16 May 2019, 09.03

The Seanad Public Consultation Committee has today launched a Report to support SMEs. The Report calls for a range of actions, including the introduction of a new Junior Ministerial role, entrepreneurial education in primary schools and specific supports for female entrepreneurs.

The Report calls for a range of actions, including the introduction of a new Junior Ministerial role, entrepreneurial education in primary schools and specific supports for female entrepreneurs.

The Committee has detailed its recommendations in the report on Small and Medium Sized Businesses in Ireland which looked at the Irish SME Landscape, successes and challenges,  and embracing diversity in SME Strategy.

This Report follows on from an extensive research and public consultation process with 93 key stakeholders, which identified opportunities and challenges experienced by Irish SME’s.

“As a sector, it is a diverse and vibrant, and accounts for over 99% of active enterprises in Ireland and over one million employees. SMEs are the main source of jobs in the Irish economy and it is important that our Government and Parliament do everything possible to support a sector which is such a key source of employment.” said Committee Chair, Senator Paul Coghlan.

Senator Coughlan went on to say “I believe that the recommendations set out in this Report are a valuable and timely input into identifying and addressing the challenges faced by the SME sector. I hope that the recommendations will be taken on board by the Government, and I look forward to engaging with the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when the Report is debated in Seanad Éireann.   The Report achieved the Committee’s objectives of identifying and evaluating the key challenges for SME’s, reviewing the existing business environment in Ireland and highlighting relevant successful SME national policies in other countries.”

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, Rapporteur of the Public Consultation Committee on Small and Medium-sized Business in Ireland said:   “As an entrepreneur I am passionate about encouraging and supporting a positive culture where people can start, scale and develop their own business. There are few greater challenges in life than starting and growing your own business. This is often a lonely journey with many pitfalls and unforeseen risks. An entrepreneur discovers very quickly that they need a high level of resilience and commitment in order to have a reasonable chance of success.

Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh said “We can, and, in my view, have an obligation to provide the environment in facilitating and supporting people to take that leap and get more involved in creating their own enterprise so that they can contribute to their community and society. This contribution to society is very much a desire for entrepreneurs and SME owners such as supporting local charities or GAA, rugby or sporting clubs. They recognise that they are part of the community and have an important role to play. Many family businesses measure success beyond profit and growth to long-term commitment to their communities and employees.

The overall aim of this Seanad Public Consultation Committee process was to create the basis for an integrated national strategy proposal document supporting the fostering, growth and sustainability of indigenous Irish SME’s in becoming a solid foundation for the long-term success of the Irish economy and our people.”

The Committee heard that the current conditions for SME’s are challenging, they include,

  • The recruitment of staff is competitive. The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) identified low take-up of apprenticeships as a significant issue.
  • The increasing cost of doing business in Ireland and a tax system that puts smaller businesses at a disadvantage is a major issue for SME’s.
  • The rising costs of rent, insurance and rates, are of particular concern.
  • It is known that the banks have become extremely risk averse since the downturn. The requirement to sign personal guarantees as collateral should be made illegal.
  • Continuous delays in the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan.
  • Public procurement policy was another issue identified by the CIF as a barrier to tendering for big contracts and it should be simplified.
  • Ireland could become the best in Europe for female leadership opportunities. Six years ago 8% of start-ups were led by females, last year 28% were female led.
  • Entrepreneurial education should be made part of the school curriculum, starting at primary level. 

While SME’s have seen sustained growth over the last number of years, the potential impact of Brexit is a new challenge for the sector. The Committee heard that the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Chambers Ireland, ISME and the Small Firms Association will play a significant role in supporting SME’s in response to Brexit. 

The Committee is committed to monitoring progress of implementation of the Report’s recommendations detailed below.

  • Introduce a dedicated Junior Ministerial role for SME’s to develop SME policy.
  • Embed entrepreneurial education into the education system from primary school.
  • Establish a specific task force to create a detailed coordinated strategy for the creation and growth, through innovation, of SME’s in more traditional sectors.
  • Develop a national tool that captures comprehensive and reliable existing talent data, as well as skills needs across the country.
  • Develop an online portal of information on professional/vocational training abroad that equates to the Irish education system, to assist in hiring skilled foreign workers.
  • Allow for different types of enterprises to co-exist for the benefit of local communities.
  • Develop a national strategy on female entrepreneurship and aim to be a leader among EU countries in female entrepreneurship.
  • Identify regions for technology clusters of activity in particular hubs in rural areas where there should be a coordination of efforts among locally based agencies/community groups.
  • Promote and encourage collaboration, cohesion and communication among the various organisations and bodies delivering supports and initiatives to SME’s.

You can read the report here

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