Enterprise Ireland (EI) and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are the primary providers of supports to assist enterprises within the indigenous sector that are facing challenges arising from Brexit. They are working vigorously to enable companies to consolidate market share within the UK and also to become more resilient by broadening their sales to other international markets.
The six LEOs in the Border region are also working together with their Northern Ireland counterparts under the EU Co-Innovate Programme.
I am conscious that further efforts are needed to ensure that companies in the Border Region are resilient to economic shocks, such as Brexit. To this end, I am committed to ensuring that Enterprise Ireland and the LEOs will continue to work with companies from the region to drive their innovation, competitiveness, internationalisation and Brexit preparedness.
My Department provided additional capital funding in 2017 to enable EI and the LEOs to ramp up its supports in light of Brexit to drive improvements in:
- management capability and leadership skills,
and really driving the ambition of managers to look to other markets around the world.
My Department has been working with the Department of Finance, Enterprise Ireland (EI) and Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and others to develop potential supports to respond to the needs of businesses impacted by Brexit. The Brexit Loan Scheme, announced during Budget 2018, will provide affordable working capital financing to eligible Irish businesses that are either currently impacted by Brexit, or which will be in the future. The Scheme will be delivered by the SBCI through commercial lenders to get much needed working capital into Irish businesses.
In 2017 my Department provided for an increased current expenditure pay provision of €1.7m to enable EI recruit 39 Brexit specific posts to work at home and across the globe in EI’s 33 offices abroad. My Department provided EI with a further €1.3 million in Budget 2018 to recruit approximately 18 additional staff.
Specific programmes introduced during 2017 have included;
- A ‘Prepare for Brexit’ online portal and communications campaign.
- An enhanced programme of trade and investment missions and other trade promotional events.
- An online ‘Brexit SME Scorecard’ to help all Irish businesses self-assess their exposure to Brexit. The Scorecard generates a report on weak areas and suggests some initial next steps. 1,909 companies had used the Scorecard by mid-December of 2017.
- A new Eurozone Strategy to increase exports to Eurozone countries by 50% by 2020. This strategy aims to support companies to broaden their export footprint beyond the UK, and thereby improve economic resilience.
- A new €5k “Be Prepared Grant” that supports the costs of SME clients in preparing a plan to mitigate risks and optimise opportunities arising from Brexit.
- EI is hosting “Prepare for Brexit” breakfast roadshows nationally to engage with companies.
- Three new strategic communications campaigns launched to target separate elements of Brexit preparedness. ‘Global Ambition’ is aimed at encouraging companies to export; ‘PrepareforBrexit’ highlights actions required by companies to improve resilience; and a new ‘Irish Advantage’ campaign will target Eurozone buyers to buy Irish innovation in key Brexit impacted sectors.
This Brexit focus has continued into the 2018 plan. In recent weeks, EI launched its new Market Discovery Fund to help more Irish companies accelerate their market diversification efforts.
InterTrade Ireland also has a programme of initiatives to increase the awareness and capacity of companies to deal with the practical consequences of Brexit for cross-border trade. The north east/north west Regional Action Plan will also boost enterprise and job creation across the border regions.
In summary, I am committed to support the agencies under my remit to continue to respond to the needs of companies affected by Brexit to protect jobs and build resilience across the country.