Departmental Reports

Questions (978)

Robert Troy

Question:

978. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the study commissioned by her Department awarded to an organisation (details supplied) in 2018 which was to cover a wide range of recent and prospective EU trade agreements including that with Mercosur; when the final report will be completed and published; and the preliminary findings to date. [31547/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department commissioned Copenhagen Economics to undertake a report on the impacts of EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) on Ireland. The aim of the report is to identify the opportunities and challenges for Ireland from Free Trade Agreements and to develop recommendations to maximise gains and mitigate the challenges that can arise.

The analysis was to take a portfolio approach and covers a total of seven recently agreed or prospective EU FTAs

- two of which are already implemented - South Korea and, provisionally, CETA with Canada

- two are more recently concluded - Japan and Mexico, and

- three prospective - Mercosur, Australia and New Zealand, albeit political agreement has just been reached on Mercosur.

In order to fully assess the combined impact of the seven FTAs on the Irish economy, the study utilizes an internationally recognised Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model of global trade, one which has been employed in several impact assessments of prospective FTAs by the European Commission. It was also employed in the assessment of the impact of Brexit on the Irish economy undertaken by Copenhagen Economics for my Department in 2017.

The CGE model quantifies the expected macroeconomic and sectoral impacts of the FTAs on the Irish economy in 2030. This is done by comparing two future states of the Irish economy: one without the FTAs in 2030 and an ambitious scenario, where all seven FTAs in place and fully implemented in 2030. A key input to the model is the expected reduction in trade costs between the EU and each partner country. This includes both tariffs and non-tariff barriers or NTBs (regulatory barriers to trade and services barriers). The study models for the impacts of FTAs and different Brexit scenarios. For sensitivity analysis, the study also models for a more modest scenario where the FTAs are not all fully implemented by 2030.

In addition to the model simulations, interviews were conducted with a broad range of stakeholders and a survey was conducted on the actual impacts of the EU-South Korea FTA experienced by Irish firms. Insights from all sources are combined to qualify conclusions and to formulate policy recommendations.

The primary research for the report has been completed, however, preliminary findings and results cannot be released as they remain draft and are still subject to further review by the authors.

In relation to Mercosur, as the deputy will be aware, the Government has committed to a full economic and environmental sustainability assessment on the EU-Mercosur deal on the basis of the more detailed information which was announced as part of the political agreement reached and announced by the Commission on 28th June last. This element will be commissioned shortly by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

In light of the Mercosur developments, it is too early to provide an estimate of the timeframe, at this stage, as the resource requirements and definitive terms of reference require detailed assessment.

Legislative Reviews

Questions (979)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

979. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of reviews carried out by her Department pursuant to Standing Order No. 164A of Dáil Éireann; the pieces of legislation to which each review refers; the number and title of each piece of legislation in respect of which a review pursuant to Standing Order 164A has not been undertaken; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31623/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

Details of my Department’s primary legislation enacted since May 2016 are set out in the following table, along with an indication in each case of whether a post enactment report has yet been carried out, pursuant to Standing Order 164A.

Primary Legislation enacted since May 2016

Has a Post Enactment Report yet been carried out?

Companies (Accounting) Act 2017 (No. 9 of 2017)

Yes

Competition (Amendment) Act 2017 (No. 12 of 2017)

Yes

Companies (Amendment) Act 2017 (No. 13 of 2017)

Yes

Companies (Statutory Audits) Act 2018 (No. 22 of 2018)

No

Hallmarking (Amendment) Act 2019 (No. 2 of 2019)

No

Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2019 (No. 3 of 2019)

No

Companies (Amendment) Act 2019 (No. 10 of 2019)

No

Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Act 2019 (No. 19 of 2019)

No

Knowledge Development Box (Certification of Inventions) Act 2017 (No. 6 of 2017)

No

Industrial Development (Amendment) Act 2018

No

European Investment Fund Agreement Act 2018

No

Legal Metrology (Measuring Instruments) Act 2017

No

Local Enterprise Offices Data

Questions (980)

John McGuinness

Question:

980. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the budget allocation for each local enterprise office in 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form. [31841/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

The LEOs are the ‘first-stop-shop’ for advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports if you intend to start or grow your own business.

The LEOs can offer direct grant aid to microenterprises (10 employees or fewer) in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors which, over time, have the potential to develop into strong export entities. Subject to certain eligibility criteria, the LEOs can provide financial assistance within three main categories: Feasibility Grants; Priming Grants and Business Development Grants for existing businesses that want to expand. In addition, there is a Technical Assistance Grant available for eligible micro-exporter applicants who are seeking to explore alternative markets for their product or service.

For anyone interested in starting or growing a business, the LEOs may be able to offer ‘soft’ support in the form of training (e.g. a Start Your Own Business course); a mentor to work with the business proposer; or targeted programmes such as Lean for Micro (to help boost business productivity and competitiveness).

The following table details the budget allocation for each individual local enterprise office in 2018 and to date in 2019.

LEO

2018 Allocation

2019 Allocation

Carlow

954,426

1,046,208

Cavan

873,855

979,597

Clare

998,313

1,015,158

Cork City

1,018,330

1,158,195

Cork North/West

1,373,140

1,448,718

Cork South

1,173,606

1,099,255

Donegal

1,207,855

1,139,052

Dublin City

1,766,339

1,879,195

Dublin South

1,211,394

1,257,591

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown

1,330,591

1,101,383

Fingal

1,238,777

1,316,458

Galway

1,277,507

1,272,210

Kerry

915,891

962,262

Kildare

1,229,921

1,399,566

Kilkenny

845,791

972,715

Laois

782,222

834,504

Leitrim

755,742

809,447

Limerick

1,425,642

1,438,267

Longford

753,034

820,853

Louth

886,236

901,971

Mayo

927,979

1,033,490

Meath

1,062,538

1,055,505

Monaghan

766,449

910,744

Offaly

824,285

862,369

Roscommon

761,392

830,476

Sligo

881,441

848,509

Tipperary

1,345,212

1,274,575

Waterford

1,287,569

1,366,324

Westmeath

1,132,555

1,207,848

Wexford

934,308

964,862

Wicklow

861,077

960,210

TOTAL

32,803,415

34,167,517

Departmental Reports

Questions (981)

Shane Cassells

Question:

981. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of external consultant reports commissioned by her Department in each of the years March 2011 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the cost of same; the company involved; and the title and publication date by report in tabular form. [32241/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department considers hiring external consultants in cases where there is not the necessary expertise to deliver the project in-house, in cases where an external assessment is deemed essential, or in cases where a project must be completed within a short time scale, and although the expertise or experience may be available in-house, performing the task would involve a prohibitive opportunity cost.

My Department complies with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's guidelines for engagements of consultants by the civil service, having regard to public procurement guidelines.

Details of external consultant reports commissioned by my Department from March 2011 to date are set out in the following table.

2019

Name of external Consultant/Organisation

Report Title

Date of Commission

Publication Status

Cost of Report

Micromail

Cloud Readiness Review

March 2019

Internal report not intended for publication.

€8,179.50

Ergo Systems

ICT Security Review

January 2019

Internal report not intended for publication.

€28,044

Clarion Consulting

ICT Strategy Development

October 2018

Not yet completed. Internal report not intended for publication

€66,000

Estimated

Ward Solutions

ICT Security Review

July 2019

Not yet completed. Internal report not intended for publication

€15,100

Estimated

Cruinn Associates

Design Skills Report (Working Title)

May 2019

Expected to be published early 2020.

€80,000 estimated

Kevin Duffy

Employment Law Guide

May 2019

For inclusion in various WRC publications

€12,300

Jillian Mahon – Independent Financial Consultant

Design and Planning of a Finance Advisory Hub to stimulate

financial skills among entrepreneurs and business owners

January 2019

Not yet completed. Internal report not intended for publication

€19,550 estimated

Ernst & Young (EY)

Review of Microfinance in Ireland

July 2019

Not yet completed. Internal report not intended for publication

€68,794 estimated

European Investment Bank (Innovation Advisory Hub) which commissioned Oliver Wyman Consultants

The digitalisation of small and medium enterprises in Ireland – Models for financing digital projects

2019

Exec Summary of the Report published on 7 March 2019

No cost to Department

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (982)

Shane Cassells

Question:

982. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the photography costs for her Department in each year since March 2011 including costs incurred from use of the ministerial allowance; the occasions for which photographers were booked; the photographers used; the costs associated with each occasion that a photographer was used in tabular form; if there is a policy regarding the booking of photographers within her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32258/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

I can advise the Deputy that the total photography costs incurred by my Department and its Offices since 9 March 2011 are as follows:

2011 - €2,017

2012 - €4,100

2013 - €4,455

2014 - €4,534

2015 - €6,153

2016  -  €4,421

2017 - €4,818

2018 - €6,732

2019 (to date)  -  €8,227

The details for each year are set out in the following table. No expenditure for photography was incurred from Ministerial allowances. Photography Costs

My Department uses external service providers having regard to its business needs for such services.  In engaging such providers, the Department is mindful of the need to secure value for money and be compliant with public procurement guidelines.

Legal Costs

Questions (983)

Shane Cassells

Question:

983. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the expenditure incurred in respect of external legal fees in each year since March 2011, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32275/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

As requested by the Deputy , the following table sets out the amount of external legal fees, inclusive of VAT, incurred by my Department and Offices for the period from  March 2011 to June 2019.

The expenditure was necessarily incurred as part of the day- to- day operation of the Department and its Offices and was fully in accordance with the requirements of Public Financial Procedures.

The table does not include expenditure on external legal fees incurred by the Department's Agencies. 

Expenditure incurred in respect of external legal fees since March 2011 to June 2019 by Dept. Business, Enterprise & Innovation

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

TOTAL 2011-2019

590,528.72

609,971.71

339,635.49

434,804.15

381,821.97

591,647.85

853,851.98

1,419,612.71

869,305.50

6,091,180.08

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (984)

Shane Cassells

Question:

984. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the expenditure incurred in external information technology costs in each year since March 2011, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32292/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

Details of annual expenditure incurred by my Department and its Offices, in respect of external information technology costs from 2011 to 2018 are set out in the following table.  These costs include provision of ICT services for the core policy functions of my Department, and also services focused on service delivery to the Department's external customers.  This includes the services of the Companies Registration Office, the Patents Office, the Workplace Relations Commission, the Labour Court, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and other services such as employment permits and export licensing. The external ICT costs of agencies which come under the remit of my Department are not included.

2011

€5,911,525

2012

€5,607,879

2013

€4,300,504

2014

€3,958,005

2015

€5,919,933

2016

€6,296,356

2017

€7,001,746

2018

€7,157,642

Enterprise Support Services Provision

Questions (985)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

985. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the specific Irish increase in the rescue and restructuring and temporary liquidity schemes; her planned specific use for the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32363/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

The rescue and restructuring scheme was put in place for "Undertakings in Difficulty" and operates under the EU Rescue and Restructuring Guidelines.  Under the scheme, an undertaking is considered to be in difficulty when, without intervention by the State, it will almost certainly be condemned to going out of business in the short or medium term

This scheme was developed as it was considered prudent to have contingency measures in place so that my Department can respond swiftly to changing circumstances, as necessary.   There are many other supports in place that enterprises can avail of which should prevent them from reaching the point where they are in severe difficulty and at risk of going out of business.  However, we also recognise the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and therefore this scheme is part of a belt and braces approach to supporting enterprise. 

The Rescue and Restructuring scheme was originally approved by the EU Commission in November 2017 and was subsequently extended in May 2018 to include Temporary Restructuring Support for enterprises experiencing acute liquidity constraints.  Temporary Restructuring provides for earlier intervention than is allowable under Rescue and Restructuring, thus increasing our flexibility to provide targeted support to SMEs as required.

The original budget for the scheme was €20m.  In February 2019, the Commission approved an amendment to the Irish Rescue and Restructuring scheme to increase its budget from €20m to €200m.  The decision to increase the budget, which was made following discussions at the Irish/EU Technical Working Group on State Aid, is considered prudent as part of our overall contingency plan for Brexit.

State Aid

Questions (986)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

986. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the state aid applications she made including those made with other Departments to the European Commission to allow further grant aid to SMEs and agrifood industries. [32365/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department and its agencies are providing extensive supports, schemes and advice to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit.  My Department has been working closely with the EU Commission and DG Competition since November 2017 through the Irish/EU Technical Working Group on State Aid which was established following a meeting between my predecessor, Frances Fitzgerald and the Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager.  The Group comprises senior representatives from DG Comp, my Department, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Enterprise Ireland.  Its objective has been 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 which last met at the end of last month.  It has examined and explored a range of opportunities within State Aid rules which has resulted in the development of the Future Growth Loan Scheme, the expansion of Ireland’s Rescue and Restructuring Scheme to include Temporary liquidity aid, an increase in the budget for the Rescue & Restructuring Scheme to €200 million. Through the mechanism of the Technical Working Group Ireland has 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.  For example, earlier this year State aid approval was received with respect to an EI capital grant for Carbery, a dairy business based in Cork.

Earlier this year I met with Commissioner Vestager.  The focus of the meeting centred around the severe challenges that Irish businesses will face when the UK leaves the EU and the need for appropriate and timely State supports.   It was agreed that Irish officials will continue to work closely with the Commissioner's team in addressing any State aid issues that may arise to ensure a rapid and appropriate response as the ultimate shape of Brexit and its firm-level implication become known.  The Commissioner emphasised that the Commission stands ready to act urgently in mitigation against the impacts of Brexit on Irish firms.

Should issues arise that require an approach that does not fit within the existing State aid rules, this will be raised as part of these Working Group discussions.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (987)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

987. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the scheme under which an additional 300 workers from outside the EU will be permitted to work in customs and controls here as stated in the preparing for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union contingency action plan update of July 2019. [32366/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

Ireland operates a managed employment permit system through occupation lists, namely the critical skills and ineligible occupation lists, which are reviewed twice a year. This is an evidence-based process that takes account of labour market conditions and submissions from sectors and other stakeholders, together with contextual factors such as Brexit. The purpose of the system is to maximise the benefits of economic migration while minimising the risk of disrupting the Irish labour market.

 In April, I approved changes to the employment permit system in respect of occupations in construction, sports and in the context of Brexit, I made allowances for an extra 300 workers to come to Ireland to fill positions in the area of customs duties and controls. These positions have been removed from the ineligible occupation list for employment permit purposes. The scheme allows workers from non-EEA countries to access employment opportunities here.

Currently the evidence is that there are no labour shortages for transport and distribution clerks or other logistics personnel. However, the evidence does suggest that in the event of Brexit, managed or otherwise, there will be an increased demand for those with skills to ensure the compliance in the area of customs duties, controls and tariffs. For this reason, as part of the Government’s overall contingency planning, I believe that to enable companies to plan to manage the changed circumstances, it is prudent to make access to a larger labour pool available.

Protected Disclosures Data

Questions (988)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

988. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of protected disclosures for which she has engaged an external consultancy and or legal firm since 2014 to date; the name of the firms engaged; the year and the costs associated with engaging the consultancy and or legal firms in respect of protected disclosures; the way in which persons are protected in cases in which an external consultancy firm is engaged in respect of protected disclosures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32392/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

Since 2014, one external professional company, Resolve Ireland, was engaged by my Department, in 2015, to investigate a protected disclosure. The fee paid to the company for this service was €13,143.

All of the protections provided for in the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 apply to the person making the disclosure, irrespective of whether an external company is engaged in investigating the disclosure.

Legislative Measures

Questions (989)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

989. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if consumer protection legislation on gift vouchers and ticket touting will be enacted before the end of 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32426/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

The Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Bill 2018 was initiated in Seanad Éireann on 19 December 2018 and completed Second Stage in the Seanad on 23 January 2019 and Committee and remaining stages on 31 January 2019. The Bill completed Second Stage in Dáil Éireann on 14 February 2019 and was referred to the Select Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Officials from my Department have been working with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel on the preparation of amendments to the Bill.  While I had hoped that the necessary amendments would be finalised in time for the Bill to be enacted before the summer recess, this did not prove possible due to a need to obtain legal advice on a number of issues relating to the Bill.  I am determined to ensure that the Bill’s Committee Stage will be taken early in the autumn session and that it will be enacted promptly after Committee Stage.

Second Stage of the Prohibition of Above-cost Ticket Touting Private Members' Bill which the Government has agreed to support was completed in Dáil Éireann on 21 February 2019 in Government time. My Department has been working on the necessary amendments to the Bill with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. While good progress has been made in drafting the amendments, they have not been finalised as yet due, among other things, to the need to obtain legal advice on a number of issues relating to the Bill, including issues raised in two legal opinions submitted by secondary ticket businesses. When the amendments are finalised, the amended Bill will have to be submitted to the European Commission for consideration and it cannot be adopted for a period of three months from the date of its submission to the Commission. While I do not anticipate that the submission of the Bill to the European Commission will give rise to any problems, there would be no advantage in tabling Committee Stage amendments in advance of their consideration by the Commission. Once the period for the consideration of the Bill by the Commission has ended, I aim to ensure that its remaining Stages are taken as quickly as possible in both Houses.

Local Enterprise Offices

Questions (990)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

990. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the actions which will be taken to strengthen the local enterprise offices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32427/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

The Local Enterprise Offices (LEO)s play a critical role in supporting microenterprises in the start-up and expansion phases throughout the country. The (LEOs) are the ‘first-stop-shop’ for providing advice and guidance, financial assistance and ‘soft’ supports in the form of training and mentoring to anyone wishing to start or grow a business.

This year the Capital allocation made available to the 31 LEOs is €27.5m, an increase of €5m on last year, which is being used to fund LEO clients by way of financial assistance and a range of soft supports such as training and mentoring.

Through targeted and seamless support, including the identification of any gaps in such support, especially in emerging sectors and start-ups, the LEOs can help to ensure a more diverse enterprise base. This is done through complementary advisory and support services such as financial incentives and soft supports provided by the LEOs

Under the Future Jobs Ireland strategy, the Government is tackling lower productivity levels in indigenous firms to achieve sustainable wage growth.  The LEOs can play their part in this strategy by promoting indigenous entrepreneurship, especially in the regions; in encouraging clustering and stronger links between domestic and foreign owned firms; and help in assisting businesses to move up the value chain.

On the 12th July, I was pleased to announce a further €3M for two new funds through the Local Enterprise Office Network to support our smallest businesses across the country.

The first is a €2.5M LEO Competitive Fund to support LEO led projects in alignment with the framework of the Future Jobs Ireland strategy and the Regional Enterprise Plans. 

The projects will focus on new approaches and emerging innovations that build on and strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem for the future throughout the country, demonstrate innovative solutions towards fostering and creating sustainable employment and improving productivity and build on collaborative and joined -up approaches to build on the synergies, added value and economies of scale which such collaboration can bring.

The second is a pilot, Competitive Productivity Fund of €500,000 which will be primarily aimed at s upporting domestically focused small businesses.   

This fund will help small businesses to examine their current operations to identify opportunities in addressing productivity gaps, embedding “lean” practices, greening their business and in reducing waste.  This initiative will also focus on training and capability development thereby enhancing customer experience, time and performance management.

The scheme will be open to applications from next October and will be aimed at enterprises employing less than 50 across a variety of sectors. 

To further strengthen and develop the capacity of Local Enterprise Offices, in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland, we provide a comprehensive suite of supports for indigenous Irish businesses and entrepreneurs that will enable seamless and appropriate supports, addressing any gaps in such supports, for ambitious and growth-oriented firms thereby achieving an increase in enterprise productivity, innovation and resilience.

Flexible Work Practices

Questions (991)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

991. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if her Department and agencies under her remit will take a leading role in terms of promoting a better work-life balance for employees; the way in which remote working can assist with this objective; if consideration will be given to introducing guidelines regarding the right to disconnect as has happened in France; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32428/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department and I understand the importance of promoting a good work-life balance for employees. This is addressed under Pillar 4 of our Future Jobs Ireland strategy. Pillar 4 is focussed on increasing participation in the labour force as this will lead to the more equitable, balanced and sustainable development of Ireland’s workforce.

Pillar 4 of Future Jobs Ireland outlines a number of key ambitions and deliverables to help to increase participation in the labour force. A number of these ambitions are centred on flexible working solutions which offer benefits for employers, employees and wider society in general. Flexible working encompasses a wide range of practices including part-time, compressed hours, job sharing, home-working and remote working. Such solutions allow for tangible benefits for employees including improving their work life balance. It also provides solutions for those who would otherwise take unpaid parental leave but cannot afford to do so.

A key deliverable under Pillar 4 is the completion of research on remote working. My Department is currently leading on this research which will focus on understanding the prevalence and types of remote working arrangements within the Irish workforce and the attitudes towards such arrangements. The research will also identify the influencing factors for both employers and employees partaking in remote working.

To guide this work, an Interdepartmental Steering Group has been formed with representatives from my Department, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Department of Rural and Community Development,  Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Department of Justice and Equality and Department of An Taoiseach.  The research will include desk research, identification of key data sources and one-on-one consultation with key stakeholders. To gain further insights my Department held a Remote Working Consultation Forum on July 18th and the insights arising from this Forum will be included in a final report to be completed in Q4 of this year which will outline the relevant policy implications of remote working for Ireland.

As part of their work programme, I will ask the Interdepartmental Steering Group to examine the French approach referenced by the Deputy. Given the increasing digitalisation of the workforce, I believe it is important from a work-life balance perspective that there are clearly defined guidelines regarding workers rights to switch off after office hours.

Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy

Questions (992)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

992. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the development of Ireland’s first national artificial intelligence strategy as committed to under Future Jobs Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32429/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

Future Jobs Ireland 2019, published in March last, includes the commitment to develop a National AI Strategy for Ireland.

My Department is leading on the development of this cross-Government Strategy, which is expected to provide a high-level direction to the development and deployment of AI in Ireland. It is anticipated that the Strategy will be finalised by end 2019.

Without prejudicing the outcome of this process, it is expected that the Strategy will set out how Ireland plans to engage with the dynamic advances in AI technologies and systems, building on the country’s existing ecosystem and capabilities. It will present an integrated, cross-Government framework to manage the expected changes to the overall benefit of society.  

It is envisaged that the Strategy will be aligned with, and contribute to, the wider EU approach as outlined in the EU Coordinated Plan on AI, as well as ensuring consistency with the OECD Principles on AI adopted in May 2019.

Consultations on development of the National AI Strategy have commenced and will continue throughout the Summer and early Autumn. A consultation meeting with DBEI agencies took place on 22 May last, followed by a consultation with Government departments on 17 June. Next steps in the AI Strategy development process include consultation with industry representative bodies and with academia as well as an online public consultation to be announced in August.

Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy

Questions (993)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

993. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when top teams on artificial intelligence, govtech and offshore renewables will be established; the way in which membership of these teams will be determined; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32430/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

Top Teams provide a Government supported model for Departments to drive sectoral development priorities and ensure whole of system alignment in support of their priorities. Top Teams will be considered when significant opportunities are identified and require a multi-organisational response to accelerate sectoral growth and remove barriers to development.

The aim is to have a limited number of Top Teams in operation at any one time and to avoid duplication with existing effective sector specific groups. The characteristics of a Top Team would include:

- Having specific and clear terms of reference with a task driven agenda

- Being time limited

- Addressing barriers to sectoral development that require a multi-organisational response.

Three areas have been identified in Future Jobs Ireland 2019 for piloting Top Teams in 2019 – AI, GovTech and Offshore Renewables. Top team membership is likely to comprise the relevant lead Department, other Departments, Government agencies, industry representatives and research community representation.

The outputs relating to each pilot Top Team and timeframes for implementation of same under deliverable 1.4(i) in Future Jobs Ireland 2019 are as follows:

Top Team

 Timeframe

 2019 Output

 Lead

Other Key Stakeholders

Artificial Intelligence

 Q4 2019

Top Team established

 DBEI

Relevant Depts & Agencies

 GovTech

 Q4 2019

Top Team established

Recommendations reviewed

 DPER

OGCIO, DBEI, EI, industry, academia

Offshore renewables

 Q3 2019

Priority actions identified

Top Team established

 DCCAE

DPHLG, DBEI, D/Taoiseach, agencies

Scientific Research

Questions (994)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

994. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the type of drone technology currently being developed by Science Foundation Ireland; the way in which some of the technology might be practically applied in the future; the possible benefits for Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32431/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

Drones, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), are now widely accessible as recreational and specialised commercial platforms for a range of applications across sectors including transport, agriculture, critical infrastructure and media. Drone technology is predicted to change how we deliver and collect goods, give us new ways to monitor and understand the world around us, and even revolutionise emergency services.   

Researchers supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) are involved in both developing the technology and its applications and utilising drones to support research activities.  An example of a significant project in this sector is U-Flyte, a strategic research partnership, coordinated by Maynooth University and funded by Science Foundation Ireland.

The U-Flyte partnership was launched in March 2018 at Waterford Airport. It is focused on tackling the current global bottleneck impeding the wider development of drone operations and roll-out of commercial services, with a focus on a series of inter-connected work-packages that deal with investigating, building and testing Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Traffic-Management (UTM), underpinned by a 3D drone airspace model (U-Space). 

The project involves a broad range of national and international stakeholders including the Irish Coast Guard, Commissioner for Irish Lights, Teagasc, Airbus, Irlandia Aviation and Intel.  The project sees researchers from NUI Maynooth recreate flying environments for drones as digital models, considering a wide range of factors like air traffic, buildings and electricity lines, then testing them in the real world at Waterford Airport and other selected locations around Ireland.

The project also involves investigation and development of sector-specific commercial applications for operational drone services. The areas of interest are Marine, Land, Critical Infrastructure & Emergency Management.   An over-arching objective of the project is to establish a “drone R&D hub” that will act as a foundation for a national drone research ecosystem that provides industry partners with access to a large-scale test-bed to develop new technologies and business models and act as an attractant for innovative start-ups in the sector. 

Drone technology is one of several areas of advanced technologies that holds the potential to impact many Irish industry sectors and indeed wider Irish society.  As the above example shows, we are building on our capabilities in this field.  This, in-turn, aligns with our priorities under Future Jobs Ireland 2019 which underlines the Government’s determination for our enterprises and workers to be well prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in light of emerging and new technologies.

Regional Enterprise Development Fund

Questions (995)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

995. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when she will announce successful applicants under the regional enterprise development fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32432/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

To complement the Regional Enterprise Plans and the previous Regional Action Plans for Jobs, my Department’s €60m Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) was rolled out by Enterprise Ireland with calls in 2017 and 2018. The Fund was introduced to support the development and implementation of collaborative and innovative projects that can help to sustain and add to employment at county, regional and national level.

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

On Monday 24 June 2019, I announced the €45m Call 3 of the REDF. This call continues to support the development and implementation of collaborative and innovative projects that can make a significant impact on enterprise development in the regions. It will also support ongoing implementation of the Department’s Regional Enterprise Plans while referencing Enterprise Ireland’s newly launched regional strategy ‘Powering the Regions’ and the Future Jobs Ireland initiative. The Scheme is also aimed at supporting the development of initiatives that can help to strengthen the regional ability to adjust and cope with the potential effects of international economic changes that may impact on regions or sectors' performance nationally.

The objectives of the Scheme will achieved by co-financing the development and implementation of collaborative and innovative projects that can sustain and add to employment at a national, regional and county level. This will be accommodated by supporting 'Strategic Change Projects' under Stream one; 'Regional Strengthening Projects' under Stream two; and stimulating 'Enterprise Clustering Initiatives' under Stream three. Enterprise clustering under the REDF will be focused on supporting industry-led groups to maximise the benefits of collaborative opportunities where the results of the activity will have identifiable and measurable impacts on the participant businesses.

The third call is now open for applications and closes on 25 September 2019 with a view to successful projects being announced before the end of the year. Priority will be given to projects which are shovel ready and which can clearly demonstrate an ability to draw down funding within set timeframes.

Finally, the Regional Enterprise Development Fund also sits alongside and is complementary to the funding opportunities under Project Ireland 2040 (the Rural and Urban Regeneration and Development Funds; Climate Action; and Disruptive Technologies) which collectively provide an opportunity to strengthen the regional enterprise ecosystem throughout Ireland.

Project Ireland 2040

Questions (996)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

996. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when she will announce successful applicants under the disruptive technology innovation fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32433/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

The Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF) is a €500 million fund established under Project Ireland 2040 and forms a key part in the delivery of the Pillar 1 goal of Future Jobs Ireland to embrace innovation and technological change.

Together with my colleagues, Paschal Donohoe, TD, Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform and Patrick O'Donovan, TD, Minister of State for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, my Department launched the 2nd call of the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund at an event in the University of Limerick on Friday 5 July. Over 300 delegates registered for the event, which included an information session on the Fund and a networking session for potential applicants. Details of the Fund are available at www.dbei.gov.ie/dtif.

The closing date for applications under Call 2 of the DTIF is Wednesday 18 September at 15.00, after which all applications received will be checked for eligibility. Subject to the volume of applications received, the intention is that all eligible applications will be reviewed by an international panel of experts in October, who will identify a shortlist for interview with international experts during November. The announcement of successful projects is expected by end 2019.

Job Creation Data

Questions (997)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

997. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of jobs created by local enterprise offices, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA by county in each of the years 2008 to 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32434/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

This Government and my Department have placed the highest priority on achieving sustainable increases in employment in every county across the country. Through the Action Plan for Jobs process led by my Department we have had remarkable success in supporting businesses to create new jobs. Of course, we face new challenges, not least of which are Brexit and the digital revolution, and the Government has a new strategy Future Jobs Ireland to ensure we can sustain the gains to date and build resilience in the enterprise base.

My Department and its agencies consistently engage with businesses throughout the country and across a variety of sectors to ensure an understanding of the existing and potential challenges faced by our businesses. This information is then used to develop Departmental policies and strategies that will help Irish companies to overcome obstacles and avail of opportunities in domestic and international markets.

It is vital that all businesses assess their vulnerabilities with regard to Brexit, and other economic challenges that may arise. It is particularly important that businesses examine their supply chains in detail and work towards addressing any identified weaknesses. 

My Department, through its agencies, provide a wide range of supports to enable companies to consolidate market share within the UK and also to become more resilient by broadening their sales to other international markets. 

2018 was a very strong year for job creation among Enterprise Ireland (EI) clients with 18,896 new jobs created.  2018 resulted in the highest client employment in the history of the agency, highest net job creation (8,212) in the history of the agency and the lowest number of jobs losses since 1998. A total of 217,186 people are now employed in companies supported by EI.

IDA Ireland created 14,040 net new jobs over the course of 2018, with every region in Ireland posting net gains in jobs.  At the end of 2018 there were 229,057 people working in IDA Ireland client companies, the highest in IDA Ireland’s history. This figure surpasses the five-year target of 209,000 which was set in 2015 in IDA Ireland’s “Winning; Foreign Direct Investment” strategy.

Surveys undertaken in 2018, revealed a strong performance by agency client companies in 2018 with, exports amounting to approximately €189bn, up 9.6% from the previous year. These companies spent €24.9bn on payroll, Irish materials and Irish Services and capital expenditure in 2017.

In 2018 the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) saw continued growth in jobs with a total of 8,007 new jobs created and a net job increase of 3,656. The LEOs also provided training to 34,938 people and mentoring, including one to one mentoring support to 9,625 participants across all 31 LEOs.

The following statistical table presents the number of jobs created by local enterprise offices, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA by county in each of the years 2008 to 2018.

This Government and my Department have placed the highest priority on achieving sustainable increases in employment in every county across the country. Through the Action Plan for Jobs process led by my Department we have had remarkable success in supporting businesses to create new jobs. Of course, we face new challenges, not least of which are Brexit and the digital revolution, and the Government has a new strategy Future Jobs Ireland to ensure we can sustain the gains to date and build resilience in the enterprise base.

My Department and its agencies consistently engage with businesses throughout the country and across a variety of sectors to ensure an understanding of the existing and potential challenges faced by our businesses. This information is then used to develop Departmental policies and strategies that will help Irish companies to overcome obstacles and avail of opportunities in domestic and international markets.

It is vital that all businesses assess their vulnerabilities with regard to Brexit, and other economic challenges that may arise. It is particularly important that businesses examine their supply chains in detail and work towards addressing any identified weaknesses. 

My Department, through its agencies, provide a wide range of supports to enable companies to consolidate market share within the UK and also to become more resilient by broadening their sales to other international markets. 

2018 was a very strong year for job creation among Enterprise Ireland (EI) clients with 18,896 new jobs created.  2018 resulted in the highest client employment in the history of the agency, highest net job creation (8,212) in the history of the agency and the lowest number of jobs losses since 1998. A total of 217,186 people are now employed in companies supported by EI.

IDA Ireland created 14,040 net new jobs over the course of 2018, with every region in Ireland posting net gains in jobs.  At the end of 2018 there were 229,057 people working in IDA Ireland client companies, the highest in IDA Ireland’s history. This figure surpasses the five-year target of 209,000 which was set in 2015 in IDA Ireland’s “Winning; Foreign Direct Investment” strategy.

Surveys undertaken in 2018, revealed a strong performance by agency client companies in 2018 with, exports amounting to approximately €189bn, up 9.6% from the previous year. These companies spent €24.9bn on payroll, Irish materials and Irish Services and capital expenditure in 2017.

In 2018 the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) saw continued growth in jobs with a total of 8,007 new jobs created and a net job increase of 3,656. The LEOs also provided training to 34,938 people and mentoring, including one to one mentoring support to 9,625 participants across all 31 LEOs.

The following statistical table in the link below presents the number of jobs created by local enterprise offices, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA by county in each of the years 2008 to 2018.

Jobs created ’08-18

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Questions (998)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

998. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the work Science Foundation Ireland is undertaking to combat climate change; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32435/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) will play an important role in the implementation of the recently published All-of-Government Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Breakdown.  

In immediate response to this, in June 2019 SFI launched the SFI Future Innovator Prize Call with the challenge theme of Zero Emissions. This call will see research teams compete for a €2 Million prize award to develop disruptive Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) based solutions that address significant challenges in achieving net-zero economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

Several of the SFI Research Centres are also operating in specific areas of relevance to climate change:

MaREI, the SFI Research Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy, combines the expertise of a wide range of research groups and industry partners, with the shared mission of solving the main scientific, technical and socio-economic challenges across the marine and renewable energy sectors.  MaREI is coordinated by the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at University College Cork and has over 200 researchers working across 6 academic institutions collaborating with over 45 industry partners. MaREI has recently been awarded €9 million from the EU Horizon 2020 programme to build a pilot multi-use platform which will be a decarbonizing one-stop shop for small islands, including their marine initiatives and ecosystems.

BEACON, the SFI Research Centre for the Bioeconomy outlines a programme of oriented basic and applied research in the areas of science, technology, and engineering with the aim of directly assisting the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland in the area of the Bioeconomy. The Centre will produce a broad base of knowledge across multiple disciplines (science, engineering, agriculture, social science, policy) that will provide the platform to address the challenge of developing a new sustainable biobased economy.

ICRAG, the SFI Research Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences research activities focus on mitigating against the effects of climate change.  An example is the Centre’s Spoke award on GeoHazards, which aligns with a recently added focus on “Protection from the Earth’ Hazards” including flooding and storm damage.  iCRAG’s priority areas for future growth are all aligned to the Government’s Climate Action priorities and include the following: renewable energy (wind and geothermal, in particular), climate change studies/mitigation and carbon management.

VistaMilk, SFI Research Centre for precision dairy is a consortium that includes Teagasc, Tyndall National Institute, Waterford Institute of Technology, University College Dublin, Dublin City University, NUI Galway.  The VistaMilk SFI Research Centre aims to be an agent of sustainable growth for the Irish dairy industry by being a world leader in fundamental and translational research for precision pasture-based dairying. Internationally, the advances developed in the centre will apply to dairy systems in many countries and will be a catalyst for global growth in the Agri-Tech sector.

Investment in fundamental research in the critical area of climate change is key to ensuring that Ireland is well positioned to deploy future climate mitigation technologies.  World leading researchers and experts matter - SFI is actively recruiting these researchers to Ireland.  One example is World Leading Economic Geologist Professor Murray Hitzmann, who in 2018 was appointed Director of the SFI Research Centre, iCRAG (which focuses on Applied Geoscience). Prof Hitzmann moved to Ireland from the US to take up this post.

 SFI investments are also producing the skills required to advance the relevant sectors in Ireland through funded Masters, PhD and Post Doctoral positions on funded projects and through the suite of early career stage development programmes.  Thus, SFI is helping to future proof Ireland’s skills pool for these challenges.  Much of this research is being conducted in partnership with international collaborators and world leading experts, often with partners in countries that are experiencing immediate and specific climate change effects.

 SFI is also facilitating substantial international collaboration through a suite of funding mechanisms.  Examples include the US Ireland R&D Partnership (Centre to Centre) Programme under which SFI Research Centre MaREI is working with researchers in the US and Northern Ireland in the area of energy systems modelling.  MaREI is also collaborating with researchers in China under the SFI/NSFC Partnership Programme.

 Finally, with the engagement of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, SFI will create national awareness amongst the Irish public of key actions that need to be taken at an individual and national level to ensure Climate Action adaptation and mitigation. This will be delivered as part of Science Week in November 2019.

Industrial Development

Questions (999)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

999. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when the industry 4.0 strategy on advanced manufacturing will be published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32436/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

The manufacturing sector is a key contributor to Ireland’s economy, accounting for a third of GDP and 235,000 direct jobs, and with an estimated further 200,000 jobs indirectly attributed to the sector.

However, we are also aware of the disruptive change underway in manufacturing globally related to the digital transformation of the sector, a concept referred to as Industry 4.0.

From a macroeconomic perspective, Industry 4.0 offers significant opportunity for driving productivity and growth in economies internationally. However, appropriate framework conditions need to be in place in Ireland to support the digital transformation. Furthermore, manufacturing firms and their supply chains need to invest in Industry 4.0 to remain competitive.

It is within this context that my Department is developing an Industry 4.0 strategy. The strategy is being informed by independent research and analysis undertaken on behalf of my Department and which included extensive consultation with industry stakeholders.  A vision and set of goals for the strategy have been developed and my Department is now considering the strategic actions that need to be taken, and how initiatives and schemes already in place in Ireland can be leveraged towards achieving the strategy goals.

I plan to publish Ireland’s Industry 4.0 Strategy later this year.

Small and Medium Enterprises Supports

Questions (1000)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1000. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps she is taking to ensure that productivity levels improve among the indigenous small and medium enterprise, SME, sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32437/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I regularly meet with different sectors of Ireland’s business community. As we reach what are considered to be levels of full employment, priorities are changing from getting people back into work, to delivering long-term quality employment for all. I and my colleagues across Government must now determine how we adapt our current policies to futureproofing Ireland’s workforce.

Future Jobs Ireland launched in March 2019, and focuses on the challenges ahead in terms of ensuring Ireland is well positioned to adapt and prosper into the future by having skilled people working in quality jobs in sustainable sectors.

In March 2018, I along with my colleague Minister Pat Breen commissioned the OECD to conduct a Country Review of SME and Entrepreneurship Policies in Ireland. An additional feature of this Review is a specific chapter examining SME Productivity in Ireland.

The aim of the Review is to provide tailored analysis and recommendations to my Department and to Government on how to improve the design and implementation of national SME and entrepreneurship policies and programmes, based on an assessment of the country’s current SME and entrepreneurship performance, framework conditions, and policies based on international comparisons.

Since the Review’s inception, my Department has played a central role supporting and facilitating the OECD during this process. My officials have organised and facilitated stakeholder events throughout the process to date in order to ensure detailed engagement between Government Departments, agencies, academia, business representatives and the small business sector. This engagement has enabled the OECD to gain insightful knowledge of our SME and entrepreneurship ecosystem at the various critical stages of building this report.

The preliminary findings of the Review indicate specific recommendations regarding developing mechanisms to assist SMEs and entrepreneurs in areas such as lifelong learning, financial management, and digital skills. These will be of key importance for the future of our entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Furthermore, Future Jobs 2019 identifies Improving SME Productivity as one of its key pillars. The final OECD Report and Strategy Roadmap, due to be received and published in October 2019, will assist my Department in developing a national SME Strategy which will feature within the overall Future Jobs Framework.

I have and continue to advocate on behalf of our SMEs. It was important to me to show our policy makers and our SMEs how the work and findings of the OECD Review and Strategy Roadmap will support the Future Jobs Framework.

To this end, I and Minister Breen hosted a very successful Future Jobs, Pillar 2 - SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy Conference at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on July 12 last. The event drew over 200 attendees with a broad representation of Irish SMEs, policy makers, agency leaders and academia. Structured dialogue took place in the form of panel discussions regarding Productivity, Internationalisation, Regional Growth, Skills and Innovation.

The Taoiseach also attended and addressed the event, reinforcing the natural alignment between that of the OECD Review and the Future Jobs Initiative. The Taoiseach spoke about the importance of each generation’s need to shake up their enterprises and jobs model. He spoke of the need to change the way we work and to focus on improving our productivity to ensure continued progress and prosperity for all Irish citizens.

The final OECD Report and Roadmap will provide my Department and the whole of Government with targeted recommendations to ensure that productivity levels further improve among our indigenous SME sector.

This year the Capital allocation made available to the 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) is €27.5m, an increase of €5m on last year, which is being used to fund LEO clients by way of financial assistance and a range of soft supports such as training and mentoring.

On the 12th July, I was pleased to announce a further €3M for two new funds through the Local Enterprise Office Network to support our smallest businesses across the country.

The first is a €2.5M LEO Competitive Fund to support LEO led projects in alignment with the framework of the Future Jobs Ireland strategy and the Regional Enterprise Plans.

The projects will focus on new approaches and emerging innovations that build on and strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem for the future throughout the country, demonstrate innovative solutions towards fostering and creating sustainable employment and improving productivity and build on collaborative and joined -up approaches to build on the synergies, added value and economies of scale which such collaboration can bring.

The second is a pilot, Competitive Productivity Fund of €500,000 which will be primarily aimed at s upporting domestically focused small businesses.

This fund will help small businesses to examine their current operations to identify opportunities in addressing productivity gaps, embedding “lean” practices, greening their business and in reducing waste. This initiative will also focus on training and capability development thereby enhancing customer experience, time and performance management.

To further strengthen and develop the capacity of Local Enterprise Offices, in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland, we provide a comprehensive suite of supports for indigenous Irish businesses and entrepreneurs that will enable seamless and appropriate supports, addressing any gaps in such supports, for ambitious and growth-oriented firms thereby achieving an increase in enterprise productivity, innovation and resilience.

Enterprise Support Schemes

Questions (1001)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

1001. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if a comprehensive new strategy will be introduced for female entrepreneurship; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32438/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

Entrepreneurs are one of the most important components of the entire business ecosystem in Ireland. They create new businesses, new jobs, new products and new services. In Ireland men are nearly twice as likely to be an entrepreneur compared to women; this gap between genders is higher in Ireland than in many other European countries.

In order to ensure that Ireland has a diversified, resilient and adaptable enterprise base, in Future Jobs Ireland 2019, my Department committed to deliver 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; and

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

My Department recently announced that the Government, through Enterprise Ireland, was opening another Competitive Start Fund (CSF) of €750K specifically geared towards supporting start-ups led by Women Entrepreneurs. This new €750K fund for 2019 will provide valuable and practical support for the next generation of female-led companies with global ambition to compete in export markets. The fund will also help to address the distinctive challenges faced by women in realising their entrepreneurial potential.

Enterprise Ireland’s €750k Competitive Start Fund (CSF) opened for applications on Tuesday, 25 June. Up to €50,000 in equity funding is available to a maximum of 15 successful applicants with early stage start-up companies.

In addition to securing funding, successful applicants will be offered a place on the INNOVATE accelerator programme, delivered by Dublin Business Innovation Centre. Taking place over a 12-week period in the Guinness Enterprise Centre, the interactive INNOVATE programme will increase the capabilities of the participants and move them to investor-ready within a short period.

The purpose of a CSF for women entrepreneurs is to accelerate the growth of women-led start-up companies that have the capability to become High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) companies with the potential to employ more than 10 people and achieve €1 million in export sales within three years.

Introduced in 2012 as part of Enterprise Ireland’s female entrepreneurship strategy, the dedicated fund is designed to enable companies reach key commercial and technical milestones which will ensure delivery of their product or service to a global audience. Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund is funded by the Government of Ireland through the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.