My Department has a strong focus of developing indigenous businesses. I am consistently engaging and listening to the needs of small businesses. I am aware of their importance as SMEs account for 99.8% of all enterprises in the State and are predominantly indigenous. We provide, principally through our Agencies, a range of tailored supports for enterprise of all types and sizes in Ireland. Supports include access to finance, management development, mentoring supports, business development programmes, market supports and trade promotion.
We continue to hold structured dialogue with key stakeholders and we advocate across Government to ensure the needs of SMEs are considered in the execution of national policy.
In 2014, the National Policy Statement on Entrepreneurship was launched, a five-year plan developed to foster and promote an entrepreneurial spirit in the SME and Entrepreneurship ecosystem. The 96 actions laid out within, are currently being reviewed for progress by my Department and a final report will be compiled in 2020.
To further underpin this commitment, my Department in conjunction with the OECD early last year, commenced a Review of SME and Entrepreneurship issues and policies in Ireland. This is an 18-month project and it aims to provide tailored analysis and recommendations to DBEI and the Irish 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 based on international comparisons.
Government provides a number of supports and grants available to small businesses. A selection of these supports includes:
- The Brexit Loan Scheme launched in March 2018, is a €300 million loan fund offering affordable working capital to eligible Irish businesses with up to 499 employees, allowing them to innovate, change or adapt in response to challenges posed by Brexit,
- My Department’s online tool Supportingsmes.ie, directs small businesses to the most relevant State supports out of the 170 available,
- New Frontiers is a national entrepreneur development programme delivered locally through the Institutes of Technology (IoT’s) and funded by Enterprise Ireland,
- Technology Centres are public-private research centres of excellence that connect industry to the third level sector to increase the generation and availability of new, industrially relevant knowledge,
- The 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) located nationwide offer a range of financial supports to assist with the establishment and growth of micro-enterprises, and
- The LEOs also offer soft supports in the form of training (e.g. a Start Your Own Business course); provide a mentor to work with the business proposer; support micro enterprises in their loan applications to Micro Finance Ireland; and promote the Trading Online Voucher Scheme.
I allocated an extra €14m to the enterprise agencies and regulatory bodies under my Department, who work with firms at the coalface to develop their supports for business.As part of the increase to my Department for 2019, I allocated an additional €3m to Enterprise Ireland and €2m to IDA Ireland to enhance our Global Footprint. This will help companies to diversify into new markets as the UK leaves the EU.
The Local Enterprise Offices are present in every single county in Ireland and provide crucial supports for SMEs and start ups throughout the country. This year I allocated an additional €5m which is an increase of 22% on 2018. This extra funding will help deliver supports to more SMEs, particularly in the current changing landscape.
I also announced, as part of Budget 2019, a longer term loan facility, the Future Growth Scheme, of up to €300m to support capital investment by business, which is a collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, the Department of Finance, the European Investment Bank Group and SBCI.
A specific focus is being given to helping Irish SMEs grow their international sales, diversify their markets and secure new investments in Ireland. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has been very active in the 'Getting Ireland Brexit Ready' public information campaign. This campaign includes workshop events throughout the country aimed primarily at business and people most impacted by Brexit. Last year, we launched the €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme. This scheme offers competitively priced loans to eligible businesses that require short-term finance to overcome the impacts of Brexit. An important benefit of the scheme is that loans of up to €500,000 are available unsecured.
I will continue to enhance the effectiveness of these measures to assist our SMEs by providing them with the tools and incentives to grow their businesses. Such measures allow our SMEs to attract and retain talented individuals and encourage investment in their ideas for the businesses to scale and internationalise.