My Department and its Agencies will continue our work to enable younger persons to develop the entrepreneurial skills needed to pursue their business ideas. This is particularly important given the twin challenges to businesses of COVID-19 and Brexit.
In 2021, Enterprise Ireland will continue to offer a number of start-up supports available to younger persons.
These include New Frontiers, which is the National Programme designed to develop entrepreneurs, delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland (EI) by Institutes of Technology and Universities nationwide. The programme takes place over three phases and consists of practical and interactive workshops, personalised one-to-one mentoring, financial support and co-working space.
EI’s Competitive Start Fund offers €50,000 equity investment designed to accelerate the development of high potential start-up companies, by supporting them to achieve commercial and technical milestones.
The Student Entrepreneur Awards, an annual event led and managed by EI, is open to full time registered third level students attending college on the island of Ireland. Students get the opportunity to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into commercial businesses.
In 2020, despite the pandemic, the 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) continued to provide advice and support to entrepreneurs to pursue their business ideas and look for opportunities to start up new businesses.
The LEOs offer a broad range of training programmes to support entrepreneurship and develop start-up businesses and in response to the restrictions in place during lockdown. These have been pivoted to online platforms, making them more accessible than ever before to new entrepreneurs.
These include the Start Your Own Business (SYOB) programme, which guides clients through the various aspects of business and business planning has continued across the country throughout the pandemic.
The Mentor Programme is a free of charge service allowing clients to work with an experienced mentor to identify solutions to areas of exposure within their business. With advice and guidance from their mentor, clients develop strategies that are more robust, which address issues and maximises potential opportunities including those around COVID-19 and Brexit challenges.
The Lean for Micro initiative helps build resilience within small companies. Under this Programme, clients can avail of consultancy support with a LEAN Expert (a qualified practitioner), who will work with the company to introduce lean principles, undertake a specific cost saving projects and assist the company in benchmarking its performance. During the COVID pandemic, the principles of LEAN for Micro have also been used to help implement new remote working and physical distancing guidelines.
The LEOs continue to reinforce entrepreneurship in the education system as a critical element in the future development of small business in Ireland. A number of initiatives are run by the LEOs at both primary and secondary level with the flagship programme the Student Enterprise Programme.
Finally, the ‘Report of the SME Taskforce: SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan’, which was published last month by my Department, sets out a wide range of recommendations with long-term strategic relevance for SMEs and entrepreneurs.
The Report, which was developed by an SME Taskforce of entrepreneurs, business leaders and other stakeholders, results from the commitment in the 'Programme for Government – Our Shared Future' to draw up an ambitious long-term strategic blueprint for SMEs and entrepreneurs beyond COVID-19.
The recommendations in the Report include measures to support the education of future and existing entrepreneurs throughout the different stages of education, including at Leaving Certificate and third level.
These proposals, while not yet Government policy, will be considered by a Ministerial-led SME & Entrepreneurship Implementation Group, in conjunction with appropriate Government Departments, Agencies and other stakeholders, during the course of 2021.