Thursday, 27 June 2019

Questions (21)

Brendan Smith


21. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if a specific programme of grant aid will be established to assist local statutory agencies or community groups to provide enterprise centres; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27098/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department is committed to supporting enterprise development throughout the country. Enterprise Ireland (EI), has approved funding to enable community groups throughout the country to develop the entrepreneurial talent in their area and support innovative business ideas to create jobs.

In 2016 Enterprise Ireland awarded €3 million to 32 projects under the Community Enterprise Fund. The goal of this initiative was to stimulate and support enterprise and job creation throughout the country at local, community and regional level.

The 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are located throughout the country and provide a range of supports for the micro and small business sector. The LEOs act as the “first-stop-shop” for providing advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports to those wishing to start or grow their own business. The Government agreed to increase funding for the LEOs by 22% in 2019 and this increase is being used to assist micro-enterprises in becoming more competitive and to build resilience against Brexit.

The LEOs are supporting over 36,000 jobs in 7,000 small Irish businesses and significantly in 2018 171 LEO clients were transferred to Enterprise Ireland for further growth and investment. Future Jobs Ireland has a commitment to examine how best to strengthen the capacity of the LEOs to work with and support a broader range of ambitious and growth-oriented enterprises to improve productivity growth, innovation and resilience.

It is my priority as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to see more jobs created in the regions. Regional development is a key priority for this Government and it is important that the value of collaboration and the work by the development agencies, which has yielded strong jobs results in recent years, must be complimented by a bottom-up approach in providing critical business supports and advice.

The Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) is a competitive fund introduced by my Department in 2017 with the overarching aim of driving enterprise development and job creation in each region throughout Ireland. The REDF has been an effective instrument of policy particularly as a complement to the Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017/8 where it has served as an enabler for projects emerging from that regional collaborative process.

To date, 42 projects have been awarded funding over two completed Calls worth a total of almost €60m, with collaborative projects supported in every region.

On Monday 24th June, I launched the new €45M Regional Enterprise Development Fund, which again will be administered by Enterprise Ireland. Applications for funding are invited through the public call for submission of projects that was announced this week in the National and Regional Press.

My focus is to work with Enterprise Ireland in support of organisations that come forward with good projects to boost enterprise and job creation in their regions. So I would urge private and public organisations from across the country to apply.

REDF 3 aims to build on the success of the REDF funding to date, and there is an opportunity to further align the Fund with recent key policy developments including: The Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020; Future Jobs Ireland; and the new Enterprise Ireland Regional Strategy. Key themes emerging from these policy initiatives will be a key focus of the REDF under Call 3 and future calls.

The REDF also now sits alongside and is complementary to the new funding opportunities under Project Ireland 2040 (the Rural and Urban Regeneration and Development Funds; Climate Action; and Disruptive Technologies) which collectively constitute an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen the regional enterprise ecosystem throughout Ireland.