Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Questions (49)

Michael Colreavy

Question:

49. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the additional measures his Department will advocate to address the challenges facing businesses in Border areas. [33515/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

North South economic co-operation is and will remain a priority of mine and of the Government. InterTradeIreland, the North South Implementation Body whose remit is to promote increased cross-border trade and business development, has a wide range of programmes to assist businesses on an all-island basis. Examples of InterTradeIreland’s programmes that are having a significant impact are: Acumen, which is designed to stimulate cross-border business for small and medium enterprises in Ireland and Northern Ireland; Fusion, InterTradeIreland’s flagship three-way partnership technology transfer programme; Go-2-Tender, which provides businesses with the confidence, knowledge and skills to tender successfully for public sector contracts; and Innova, a unique cross-border collaborative Research & Development programme offering companies an opportunity to accelerate new product, process or service developments through partnering with a company in the other jurisdiction.

InterTradeIreland have adapted their offering in recent years, as a result of economic circumstances, to meet the specific needs of SME’s, North and South. Their key programmes are now focused on promoting trade and innovation activities among SME’s which it is hoped will lead to an increase in the number of firms engaging in cross-border business and exporting to the other jurisdiction, and taking innovative steps to trading themselves out of difficult operating environments. This approach has proved very successful. For example, in 2012, there were 92 First Time Innovators firms (against a target of 35) and 67 First Time Exporters firms (against a target of 50) as a direct result of these firms participating in InterTradeIreland’s programmes.

InterTradeIreland is co-funded by my Department and its counterpart in Northern Ireland, and I am glad to say that we have managed to avoid curtailing InterTradeIreland’s budget in recent years despite ongoing economic pressures. I believe that the Body’s unique all-island offering to SME’s provides specifically tailored support for SME’s that want to engage in cross-border trade.

In addition to the work of InterTradeIreland, Enterprise Ireland works closely with its counterpart organisation, Invest Northern Ireland, on a range of initiatives to benefit enterprise development in the border region. These include activities such as Bridging the Border Seminars/partnering events, which are designed to promote joint opportunities between firms, North and South, in areas such as licensing and commercial agreements, sub-contracting, technical co-operation and business partnerships. These are practical measures that can help address barriers to firms looking to trade in the other jurisdiction.

Another useful tool in assisting businesses in border areas is the INTERREG Programme. My Department has co-funded some 28 enterprise projects, to a value of €58m, under this EU Programme with the N.I. Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment over the last number of years. This funding has assisted local micro projects in the border region to get up and running, through the provision of mostly training and capacity-building. It is hoped that the next strand of the INTERREG Programme will see projects being approved that have a more economic development focus.

Increasing cross-border trade and the development of the economy in the border region will continue to be a key priority. My Department will continue to work with the enterprise agencies, including InterTradeIreland, on developing appropriate supports that encourage cross-border trade.

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 36.