Regional Action Plan for Jobs

Questions (45)

Hildegarde Naughton

Question:

45. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the progress that has been made in Galway city and county under the regional action plan for jobs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16187/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Since becoming Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I have made jobs and enterprise in the regions my top priority.

The Regional Action Plan for Jobs initiative is a central pillar of the Government’s ambition to create 200,000 new jobs by 2020, 135,000 of which are outside of Dublin. A key objective of each of the 8 regional plans is to have a further 10 to 15 per cent at work in each region by 2020, with the unemployment rate of each region not more than one percentage point greater than the national average.

The West Regional Action Plan for Jobs has been a key policy response for supporting employment growth across Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, with public and private stakeholders currently engaged in driving the range of innovative and practical actions set out in the Plan. 

The West Action Plan for Jobs has been embraced within the region and the efforts by stakeholders and businesses in the region are paying off: 15,500 more people are in employment in the West from Q1 2015 to Q2 2017, representing significant progress towards the 25,000 target for 2020 as set out in the plan. At the end of 2017, the unemployment rate for the West was 5.9% - below the State average of 6.1%.

Actions under the Plan that have benefitted Galway City and County include the launch of a Women’s Entrepreneurship project driven by GMIT; NUIG’s new Springboard postgrad in Tech Innovation; and the delivery of a Business Plan to develop a Film Fund for the region.

In 2017, both Enterprise Ireland and IDA reported job increases in Galway, with increases in the West at 7% and 5% respectively. The LEO in Galway supported 254 client companies in 2017, with 1,039 in employment, and recorded a net increase of 95 new jobs in micro-enterprises during the year.

To support the ambition, goals, and implementation of the Regional Action Plans for Jobs, last May my Department launched the competitive €60m Regional Enterprise Development Fund delivered through Enterprise Ireland. One project in the West secured funding under Stream One of the Fund which was for major regional, multi-regional or national sectoral initiatives, attracting grants of €2m up to €5m per project. The project, BIA Innovator Campus, is a Galway based initiative to encourage food entrepreneurship and innovation. The centre is expected to create 360 jobs within 3 years in over 40 businesses while unlocking far reaching innovation ecosystem benefits.

Building on the progress and momentum of collaboration achieved to date through the Regional Action Plans is my priority. On Monday the 16th April last I met with the Chairs of the Regional APJ committees and other regional stakeholders, and together we have started a process to refresh and refocus all the Regional Plans to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020. At the same event, I also announced the opening of the Second Call under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund which will make a further €30 million in funding available for successful regional project proposals under a competitive process.

I look forward to working further with the regional stakeholders in the West to ensure we deliver the employment targets for 2020 set out under the Regional Plans.

Brexit Issues

Questions (46)

Brendan Smith

Question:

46. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the level of ongoing contacts between her Department and its counterpart in Northern Ireland and with the industrial development agencies North and South in regard to dealing with Brexit related issues that are common to all of the island; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16796/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department works closely with its counterpart in Northern Ireland - the Department for the Economy - regarding the operation of InterTrade Ireland (ITI), the cross-border body that assists SMEs all across the island in growing North-South trade. 

ITI has been very active in working to assist businesses in Ireland address the particular challenges that Brexit may present for cross-border commerce. My Department has provided additional funding to ITI, in both 2017 and 2018, to allow it to undertake a range of initiatives aimed at better preparing Irish SMEs for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. This work includes the provision of  specialist advice and support for capability building. Major flagship awareness events have been held in both Belfast and Dublin, attracting several hundred companies each. In addition, an extensive series of information events have been held in other locations on both sides of the border.

My Department is also funding a research project being undertaken for ITI by the Economic and Social Research Institute. This research has already improved our collective understanding of the impact of different trade and tariff regimes which may be imposed following Brexit and supply chain links between our two jurisdictions. Further research on other aspects of cross border trade is underway.

We will continue to support ITI's work as it takes steps to help clients deal with the challenges associated with Brexit.

Brexit Supports

Questions (47)

Tom Neville

Question:

47. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the supports available to SMEs in County Limerick to help them prepare for Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16192/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department is continuing to work hard to help Irish businesses across the country to withstand the challenges and avail of the opportunities posed by Brexit. The long-term response to Brexit is for companies to become more competitive, more innovative, and to diversify their export footprint into more markets.

In 2017, 8,269 people were employed across 94 Enterprise Ireland (EI) supported plants in Limerick representing a 9% increase on 2016’s employment figures.

In the period 2015 - 2017 EI paid €9 million to client companies in Limerick to support them innovate, improve competitiveness and to diversify their global footprint.

In response to Brexit, EI has introduced a range of new supports, streamlined others, and launched a Global Ambition communications campaign.

For client companies in Limerick, being prepared is crucial to ensuring resilience to emerging challenges. To promote awareness, and supported by a national Prepare For Brexit campaign, EI has:

- Developed and launched the Brexit SME Scorecard, an interactive online platform which can be used by all Irish companies to self-assess their exposure to Brexit under six business pillars. To date over 2,000 companies have utilised this Scorecard.

- Designed and launched a €5,000 Be Prepared Grant that helps to support the costs of SME clients to prepare a plan to mitigate risks and optimise opportunities arising from Brexit.

- Held a number of Brexit Advisory Clinics to encourage companies to examine their potential exposure to Brexit.

In 2018 EI is:

- Continuing to run regional Brexit Advisory Clinics to support companies to take immediate action to address their potential exposure.

- Providing an independent consultant to companies through “the Act On” Initiative. This consultant will assist companies to identify specific actions they can take over a short period to address some of the risks and opportunities caused by Brexit.

The second round of the €60 million Regional Enterprise Development Fund was launched this week. The Fund will support collaborative projects that will boost the regions by supporting enterprise and creating jobs.

In addition, the Mid-West Action Plan for Jobs was launched in October 2015, and covers Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary. Implementation of the Plan is overseen by a Regional Implementation Committee made up of representatives from the public and private sector. From Q1 2015 (baseline year) to Q2 2017, 16,600 more people are in employment in the Mid-West. This represents good progress towards the target of 23,000 by 2020.

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Reports

Questions (48)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

48. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has reported on the operation of the household waste collection market; if so, her plans to publish this report; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16780/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Policy responsibility for the waste sector lies with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.  On 4 July 2017, a motion was passed by Dáil Éireann which called on the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to ask the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to report on the operation of the household waste collection market. 

Following a formal request on 25 September from the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the then Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, in accordance with section 10(4) of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014, requested the CCPC to carry out a study on the operation of the household waste collection market. 

The study will assess the household waste collection market and make recommendations, as appropriate. It will assess the nature and scale of consumer and operator issues in the household waste collection market and consider if the introduction of an enhanced regulatory regime could efficiently address these issues, in the short and long term. It will include the following elements:

1. Research on current issues in the waste sector.

2. An economic assessment of the household waste collection market.

3. An overview of waste collection in other countries.

I understand that the study is well advanced and it is anticipated that the report will be finalised over the Summer. The issue of publication will be considered at that stage.

Military Exports

Questions (49)

Clare Daly

Question:

49. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of applications for a licence to export military or dual use items denied by her Department in 2017. [16605/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department is responsible for controls on the export of these military and dual use items from Ireland.

Under Irish law, military export licences must be sought in respect of the goods and technology, and any components thereof, listed in the Annex to the Control of Exports (Goods and Technology) Order, S.I. 216 of 2012 which reflects the 2008 EU Common Position on Arms Exports and EU sanctions regimes.

My Department is also responsible for licensing the export of dual-use items outside the EU pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No. 428/2009 setting up a Community regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items.

All export licence applications, whether for Dual-Use or Military Goods are subject to rigorous scrutiny.  My officials seek observations on any foreign policy concerns that may arise in respect of a proposed export; such factors are subject to review in the light of developments in a given region and having regard to the 2008 EU Common Position on Arms Exports. Any observations which may arise from this examination are considered in the final assessment of any licence application.

My Department may refuse an export licence, following consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other EU and Non-EU export licensing authorities, as appropriate.

In 2017 four export licence applications were refused. These refusals were made on the grounds of considerations about the intended end-use, the risk of diversion and EU sanctions.

IDA Ireland Jobs Data

Questions (50)

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

50. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps being taken by the IDA to support job creation in the regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16723/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The Government is strongly committed to regional development and my Department and its agencies - including IDA Ireland - are working towards ambitious targets to ensure that employment and investment are as evenly distributed as possible across the country.

IDA Ireland’s primary regional development goal, as set out in its current strategy, is to increase investment by 30% to 40% in every region of Ireland. Real progress has been made towards that target over the first three years of this strategy, with half of all jobs created by IDA client companies since 2015 based outside Dublin.

An important factor in attracting potential overseas investors to the regions is the availability of suitable commercial property across Ireland. That is because firms need to identify - before investing in an area - a site or facility in which they can operate from. A shortage of such sites and facilities in the regions has, however, arisen on account of a number of factors. The IDA therefore launched its Regional Property Programme (RPP) in 2015 to ensure there is a better supply of commercial properties outside of Dublin that could accommodate investment. As well as upgrading existing buildings and acquiring strategic sites suitable for FDI, this programme also includes the construction of nine new advance facilities around the country. Two such facilities were constructed and completed in Athlone and Waterford in 2014 and early 2015. Further buildings were completed last year in Sligo, Tralee and Castlebar, with more planned for Galway, Dundalk, Limerick, Athlone, Carlow and Waterford. I am confident that the RPP, which has already helped generate employment in the regions, will help secure further investment in the years ahead.

More generally, the IDA always does its utmost to encourage its clients to invest in regional area. This includes through bringing firms on site visits outside of our main cities and highlighting to them the particular strengths or attributes of different parts of the country. The decision on where to locate, however, always rests with the business concerned. It is sometimes the case as well that these companies will only consider - because of a range of reasons - urban areas of scale for their investment.

I want to nevertheless emphasise that the IDA will continue to do its utmost to encourage clients to locate in areas that are most in need of investment. I am determined that this approach will continue so that the positive benefits of FDI are increasingly felt all across Ireland.

Regional Development Funding

Questions (51)

Peter Burke

Question:

51. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when the next round of the Regional Enterprise Development Fund 2017-2020 will open for applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16178/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

I launched the Second Call of the Regional Enterprise Development Fund on Monday in Farmleigh.  This call will fund projects with the balance of the €60m remaining under the fund. 

The first call under the Fund was announced in May 2017, with the results released in December. Twenty-one applicants representing all regions of the country secured a total of up to €30.5m in financial support for a range of enterprise and capability development projects.  

The REDF is aimed at accelerating economic recovery in every part of the country by delivering on the potential of local and regional strengths. The funding is provided by my Department, through Enterprise Ireland under the National Development Plan. It is a key action to support the Regional Action Plans for Jobs and the Action Plan for Rural Development.

A maximum of up to 80% is available for projects, with the balance to be leveraged from the private, community or public sector.

The Fund will support major new collaborative and innovative initiatives that can make a significant impact on enterprise development in the region/across regions or nationally to build the unique USP capabilities to grow the regions.  Projects must be impactful, with the impact being jobs.

Further information is available on the Enterprise Ireland website.

Brexit Supports

Questions (52)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

52. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the supports available to SMEs in counties Sligo and Leitrim to help them prepare for Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16180/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department is continuing to work hard to help Irish businesses across the country to withstand the challenges and avail of the opportunities posed by Brexit. The long-term response to Brexit is for companies to become more competitive, more innovative, and to diversify their export footprint into more markets.

In 2017 Enterprise Ireland (EI) supported 1,733 jobs across 69 businesses in Sligo, and 559 jobs across 25 businesses in Leitrim.

In the period 2015 - 2017 EI paid €3.6 million to client companies in Sligo and Leitrim to support them to innovate, improve competitiveness and to diversify their global footprint. 

In response to Brexit, EI has introduced a range of new supports, streamlined others, and launched a Global Ambition communications campaign.

For client companies in Sligo and Leitrim, being prepared is crucial to ensuring resilience to emerging challenges. To promote awareness, and supported by a national Prepare For Brexit campaign, EI has:

- Developed and launched the Brexit SME Scorecard, an interactive online platform which can be used by all Irish companies to self-assess their exposure to Brexit under six business    pillars. To date over 2,000 companies have utilised this Scorecard.

- Designed and launched a €5k Be Prepared Grant that helps to support the costs of SME clients to prepare a plan to mitigate risks and optimise opportunities arising from Brexit.

- Held a number of Brexit Advisory Clinics to encourage companies to examine their potential exposure to Brexit.

In 2018 EI is:

- Continuing to run regional Brexit Advisory Clinics to support companies to take immediate action to address their potential exposure.

- Providing an independent consultant to companies through the Act On Programme Initiative. This consultant will assist companies to identify specific actions they can take over a short period   to address some of the risks and opportunities caused by Brexit.

I launched the second round of the €60 million Regional Enterprise Development Fund. The Fund will support collaborative projects that will boost the regions by supporting enterprise and creating jobs.

In addition, the North East/North West Action Plan for Jobs was launched in November 2015, and covers Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth. Implementation of the Plan is overseen by a Regional Implementation Committee made up of representatives from the public and private sector. There are 12,000 more people in employment in the Border region from Q1 2015, the baseline year, to Q2 2017. This represents good progress towards the target of 28,000 more jobs by 2020.

Brexit supports from LEOs in every county include the LEO Brexit Mentor Programme which is supporting Owner/Managers identify key Brexit exposures and develop robust strategies to address issues and maximise potential opportunities. The LEOs are also providing Technical Assistance for Micro-Exporters (TAME), which is financial assistance to support market diversification in qualifying businesses to develop new and export market opportunities. The LEOS are also helping businesses adopt LEAN business practices to increase competitiveness and providing support for innovative developments in micro-enterprises by getting them investor ready.

InterTrade Ireland (ITI) is offering Brexit ‘Start to Plan’ Vouchers and has established a Brexit Advisory Service to help businesses with practical advice, support and information on Brexit related issues. ITI also provides vouchers to enable companies to get professional advice on Brexit, including likely tariffs, currency management, regulatory and customs issues and movement of labour, goods and services.

Brexit Issues

Questions (53)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

53. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on a recent Brexit survey result by a bank (details supplied) showing that just 6% of SMEs here have a Brexit plan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14214/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Extensive work has been ongoing in my Department to prepare for all Brexit eventualities. This includes research and the development of supports to help ensure that businesses are prepared for potential difficulties arising as a result of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Research conducted on behalf of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in October of 2017 by B&A  found that 16% of SMEs surveyed had formal contingency plans in place for Brexit. However, an additional 20% indicate that they have done some informal Brexit planning. The B&A survey found that formal planning for Brexit was lowest among small businesses, while medium-sized businesses were better prepared. Among food businesses, one of the sectors most exposed to Brexit-related uncertainty, the proportion of businesses who indicate that they have a formal Brexit plan is closer to 26%.

The Brexit Loan Scheme, launched on 28 March, encourages eligible businesses affected or potentially affected by Brexit to engage in formal planning. To this end, one of the requirements for applications for loans under the scheme is that businesses provide a business development plan, demonstrating that they plan to innovate, change or adapt in response to Brexit.

The agencies of my Department are also fully engaged in preparing for Brexit. Enterprise Ireland’s (EI) #PrepareforBrexit communications campaign, featuring the ‘Brexit SME Scorecard’, was launched last March.  The Scorecard is an interactive online platform which can be used by all Irish companies to self-assess their exposure to Brexit. 

As part of awareness-raising activities, EI is rolling out regional Brexit Advisory clinics throughout the year. To date, clinics have been held in Letterkenny, Tralee, Portlaoise, Claremorris, Cootehill and Charleville. A Brexit two-day external consultancy support is also being rolled out to individual clients to help them develop a detailed sustainable growth plan.

EI has also introduced a ‘Be Prepared Grant’ which offers up to €5,000 for exporting client companies to conduct further research and use external expertise to develop a Brexit Action Plan.

The funding to the Local Enterprise Offices has been increased by 22% and they, along with InterTrade Ireland, are offering a range of Brexit focused supports to companies, including those engaged in cross-border trade with Northern Ireland.

Job Initiatives

Questions (54)

James Browne

Question:

54. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to support quality job creation in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16171/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department, through its enterprise agencies, is committed to supporting businesses to grow, innovate and perform strongly in global markets.

 I am delighted to say that 2017 was a particularly good year for job numbers and job creation in agency supported companies. In Co. Wexford, 4,670 people were employed in the 122 Enterprise Ireland supported companies, 2,948 people were employed in the 18 IDA Ireland clients and the Local Enterprise Office supported 213 clients with 1,348 total jobs, a gross increase of 238 jobs on 2016.   

The South East Action Plan for Jobs which launched in September 2015, aims to increase employment in the region by 10-15% over the period to 2020, resulting in the delivery of 25,000 jobs. The most recent comparable data shows that there are now over 16,000 more people in employment in the region from Q1 2015 to Q2 2017.

On Monday, I launched the second call of the Regional Enterprise Development Fund. The first call under the Fund was announced in May 2017, with the results released in December. Twenty-one applicants representing all regions of the country secured a total of up to €30.5m in financial support for a range of enterprise and capability development projects. The second call will fund projects with the balance of the €60m remaining under the fund.

Enterprise Ireland is committed to developing regional employment growth – a fact reflected in the fact that 64% of jobs created by the agency in 2017 were outside Dublin. Enterprise Ireland’s focus for 2018 is to help clients, including those located in Wexford, to build on the strength of their 2017 performance by supporting them to innovate, be competitive and to diversify their global footprint -  key attributes required to be resilient to economic shocks, such as those emerging from any kind of Brexit.

In the period 2015 - 2017 Enterprise Ireland paid €5.3 million to client companies in Wexford to support companies to be innovative, improve competitiveness and to diversify their global footprint. 

The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) located in Wexford town is the ‘first-stop-shop’ for providing advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports for anyone that intends to start or grow a business in the county. LEO Wexford provides a ‘signposting’ service in relation to all relevant state supports available through agencies such as Revenue, the Department of Social Protection, Education and Training Boards, Credit Review Office and Microfinance Ireland.

IDA Ireland’s strategy, Winning Foreign Direct Investment 2015-2019, sets out challenging targets in respect of the FDI sector for the period. Under the programme, IDA is targeting a minimum increase in investment of 30% to 40% in each region outside Dublin.

Regional Action Plan for Jobs

Questions (55)

Martin Heydon

Question:

55. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the progress that has been made in the eastern part of the midlands region under the regional action plan for jobs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16738/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Since becoming Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I have made jobs and enterprise in the regions my top priority.

The Regional Action Plan for Jobs initiative is a central pillar of the Government’s ambition to create 200,000 new jobs by 2020, 135,000 of which are outside of Dublin. A key objective of each of the 8 regional plans is to have a further 10 to 15 per cent at work in each region by 2020, with the unemployment rate of each region not more than one percentage point greater than the national average.

The eastern part of the Midlands is included under the Midlands Region Action Plan for Jobs. The Midlands Action Plan has been a key policy response for supporting employment growth in the Midlands, with public and private stakeholders currently engaged in driving the range of innovative and practical actions set out in the Plan.

The Plan has been embraced within the region and the efforts by stakeholders and businesses in the region are paying off: 9,500 more people are in employment in the Midlands from Q1 2015 (baseline year) to Q2 2017, representing significant progress towards the 14,000 target for 2020 as set out in the plan. However, at Q4 2017, the unemployment rate in the Midlands was 7.7%; which is still too high when compared with the State rate of 6.1%. We will maintain a focus on the Midlands to ensure that the employment environment continues to improve.

The Midlands Action Plan for Jobs has been embraced within the region and the efforts by stakeholders and businesses in the region are paying off: 9,500 more people are in employment in the Midlands from Q1 2015 (baseline year) to Q2 2017, representing significant progress towards the 14,000 target for 2020 as set out in the plan. However, at Q4 2017, the unemployment rate in the Midlands was 7.7%; which is still too high when compared with the State rate of 6.1%. We will maintain a focus on the Midlands to ensure that the employment environment continues to improve.

In 2017, both Enterprise Ireland and IDA reported job increases in the Midlands of 6% and 1% respectively. Through partnership between Enterprise Ireland and the Local Authorities, the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) have 819 client companies in the Midlands employing 4,214 people; and last year those companies added 387 new employees in total.

To support the ambition, goals, and implementation of the Regional Action Plans for Jobs, last May my Department launched the €60m Regional Enterprise Development Fund. This competitive Fund is being rolled out by Enterprise Ireland over the next 4 years to support collaborative and innovative projects that can sustain and add to employment at a national, regional and county level. In December last year I announced an allocation of €30.5 million under the first call under the Fund, with 21 projects from all over the country approved for funding.

One project in the Midlands, Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) CLG, was approved funding under Stream One of the first funding call, which supports major regional, multi-regional or national sectoral initiatives with grants of €2 million up to €5 million per project. The award of funding to the IMR in Mullingar will develop a significant and important applied research and development capability in the areas of Collaborative Robotics and Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, in partnership with manufacturing industries in the Midlands and elsewhere.

I launched the second call under the REDF on Monday 16th April, which will allocate the remainder of the €60 million, and I hope to see more successful projects coming through from the Midlands region.

Building on the progress and momentum of collaboration achieved to date through the Regional Action Plans is my priority. On Monday last I also met with the Chairs of the Regional APJ committees and other regional stakeholders, and together we have started a process to refresh and refocus all Regional Plans to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020. I look forward to working further with the regional stakeholders in the Midlands to ensure we deliver to the employment targets for 2020 set out under the Regional Plans.

Enterprise 2025

Questions (56)

Margaret Murphy O'Mahony

Question:

56. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the priority actions for persons with disabilities in the Enterprise 2025 renewed strategy. [16815/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

As an open economy, our openness to trade and investment has contributed to our success over past decades, and will continue to do so.  However, we face challenges in the form of Brexit, international tax developments, the unrelenting pace of technological advances and changes being introduced under the current US administration all of which have implications for Ireland’s economy, and will impact on businesses.

It was against this backdrop that Enterprise 2025, published in November 2015, was recently reviewed across Government.  The emphasis is now to deepen resilience in our enterprise base, and put supports and policies in place so that our enterprises can adapt to change.

In looking forward, and in line with “Enterprise 2025”, Government will offer supports by investing in our people so that Ireland is internationally renowned for its talent and entrepreneurial culture. We aim to improve participation rates in the labour force through various initiatives targeted at unemployed, youth, females, older people and people with disabilities, all of which will be informed by analysis.

We will take action to improve labour market participation rates by extending labour market activation services to other working age groups, reform rules for disability schemes to encourage take up of part-time employment, and continue to increase access to quality and affordable childcare and to make changes in the marginal tax rate.

Pathways to Work is the main Government initiative encouraging access to the labour market and ultimately participation in employment. It is complemented by the Action Plan for Jobless Households, the National Disability Inclusion Strategy, and the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities.

A commitment under APJ 2018 by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection will ensure that the number of people out of work continues to fall as the economy recovers, that the labour market responds flexibly and efficiently to employment growth, and that the expansion and active promotion of services to currently inactive working age adults with a capacity and a desire to work, continues. This will include lone parents, qualified adults and people with a disability.

Action 25 of APJ 2018 commits to increase awareness amongst jobseekers of the portfolio of services and supports in order to maximise take-up by developing online ready-reckoner tools for people in receipt of disability benefits and lone parent payments to assess the net benefits of returning to work.

Regional Action Plan for Jobs

Questions (57)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

57. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the discussions her Department has had regarding the development of a mid-west conference and exhibition centre as envisaged in the action plan for Jobs in the mid-west region for 2015 to 2017. [16828/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Since becoming Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I have made jobs and enterprise in the regions my top priority.

The Regional Action Plan for Jobs initiative is a central pillar of the Government’s ambition to create 200,000 new jobs by 2020, 135,000 of which are outside of Dublin. A key objective of each of the 8 regional plans is to have a further 10 to 15 per cent at work in each region by 2020, with the unemployment rate of each region not more than one percentage point greater than the national average.

The Plans are being monitored and driven in each region by Implementation Committees, comprising representatives from the business community, as well as the Local Authorities, Enterprise Agencies, and other public bodies in the region. Eight of the nine Implementation Committees, including the Mid-West, are industry led.

Progress across the eight regions has been very positive since the launch of the initiative, with an increase in employment of 8.5% or 118,600 jobs in the regions outside of Dublin and 166,800 additional jobs nationwide, from Q1 2015 to Q2 2017.

Good progress has been made in the Mid-West, and from Q1 2015 (baseline year) to Q2 2017, 16,600 more people are in employment in the region, as against the 2020 target of 23,000. Over the year to Q2 2017, 7,000 more people in employment in the Mid-West region. As of Q4 2017, the Mid West has a Q4 2017 unemployment rate of 6.6% which is 0.5 percentage points above the average for the State.

As outlined in the Mid-West Regional Action Plan, the region has a strong product in the MICE (meetings, incentive, conference and exhibition), or business tourism sector, providing opportunities to capitalise on global growth in this sector. Limerick has a growing reputation as an option for international associations to meet, while the Mid West region as a whole has a strong corporate base which will help to attract more corporate meetings, in addition to experiences and products that lend themselves to securing a much larger part of the incentive business. The Shannon Region Conference & Sports Bureau is a very successful public / private partnership focused on the MICE sector and will aim to attract such events to the counties across the Mid West Region, using the strength and reputation of the aviation and aerospace, pharma, and MedTech sectors and academics at University of Limerick.

The development of a mid-west conference and exhibition centre for the Mid-West is identified as a ‘potential strategic area for job creation’ in the Regional Action Plan. While my Department has not had any discussions in relation to this, given the potential in the sector it is an area the Regional Action Plan Committee may wish to revisit in the context of their forthcoming review of their Regional Plan.

To support the ambition, goals, and implementation of the Regional Action Plans for Jobs, last May my Department launched the €60m Regional Enterprise Development Fund. This competitive Fund is being rolled out by Enterprise Ireland over the next 4 years to support collaborative and innovative projects that can sustain and add to employment at a national, regional and county level. In December last year I announced an allocation of €30.5 million under the first call under the Fund, with 21 projects from all over the country approved for funding. Two projects in the Mid-West region secured funding under the first call: the development of a state-of-the-art National Bio-economy Innovation & Piloting Facility at the former Lisheen Mine site in Tipperary; and Emerald Aero Cluster, comprising 14 indigenous manufacturing companies, brought together with the specific purpose of increasing Aerospace manufacturing export revenues for members and aerospace business.

I launched the second call under the REDF on Monday 16th April, which will allocate the remainder of the €60 million and I hope to see more successful projects coming through from the Mid-West.

Building on the progress and momentum of collaboration achieved to date through the Regional Action Plans is my priority. On Monday last I also met with the Chairs of the Regional APJ committees and other regional stakeholders, and together we have started a process to refresh and refocus all Regional Plans to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020. I look forward to working further with the regional stakeholders in the Mid-West to ensure we deliver the employment targets for 2020 set out under the Regional Plans.

Brexit Supports

Questions (58, 59)

Billy Kelleher

Question:

58. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the contingencies and supports in place to safeguard SMEs and export businesses from a hard Brexit scenario; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16810/18]

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Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

59. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the supports in place to safeguard SMEs and export businesses from a hard Brexit scenario; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16781/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 58 and 59 together.

My Department is continuing to work hard to help Irish businesses to both withstand the challenges and avail of the opportunities posed by Brexit. The long-term response to Brexit is for companies to become more competitive, more innovative and to diversify their export footprint into more markets.

I am confident that the agencies under my Department have the supports available to enable companies to consolidate market share within the UK, and also to become more resilient by broadening their sales to other international markets. Enterprise Ireland (EI) and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are actively supporting their clients to achieve this. My Department provided for additional monies in 2017 to enable EI and the LEOs to ramp up supports in light of Brexit to drive improvements in:

- productivity,

- innovation,

- management capability and leadership skills.

Enterprise Ireland has launched several initiatives in response to Brexit, including:

- Brexit Scorecard: This interactive online platform can be used by all Irish companies to self-assess their exposure to Brexit under six business pillars. Based on answers supplied by the user, the Scorecard generates an immediate report which contains suggested actions and resources, and information on events for companies to attend, to prepare for Brexit.

- Be Prepared Grant: This grant offers SMEs a grant of up to €5,000 to assist them in preparing an action plan for economic shocks such as Brexit. The grant can be used to help cover consultancy, travel and travel expenses associated with researching the direction of their action plan.

- Brexit Advisory Clinics: Enterprise Ireland held four Brexit Advisory Clinics over the past few months in Portlaoise, Mayo, Cavan and Cork. The purpose of these Clinics is to support companies affected by Brexit to take immediate action to address their exposure. More dates will be announced soon.

- Brexit 'Act On' Programme : A consultant spends time with EI client companies to discuss specific challenges and draw up a report with tailored recommendations that will help them address weaknesses and become more resilient.

In addition, EI is implementing extensive trade mission and event schedules focussed on global and sectoral opportunities, further developing in-market expertise and networks, placing greater focus on identifying new sectoral opportunities and stimulating demand for Irish products and services through international marketing campaigns. In 2017, EI launched a new Eurozone Strategy to increase exports to Eurozone countries by 50% by 2020.

The LEOs are supporting their clients by providing information, training and mentoring on Brexit related issues as well as advice on other sources of support. The suite of LEO Brexit supports available to micro and small businesses through the 31 LEOs nationwide include.

InterTrade Ireland (ITI), has also been very active in assisting businesses address the challenges that Brexit may present for future cross-border commerce.  A series of information and awareness raising events have been underway in towns across both North and South over recent months. ITI is also rolling out a ‘Start to Plan’ readiness voucher scheme, which enables companies to purchase specialist advice in areas such as customs, tax, tariff and non-tariff barriers, legal and labour mobility issues. 

Other initiatives that my Department are advancing include the €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme, under which accessible finance is made available to businesses at favourable terms. In addition, this past Monday saw the launch of the second call of the Regional Enterprise Development Fund, which is aimed at supporting the development and implementation of collaborative and innovative projects that can sustain and add to employment at a national, regional and county level.  Twenty-one successful applicants representing all regions of the country have secured up to €30.5m for their projects in the first competitive call.

The work of my Department is focused on supporting businesses throughout the country to withstand current challenges and succeed into the future, therefore I feel that all our efforts will put Ireland in a strong position in case of a hard Brexit scenario.

IDA Ireland

Questions (60)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

60. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the IDA’s plans for its regional property programme for Drogheda and Dundalk in view of the recent announcement in Project Ireland 2040; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16182/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

This Government is fully committed to the creation of high-quality and sustainable employment across Ireland, including in County Louth.  The new National Development Plan recognises the importance of Dundalk and Drogheda as key centres in the context of the Dublin-Belfast economic corridor. Both towns are attractive destinations for foreign direct investment (FDI) given their track record in attracting multinational companies, the quality of their local infrastructure and their proximity to Dublin and the capital's transport hubs. I am therefore confident that we will be able to sustain and grow investment levels in the area.

There is already a strong base of investment in Louth with 24 IDA client companies employing a total of 3,702 people. The Agency's client base has added 295 FDI further jobs there over the last year alone. The IDA itself is working hard to increase the number of multinational companies with operations in the County.

The IDA's Regional Property Programme (RPP) remains an important tool through which investors can be encouraged to locate in areas outside of Dublin, including Louth. This programme includes the construction of nine new advance facilities around the country, one of which will be located in Dundalk. The Agency is currently selecting a contractor to commence this project, with completion of the building expected in 2019.  

Another element of the RPP involves upgrades to existing business parks and I understand that the IDA has secured advance planning permission for a facility at Dundalk Science and Technology Park. This should help to attract further investment to the area.

Company Sale

Questions (61)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

61. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if reports that €7 million of debt was written off by the State in the sale of the State's stake in a studio (details supplied) and that the sale price was €6 million are correct; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16803/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

In 2016 Ardmore Studios International Limited (ASIL), engaged IBI Corporate Finance to investigate selling the company as a going concern. (ASIL), the majority shareholders in Ardmore Studios Ltd, were seeking to exit, having been running the company for over 30 years.

 An extensive process was undertaken by IBI Corporate Finance to find a suitable buyer, with over 100 potential parties contacted.

Ion Equity emerged as the successful bidder from that process and its acquisition vehicle, Olcott Entertainment Limited, which was recently incorporated by Ion Equity for this purpose, is now the new owner of Ardmore Studios.

In relation to the sale price and other specific financial details, I am unable to reveal what are confidential details of Enterprise Ireland’s minority shareholding disposal transaction in what is a privately held company. This applies to the Ardmore transaction as it would to any other individual investment or share disposal of Enterprise Ireland where it is a minority shareholder in a privately held company. 

This principle of confidentiality reflects a statutory duty of confidentiality set out in section 16 of the Industrial Development (Enterprise Ireland) Act, 1998. In this case, the parties also understood, at the time of the sale by Enterprise Ireland and other majority shareholder vendors, that, due to section 16 of the 1998 Act, the consideration and other financial aspects of the sale would not be revealed. Disclosing such information, would be in breach of the high standards of confidentiality adhered to by Enterprise Ireland.

What I can however confirm is that Enterprise Ireland negotiated the sale of its shareholding with the benefit of comprehensive due diligence undertaken by independent consultants and is satisfied that it realised full market value, and on a par with the other majority shareholders parties. 

The Government had committed that the company would be sold as a going concern and that is what has happened while realising full commercial value for the shareholders selling the company, including Enterprise Ireland.

Regional Action Plan for Jobs

Questions (62)

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

62. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the progress that has been made in the midlands region under the regional action plan for jobs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16722/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Since becoming Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I have made jobs and enterprise in the regions my top priority.

The Regional Action Plan for Jobs initiative is a central pillar of the Government’s ambition to create 200,000 new jobs by 2020, 135,000 of which are outside of Dublin. A key objective of each of the 8 regional plans is to have a further 10 to 15 per cent at work in each region by 2020, with the unemployment rate of each region not more than one percentage point greater than the national average.

The Midlands Action Plan for Jobs has been a key policy response for supporting employment growth in the Midlands, with public and private stakeholders currently engaged in driving the range of innovative and practical actions set out in the Plan. 

The Midlands Action Plan for Jobs has been embraced within the region and the efforts by stakeholders and businesses in the region are paying off: 9,500 more people are in employment in the Midlands from Q1 2015 (baseline year) to Q2 2017, representing significant progress towards the 14,000 target for 2020 as set out in the plan. However, at Q4 2017, the unemployment rate in the Midlands was 7.7%; which is still too high when compared with the State rate of 6.1%. We will maintain a focus on the Midlands to ensure that the employment environment continues to improve.

In 2017, both Enterprise Ireland and IDA reported job increases in the Midlands of 6% and 1% respectively. Through partnership between Enterprise Ireland and the Local Authorities, the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) have 819 client companies in the Midlands employing 4,214 people; and last year those companies added 387 new employees in total.

To support the ambition, goals, and implementation of the Regional Action Plans for Jobs, last May my Department launched the €60m Regional Enterprise Development Fund. This competitive Fund is being rolled out by Enterprise Ireland over the next 4 years to support collaborative and innovative projects that can sustain and add to employment at a national, regional and county level. In December last year I announced €30.5 million under the first call under the Fund, with 21 projects from all over the country receiving funding.

One project in the Midlands, Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) CLG, was approved funding under Stream One of the first funding call, which supports major regional, multi-regional or national sectoral initiatives with grants of €2 million up to €5 million per project. The award  of funding to the IMR in Mullingar will develop a significant and important applied research and development capability in the areas of Collaborative Robotics and Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, in partnership with manufacturing industries in the Midlands and elsewhere.

I launched the second call under the REDF on Monday 16th April, which will allocate the remainder of the €60 million, and I hope to see more successful projects coming through from the Midlands region.

Building on the progress and momentum of collaboration achieved to date through the Regional Action Plans is my priority. On Monday last I also met with the Chairs of the Regional APJ committees and other regional stakeholders, and together we have started a process to refresh and refocus all Regional Plans to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020. I look forward to working further with the regional stakeholders in the Midlands to ensure we deliver to the employment targets for 2020 set out under the Regional Plans.

Military Exports

Questions (63)

Clare Daly

Question:

63. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number and value of licences issued for military exports in 2017; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16604/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department is responsible for controls on the export of military items from Ireland. Under Irish law, military export licences must be sought in respect of the export from Ireland of military goods and technology, and any components thereof, listed in the EU Common Military List. 

I publish an annual report under the Control of Exports Act 2008 which includes information on military exports. The objective of publishing such a report is to provide the public with a continuing enhanced level of transparency about exports of controlled goods and services. 

Export controls are of particular importance to my Department in ensuring compliance with the highest international standards in accordance with international law. Our policy of free trade and open markets must conform with the core principles of security, regional stability and human rights which underpin export controls. 

In 2017, 118 licences with a value of €25m were issued to export goods with a military classification.  

These licences were in respect of:

- components which have a military rating

- explosives for commercial mining and quarrying

- firearms for hunting, sporting and recreational activities, and personal use.

All export licence applications to export goods with a military classification are subject to rigorous scrutiny.  My officials seek observations on any foreign policy concerns that may arise in respect of a proposed export; such factors are subject to review in the light of developments in a given region and having regard to the 2008 EU Common Position on Arms Exports. Any observations which may arise from this examination are considered in the final assessment of any licence application.

Foreign Direct Investment

Questions (64)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

64. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which Ireland continues to be an attractive location for foreign direct investment; the extent to which the State continues to compete with other locations both within and without Europe and the eurozone; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16786/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Ireland remains a global leader in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and competes with a range of jurisdictions across Europe, Asia and the Americas. Whilst this competition is increasingly intense, our country has a number of key strengths that continue to make us a highly attractive destination for FDI. These include our highly skilled workers, first-class education system and positive demographics. Our membership of the EU and Eurozone, pro-enterprise policy environment, and competitive corporation tax regime are other significant selling points.

Taken together, these strengths help the IDA make a compelling case to prospective investors about the merits of investing in Ireland. They also help to explain our strong national performance in terms of FDI-driven investment and job creation. In 2017, for example, the IDA's client companies created over 19,500 new jobs across a range of sectors, bringing total employment at FDI firms to 210,000.

Ireland clearly therefore does remain an attractive location for FDI. The Government is nevertheless conscious of our need to remain as competitive as possible. That is why it will continue to explore how to both reinforce existing strengths and find new ways of attracting job-rich investment to the country.