particularly impact on the enterprise agenda, for example, tax, finance, skills, infrastructure, energy and climate change, are the responsibility of other Departments. We work in an outward-focused way and we work hard on ensuring a collaborative relationship and ongoing engagement with all stakeholders at EU level and nationally here at home, helping us to deliver on our goals.
Our new statement of strategy reflects that a small number of functions have transferred from our Department to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, mainly in the areas of employment rights policy and related legislation, with effect from 1 September 2017. It also reflects that we have now taken over responsibility and leadership for co-ordinating the digital Single Market strategy from the Department of the Taoiseach.
Throughout the statement of strategy, we have identified clear outcomes and we are committed to working collaboratively with others to achieve those outcomes. Our annual business plans in the coming years are very much focused on the commitments we have outlined. As a management board, we work collectively to monitor and review that statement of strategy.
I have been in the Department for just 18 months. I am very proud of the team that I lead. I have worked in six different Departments in my time. I am very confident the committed and talented team we have, working with all our colleagues in the offices and agencies, will ensure that we deliver on the ambitious goals set out in the strategy.