Questions Nos. 1 to 12, inclusive, answered orally.

Industrial Development

Questions (13)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

13. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to grow and support the indigenous business sector in order to support businesses here and to reduce over-reliance on foreign direct investment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26978/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The Government has a new plan - Future Jobs Ireland - to ensure we are preparing now for the jobs of the future. While the economy is performing well with strong employment and unemployment now down to 4.4%, we cannot be complacent. In the past we took success for granted and failed to prepare for emerging challenges, trends and opportunities. To achieve this, we must ensure our economy is well positioned to adapt to a low-carbon future and a revolution in digitalisation and automation.

We must tackle lower productivity levels in indigenous firms as the best way to achieve sustainable wage growth. We are known now for our strong talent pool but we must ensure our skills evolve as the economy changes. And we need to increase labour market participation.

Growing the indigenous enterprise sector and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) are both key to Ireland’s continued economic recovery. Enterprise Ireland’s results for 2018 show there were 215,207 people employed by Enterprise Ireland supported companies in 2018, the highest total employment in the history of the agency and exports also reached a new record of €23.8 billion.

It is my priority to see more jobs created in the regions. The Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) is a competitive fund complementary to the Regional Enterprise Plans. In 2017 and 2018, I announced funding for 42 projects as part of Calls 1 and 2 of the REDF worth a total of almost €60m, with projects supported in every region. I announced a Third REDF call earlier this week with a fund of €45m to deliver on our ambitions in Future Jobs Ireland and to build Brexit resilience in the regions.

The 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are located in every county 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. I increased 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 further strengthen the capacity of the LEOs.

I also recently announced the second call of the pilot Online Retail Scheme which has been open for applications since 19 June 2019 from Irish owned retail businesses with a physical retail outlet.

IDA Ireland Data

Questions (14)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

14. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of new first-time investments by new IDA client companies in County Donegal in 2019; the number of visits by new IDA client companies in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26952/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Attracting investment and creating new jobs in regional locations – including County Donegal – is a major priority for both myself and my Department. In February 2019 I launched a new Regional Enterprise for the North-West to support enterprise growth and job creation through collaborative initiatives.

The IDA has a significant role to play in helping us achieve that objective and the Agency’s staff have been working hard to increase regional investment. The relevant statistics reflect the emphasis that has been placed on this objective. There are now, for example, over 132,000 people employed across more than 680 IDA client firms outside of Dublin. 58% of total IDA client employment is located outside Dublin. The IDA has also recently reported a very strong first half of 2019 with 140 investments secured and 13,500 jobs approved so far this year.

Donegal, along with many other parts of the country, has benefitted from the IDA's strong regional focus. The County has experienced a 60% increase in FDI-driven employment since 2012, with job numbers in IDA client firms there increasing from 2,223 in 2012 to 3,564 at the end of last year. In 2018 alone, the total of IDA supported jobs in Donegal increased by 5%, with the County now home to 12 IDA companies including SITA, Optibelt and Pramerica.

With respect to site visits, Donegal hosted one visit over the first three months of this year. In 2018, the County hosted eight site visits, a fourfold increase compared to two site visits that took place in 2017 and the highest number in over a decade.

The Agency and its staff continue to do their utmost, including through site visits, to encourage overseas companies to locate in regional areas. The Board of the IDA also, in fact, recently held its June meeting in Letterkenny. I understand that during its two day visit to the County, the Board had excellent engagement with IDA client companies located in Donegal and held detailed discussions on increasing investment to both that County and the Border region in general.

While there have been no new name investments in County Donegal so far in 2019, it's important to emphasise that FDI performance is not accurately measured by the number of new-name investors, given Donegal’s strong performance over the last decade. Indeed, the IDA’s experience, over many decades, has shown that the growth of existing overseas firms here can produce as many jobs – if not more – than new name investors. It is also important to recognise the success of out investment in indigenous companies. With respect to Enterprise Ireland, (EI), that Agency's clients in Donegal employed 3,818 people in 2018, an increase of 12% over the previous year. In the period from 2016-2018, EI provided funding of €3.6 million to client companies in the county to support them to innovate, improve competitiveness and to diversify their global footprint.

With respect to 2019, the indications are that FDI in Donegal will continue to increase. For example, Abbott Laboratories announced plans last July to expand its workforce in the County with the creation of 500 new jobs. The IDA is focused on attracting further such high-quality investment to Donegal and it continues to promote the County to investors considering investing in Ireland for the first time.

Research and Development Funding

Questions (15)

Tom Neville

Question:

15. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of call 2 of the disruptive technologies fund; her plans for holding an information event on the fund in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27101/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The €500 million Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF) was established as part of the National Development Plan (NDP) under Project Ireland 2040.

The DTIF is being delivered through my Department and its enterprise agencies, with a resource allocation of €500 million over the period 2018-2027. It consists of an initial Exchequer allocation of €180 million to 2022.

The Fund is a competitive scheme which is supporting investment in the research, development and deployment of disruptive technologies and applications on a commercial basis. It is aimed at driving collaboration between Ireland’s world-class research base and industry, facilitating enterprises to compete directly for funding in support of the development and adoption of these technologies.

Call 2 of the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund went live on 18th June with an application form document, guidelines for applicants and consortium agreement template made available on the Department's website. Clients of IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta were also informed directly and we have issued the information via Science Foundation Ireland and others to all of the universities, colleges and other bodies that are eligible to apply.

Call 2 will be officially launched in the University of Limerick on the 5th of July. This event will provide details of the Fund for a large audience of representatives from the enterprise and research sectors and participants will also have the opportunity to network with others interested in collaboration.

The event also represents the formal launch of Pillar 1 of Future Jobs Ireland, aimed at embracing innovation and technological change, which is a key feature of the Fund. This will focus on how Ireland can embrace innovation and technological change and help position Ireland as a Global Innovation Leader.

Trade Agreements

Questions (16)

Eugene Murphy

Question:

16. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if assurances will be given that she will not support imminent deals on Mercosur, which gives increased access to South American beef into Europe, in view of the fact it would seriously undermine an already vulnerable sector here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26976/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The EU is currently negotiating a trade agreement with Mercosur, which if concluded, would be the EU’s largest trade deal to date and four times the size of the trade agreement with Japan. These negotiations are now at a crucial stage, as the Deputy will be aware, after nearly 20 years and 40 rounds of negotiations.

As with any Free Trade Agreement, Ireland – like every Member State – has defensive as well as offensive interests. A Free Trade Agreement with Mercosur would present sectoral opportunities for Ireland in areas such as software and services in telecos, financial services, digital content and travel, engineering products and services, life sciences, food and beverages, and education services.

On the other hand, I am, of course, acutely aware of the potential impact that these negotiations present to the EU’s and Ireland's beef sector. To that end, I wrote to the EU Trade Commissioner as recently as 31st May this year to restate my views, which I had previously articulated at European Trade Council meetings, as well as directly with the Trade Commissioner, regarding the current challenges facing the Irish beef sector. Minister Creed also wrote in similar terms to the Agriculture Commissioner, and An Taoiseach joined the leaders of France, Poland and Belgium expressing our concerns to President Juncker.

Ireland has sought assurances from the Commission that the final offer on beef - an offensive demand from the Mercosur side - will ensure that:

- a tariff rate quota for beef remains low,

- phasing-in periods are extended,

- the Commission continually monitor quota levels taking into account domestic market conditions,

- the composition of beef imports from the region is limited in relation to fresh chilled beef, and

- robust checks are established and monitored at points of import to the EU to ensure animal health and welfare standards have been maintained.

I should also say that Ireland has been, and continues to be, a strong supporter of the EU’s FTA programme since Free Trade Agreements enable our businesses, including those in the agriculture sector, to expand into new markets and creates new export opportunities in support of employment and our continued economic development.

Any final offer made by the Commission in relation to Mercosur will be considered on the balance of the aggregate benefits the Agreement offers our economy as a whole, once the proposed final terms are presented by the Commission to Member States - and negotiations are continuing this week.

Industrial Development

Questions (17)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

17. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on a call from an association (details supplied) for the development of a small business strategy with the aim of providing a more resilient indigenous enterprise base nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26927/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

As set out in Future Jobs Ireland, the development and transformation of our indigenous business base is at the heart of our national economic and enterprise policies. In this context, my Department commissioned the OECD to conduct a Country Review of SME and Entrepreneurship Policies in Ireland.

This 18-month project aims to provide tailored analysis and recommendations to my Department and wider Government how to improve the design and implementation of national SME and entrepreneurship policies and programmes. The outcome of the Review will be founded on an assessment of the country’s current SME and entrepreneurship performance, framework conditions and policies based on international comparisons.

My Department has played a central role throughout the process organising stakeholder events enabling detailed engagement between DBEI, other Government Departments, agencies, academia, business representatives and the small business sector. Allowing the OECD to gain insightful knowledge of our small business ecosystem at the various critical stages of the Review.

In March 2019, my colleague Minister Breen chaired the inaugural meeting of the SME and Entrepreneurship Consultation Group. This group came about as a recommendation of the OECD and has now subsumed the previous Advisory Group on Small Business.

Engagement with the OECD Working Party on SME and Entrepreneurship has also taken place.

My Department will shortly receive a draft Strategy Roadmap. As part of my commitment to ongoing engagement with all stakeholders I and Minister Breen will host an SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy Conference to focus on the proposals of the draft Strategy Roadmap.

This conference is significant to the advancement and impetus of the Strategy Roadmap within the overarching Future Jobs Initiative Framework. The event will be fit directly into the Future Jobs initiative Pillar 2: Improving SME Productivity.

It is envisaged that this event will elicit the views of stakeholders on several thematic recommendations made by the OECD regarding future policy development for Ireland's SMEs and Entrepreneurship.

I am confident that the measures taken by my Department to incorporate significant stakeholder engagement will inform the final OECD report and provide us with the necessary recommendations to progress and develop future policies specific to the needs of our business ecosystem.

I look forward to receiving the final report and the accompanying Strategy Roadmap which are due for publication in Quarter 3 2019.

Ticket Touting

Questions (18)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

18. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the reason no legislation regulating the problem of ticket touting has been introduced to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26977/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

At its meeting on 24 July 2018 the Government agreed to support at Second Stage the Private Members' Prohibition of Above-cost Ticket Touting Bill introduced by Deputy Noel Rock and Deputy Stephen Donnelly and approved the taking of Second and Subsequent Stages of the Bill in Government time. The Government further approved the drafting of certain amendments to the Bill, including an amendment prohibiting the use of bot software to circumvent limits on the number of ticket purchases applied by event organisers. In accordance with the Government decision, the Bill's Second Stage was completed in Dáil Eireann on 21 February 2019 in Government time.

My Department has been working with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel on the preparation of amendments to this Bill which is a priority piece of legislation. While good progress has been made and it is my aim to finalise the necessary amendments as soon as possible, it is not possible to provide a precise time frame for their completion. the progress of the Bill has been slower than I would have wished for a number of reasons – the priority given by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to Brexit-related legislation in the first quarter of this year; the case on UK ticket resale provisions referred to the EFTA Court; and the provision on the resale of tickets acquired through the use of bots recently agreed by the European Parliament and Council. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel has sought legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General on a number of issues that have arisen in the course of drafting the amendments. There is a need also to consider whether and how a provision on the resale of tickets acquired through the use of automated means recently agreed by the European Parliament and Council but not yet formally adopted should be integrated into the Bill. As I have previously informed the Deputy, when the amendments are finalised, the proposed legislation will have to be submitted to the European Commission in accordance with the provisions of Directive (EU) 2015/1535 on the procedure for the provision of information on technical regulations and rules on information society services. The Directive requires Member States to postpone the adoption of any legislation within its scope for three months from the date of its submission to the Commission.

I would like to assure the Deputy that this is at the top of my priority list and my Department, together with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, are working as speedily as possible to ensure the earliest possible delivery of this legislation.

Brexit Supports

Questions (19)

Brendan Smith

Question:

19. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the funding available through her Department in 2019 to assist sectors that will be adversely impacted by Brexit; the schemes supported by such funding; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27099/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports, schemes and advisory resources to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit. Brexit is my top priority at this time and was central to my decision-making on the allocation of the additional €14.2m Current and €65m Capital funding I secured as part of Budget 2019. For example, this year, I provided an additional €5m to the network of LEOs, €3m to Enterprise Ireland, €2m to IDA Ireland and €1m to InterTradeIreland to help businesses prepare for Brexit, together with funding for the longer-term Future Growth Loan Scheme and the IDA Regional Property Programme. I also provided extra staff for the regulatory bodies of my Department.

The €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme provides working capital (1-3 years) to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees to help them innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenges. This scheme, co-funded with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and at least 40% of the total funding will be made available to food businesses. In addition, the €300 Future Growth Loan Scheme provides a longer-term loan facility of up to €3m over 8 to 10 years.

Enterprise Ireland has established additional supports including a Prepare for Brexit online portal and communications campaign, an online “Brexit SME Scorecard”, a “Be Prepared Grant” and the Agile Innovation Fund provides grant support of 50% up to €300,000. EI approved grant support of €74m for Brexit impacted firms in 2018 and have launched a Customs Insights Online training course.

The suite of supports available from the LEOs includes tailored mentoring to address the specific Brexit challenges facing businesses and targeted training on Brexit-related issues. 641 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring focused on Brexit. The LEOs also provide a one-day Prepare Your Business for Customs workshop and Technical Assistance Grants for clients to explore new market opportunities. The majority of the schemes outlined are open to all SMEs, not just agency clients.

InterTradeIreland’s Brexit Advisory Service provides important support for SMEs working to navigate any changes in cross-border trading relationships arising as a result of Brexit. To date, more than 7,000 SMEs have directly engaged with the Brexit Advisory Service. ITI also offers a Brexit Planning Voucher worth up to €2,250 and a Brexit Implementation Voucher, which provides financial support up to €5,625 to allow businesses to implement critical changes.

In relation to State Aid, earlier this year I met with the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager and at that meeting she assured me that the Commission stands ready to act urgently in mitigation against the impacts of Brexit on Irish firms.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (20)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

20. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of preparations to assist businesses for a hard Brexit; the amount spent on hard Brexit preparations to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26980/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports, schemes and advisory resources to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit. Brexit was central to my decision-making on the allocation of the additional €14.2m Current and €65m Capital funding I secured as part of Budget 2019. For example, I provided an additional €5m to the network of Local Enterprise Offices, €3m to Enterprise Ireland, €2m to IDA Ireland and €1m to InterTradeIreland and extra staff for regulatory bodies of my Department to help businesses prepare for Brexit, together with funding for the longer-term Future Growth Loan Scheme and the IDA Regional Property Programme.

The €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme provides working capital (1-3 years) to eligible businesses and as of 21 June, there have been 596 applications approved as eligible under the scheme. The Future Growth Loan Scheme opened for eligibility applications in April of this year and provides a longer-term facility of 8-10 years, with loans of €100,000 (€50,000 for primary agriculture) to €3 million available. EU State aid approval has been secured for a €200 million Rescue and Restructure Scheme which can be used to support businesses in the event of a sudden shock.

Enterprise Ireland has established additional supports including a Prepare for Brexit online portal and communications campaign, an online “Brexit SME Scorecard”, a “Be Prepared Grant” and a new Eurozone Strategy to help SMEs broaden their export footprint beyond the UK. In addition, the Agile Innovation Fund provides grant support of 50% up to €300,000. EI has launched a Customs Insights Online training course which is also available through the LEOs. I increased LEO funding by 22% for 2019, to assist micro-enterprises to be more competitive and 641 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit.

InterTradeIreland’s Brexit Advisory Service provides important support for SMEs working to navigate any changes in cross-border trading relationships arising as a result of Brexit. ITI has organised a series of awareness events focused on improving knowledge of customs processes and procedures, and identifying actions that can be taken in areas such as logistics and supply chain management. To date, more than 7,000 SMEs have directly engaged with the ITI Brexit Advisory Service.

ITI also offers a Brexit Planning Voucher worth up to €2,250, which enables businesses to get professional advice on how best to plan and prepare for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union advice on specific areas such as tariffs, currency management, regulatory and customs issues and movement of labour, goods and services. In March, it launched a Brexit Implementation Voucher, which provides 50% matched financial support up to €5,625. This will allow businesses to implement critical changes.

Brexit preparedness supports - uptake of available schemes

Scheme

Uptake (14 June 2019)

Brexit Loan Scheme

656 applications received, 596 approved by SBCI, 141 Loans progressed to sanction at bank level to a value of €31.73 million.

(Uptake as of 21 June)

Enterprise Ireland Brexit Scorecard - online platform for Irish companies to self-assess their exposure to Brexit

5,313 Brexit Scorecards have been completed. 1085 LEO clients have completed the scorecard.

Enterprise Ireland Be Prepared Grant

199 Be Prepared Grants have been approved

Enterprise Ireland Market Discovery Fund - A support to EI clients to research new markets

167 projects have been approved under this initiative [1]

Enterprise Ireland Prepare to Export Scorecard   

3,716 Prepare to Export Scorecards have been completed

Enterprise Ireland Customs Insights Online Course

1,258 Customs Insights Course participants

Enterprise Ireland Agile Innovation Fund - Gives rapid fast-track access to innovation funding

52 Agile Innovation projects have been approved

Enterprise Ireland Brexit Advisory Clinics

16 Brexit Advisory Clinics have been run with over 1,200 in attendance

Enterprise Ireland Brexit “Act On Programme” – A support funding the engagement of a consultant to devise report with recommendations to help clients address weaknesses and improve resilience

258 “Act on” Plans have been completed

Enterprise Ireland Strategic Consultancy Grant – A grant to assist EI clients to hire a strategic consultant for a set period

1,071 Strategic Consultancy Grants have been approved

Local Enterprise Office Technical Assistance Grant for Micro Export - an incentive for LEO clients to explore and develop new market opportunities

602 clients were approved assistance under the Technical Assistance Grant [2]

Local Enterprise Office LEAN for Micro - The LEO Lean4Micro offer was developed in collaboration between the EI Lean department and the LEOs to tailor the EI Lean offer for LEO micro enterprise clients

340 LEO clients have participated in the programme

Local Enterprise Office Mentoring

641 mentoring participants solely focused on Brexit

Local Enterprise Office Brexit Seminars/Events

4,639 Participants at the Brexit Information events

Customs Training Participants

468 Participants attended Customs Training

InterTradeIreland Brexit Advisory Service

3,045 SMEs have directly engaged with the Brexit Advisory Service in 2019. This is in addition to the 4,175 engagements in 2018.

InterTradeIreland Brexit Start to Plan Vouchers

There have been 1,587 applications, with 1,391 approved and 12 still pending assessment.

Pilot Online Retail Scheme administered by Enterprise Ireland

11 retailers were awarded funding in March 2019. A second call of the Scheme will open on 19 June and will close 31 July 2019.

[1] The Market Discovery Fund figure listed is lower than that of the end of February document figure of 251. The updated figure refers to the number of businesses approved, while the earlier number of 251 referred to the number of projects approved. This is now how it is reported to the Board, where projects was used previously.

[2] The figure of 651 provided on 08 May was incorrect and should have indicated uptake of 551. This was due to human error

Enterprise Support Services Provision

Questions (21)

Brendan Smith

Question:

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]

View answer

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.

IDA Ireland Data

Questions (22)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

22. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the most recent occasion on which the IDA visited counties Cavan, Monaghan and Meath; the number of new jobs created by the IDA in the past 12 months; the steps it is taking to attract companies to the counties; the success it has had with the strategy for the counties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26975/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Regional development, not just in the Border area but across Ireland, remains a key priority of mine as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Together with my Department and its enterprise Agencies, I am focused on strengthening investment and job creation all over the country.

In 2018, 56% of all net new jobs created by IDA Ireland were in locations outside Dublin. Similarly, every region in Ireland, including the Border Region, posted net gains in jobs last year. There are now over 132,000 people employed across 681 firms in IDA client companies outside the capital. In fact, 58% of all IDA-supported employment is now outside of Dublin. This represents the highest number of people employed in the regions by IDA clients in the Agency’s history.

The strength of the IDA's recent mid-year results for 2019 indicates that we can continue to rely on the selling points that make investing in the regions so attractive in the first place with the technology, financial services and pharmaceutical sectors performing extremely well. While more work certainly remains to be done, the Border region has benefitted from the IDA's regional focus. The area experienced a 3% growth in employment by overseas companies in 2018 and we are working hard to increase this figure in 2019.

As part of their work in growing investment in the regions, the IDA is directly investing in a building programme to help ensure property solutions are in place for overseas companies considering investing or expanding outside our major cities. As part of Budget 2019, I allocated an additional €10 million to the Agency for the next phase of its Regional Property Programme (RPP). The RPP includes plans for an Advanced Technology Unit at Knockaconny, County Monaghan. As the Deputy will be aware, I announced the appointment of a design and delivery team for this Unit earlier this year with construction due to commence later this year. The wider Border region will also benefit from the RPP, with new buildings planned for Dundalk and Sligo, which I am confident will help generate new opportunities for surrounding areas.

The IDA is taking other steps to promote the region to investors. For example, the Agency has a dedicated regional manager for the North East/North West Region and an office in the Cavan Innovation and Technology Centre. As part of its strategy to promote the area, it is focusing on sectors including agri-food, manufacturing, tourism and internationally traded services. The Agency's staff regularly engage with key stakeholders on the ground in Cavan and Monaghan, including with local authorities, public bodies, the education sector and companies from both its own client base but also from the indigenous sector. County Meath, meanwhile, is being actively marketed by the IDA as a location for second sites for multinationals in the Dublin region, with a focus on building clusters in existing sectors like high-value manufacturing and international services.

While there were no new foreign direct investment (FDI) supported jobs created in Cavan in 2018, Monaghan experienced an 8% increase in FDI employment, with 12 jobs added by companies in the County. Similarly, Meath saw a 4.5% increase in IDA supported employment, with the creation of 67 new jobs last year.

Information on site visit data for 2019 is only yet available for the first three months of this year. Counties Cavan, Monaghan and Meath each hosted one site visit over that period. In 2018, County Meath reported a twofold annual increase in site visits with six visits. County Cavan hosted two site visits, whilst there were three site visits to County Monaghan, compared to one visit in 2017.

It is important to emphasise that FDI, of course, only forms one part of investment in regional locations. Indigenous enterprise is responsible for a significant portion of employment growth, especially outside Dublin. Both Monaghan and Cavan have seen promising growth in the numbers employed in Enterprise Ireland-backed firms, with increases of 5% and 6% respectively. County Meath has seen a 4% increase in EI-backed businesses. The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are also performing well, with net increases of 146 jobs, 134 jobs and 143 jobs in LEO-supported companies in Cavan, Monaghan and Meath respectively in 2018.

Another example of the success of this Government's strategy for regional job creation is Combilift's new €50 million Research & Development and Testing Centre in County Monaghan. This new investment will create 200 jobs and represents a home-grown success story. The positive impact that Combilift has on the county and the border area cannot be underestimated. Under my Department's Regional Enterprise Development Fund, I was pleased to allocate funding for a number of projects in the three counties including the Boyne Valley Food Hub in Meath, the Bioeconomy Research Centre in Monaghan and Cavan Digital Hub.

I can assure the Deputy that all of the Enterprise Agencies under my remit will continue to engage with their clients, and with one another, to create more jobs and source new investments in 2019 for Cavan, Monaghan and Meath.

Brexit Supports

Questions (23)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

23. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she has had recent meetings with the European Commissioner for Competition regarding threats posed to Irish businesses by Brexit and mitigation measures that the EU can provide in such circumstances; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26926/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

I most recently met with Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner for Competition on 24 January 2019 in my Department. At our meeting, I acknowledged the strong engagement between her team in DG Competition and the Irish officials of the Brexit State Aid Technical Working Group in designing supports for enterprises impacted by Brexit, utilising all the flexibility within the State Aid framework. I also highlighted that there would be a need for further flexibility in the event of a hard Brexit particularly regarding supports for liquidity and transformational investment.

The Commissioner acknowledged that Ireland is more exposed to Brexit impacts than any other EU Member State to the impacts of Brexit. She noted that the engagement between her team and the Irish officials had facilitated their greater understanding of this exposure and she emphasised that the Commission stands ready to act urgently in mitigation against the impacts of Brexit on Irish firms.

The Commissioner committed to providing the highest level of support to Ireland – including a dedicated team of State Aid experts to deal with Irish cases expeditiously and to address the individual merits of cases, targeted where the greatest impact will be achieved.

Our Brexit State Aid Technical Working Group with DG Competition was established in 2017, comprising senior representatives from DG Competition, the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation, Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to scope and design schemes to support enterprises impacted by Brexit in line with State Aid rules.

Much has been achieved by this Working Group. It has examined and explored a range of opportunities within State Aid rules including the development of the Future Growth Loan Scheme under GBER rules, and the expansion of Ireland’s Rescue and Restructuring Scheme to include Temporary liquidity aid, and to increase the budget for the Rescue & Restructuring Scheme to €200 million. Through the mechanism of the Technical Working Group Ireland has fully utilised the provisions of the State aid framework to enable the investment by Enterprise Ireland of €74 million in Brexit impacted businesses in 2018. Options available through the Agriculture Guidelines are also being developed to support large food companies.

Since November 2017, the Working Group has met at regular intervals and in between these meetings, there has been engagement on specific issues to continue to progress matters and to address any State aid issues that may arise, to ensure a rapid and appropriate response as the ultimate shape of Brexit and its firm-level implications become known.

The next meeting of the Working Group will take place later this week in Brussels on Friday 28th June.

Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement

Questions (24)

Maurice Quinlivan

Question:

24. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the specific reforms and changes that have taken place at the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement as a direct result of the lessons learned after the collapse of a trial (details supplied) [26979/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

While it is crucial to identify and learn from any shortcomings in this particular investigation into the affairs of Anglo Irish Bank, it is important to note that this investigation took place in the period 2008 to 2012.

Organisational reforms in the ODCE were commenced in 2012 to enhance the capability of the Office to investigate complex breaches of company law and to ensure a more efficient and effective use of its resources. These include:

- Reorganising the structure of the Office;

- Recruiting additional expertise, including 8 Forensic Accountants, a Digital Forensic Specialist, 2 Enforcement Portfolio Managers and 2 Enforcement Lawyers;

- As senior-level vacancies have arisen, reconfiguration of the skill sets, competencies, roles and responsibilities associated with those posts to better reflect the organisation's current needs;

- Amending the investigative procedures used by the Office so that members of An Garda Síochána take the lead in all criminal investigations; and

- Fostering a greater culture of risk management within the Office.

The account of the investigative shortcomings identified by Judge Aylmer was published on 4 December 2018 on the website of my Department. The purpose of publishing the account is to understand the factors that led to such investigative shortcomings between 2008 and 2012 and to take appropriate steps to ensure they have been addressed.

To enhance the capability of the staff in the ODCE to investigate complex breaches of company law, specialised training was provided in December 2012 in the Garda Training College Templemore for ODCE staff to assist with statement taking, interviewing of witnesses, preparation of files for the DPP, exhibits handling and disclosure. Garda Level 1 Interview training was also made available in 2015.

In addition, one of the actions in the Government's package of Measures to Enhance Ireland’s Corporate, Economic and Regulatory Framework, published in November 2017, is the establishment of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) as a stand-alone agency.

The General Scheme of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2018 to establish the ODCE as a stand-alone agency was published on 4 December 2018. The General Scheme is currently subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

Changing the structure of the ODCE from an office to a statutory agency will provide greater autonomy to the agency in relation to staffing resources and ensure it is better equipped to investigate increasingly complex breaches of company law. Sourcing of expertise and specialist staff, such as forensic accountants, will be enhanced under the agency model.

The establishment of the ODCE as a stand-alone agency is intended to:

- Enhance the ODCE’s independence, by providing it with more autonomy, particularly the ability to recruit the required specialist skills and expertise;

- Build on its existing expertise and experience;

- Strengthen its capability to investigate increasingly complex breaches of company law; and

- Build on the organisational and procedural reforms that have been implemented.

The General Scheme of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2018 also introduces new, or develops existing, powers and investigative tools for the new Authority.

These are –

- A provision on the admissibility of written statements (Head 45);

- Power for the Authority to request that a person acting as a liquidator provide evidence to it that he or she is qualified to act as a liquidator in accordance with the requirements of the Companies Act 2014 (Head 41);

- New grounds to apply to the Courts for an Order to restrict a person from acting as a director in winding-up situations (Head 38). This is intended to address the situation where a director does not conduct an orderly winding up of a company.

My Department is also working with the Department of Justice and Equality with a view to giving the new Authority a power under the forthcoming Communications (Retention of Data) Bill to apply directly to the courts to retain specified telecommunication records for an investigation.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (25)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

25. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps she is taking to assist companies in the Border counties to be prepared for Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26955/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports, schemes and advisory resources to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit. While we cannot yet know the form that Brexit will take, these measures aim to assist businesses in identifying key risk areas and practical preparatory actions regardless of the circumstances of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Brexit is my top priority at this time and was central to my decision-making on the allocation of the additional €14.2m Current and €65m Capital funding I secured as part of Budget 2019.

An additional €5 million capital funding has been allocated to the Local Enterprise Offices, which represents an increase of 22%, and a further €1 million allocated to InterTradeIreland to help SMEs prepare for the particular North-South challenges associated with Brexit. I have also allocated an additional €3m to Enterprise Ireland and €2m to IDA Ireland to expand their global footprints and drive the diversification of trade and investment. Additional resources have been distributed across Science Foundation Ireland, the Health and Safety Authority and the NSAI for 2019 to support enterprises as they adjust to the new relationship with the UK and pursue new opportunities.

InterTradeIreland [ITI] works with SMEs on an all-island basis and is particularly well-placed, given its remit to develop cross-border trade, to help SMEs prepare for the particular North-South challenges associated with Brexit. The ITI Brexit Advisory Service provides a focal point for SMEs working to navigate any changes in cross-border trading relationships arising as a result of Brexit. As part of this service, ITI has organised a series of awareness-raising events focused on improving knowledge of customs processes and procedures and identifying actions that can be taken in areas such as logistics and supply chain management. To date, more than 7,000 SMEs have directly engaged with the Brexit Advisory Service.

ITI also offers a Brexit Planning Voucher scheme, which enables businesses to seek professional advice on how best to plan and prepare for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. This support helps businesses obtain advice on specific areas such as tariffs, currency management, regulatory and customs issues and movement of labour, goods and services. Brexit Planning Vouchers are worth up to €2,250 (inclusive of VAT) each. Businesses are finding the vouchers very useful and there has been strong demand which can be attributed to the media campaign conducted by ITI across a range of platforms. As of its most recent report, there have been 1,587 applications for the Brexit Planning Voucher, of which 1,391 have been approved.

In March, ITI launched a further financial support in the form of the Brexit Implementation voucher, which offers financial support up to £5,000/€5,625 (inclusive of VAT), with InterTradeIreland paying 50% towards implementing critical changes in relation to Brexit matters.

The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are the first-stop-shop for anyone seeking guidance and support on starting or growing their business, including businesses in the border counties. The LEOs have organised various events to enable companies to learn about the potential impacts and opportunities of Brexit. So far, 641 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit. As of February 2019, the LEOs are also offering customs training workshops to support businesses trading with third countries in advance of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The LEOs engage in a number of other schemes to help businesses prepare for Brexit. Technical Assistance Grants for Micro Export are offered as an incentive for LEO clients to explore and develop new market opportunities. As of June 2019, 602 LEO clients were approved assistance under the grant. Also, additional capital funding of €5 million was announced in Budget 2019 for local enterprise development.

In addition, the six LEOs in the Border region are working together with their Northern Ireland counterparts under the EU Co-Innovate Programme. The aim of Co-Innovate is to give SMEs from the manufacturing and tradeable services sectors in the eligible regions the tools and tailored support to help them to innovate, differentiate and compete successfully.

During February and March this year, I launched nine new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020, which build on the very strong progress made on employment creation under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017. The new Plans will ensure that regional stakeholders continue to work together to help achieve the Government’s 2020 targets for regional employment taking account of new and emerging opportunities and challenges, including Brexit. Implementation of the Regional Enterprise Plans for the North East and the North West has already commenced. Earlier this week on 24th June I launched my Department's new Regional Enterprise Development Fund Call 3 for €45m in competitive funding which has a strong emphasis on building resilience in our enterprise base in the context of Brexit.

The Brexit Loan Scheme provides relatively short-term working capital, 1-3 years, to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees to help them innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenges. The scheme is open to eligible businesses from all regions of the country, including those in the Border counties. Dublin aside, the most recent quarterly report shows that the border region is the most active region in terms of eligibility applications for the scheme.

The scheme was launched in March 2018 and, as at close of business on 21 June, there have been 656 eligibility applications received, of which 596 have been approved and 144 loans progressed to sanction at bank level to a value of €31.73 million.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme opened for eligibility applications in April 2019. This scheme provides a longer-term facility, 8 to 10 years, of up to €300m to support strategic capital investment for a post-Brexit environment by business at competitive rates. This scheme has been jointly funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to make available loans of €100,000 (€50,000 for primary agriculture) to €3 million, with loans of under €500,000 being provided on an unsecured basis. The scheme is open to eligible Irish businesses, including those in the primary agriculture and seafood sectors, to support strategic, long-term investment in a post-Brexit environment.

Enterprise Ireland has established a Prepare for Brexit online portal and communications campaign, as well as an online “Brexit SME Scorecard” to help Irish businesses self-assess their exposure to Brexit and a “Be Prepared Grant” to support SME clients in planning to mitigate risks arising from Brexit. It has also launched a new Eurozone Strategy to help SMEs broaden their export footprint beyond the UK.

Over 5,000 businesses have used Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit Scorecard to date and 85% of EI client firms are now taking actions, while 199 applications for the Be Prepared grant have been approved. 258 EI clients have received funding under its “Act On” programme, which supports the engagement of a consultant to help clients identify weaknesses and improve resilience.

Enterprise Ireland’s Customs Insights course helps businesses looking at customs for the first time to understand the key customs concepts, documentation and processes. The course advises on the key actions companies can take to prepare for Brexit and highlights the various supports available. This course is available for any company to use whether they are importers or exporters and also whether they are agency clients or not.

In order to help build enterprise capability, under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) EI invested in seven successful projects in the Border region with a total funding allocation of more than €10.6 million. This funding will drive enterprise development and job creation in the Border Region. Enterprise Ireland will continue to engage with its clients to ensure they have the supports required to prepare for any kind of Brexit. On 24 June, at a visit to the recently opened Cavan Digital Hub, I announced that I will be making a further €45 million available under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF).

My Department and I have participated in the whole-of-Government 'Getting Ireland Brexit Ready' public information campaign. This campaign features workshop events throughout the country, aimed primarily at business and people most impacted by Brexit, including events in Monaghan and Donegal. In addition to these events, Enterprise Ireland has rolled out a series of Brexit Advisory Clinics to help businesses across the country, including events in Dundalk, Letterkenny and Cootehill.

While I have seen a very positive uptake of the supports available, I am conscious that the lasting uncertainty around the Brexit process may be leading businesses to defer their Brexit preparations. The UK’s exit from the EU will bring change for Irish businesses and I want businesses, particularly those around the Border counties to know my Department and agencies are here to help.

Brexit Data

Questions (26)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

26. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the uptake in the number of schemes in support of businesses preparing for Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27175/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

While the nature of the UK's departure from the EU still remains to be determined, Brexit continues to represent a significant challenge for businesses in Ireland. That is why my Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports, schemes and advisory resources to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit. While we cannot yet know the form that Brexit will take, these measures aim to assist businesses in identifying key risk areas and practical preparatory actions regardless of the circumstances of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

For example, I provided an additional €5m to the network of Local Enterprise Offices, €3m to Enterprise Ireland, €2m to IDA Ireland and €1m to InterTradeIreland to help businesses prepare for Brexit, together with funding for the longer-term Future Growth Loan Scheme and the IDA Regional Property Programme. I also provided extra staff for regulatory bodies of my Department to ensure they are properly resourced to address the additional demands that Brexit will create.

The Local Enterprise Offices [LEOs] are the first-stop-shop for anyone seeking guidance and support on starting or growing their business. The LEOs have organised various events to enable companies to learn about the potential impacts and opportunities of Brexit.

In addition, 641 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit. Technical Assistance Grants for Micro Export are offered as an incentive for LEO clients to explore and develop new market opportunities. 602 LEO clients have been approved for the Technical Assistance Grant.

The Local Enterprise Office interactive one day Prepare Your Business for Customs workshop helps businesses understand the key customs concepts, documentation and processes required to succeed in a post Brexit environment. 468 Participants have so far attended this Customs Training.

InterTradeIreland also plays a major role as part of Ireland’s Brexit response and offers Brexit-related advisory services to eligible businesses. So far this year, more than 3,000 SMEs have directly engaged with the Brexit Advisory Service.

ITI offers a Brexit Start to Plan voucher and Brexit Implementation Voucher schemes, which enables businesses to get professional advice on how best to plan, prepare and implement for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. These supports help businesses obtain advice on specific areas such as tariffs, currency management, regulatory and customs issues and movement of labour, goods and services.

ITI Brexit Start to Plan vouchers are worth up to €2,250 (inclusive of VAT) each. 1,587 businesses have applied for a Brexit Start to Plan voucher, of which 1,391 have been approved. ITI new Brexit Implementation Voucher provides financial support up to £5,000/€5,625 (inclusive of VAT), with InterTradeIreland paying 50%. This will allow businesses to implement critical changes making them better prepared to deal with a new trading relationship.

The Brexit Loan Scheme, launched in March of 2018, provides relatively short-term working capital, 1 to 3 years, to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees to help them to innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenges. Businesses can confirm their eligibility with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and, if deemed eligible, can apply to one of the participating finance providers for a loan under the scheme.

As at 21 June, there have been 656 applications for eligibility under the scheme, of which 596 have been approved to date by SBCI. 144 of those applications have progressed to sanction at bank value, to a total value of €31.73 million.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme makes up to €300 million of loans available with a term of 8-10 years. This scheme is available to eligible businesses in Ireland and the primary agriculture (farmers) and seafood sectors to support strategic long-term investment. The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, the scheme operator, opened for eligibility applications on 17th April and up to 21st June it received 365 eligibility applications and issued 340 eligibility letters.

Enterprise Ireland has established a Prepare for Brexit online portal and communications campaign, as well as an online “Brexit SME Scorecard” to help Irish businesses self-assess their exposure to Brexit and a “Be Prepared Grant” to support SME clients in planning to mitigate risks arising from Brexit. It has also launched a new Eurozone Strategy to help SMEs broaden their export footprint beyond the UK.

Over 5,300 business have used Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit Scorecard to date and 85% of EI client firms have a plan in place, while 199 applications for the Be Prepared grant have been approved. 258 EI clients have received funding under its “Act On” programme, which supports the engagement of a consultant to help clients identify weaknesses and improve resilience. EI has also hosted 16 Brexit Advisory Clinics.

EI also launched a Customs Insights Online course at the beginning of the year. This is a new online training support to help all businesses understand how customs work including the documentation and process required to operate and succeed post Brexit. The Customs Insights course explains in clear and simple terms the main customs rules and included the key actions companies can take to prepare for customs after Brexit and the options from Revenue that are available to make the customs process more efficient. This will be available for any company to use whether they are importers or exporters and also whether they are agency clients or not. There have been over 1,250 Customs Insights Course participants.

While I have seen a very positive uptake of the supports available, I am conscious that the delays to Brexit may have led businesses to defer their immediate planning. However, the UK’s exit from the EU will mean changes for Irish businesses. I want businesses to know that my Department and its agencies are here to help. The existing supports, schemes and advice are in place to ensure that businesses are prepared for any Brexit scenario.

Industrial Development

Questions (27)

Pat Deering

Question:

27. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of Future Jobs Ireland 2019 further to its launch; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27103/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

On 10 March 2019, I, along with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, launched Future Jobs Ireland 2019: Preparing Now for Tomorrow's Economy.

Future Jobs Ireland 2019 is the first in a series of annual reports as part of a new multi-annual framework to ensure our enterprises and workers are resilient and prepared for future challenges and opportunities. This is a whole-of-Government approach, which will form a key part of Ireland’s economic agenda over the medium term.

Future Jobs Ireland focuses on five key Pillars, namely:

1. Embracing Innovation and technological change;

2. Improving SME productivity;

3. Enhancing skills and developing and attracting talent;

4. Increasing participation in the labour force; and

5. Transitioning to a low carbon economy.

Future Jobs Ireland 2019 sets out 26 core Ambitions under these Pillars.

The Ambitions under the first Pillar, Embracing Innovation and Technological Change, are:

- Position Ireland as a leading pioneer in technology adoption by investing in demonstrator sites and developing enabling frameworks and standards

- Implement a strategic approach to maximise the benefits from digitalisation

- Position the Public Service to be a leader in technology adoption and innovation

- Establish Top Teams to realise opportunities presented by technological changes and the move to a low carbon economy

- Increase the capacity of SMEs to engage in research, development & innovation

- Incentivise SMEs to invest in new technologies

- Develop Transition Teams to assist workers and sectors likely to be most challenged by our changing economy

In terms of the second Pillar, Improving SME Productivity, the Ambitions are:

- Diversify our enterprise base to ensure the Irish economy is more resilient and adaptable

- Stronger policy focus on productivity as a driver of economic prosperity

- Enhance business framework conditions for firm creation and growth

- Encourage enterprises to exploit technology and business process improvements to increase productivity

- Improve leadership and management skills in SMEs

- Strengthen linkages between SMEs and multinational enterprises and our tertiary education institutions

The Ambitions for Pillar 3, Enhancing Skills and Developing and Attracting Talent, are:

- Provide high quality and timely education and training responses to evolving enterprise and skills needs

- Encourage lifelong learning and upskilling

- Foster participation in apprenticeship and traineeship programmes

- Compete successfully for international talent

- Improve career guidance and advice provision

Pillar 4, Increasing Participation in the Labour Force, includes the following Ambitions:

- Encourage participation in the labour force through high-quality Early Learning and Care

- Foster participation in the labour force through flexible working solutions

- Improve incentives to participate in the labour force

- Encourage adult dependents and beneficiaries of other full-time welfare payments to engage in activation, enter and/or stay in the workforce

- Undertake promotional campaigns to encourage greater levels of participation in the labour force

Finally, the Ambitions under the fifth Pillar, Transitioning to a Low Carbon Economy, are:

- Become a leader in adopting and developing standards in the low carbon economy

- Realise the opportunities for economic activity and job creation

- Leverage Ireland’s natural resources, enterprise strengths and innovative capacity to be a global leader in the circular and bio economy

Each Ambition is backed up by a set of specific Deliverables representing crucial steps and commitment toward achieving these medium-term Ambitions.

These Deliverables are built on engagement, including through a National Summit held in November 2018, which brought Government and stakeholders together to discuss the Pillars within Future Jobs Ireland, and informed by empirical evidence. The Deliverables outlined in Future Jobs Ireland 2019 represent the first steps in achieving these Ambitions and will be built on in subsequent annual editions.

Future Jobs Ireland is a Government priority and will be overseen by a Cabinet committee (Cabinet Committee A) which will have a standing agenda item regarding Future Jobs Ireland. This committee will be supported by a grouping of senior officials across Government Departments (Senior Officials Group A).

In recognition that Future Jobs Ireland is a medium-term framework, high level targets for 2025 have been set for each Pillar. More discrete metrics and targets have also been established for each deliverable. Each deliverable will have an agreed delivery date of Quarter 1, 2, 3 or 4. Many deliverables involve collaboration between departments, so a lead department is assigned ownership for reporting and coordinating contributors. Partnering contributors are identified along with the leading Department.

Progress on deliverables will be reported quarterly to the Senior Official Group through the Department of the Taoiseach, assisted by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation to ensure an ongoing whole-of-government focus on delivery. Biannually, more detailed progress reports will be made to Government and subsequently published. One of these reports will be an annual report detailing the progress made based on targets and metrics.

Regional Development Initiatives

Questions (28)

Peter Burke

Question:

28. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the regional enterprise plans; the way in which the plans will benefit counties Longford and Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27107/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

Since becoming Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I have made regional development my top priority. Indeed, enterprise development and job creation in the regions is a key policy priority of this Government.

We want to create a situation where all regions are enabled to realise their potential as contributors to economic recovery and growth, and thereby reduce regional disparities.

A total of 18,600 more people are in employment in the Midlands in Q1 2019 compared to Q1 2015 when the Regional Action Plan for Jobs initiative was launched. Unemployment in the region has reduced from 14.9 percent to 6.2 percent in the same period. The State average figure at Q1 2019 is 4.8% and so unemployment in the Midlands is currently outside that 2020 target.

The Government remains committed to achieving an overall jobs uplift of between 10 and 15 per cent in each region by the end of 2020 and to bring and/or maintain unemployment levels in each region to within at least one percentage point of the State average.

To that end, during February and March this year, I launched nine new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020, which build on the very strong progress made on employment creation under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017. I am pleased to say that implementation has commenced in all regions.

I launched the Regional Enterprise Plan for the Midlands region, which covers Laois, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath on 6 February in Mountmellick, Co Laois. The Steering Committee for the Plan, chaired by Dr. Anne Cusack, has already met to commence its implementation.

There are seven ‘Strategic Objectives’ in the Midlands Plan. These include: ensuring that the Midlands is well positioned to address the challenges posed by the transition to a low carbon economy and renewable energy; position and support the growth of the Midlands as an advanced manufacturing centre of excellence; strengthen the attractiveness of the Midlands as a destination to visit; and ensure the availability of skills and talent to realise the Midlands’ economic potential and address upskilling requirements.

The Strategic Objectives and actions in the Midlands Plan are set out alongside the Enterprise Agencies’ (Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland) and the LEOs’ core activities in the region. Earlier this week, I launched Enterprise Ireland's new regional plan 'Powering the Regions' which sets out the focus of its activities in each region, including the Midlands, to expand the reach of the Enterprise Ireland client base over the coming years.

The focus for the Midlands over the period to 2020 under the Regional Enterprise Plan will be to maintain an emphasis on employment growth, aiming to out-perform the rate of growth achieved since 2015 to date, reduce unemployment to within one percentage point of the national average, and ensure that sustainable, quality jobs are created and maintained in the region. The collaborative Strategic Objectives and actions in this Plan will support this. Guided by the Regional Enterprise Plan, and with all stakeholders working together, including those in Longford and Westmeath, the Midlands region is well positioned to realise its enterprise potential and see better quality, sustainable jobs and investment in the region.

The Government has put several funding streams in place to support regional development, and both Longford and Westmeath have attracted funding through these. They include my Department’s Regional Enterprise Development Fund; and the Rural and Urban Regeneration and Development Funds under Project Ireland 2040.

Under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), the Midlands region has already secured total funding of over €3.4 million under two completed Calls, including the IMR in Mullingar (€2.16m) and the development of a Digital Hub in Longford in a joint project with Leitrim and Cavan (€1.28m). Earlier this week I launched a Third Call under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund for up to €45 million and I encourage strong collaborative proposals from the Midlands to apply to the Scheme.

Work Permits Applications Data

Questions (29, 31, 35)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

29. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of applications received to date in 2019 for work permits for chefs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26951/19]

View answer

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

31. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the average time it takes to process an application for a work permit; the number of applications received in 2018; the number refused and granted; her plans to streamline the process; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26950/19]

View answer

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

35. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of applications for employment permits received in each month to date in 2019; if the applications are from trusted partners or standard; the number of reviews carried out in each month for both categories; the numbers approved and refused each month; the waiting list for processing applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26957/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29, 31 and 35 together.

As the economy improves and we approach full employment my Department has experienced a high volume of employment permit applications which has led to delays in processing applications. At the end of May 2019 there was a 16% increase in the amount of applications received (7,407 applications received) over the same period in 2018. At the same time there has been a 53% increase in the amount of applications processed (7,353 applications processed) compared to the same period last year, clearly demonstrating that productivity is improving. It is anticipated that this month, June 2019, will be the busiest month for processing applications in more than 10 years.

In 2018 my Department received 16,768 permit applications granting 13,398 and refusing 1,384. The average length of time it has taken to process an employment permit application to date in 2019 is 37 business days. To date in 2019 my Department has received 370 employment permit applications for chefs of which 268 have issued. At the end of May 2019, there were 2,436 permit applications in the processing queue, down from a peak of 3,230 in September 2018.

Employment Permits section is working to reduce the current waiting times of four weeks for Trusted Partner applications which accounts for 71% of total applications and twelve weeks for Standard applications , accounting for 29% of applications.

To reduce processing times, the Employment Permits section has introduced a number of operational changes, streamlined processes and implemented ICT solutions. Additional staffing resources have also been assigned to the section and a fast track training programme has been devised and implemented . In addition an independent Business Process Reengineering Review for the Employment Permits section will commence shortly as a first step in the development of a new IT processing system which will take advantage of all the new technologies available, including full digitisation.

I can assure you that all available resources are being deployed with the aim of reducing processing times. My officials have been proactively engaging with customers to notify them of current delays through email, meetings and regular updates on the Employment Permits section of my Department’s website.

The statistics requested by the Deputy are attached.

Year 

Applications Received 

Standard 

Trusted Partner 

Total

2019

Jan 

287

885

1,172

Feb 

421

937

1,358

Mar

325

897

1,222

Apr

389

1,218

1,607

May

438

1,610

2,048

TOTAL

1,860

5,547

7,407

Year 

Permits Issued

Standard 

Trusted Partner 

Total

2019

Jan 

368

1,190

1,558

Feb 

381

821

1,202

Mar

359

797

1,156

Apr

249

865

1,114

May

275

1,085

1,360

TOTAL

1,632

4,758

6,390

Year 

Month

* Reviews Accepted

Reviews Withdrawn

Reviews Refused

Total Decisions

2019

Jan 

32

3

21

56

Feb 

38

5

38

81

Mar

28

6

37

71

Apr

34

2

34

70

May

34

4

37

75

TOTAL

166

20

167

353

* Reviews are not categorised by Trusted Partner / Standard Application Type

Processing Queue as at May 2019

2,436

National Broadband Plan

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 29.

Questions (30)

Pat Deering

Question:

30. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the estimated impact the national broadband plan will have on transforming business in rural Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27102/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

It is projected that the National Broadband Plan (NBP) will connect 44,000 small and micro businesses in rural areas where high speed broadband will operate. This will lead to significant productivity gains for these businesses as it will allow them to connect to new markets, engage in eCommerce and develop a wider national and global footprint.

High-quality broadband is essential to supporting the attractiveness of regional locations to investment and will further increase Ireland’s competitiveness in a global context. The availability of this enabling technology is vital for addressing the digital divide between urban and rural Ireland, and will also help to mitigate against the effects of Brexit in rural communities.

In line with Future Jobs Ireland 2019 aspirations, high-speed broadband will help to diversify the rural economy and offer further options for flexible working arrangements, such as remote working. This in turn will lead to reduced transport emissions as a result of shorter commuting distances.

The NBP is a cornerstone in the progress of Ireland’s digital transformation and our participation in the digital economy. With the roll-out of high-speed broadband to rural Ireland our strong position on the EU Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) will be further cemented into the future.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 29.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (32)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

32. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to promote participation in the schemes to prepare businesses for Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27176/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

While the nature of the UK's departure from the EU still remains to be determined, Brexit continues to represent a significant challenge for businesses in Ireland. That is why my Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports, schemes and advisory resources to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit. While we cannot yet know the form that Brexit will take, these measures aim to raise awareness and, where appropriate, to assist businesses in identifying key risk areas and practical preparatory actions regardless of the circumstances of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

My Department and I have been active in the promotion of these schemes through participation in different campaigns, including the whole-of-Government 'Getting Ireland Brexit Ready' public information campaign. This campaign features workshop events throughout the country, aimed primarily at business and people most impacted by Brexit. In addition to these, Enterprise Ireland has also rolled out a series of Brexit Advisory Clinics to help businesses across the country to better understand their exposure to Brexit and the mitigating actions available to them.

This campaign also includes a Government of Ireland website, gov.ie/Brexit, which outlines the likely impacts of Brexit on businesses in Ireland, information on how to mitigate those impacts, and a calendar of upcoming Brexit-related events for businesses.

The network of 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) is a first-stop-shop for anyone seeking guidance and support on starting or growing their business. The LEOs have organised various events to enable businesses to learn about the potential impacts and opportunities of Brexit. So far, 641 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit. As of February 2019, the LEOs are offering customs training workshops to support businesses trading with third countries in advance of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, which operates the Brexit Loan Scheme and the Future Growth Loan Scheme, continues to actively promote these schemes, both at its own events and through participation in other Brexit-related events. The SBCI also launched its first awareness campaign on its YouTube channel and since its publication the BLS explainer video has been seen more than 371,000 times.

Enterprise Ireland has established a Prepare for Brexit online portal and communications campaign. This portal also features an online “Brexit SME Scorecard” to help Irish businesses self-assess their exposure to Brexit and an online customs training tool aimed at businesses dealing with customs for the first time.

InterTradeIreland works with SMEs on an all-island basis and is particularly well placed, given its remit to develop cross-border trade, to help SMEs prepare for the particular North-South challenges associated with Brexit. The ITI Brexit Advisory Service serves as a focal point for SMEs working to navigate the changes in cross-border trading relationships arising as a result of Brexit. As part of this service, ITI has organised a series of awareness raising events focused on providing knowledge of customs procedures and identifying actions that can be taken in areas such as logistics and supply chain management. To date, more than 7,000 SMEs have directly engaged with the Brexit Advisory Service.

ITI also offers a Brexit Planning Voucher scheme, which enables businesses to seek professional advice on how best to plan and prepare for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. This support helps businesses obtain advice on specific areas, such as tariffs, currency management and customs issues. The scheme and the Brexit advisory service have been publicised through a campaign including promotion at Brexit-related events and through national radio.

My Department has also produced a number of leaflets and booklets outlining the different Government supports available to Irish businesses. Among these is the "Quick Brexit Guide for Business", which includes information on the range of Brexit supports available to businesses, their eligibility criteria and how to access them. Also relevant is "Currency Risk Management for Irish SMEs" a guide which seeks to answer many of the questions that businesses may have when assessing and managing their exposure to foreign currency risk.

My Department is preparing to publish a more detailed document providing an overview of the broad range of different Government supports available to businesses in Ireland, including the various Brexit supports available.

IDA Ireland Data

Questions (33)

Peter Burke

Question:

33. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if an update will be provided following the publication of the mid-year results of IDA Ireland; her plans to ensure further inward investment into Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27106/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The IDA’s mid-year results for 2019 demonstrate the strength of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Ireland. With 13,500 job approvals and 140 investments secured so far this year, these results indicate that Ireland remains highly attractive to overseas firms. The technology, financial services and pharmaceutical sectors have all performed particularly well.

The provisional results for the first six months of this year have also reflected a number of significant investments for the regions including 150 jobs by Meissner in Castlebar, 100 new positions at JRI America in Tralee and 75 new jobs at Greenfield Global in Portlaoise. We have now seen 455 projects secured for the regions since the IDA’s current five-year strategy was launched in 2015. This is a testament to the focus IDA Ireland has placed on regional development and the whole of government action to enhance our regional offering.

In terms of further updates, my Department and the IDA will announce the Agency's annual results in January 2020. This will give us a more complete picture of Ireland's FDI performance in 2019.

Looking to the future, I am encouraged by the continued strength of Ireland’s FDI offering. We are now, for example, ranked seventh amongst the world’s most competitive economies and second in the Eurozone. Our pro-enterprise policy environment, track record as a home to global firms and talented workforce are also powerful arguments for investing here.

While we are confident about what we have to offer, the Government is never complacent. Global competition remains intense and we need to continue evolving and adapting if we want to retain our status as a world-leader in FDI.

One key challenge is responding to increasing automation and the development of artificial intelligence. These developments have the potential to, over time, fundamentally change employment models and the way we currently work. Our country’s small size and rich talent pool, however, means we have the flexibility and skillset to successfully adapt and become a genuine 21st century economy. The Government has also taken steps, most notably through our adoption of the “Future Jobs” strategy, to ensure we are collectively ready for the jobs and opportunities of the future. The IDA’s new strategy will be another key contribution to that process.

In terms of further inward investment, I want to stress that, when it comes to FDI, I have no bigger priority than increasing levels of investment to Ireland's regions. The IDA shares that approach. We are doing everything we can to encourage investors to locate in regional areas. This includes marketing potential investment sites outside of our main cities and working to develop recognised industry clusters that will help to attract overseas investors to areas outside of Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick.

Enterprise Support Schemes

Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 29.

Questions (34)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

34. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the uptake of the competitive start fund for female entrepreneurs; the amount allocated under the fund in 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26924/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Female founders have traditionally been under-represented in the start-up arena, something that Enterprise Ireland (EI) is committed to change. A key part of this commitment is the Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs, which was first launched in 2012. Since then EI has launched 9 dedicated female Competitive Start Funds.

The purpose of the Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs is to accelerate the growth of female founded start-up companies that have the potential to employ more than 10 people and achieve €1 million in export sales within three years. This is achieved by means of a €50,000 equity investment in the company. The fund is designed to enable companies to reach key commercial and technical milestones which will ensure the delivery of their product or service to an international audience.

In 2018 Enterprise Ireland allocated €1 million in funding under the Competitive Start Fund for Female Entrepreneurs. In 2018, 7 female led businesses were successful. Female-led businesses can also take part in general and sector specific calls. A further 3 female led businesses were successful in the general Competitive Start Fund calls.

In 2018, 22% of all companies who received investment from EI through Competitive Start Funds were led by women. To build on this, Enterprise Ireland is currently working on a new six-year strategy for female entrepreneurship aimed at:

- increasing the number of females that choose to start a business,

- increasing the number of female founded high potential start-ups,

- increasing exports and jobs growth in female led companies, by 2025.

The most recent Competitive Start Fund for female entrepreneurs was launched in June 2019, with a total of €750,000 being made available for up to 15 female led companies. The call opened for applications on the 25th of June and will close on the 16th of July 2019.

Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 29.

Enterprise Support Schemes

Questions (36)

Joe Carey

Question:

36. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the supports available through her Department and agencies under her remit to help businesses trade online; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27104/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

As set out in Future Jobs Ireland 2019, all businesses, regardless of size or sector, in today’s digital environment need to focus on building competitive online capability. The agencies of my Department offer a range of supports to assist businesses to trade online.

The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are the first-stop-shop service assisting in delivering business growth and jobs for the small & micro-enterprise sector. The LEOs undertake a number of activities to encourage businesses to build their online presence and compete in the online market place.

The LEOs nationwide actively promote the Trading Online Voucher Scheme (TOVS) run in collaboration with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The TOVS offers matched financial assistance of up to €2,500, along with training and advice, to micro companies (10 or less employees) who want to establish an online presence for the first time, or who wish to expand a basic existing website to incorporate a more substantive online trading capacity. Since the start of the scheme in July 2014 to date over 5,000 micro enterprises have availed of the TOVS.

The LEOs also offer a wide range of short training programmes to support their clients in building their online presence and to compete in the online marketplace.

Enterprise Ireland is focused on helping export-focused clients across all sectors to exploit the internet as a route to market and to assist them in developing a strategy that will shape how they do business online. The ability to conduct business and trade online is vital for business and provides one of the most cost-effective ways to develop an export market

In addition, under Enterprise Ireland’s Business Process Improvement Grant, client companies can apply for grant support to undertake an e-Marketing Improvement Assignment. Using one-to-one training and action-based learning, consultants/ trainers work with clients to plan and implement an eMarketing strategy.

As Chair of the Retail Consultation Forum, I have prioritised supporting the retail sector to develop their online capability in order for them to expand their market reach nationally and internationally and enhance their competitiveness.

I introduced a new pilot Online Retail Scheme administered by Enterprise Ireland, the first call of which opened on 24th October 2018 and closed on 5th December 2018. I announced the eleven successful applicants on 1st March 2019 in Skibbereen, Co. Cork.

The pilot Online Retail Scheme supports retail businesses of 10 employees or more who are ready to strategically grow their online capability, with grants of between €10,000 and €25,000 on a 50 percent match fund basis. Eligible expenditure under the Scheme includes activities such as research, strategy development, implementation and relevant training. The Scheme launched with a fund of up to €625,000, which was later doubled to €1.25m as part of my Department’s 2019 Budget.

The second call for the pilot Online Retail Scheme opened on 19th June and will close on 31st July.

Corporate Governance

Questions (37)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

37. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the measurable outputs and targets there are for corporate social responsibility for businesses operating here; the way in which these are monitored and encouraged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26956/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The European Commission defines Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as ‘the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society’. CSR includes voluntary initiatives or practices that businesses or organisations engage in which go “beyond compliance”.

Following a call to action on CSR by the European Commission, as part of the Action Plan for Jobs 2013, the Government undertook to publish a National Plan for CSR. The first Plan ‘Good for Business, Good for the Community’ was published in 2014 and aimed to raise awareness of the benefits of CSR to business and all stakeholders in society. The second plan, Towards Responsible Business’ Ireland’s National Plan on Corporate Social Responsibility 2017-2020, wants to ensure that businesses, in particular SMEs, understand the economic and social benefits that CSR can bring to businesses, large and small.

The Plan aims, over three years, to position Ireland as a ‘Centre of Excellence for responsible and sustainable business practice through the adoption of best practice in CSR’ four dimensions - Workplace, Marketplace, Environment and Community. Businesses and organisations that embed CSR at the heart of their business planning can improve their competitiveness, sustainability, attract and retain talent, whilst fostering social cohesion and protecting the environment.

Implementation of the Plan is driven by the CSR Stakeholder Forum. Its membership comprises of representatives of the business sector, Government Departments and agencies and the wider community and it is chaired by Catherine Heaney, MD DHR Communications. As a voluntary business led Forum, the primary focus of the CSR Stakeholder Forum is to; raise awareness of CSR for businesses and organisations operating in Ireland today; facilitate information exchange; and encourage best practice peer learning opportunities; in accordance with current Government policy objectives. The Forum meets three times a year. Minutes from the meetings are published on csrhub.ie. My Department provides secretariat to the Forum and actively drives awareness of CSR through dedicated communications channels including csrhub.ie.

An annual progress update - CSR Check, prepared by my Department in conjunction with the CSR Stakeholder Forum, is produced on an annual basis. It was first produced in June 2018 along with the first CSR CEO/Leaders Breakfast event. Over 100 leaders from across Government, business and public sectors came together at the meeting. The second CEO/Leaders’ Breakfast is scheduled for 27th June 2019.

CSR activities within business range across, employee initiatives such as volunteering, to initiatives that seek to reduce business impact on the environment. Not of this activity is measurable and/or is difficult to measure. The CSR Forum commissioned baseline research on CSR in Ireland, published on the Department’s CSR website csrhub.ie. It indicated that the majority of businesses (80% of a sample of 1,300) regarded CSR as “very important” or “moderately important”. The survey highlighted a challenge for smaller companies engaging with workplace CSR. Growing the amount of quantitative and qualitative analysis of CSR activity in businesses and other organisations in Ireland will continue to be a key objective of the CSR Stakeholder Forum.

In addition to what the CSR Forum itself can potentially monitor in terms of progress, a tangible indicator of business engagement with CSR in Ireland is reflected in the roll-out of the Business Working Responsibly Mark by Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI). BITCI, a CSR Forum member, launched the ‘Mark’ in 2010 - the first certified standard for sustainability and CSR in Ireland. It is audited by the National Standard Authority of Ireland/NSAI and based on ISO 26000. It is a three-stage process; 1) questionnaire, 2) evaluation and 3) audit by the NSAI. Currently, 33 companies in Ireland have the Mark. Once achieved it is valid for three years. The cost is borne by the business.

Elsewhere, the European Union (Disclosure of Non-Financial and Diversity Information by certain large undertakings and groups) Regulations 2017(SI No 360 of 2017) were signed into Irish law on 30 July 2017 and came into operation on 21 August 2017. The Regulations, which transpose EU Directive 2014/95/EU, require certain specified large companies such as banks, insurance undertakings and listed companies with more than 500 employees to annually disclose certain company information of a non-financial nature. That information includes environmental matters, social and employee related issues, respect for human rights and bribery and corruption matters. The Regulations also require large listed companies to report annually on the diversity policy applied in respect of the board of directors. Failure to comply with this requirement to disclose non-financial information is an offence and any person found guilty is liable on summary conviction to a class A fine or imprisonment not exceeding 6 months, or to both. This is the responsibility of my agency, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

Across Government there are related policy initiatives which have measurable outputs and targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals National Implementation Plan 2018-2020, which provides a whole-of-government approach to implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs provide an important framework for businesses and organisations engaging with CSR. In addition, the Government’s Climate Action Plan, launched in June 2019, outlines the current state of play across key sectors including Electricity, Transport, Built Environment, Industry and Agriculture and charts a course towards ambitious decarbonisation targets. The Plan sets out 180 actions and will be will be monitored and annually updated, with actions reported on quarterly. In addition, a Climate Action Delivery Board will be established within the Department of An Taoiseach which will hold each Department and public body accountable for the delivery of actions set out in the Plan.