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Enterprise Strategy.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 16 December 2004

Thursday, 16 December 2004

Ceisteanna (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

6 Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the further progress which has been made in the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Enterprise Strategy Group report, in particular with regard to the future role and structure of Enterprise Ireland. [33846/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

11 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the recommendation of the Enterprise Strategy Group that the Department of the Taoiseach should have a strong screening role and the power to reject regulatory impact assessments due to inadequate analysis or enterprise consultation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33575/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Damien English

Ceist:

18 Mr. English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps which have been taken to implement the Enterprise Strategy Group’s recommendation to disaggregate State procurement contracts for telecommunications services to promote the deployment of competing infrastructures and to foster services competition, ensuring long-term value for money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33580/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

21 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the recommendation of the Enterprise Strategy Group to appoint a chief scientist, to optimise Ireland’s national investment in science, technology and innovation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33566/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

22 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the recommendation of the Enterprise Strategy Group to establish a competitive innovation fund for higher education institutions and to encourage them to further exploit knowledge and deliver innovative services to enterprise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33570/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Paul McGrath

Ceist:

26 Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the recommendation of the Enterprise Strategy Group to draw up a national research and innovation strategy statement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33567/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

28 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the Enterprise Strategy Group’s recommendation to develop a strategic skills-based immigration policy in order to attract and retain the necessary highly skilled workers from outside the EU who will be required to support enterprise development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33572/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Perry

Ceist:

39 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the recommendation of the Enterprise Strategy Group to ensure that public funding for applied research and in-firm research and development is progressively increased to match that invested by his Department in basic research; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33563/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Damien English

Ceist:

40 Mr. English asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress which has been made in the implementation of the Enterprise Strategy Group’s recommendation to develop a mechanism to enable strategic national infrastructure projects to be processed quickly through the planning system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33579/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Perry

Ceist:

41 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the recommendation of the Enterprise Strategy Group to ensure that IDA Ireland targets sales and marketing and European headquarters projects from both established multinationals and smaller companies at an early stage of internationalisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33562/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tom Hayes

Ceist:

44 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the Enterprise Strategy Group recommendation to create a shared vision at senior political level of the nature and importance of the enterprise agenda, institute a twice-yearly Cabinet dedicated to enterprise and debate and prioritise the cross-departmental responses required for enterprise development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33574/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

45 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the recommendation of the Enterprise Strategy Group to establish a consultative process to identify technology platforms which should be used to prioritise State expenditure on research and enterprise development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33565/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Olivia Mitchell

Ceist:

49 Ms O. Mitchell asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the recommendation of the Enterprise Strategy Group that his Department should use employee financial participation schemes, not only at management level, to promote employee commitment to business goals, increased productivity and reduced costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33576/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Stanton

Ceist:

50 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the Enterprise Strategy Group’s recommendation that there be an increased focus by FÁS on training for persons in the labour force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33584/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

51 Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the recommendation of the Enterprise Strategy Group to provide training for a range of occupations, for persons not completing the leaving certificate, through new work-study programmes, relevant to the needs of the labour market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33571/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

53 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the Enterprise Strategy Group’s recommendation to support award schemes aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship in order to ensure their widespread availability, particularly at primary and secondary school level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33581/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

55 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the Enterprise Strategy Group’s recommendation to examine the potential for infrastructural development required to promote trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland and make concrete proposals to the two Governments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33578/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

61 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the Enterprise Strategy Group’s recommendation to implement a regime of civil sanctions for infringements of competition law in conjunction with the Competition Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33577/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Bruton

Ceist:

65 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will implement the recommendation of the Enterprise Strategy Group to continue funding for the Science Foundation Ireland and Higher Education Authority research programmes on a multi-annual basis beyond the current national development plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33564/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Stanton

Ceist:

70 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the Enterprise Strategy Group’s recommendation that the city and county enterprise boards be integrated into the mainstream enterprise development system by establishing a central co-ordination unit in Enterprise Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33583/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Breen

Ceist:

74 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the recommendation of the Enterprise Strategy Group to reflect in equal proportions the need of enterprise, education and society in the governing bodies of higher education institutions and related bodies such as the HEA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33569/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Liam Twomey

Ceist:

75 Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the Enterprise Strategy Group’s recommendation to ensure that persons are facilitated to manage work, learning and caring commitments throughout their working lives, for example, through a restructuring of pensions and other benefit schemes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33582/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Paul Kehoe

Ceist:

77 Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the Enterprise Strategy Group’s recommendation to develop sector expertise in the enterprise agencies by organising in each agency around groups of clients with common interests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33585/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Breeda Moynihan-Cronin

Ceist:

79 Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has received the report of the high level group set up to consider the implications of the report of the Enterprise Strategy Group and the best manner of implementing its recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33753/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pádraic McCormack

Ceist:

81 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the recommendation of the Enterprise Strategy Group that the Government should recommend to the EU to have VAT on B2C electronic transactions charged at the standard rate in the customer’s location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33573/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Breen

Ceist:

82 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to implement the recommendation of the Enterprise Strategy Group to establish a national one step up initiative, facilitated by the national framework of qualifications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33568/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (13 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 11, 18, 21, 22, 26, 28, 39, 40, 41, 44, 45, 49, 50, 51, 53, 55, 61, 65, 70, 74, 75, 77, 79, 81 and 82 together.

The Enterprise Strategy Group was established by An Tánaiste to prepare a report that would serve as a blueprint for an enterprise strategy for growth and employment in Ireland. Under its terms of reference, the group was asked to develop a medium term enterprise strategy and to propose and prioritise national policy responses which would strengthen the competitiveness of Ireland's enterprise environment; promote the emergence of an innovative and knowledge driven economy; ensure balanced regional development; sustain, where feasible, those industries already providing significant employment; underpin the industries of the future where Ireland is or can become a substantial player with particular reference to segments of the ICT, life sciences, food, financial services and internationally traded services sectors; encourage business start ups and companies with potential for growth; and examine the scope for increasing the value of sectors to the Irish economy as a whole.

In this context the group was asked to take into account a number of important domestic and external factors that will determine our future growth potential. These included long-term international trends in globalisation, EU enlargement, technology and regulation, as well as in the developing structure of industries and markets and Ireland's increased prosperity and changing cost and competitiveness base. The Government considered the report of the Enterprise Strategy Group, in advance of its publication on 7 July last. Given the large number of recommendations made and the fact that they impacted on a number of Departments and their agencies, the Government decided to set up a high level committee to consider the implications of the report and the best manner to address its recommendations.

The report contains some 51 recommendations, approximately half of which are appropriate to Departments other than my own. Accordingly, ten Departments were represented on the committee. Given the widespread nature of these recommendations, their importance and, in certain cases their complexity, detailed analyses and extensive consultations were required. My understanding is that the committee expects to finalise its report in the near future and I propose to present it to the Cabinet immediately thereafter.

My intention is that a specific plan should be drafted on each recommendation to be implemented. These plans would be closely monitored to ensure their implementation within a specified timeframe. While it would not be appropriate for me to comment on specific recommendations in advance of receiving the report of the high level committee and communicating my own views to the Government, I am aware that some of recommendations it contains reflect initiatives already underway or envisaged in Departments and agencies. For example, prior to the publication of the Enterprise Strategy Group's report in July of this year, the Government on 22 June 2004 approved a new co-ordination and governance system for STI, which included the establishment of the position of chief science adviser to the Government, a post that was filled with effect from 1 September.

I do not need to outline the challenges we face in an increasingly competitive environment. The decisions we make now must ensure that we remain a dynamic economy. I look forward, therefore, to receiving the report of the high level committee.

This is an example of the Government stalling over the past six months. Anything that was in the pipeline six months prior to the reshuffle did not happen and not much will happen in the six months after. While I accept that this was a broad-ranging and complex report, my particular question referred to recommendations for change for which the Minister has sole responsibility in his Department. That does not necessarily need to await the recommendations of a committee of ten representatives from other Departments to allow the Minister to make a decision on whether he will pursue change. I refer to the development of Enterprise Ireland and its role in enterprise strategy. It is difficult for him to answer all the questions that have been addressed to him, but does he wish to make any comment on the broad structures of Enterprise Ireland? It is one small area where we could begin to implement some of the changes outlined.

The reshuffle has had nothing to do with the fact that the high level committee has not reported back. It has not come back with final recommendations but has done so on an interim basis and I made observations on some of the recommendations. We should be in a position by the end of January to bring it before the Government. In the interim period, that has not stopped action. Enterprise Ireland has been carrying out a significant degree of internal strategic thinking with a view to revising and reorganising its structures. I had a fruitful meeting with members of Enterprise Ireland last week. It lasted a few hours and we looked at that issue and discussed the future ambition of the agency and the targets it has set itself for 2005 and 2006. Enterprise Ireland, its chairman, chief executive officer and board are dovetailing with the recommendations of the enterprise strategy group. It should be able to outline its position in January on this, but significant progress has been made on that front.

I understand that some analysis needs to be done within Government on the recommendations of the report. However, the recent budget did not contain any recommendation that could be discerned as being influenced by the work done by the enterprise strategy group. That shows a remarkable inability of the Government to act on the very thing that the report highlights.

What is that?

One of the main recommendations of the report is that the Government needs to act quickly and to show flexibility. The report took a year to produce and I am sure the recommendations did not come as a bolt from the blue. Despite this, the budget announced four months later was not influenced in any way by such a strategy. That is a remarkable example of a lack of flexibility and a lack of reaction from the Government. Such flexibility was one of the central tenets of the report.

We have not waited for the outcome of the high level technical group for progress to be made on a range of areas covered by the report. I have outlined significant work undertaken by Enterprise Ireland. With regard to research, the Government acted quickly on the report and appointed a chief scientific adviser to co-ordinate all the science, technology and research and development agendas. There will be a meeting next week on an interdepartmental committee on research to co-ordinate the research activities of all the Departments. It will also begin preparing work for the Cabinet sub-committee on research which I will establish.

I addressed a gathering in UCD on research committing the Government to the Lisbon Agenda. I have further refined that by trying to prepare an action plan to ensure we can reach the targets outlined in the Lisbon Agenda on research by 2010. I have asked the group and the interdepartmental committee to draw up a roadmap for research by mid-2005. We have made much progress in recent years in the programme for third level research in education, which I established myself, as well as Science Foundation Ireland, which was established by the Tánaiste. We now need to step it up even more, but we must take concrete steps to reach the 2.5% of gross national product that is recommended by the Lisbon Agenda for spending on research and development. Whatever is required for the next five or six years, the roadmap will enable us to be aware of it and we should then make the necessary resources available.

When does the Minister expect to announce the form the restructuring may take? Will he publicly announce it? Does he believe it will include specific recommendations on Shannon Development and its possible future connection to Enterprise Ireland? When does he expect to announce that?

It would be ideal if the responses of the Government and Enterprise Ireland to the ESG report were delivered in tandem. Enterprise Ireland is well on the way to announcing its plans, but that is a matter for Enterprise Ireland. Its representatives have consulted me and are anxious that I would be with them on that. I have been very impressed with the initial meetings that I have had with Enterprise Ireland, its focus and the ambitious targets set for the next few years.

A group has been working on Shannon. There are certain issues that are not as straightforward as one might like. Different Departments must consult on different issues, which are linked with the issue of Shannon Airport, the authority and the financial underpinning of the new independent airport. Those consultations are continuing. I cannot say whether that specific issue will have been resolved by the time the Government considers this.

Has the Minister given any thought to strategies that might improve the supply of scientists and engineers? In Ireland and in the UK, some of those subjects have become extremely unpopular and we may have a problem in labour supply in future. Would the Minister support the fundamental reforms which the university heads seem to be pursuing at present?

I support the reform agenda of the heads of the various universities. It is important that they are facilitated because the governance structures that emerge from those reforms would be more robust and more responsive to the needs of the universities. They will also help to achieve a synergy with the national objectives of enterprise, job creation and research. It is not necessarily bad for education to have a strong relationship with industry. It will obviously have its core functions. Education can benefit from the world of business and industry and vice versa. We need strong collaboration between industry and education. The CSETs, which are the major research projects initiated by Science Foundation Ireland, are very significant advances on anything that we have had before between industry and universities and institutes of technology. They allow for and facilitate a major industrial input and a significant financial package for the universities in the context of attracting back world class researchers or giving our indigenous world class researchers an opportunity to get involved in cutting edge research. We would expect products, added value and so forth to emerge from those research enterprises.

With regard to science and engineering, the Government has agreed to co-ordinate the activities of the various agencies around one major Discover Science agenda. Recently, Discover Science week was held. It was co-ordinated by Forfás and involved FÁS, the Department of Education and Science and my Department and it reaches into primary and second level schools. There is room for more development on that front in terms of awareness, examining the second level subjects and the curriculum for the traditional technology subjects. I understand work is being done by the NCCA in that regard.

Notwithstanding the difficulties and resource implications, it is important that we modernise the context in which those subjects are taught in second level schools to allow for a better throughput. Ireland, however, still has the highest number of science and engineering graduates between the ages of 20 and 34 years in the OECD, which gives the country a good competitive edge.

I will return to the issue of Shannon because it is an example of the inability of the Government to make quick decisions. To respond to a question on enterprise development in the mid-west region by acknowledging that it is complicated because there is an airport in the area and by referring to other matters which do not really relate to the key issue of enterprise development is surprising, as is the inability to give a direct answer. It is worrying for the mid-west and Shannon region if we let it be caught in older arguments regarding infrastructural issues which are not relevant to the fast rapid responses we will need in an information technology economy. The Government appears to be caught in the status quo and unable to make a quick decision.

The airport in Shannon is important because it is key economic infrastructure. It will be a significant factor in the ongoing growth of the mid-west in tourism and industry and in the general economic and business life of the region. The Green Party always claimed to encourage and nurture the concept of consultation with the various players and the community. That is what we are doing.

There must be a process of consultation. People have strong views about this in the region. They have strong views about the role of Shannon Development and its importance to how the region develops. We could override that but I hope the Deputy will agree that engaging in the type of structured and informed consultation in which we are engaged is a reasonable response to the concerns and issues which have been raised locally and regionally.

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