As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I am fully committed to improving the economic landscape, which will nurture the growth and development potential of our small businesses.
Future Jobs Ireland, which was launched in March 2019, focuses on meeting 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.
My Department is intent on simplifying the path to enterprise development and assisting the progression of our SMEs and entrepreneurs. My priority is to ensure our current and future business environment becomes more straightforward, while providing sufficient resources to aid these businesses to develop the tools they need to succeed, grow and create sustainable employment.
To determine the current climate of our enterprise ecosystem, I commissioned the OECD to conduct a Country Review of SME and Entrepreneurship Policies in Ireland in March 2018. The timescale for this review was 18 months and the final Report will be launched in Dublin by myself and the OECD Deputy Secretary General on the 23rd of October. The outcome of the review aims to provide tailored analysis and recommendations 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, and informed by international comparisons.
My Department has played a central role supporting and facilitating the OECD during this intensive process. My officials have organised stakeholder events throughout the process to-date in order to facilitate detailed engagement between DBEI, other 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 OECD review has comprehensively examined all aspects of Ireland’s SME and Entrepreneurship ecosystem. The Report and the accompanying Strategy Roadmap will assist my Department in developing a national SME Strategy which will be aligned within the overall Future Jobs Framework.
I am keenly aware of the impact regulatory burdens and compliance costs can have on small businesses. Research indicates that where a large company may spend one euro per employee to comply with a regulatory duty, a medium-sized enterprise might have to spend around four euros and a small business up to ten euros. That is why my Department is leading on the development, roll out and implementation of the SME Test.
The main thrust of the SME Test is to assess the potential for less stringent requirements for smaller companies and the simplification of regulatory adherence, for example through the use of templates, reduced thresholds for SMEs and use of plain English in forms.
My Department sought best practice through other EU Member States regarding the development of the SME Test and a guidance approach was taken. In 2017, consultation took place with the Advisory Group on Small Business, which my colleague Minister of State Pat Breen TD chaired, and a public consultation followed thereafter.
I am pleased that the application and use of the SME Test across Government is now a deliverable action in the Future Jobs 2019 work programme. The adoption of the Test is included under action 2.3 which states:
“Raise awareness and promote the SME Test throughout Government Departments. Workshops will be available for policymakers”
In July 2019, my colleague Minister Breen wrote to each Government Department in his role as Minister of State for Business requesting that policymakers and those responsible for drafting relevant legislation in each Department utilise the Test. The nomination of a relevant official in each Department has also been sought so that my Department can engage and assist with the adoption of the SME Test in practice.
As a country, we want our Irish SMEs continue to grow and prosper and to become more innovative. Accessing finance is an integral part for the growth of any business. That is why my Department oversees EU sponsored programmes providing our diverse range of SME businesses with alternative financial solutions to those already available in the current market.
Microfinance Ireland provides loans between €2,000 and €25,000 to start-ups and existing micro enterprises who may be experiencing difficulty in accessing credit from other commercial lenders. The Brexit Loan Scheme is a €300 million loan fund available to eligible Irish businesses impacted by Brexit with loans available between €25,000 to €1.5 million and unsecured loans up to €500,000. The €40 million European Angel Fund is a joint initiative with the European Investment Fund designed to enhance the capacity of Business Angels to provide equity financing for innovative companies in the form of co-investments.
SMEs who participate in the public procurement process will be very aware of the financial and promotional opportunities that come with successfully winning all or part of a Government tender. Officials in my Department and that of the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) work together throughout the year to ensure a strong focus is maintained on promoting awareness amongst the SME sector. This commitment is reinforced by way of my Department participating on the OGP’s SME Procurement Advisory Group and their reciprocal participation in the DBEI chaired Interdepartmental SME Communication Group, which oversees the promotion of the www.supportingsmes.gov.ie website.