I propose to take Questions Nos. 93 and 94 together.
Brexit is undoubtedly the most significant challenge facing Irish enterprise in over 50 years. With less than 6 months to go, I was determined to deliver a budget with Brexit at its core, building on the many measures we have already introduced, and responding to the evolving needs of business.
The agencies under my remit have an extensive range of supports available to enable companies to both consolidate market share and continue to pursue new opportunities to grow their market presence within the UK. For 2019, I am allocating an extra €8m to the enterprise agencies and regulatory bodies under my Department, who work with firms at the coalface to develop their supports for business.
A major initiative that my Department is advancing is the €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme, under which accessible finance is made available to businesses at favourable terms.
Enterprise Ireland (EI) supports include:
- a new Online customs Training Programme to be launched shortly to demystify customs procedure. This will be available to all exporters and importers.
- Brexit Advisory Clinics: The purpose of these clinics is to encourage companies to examine their potential exposure to Brexit, to complete the Brexit SME Scorecard and use the Be Prepared Grant to plan their strategic response to Brexit.
- Brexit Scorecard: An interactive online platform to self-assess exposure to Brexit under six business pillars.
- Be Prepared Grant: This grant offers SME clients a grant of up to €5,000 to assist them in preparing an action plan for economic shocks such as Brexit.
- The Agile Innovation Fund: giving companies rapid fast-track access to innovation funding, and up to 50% in support for product, process or service development projects with a total cost of up to €300,000.
- Market Discovery Fund - supports Enterprise Ireland clients research new markets for products and services.
- “Prepare to Export Scorecard”: The Scorecard helps Irish companies with global ambition to self-assess how prepared they are to start exporting.
- Brexit 'Act On' Programme: This funding is to support the engagement of a consultant to draw up a report with tailored recommendations to help clients address weaknesses and become more resilient.
- Strategic Consultancy Grant: This helps client companies to hire a strategic consultant for a set period to assist the company to develop and implement significant strategic initiatives.
- Operational Excellence Offer: Enables Irish companies trading internationally to develop or transform their wider business in order to compete more effectively.
- Irish Advantage Campaign: The aim of the #Irish Advantage export promotion campaign, is to stimulate awareness of Irish products and services and encourage buyers to source from Ireland.
In addition, EI is implementing extensive trade mission and event schedules focussed on further developing in-market expertise and networks, new sectoral opportunities and stimulating demand for Irish products and services through international marketing campaigns.
On 27 September, I led 56 Irish companies on a trade mission to Scotland to explore business opportunities. In April, I led 45 EI clients on the Northern Powerhouse Trade Mission to Manchester to help them maintain their exports and pursue new opportunities. Both of these Trade Missions were organised by staff of the Irish embassy in London.
The 31 Local Enterprise Offices play a pivotal role in supporting micro-enterprises, as they prepare for Brexit. I have allocated an additional €5m to enhance their programme of supports in 2019, up 22% on 2018.
I have also allocated an additional €1m in capital funding to InterTrade Ireland, an increase of 17.5%. This will allow them to step up their support for companies in the border region, North and South, who are particularly exposed to Brexit.
Government’s commitment to preparing the business community for Brexit can also be seen in the series of four “Getting Ireland Brexit Ready” seminars, which are being held this month around the country.
The embassy network is under the remit of my colleague Simon Coveney TD, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.