Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Ceisteanna (29)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

29. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the date on which she received the latest update from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission on its investigation into the insurance market; her engagement with the commission on the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4438/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission is the statutory independent body responsible for the enforcement of domestic and EU competition law in the State. 

Section 9 (5) of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 provides that the Commission is independent in the performance of its functions, including carrying out investigations of alleged anti-competitive practices.  As investigations and enforcement matters generally are part of the day-to-day operational work of the Commission, I as the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation have no direct function in the matter.

IDA Ireland

Ceisteanna (30)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

30. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps the IDA is taking as part of its efforts to attract data centre investment to ensure that the climate effects of locating data centres here will be fully mitigated by the companies it is courting to build here in view of the goal of ramping up the construction of data centres. [4671/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I can assure the Deputy that IDA Ireland is sensitive to the potential environmental impact of all forms of foreign direct investment (FDI).

Data centres have taken major steps in recent years to reduce their carbon footprint and are now among the largest and most significant users of renewable energy. In 2018, IDA Ireland commissioned a report by Grant Thornton which examined the impact of data centres on the Irish economy. In addition to an overall economic contribution of €7.13bn since 2010, the report indicated that 85% of the data centres studied were already investing in power from renewable sources and 15% indicated that they were generating renewable energy onsite. Over 75% of data centre respondents were investing in two or more renewable energy initiatives, while over 60% were investing in energy efficient facilities and equipment.

In addition, IDA Ireland has taken steps to help its data centre and other clients to mitigate their carbon footprint. For example, in 2018 the Agency introduced its ‘Go Green’ Business Offer, which outlines the main national support programmes that are available to adopt green business principles, improve sustainability and drive energy efficiencies. These supports are provided by agencies including IDA Ireland, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The IDA's support programmes to reduce carbon emissions now include its Environmental Aid, Green Plus and Green Start programmes. These are being actively marketed across the Agency's client base, including to data centre operators.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (31, 33, 39, 44)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

31. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps she is taking to help businesses prepare for Brexit, particularly in the Border region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4467/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

33. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the contingencies and supports in place to safeguard SMEs from a hard Brexit or no-deal scenario; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4436/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

39. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the supports that will be made available for businesses along the Border which will be vulnerable in the case of a no-deal Brexit. [4681/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

44. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the plans agencies under her aegis have to provide support to companies negatively affected by Brexit particularly in the absence of a deal between the EU and the UK; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4592/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 33, 39 and 44 together.

My Department and its agencies are working to provide extensive supports, schemes and advice to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit. These measures aim to assist businesses in identifying key risk areas and the practical preparatory actions to be taken over the coming weeks.

I made Brexit one of my top priorities in the allocations of funding for 2019 in my Department and I have allocated further funding to Brexit-related support from agencies and offices of my Department as part of Budget 2019. I have allocated an additional €5 million capital funding to the Local Enterprise Offices, an increase of 22% for 2019, and a further €1 million allocated to InterTrade Ireland to help SMEs prepare for the particular North-South challenges associated with Brexit. I have allocated an additional €3m to Enterprise Ireland and €2m to IDA Ireland to expand their global footprints and drive the diversification of trade and investment. Additional resources have also been distributed across Science Foundation Ireland and the Health and Safety Authority and the NSAI for 2019 to support enterprises adjust to the new relationships with the UK and pursue new opportunities.

Informed by detailed research, my Department has put in place a package of measures in response to the needs of businesses affected by Brexit-related uncertainty.

I allocated an additional €1million to InterTradeIreland (ITI) as part of Budget 2019. ITI works with SMEs on an all-Ireland basis and is particularly well-placed, given its remit to develop cross-border trade, to help SMEs prepare for the particular North-South challenges associated with Brexit.

The ITI Brexit Advisory Service provides a focal point for SMEs working to navigate any changes in cross-border trading relationships arising as a result of Brexit. As part of the service, ITI has organised a series of awareness events focused on improving knowledge of customs processes and procedures and identifying actions that can be taken in areas such as logistics and supply chain management. To date, more than 4,000 SMEs have directly engaged with the Brexit Advisory Service.

ITI also offers a Brexit Start to Plan voucher scheme, which enables businesses to get professional advice on how best to plan and prepare for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. This support helps businesses obtain advice on specific areas such as tariffs, currency management, regulatory and customs issues and movement of labour, goods and services. ITI vouchers are worth up to €2,250 (inclusive of VAT) each. Companies are finding the vouchers very useful and there has been strong demand which can be attributed to the media campaign conducted by ITI across a range of platforms. As of its most recent report and the end of November 2018, 811 businesses have applied for a Brexit Start to Plan voucher, of which 657 have been approved.

The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are the first-stop-shop for anyone seeking guidance and support on starting or growing their business. The LEOs have organised various events to enable companies to learn about the potential impacts and opportunities of Brexit. In addition, 471 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit.

The LEOs engage in a number of other schemes to help companies prepare for Brexit. Technical Assistance Grants for Micro Export are offered as an incentive for LEO clients to explore and develop new market opportunities, as of 18 January 2018, 419 LEO clients were approved assistance under the grant. Also, additional capital funding of €5 million was announced in Budget 2019 for local enterprise development.

In addition, the six LEOs in the Border region are working together with their Northern Ireland counterparts under the EU Co-Innovate Programme. The aim of Co-Innovate is to give SMEs from the manufacturing and tradable services sectors in the eligible regions the tools and tailored support to help them to innovate, differentiate and compete successfully.

In December 2018, I announced a further €30 million in funding for successful projects under Call 2 of the competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF).

In April 2017, I asked all the Regional Action Plan for Jobs Implementation Committees to start a process to refresh and refocus all Regional Plans to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020. This will ensure that the Plans remain effective and that they continue to deliver jobs across the country, in all regions, and can be robust in addressing the challenges we face, including Brexit. As a result, both the North-West and the North-East will both have their own plans in the new iteration and Brexit will be an ongoing priority area for both Committees. These plans are being finalised and will be published in February.

The €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme provides relatively short term working capital, 1-3 years, to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees to help them innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenges. The scheme is open to eligible businesses from all regions of the country, including those in the Border counties. Businesses can confirm their eligibility with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and if deemed eligible, can apply to one of the participating finance providers for a loan under the scheme.

The scheme was launched in March 2018 and, as at close of business on 18th January, there have been 376 eligibility applications received of which 337 eligibility applications have been approved and 65 loans progressed to sanction at Bank level to a value of €14.9m.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme was announced in Budget 2019. The scheme will provide a longer-term facility, 8 to 10 years, of up to €300m to support strategic capital investment for a post-Brexit environment by business at competitive rates. This is jointly funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Loans of €50,000 to €3m will be available, with loans of under €500,000 being provided on an unsecured basis. The scheme will be available to eligible Irish businesses, including those in the primary agriculture and seafood sectors, to support strategic, long-term investment in a post-Brexit environment. The SBCI has issued an “Open Call” for financial institutions to apply by 11 February 2019 for designation as a lending partner under the Scheme. It is expected that this Scheme will be operational in early 2019.

Enterprise Ireland has established a Prepare for Brexit online portal and communications campaign, as well as an online “Brexit SME Scorecard” to help Irish businesses self-asses their exposure to Brexit and a “Be Prepared Grant” to support SME clients in planning to mitigate risks arising from Brexit. It has also launched a new Eurozone Strategy to help SMEs broaden their export footprint beyond the UK.

Over 3,900 business have used Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit Scorecard to date and 85% of EI client firms are now taking actions, while 155 applications for the Be Prepared grant have been approved. 165 EI clients have received funding under its “Act On” programme, which supports the engagement of a consultant to help clients identify weaknesses and improve resilience. EI has also hosted 11 Brexit Advisory Clinics.

EI also recently launched a new Customs Insights Online course which is a new online training support to help all businesses understand how customs work including the documentation and process required to operate and succeed post Brexit. The Customs Insights course explains in clear and simple terms the main customs rules and included the key actions companies can take to prepare for customs after Brexit and the options from Revenue that are available to make the customs process more efficient. This will be available for any company to use whether they are importers or exporters and also whether they are agency clients or not.

In order to help build the enterprise capability, under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) EI invested in seven successful projects in the Border region with a total funding allocation of more than €10.6 million. This funding will drive enterprise development and job creation in the Border Region.

Enterprise Ireland will continue to engage with its clients to ensure they have the supports required to prepare for any kind of Brexit.

My Department and I have 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. A ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ event was recently held in Monaghan in October and I was delighted to welcome many businesses from the Border Region. Officials from my Department and agencies also participated in the Getting Ireland Brexit Ready event in Letterkenny in Donegal on 30 November 2018, which included Enterprise Ireland, IDA, the LEOs, NSAI and the HSA.

While I have seen a very positive uptake of the supports available, not everyone is engaging. With Brexit around the corner, I want businesses, particularly those around the Border counties to know my Department and agencies are here to help. My Department and its agencies are providing extensive supports, schemes and advice to ensure that businesses are prepared for any Brexit scenario.

Enterprise Support Schemes

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 31.

Ceisteanna (32)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

32. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding the assistance available to businesses that wish to sell online to compete in the growing online market; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4591/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

All businesses, regardless of size or sector, in today’s competitive environment must ensure to build their digital online capability. The agencies of the Department offer a range of supports to assist businesses to trade online.

The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are the first-stop-shop front line service assisting in delivering business growth and jobs for the small & micro-enterprise sector. The LEOs are the first port of call for anyone who wishes to start or expand a business, in terms of advice, training, sign posting to other support providers and, in certain circumstances, grant support. The LEOs undertake a number of activities to encourage businesses to build their online presence and compete in the online market place.

The LEOs nationwide actively promote the Trading Online Voucher Scheme (TOVS) on behalf of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The TOVS offers matched financial assistance of up to €2,500, along with training and advice, to micro companies (10 or less employees) who want to establish an online presence for the first time, or who wish to expand a basic existing website to incorporate a more substantive online trading capacity. Since the start of the Scheme in July 2014 to date almost 4,500 micro companies have availed of the TOVS.

The LEOs also offer a wide range of short training programmes to support their clients in building their online presence and to compete in the online marketplace. These programmes are focused on different elements which aim at maximising outputs from investment in online trading such as:

- Marketing, focused mainly on development of an online/mobile marketing strategy;

- Social Media, with the majority of programmes focused on educating the client base on how to use the different social media platforms to support their business;

- eCommerce Sales Strategy, including how to convert website visits into sales; and

- Search Engine Optimisation, including web analytics and video optimization for web.

As Chair of the Retail Consultation Forum, I have prioritised supporting the retail sector to develop their online capability so as to expand their market reach nationally and internationally, and enhance their competitiveness. In 2017, data from the CSO showed that 66% of Irish enterprises in the Wholesale and Retail Sector reported having a website or homepage, with only 28% able to facilitate online ordering.

In support of this, I have introduced a new pilot Online Retail Scheme administered by Enterprise Ireland, the first call of which opened on 24 October 2018 and closed on 5 December 2018. Applications are currently under assessment by Enterprise Ireland. The Online Retail Scheme will support retail businesses of 20 employees or more who are ready to strategically grow their online capability. Eligible expenditure under the Scheme includes activities such as research, strategy development, implementation and training. The Scheme launched with a fund of up to €625,000, which was later doubled to €1.25m as part of the Department’s 2019 Budget. A second call will issue this year (2019).

In recognition of the strong role the retail sector plays in supporting regional development and vibrant communities, at least 50% of the total number of grants awarded under the Scheme will be prioritised for retail SMEs with their headquarters outside of county Dublin, subject to applications meeting the minimum standards required.

Enterprise Ireland (EI) works with 5,000 manufacturing and internationally traded services companies, and building an online presence is part of the range of supports offered to those clients. EI has supported projects focused on developing innovative products on new product platforms for international markets. Working closely with the Irish Internet Association, EI delivers a range of funded and advisory eCommerce supports for its clients to develop their online marketing capabilities. In addition, EI regularly organises events which can connect clients with leading experts and inform them on best practice.

An additional €1.8m has been earmarked for the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland over the next 3 years. The proposed investment, again via EI, is to assist the sector to develop and generate additional export sales and online revenue opportunities, increasing market diversification by client companies and underpinning sustainable growth.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 31.

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (34)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

34. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the way in which she will interact with Dáil Éireann to ensure that the elements of the miscellaneous provisions (withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019) Bill that relate to her brief are adequately debated; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4590/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

On 19 December 2018, the Government published our Contingency Action Plan, which outlines our approach to No-Deal Brexit planning.

Last week, as part of the Brexit Contingency Action Plan, Government published the general scheme of a Bill that will be necessary in the event of a No Deal Brexit. The draft Omnibus Bill, the Miscellaneous Provisions (Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019) Bill, focuses on measures protecting our citizens and supporting the economy, enterprise and jobs, particularly in key economic sectors.

Insofar as my Department is concerned, Part 3 of the Omnibus Bill, consisting of nine heads, contains legislative provisions relevant to functions under my Department. The provisions in Part 3 contain provisions aimed at improving the range of supports offered by Enterprise Ireland to help companies face the challenges of Brexit.

Specifically, the intention is to increase the ability of Enterprise Ireland to provide a competitive and flexible offering to its client companies in terms of R&D grants and to allow EI to provide low interest debt instruments.

In increasing powers for EI to provide lending supports to businesses, we are helping to preserve the value of the State’s investments in these businesses and in assisting companies through restructuring or re-development programmes.

Priority is currently being given by the Government and the Offices of the Attorney General and of Parliamentary Counsel to the urgent drafting and introduction of those legislative measures necessary to deal with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019.

It is Government's firm intention to brief and regularly update the Opposition on the Brexit legislation as it develops.

For my part, I stand ready to work with the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation in terms of any briefing update on Part 3 of the Omnibus legislation. I should point out that the draft heads of Part 3 of the Bill have been extracted from an existing Bill, the Industrial Development (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill that is already on the Government's legislative programme. The Joint Committee has already considered this Bill in that guise and decided against the need for pre-legislative scrutiny of that Bill.

With Government I am prepared to work closely with Opposition parties in the Oireachtas and all members of the Dáil and Seanad in ensuring that the necessary no deal Brexit related legislation will be in place before the 29 March.

Regional Action Plan for Jobs

Ceisteanna (35)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

35. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when the new regional enterprise plans will be launched; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4441/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

In April 2018, I asked all the Regional Action Plan for Jobs Implementation Committees to start a process to refresh and refocus all Regional Plans to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020.

The refresh and refocus of the Plans will ensure that they remain effective and that they continue to deliver jobs across the country, in every region, and can be robust to address the challenges we face, including Brexit.

The outcomes of this refresh are nine new Regional Enterprise Plans that are focused on a smaller number of Strategic Objectives with timebound actions to 2020.

As a ‘bottom-up’ initiative, the Plans complement national level policies and programmes emanating from the ‘top-down’ and so there is strong alignment with Ireland’s national enterprise policy, Enterprise 2025 Renewed, the forthcoming Future Jobs Ireland initiative and Project Ireland 2040.

The Regional Enterprise Plans are also complementary to the Action Plan for Rural Development and my officials are working closely with the Department of Rural and Community Development in this regard.

I intend to launch the Plans at nine separate regional events over the coming weeks, in the following locations:

Region     

Date     

Venue     

Midlands

6th February

Mountmellick, Laois

Mid-East

7th February

Naas, Kildare

West

11th February

Galway City, Galway

Dublin

14th February (TBC)

Dublin

Mid-West

20th   February

Lisheen, Tipperary

North-West

25th February

Leitrim

North-East

25th February

Cavan

South-West

1st March

Skibbereen, Cork

South-East

22nd March

WIT, Waterford

The Regional Enterprise Plans will support job creation across the regions by facilitating collaborative initiatives between regional stakeholders (both public and private sector) that support the enterprise development potential in each region.

Strategic Objectives for each Plan inter alia encompass such themes as: 

- Skills and talent (complementing the work of the Regional Skills Fora)

- Transition to low-carbon and renewable energy

- Resilience and innovation in the enterprise base

- Co-working and enterprise space

- Sector specific initiatives in engineering, food, tourism, maritime and the creative sector

Effective implementation of these Objectives have the potential to enhance regional employment opportunities and address vulnerabilities in both urban and more rural areas.

The Strategic Objectives and actions in each Regional Enterprise Plan are set out alongside the Enterprise Agencies’ (EI, IDA, LEOs) core activities. So, the Plans both complement and add value to what the Agencies are doing on the ground.

In relation to job creation, the 2020 targets initially set out under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs (2015 – 2017) remain in place – that is to have a further 10 to 15 per cent at work in each region by 2020, with the aim of having the unemployment rate of each region within one percentage point of the State average. 

I also want to ensure that the jobs that are being created are of good quality and sustainable in the longer term, in line with our Future Jobs Ireland objective.

In support of the Regional Plans, in December last, I announced a further twenty-one successful projects under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), bringing the total number of projects to 42 and a total allocation of €60 million over two Calls. These collaborative job-creating initiatives aim to sustain and add to employment at a national, regional and county level, and are located in every region of Ireland.

IDA Ireland Site Visits

Ceisteanna (36)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

36. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of IDA visits to County Cork in 2018; if she is satisfied with the amount of foreign direct investment into County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4688/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Cork has traditionally been an extremely strong performer in terms of foreign direct investment. This trend is continuing, with a steady and positive increase in employment numbers in IDA Ireland client companies in the County over the past number of years. There are currently 169 IDA client companies in Cork, employing approximately 39,000 people.  

In terms of recent growth, from 2017 to 2018 employment in IDA client companies increased by over 5% with 2,087 net new foreign direct investment-supported jobs added in the County. There have also been a number of significant job announcements by IDA clients there, including 400 jobs at VoxPro, 200 positions at Deutsche Borse Group and 100 new jobs at Forcepoint.

With regards to site visits, as of the third quarter of 2018 there have been 45 site visits by IDA clients, the second highest figure after Dublin. Site visits for the fourth quarter of last year will become available in the next month. The Agency also owns a number of properties and sites in County Cork which are being actively marketed to clients through its network of offices in Ireland and overseas.  

It is clear, not least from the County's recent performance over the last number of years, that Cork has a robust enterprise base and remains a highly attractive destination for overseas companies. Work will nevertheless continue, by both the enterprise agencies and the Government, to help ensure it continues to attract further investment.  

IDA Ireland

Ceisteanna (37)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

37. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she is satisfied with the level of investment and IDA visits to County Meath in 2018; and if she is further satisfied with the level of investment specifically in the IDA parks in County Meath. [4433/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Regional development remains an absolute priority of mine. I am focused on both supporting and sustaining existing employment levels in regional Ireland while also working to create new economic opportunities and jobs in every county of Ireland. I am pleased to say that total employment in IDA Ireland's client companies now stands at 229,057, with 58% of all IDA employment outside of Dublin. This represents the highest number of people employed by IDA clients outside of Dublin in the history of the organisation. The last 12 months have seen more IDA jobs added in the regions than at any time over the past 17 years. 

I am pleased to say that County Meath has seen a 4% increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) employment in the last year. There are now 19 IDA-supported client companies in the County employing 1,632 people. These firms are continuing to grow and develop. Last year, for example, saw PCI Pharma announce that 50 new jobs will be created at their facility in Stamullen. This represented a vote of confidence in what Meath and the broader Mid-East region has to offer to multinationals who are looking to locate outside of Dublin. Meath continues, in particular, to maintain a strong contingent of overseas firms in the Financial Services, Manufacturing and Biotechnology sectors with key clients such as ArcRoyal, International Fund Services and Alltech performing well in the County.

IDA Ireland continues to draw the attention of investors considering locating or expanding to Meath and the broader Mid-East region.  This is reflected in IDA site visit statistics for the County. As of the third quarter of 2018, for example, Meath has hosted five site visits compared to three site visits in 2017. The IDA also owns lands in County Meath which are being actively marketed to its clients through its network of offices in Ireland and overseas. The Agency will keep the property situation in Meath under review to help ensure that companies can find the facilities or buildings they need in order to generate new jobs and investment.

While progress has been made in helping to generate new economic opportunities in County Meath, the Government remains determined to achieve more. That is why work is continuing to unlock further the economic potential of the County. The IDA remains pivotal to this and the Agency is engaging with its clients and with other enterprise agencies to create jobs and source new investment there.

Regional Action Plan for Jobs

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 31.

Ceisteanna (38)

Pat Deering

Ceist:

38. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the anticipated launch date for the new regional enterprise plans; the impact the plans will have on rural job creation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4527/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

In April 2018, I asked all the Regional Action Plan for Jobs Implementation Committees to start a process to refresh and refocus all Regional Plans to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020.

The refresh and refocus of the Plans will ensure that they remain effective and that they continue to deliver jobs across the country, in every region, and can be robust to address the challenges we face, including Brexit.

The outcomes of this refresh are nine new Regional Enterprise Plans that are focused on a smaller number of Strategic Objectives with timebound actions to 2020.

As a ‘bottom-up’ initiative, the Plans complement national level policies and programmes emanating from the ‘top-down’ and so there is strong alignment with Ireland’s national enterprise policy, Enterprise 2025 Renewed, the forthcoming Future Jobs Ireland initiative and Project Ireland 2040.

The Regional Enterprise Plans are also complementary to the Action Plan for Rural Development and my officials are working closely with the Department of Rural and Community Development in this regard.

I intend to launch the Plans at nine separate regional events over the coming weeks, in the following locations:

Region  

Date  

Venue  

Midlands

6th February

Mountmellick, Laois

Mid-East

7th February

Naas, Kildare

West

11th February

Galway City, Galway

Dublin

14th February (TBC)

Dublin

Mid-West

20th February

Lisheen, Tipperary

North-West

25th February

Leitrim

North-East

25th February

Cavan

South-West

1st March

Skibbereen, Cork

South-East

22nd March

WIT, Waterford

The Regional Enterprise Plans will support job creation across the regions by facilitating collaborative initiatives between regional stakeholders (both public and private sector) that support the enterprise development potential in each region.

Strategic Objectives for each Plan inter alia encompass such themes as:

- Skills and talent (complementing the work of the Regional Skills Fora)

- Transition to low-carbon and renewable energy

- Resilience and innovation in the enterprise base

- Co-working and enterprise space

- Sector specific initiatives in for e.g. engineering, food, tourism, maritime and the creative sector.

Effective implementation of these Objectives have the potential to enhance regional employment opportunities and address vulnerabilities in both urban and the more rural areas.

The Strategic Objectives and actions in each Regional Enterprise Plan are set out alongside the Enterprise Agencies’ (EI, IDA, LEOs) core activities. So, the Plans both complement and add value to what the Agencies are doing on the ground.

In relation to job creation, the 2020 targets initially set out under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs (2015 – 2017) remain in place – that is to have a further 10 to 15 per cent at work in each region by 2020, with the aim of having the unemployment rate of each region within one percentage point of the State average. 

I also want to ensure that the jobs that are being created are of good quality and sustainable in the longer term, in line with our Future Jobs Ireland objective.

In support of the Regional Plans, in December last, I announced a further twenty-one successful projects under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), bringing the total number of projects to 42 and a total allocation of €60 million over two Calls. These collaborative job-creating initiatives aim to sustain and add to employment at a national, regional and county level, and are located in every region of Ireland.  

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 31.

Export Controls

Ceisteanna (40)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

40. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the extra scrutiny undertaken when assessing applications for the export of category 5 dual use items to states with a record of oppression and human rights abuses such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Israel. [4670/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The European Union operates an export control framework to prevent the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, to promote regional stability and to protect human rights. The framework regulates exports of Dual-use items. Dual-use items are goods and technology that can be used in both civil and military applications. The framework is given legal effect by Council Regulation (EC) No. 428/2009 setting up a Union regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items. This regulation has direct legal effect in all Member States of the EU. My Department is the national competent authority in Ireland with responsibility for the implementation of this regulation.

Exports of Category 5 "Telecommunications and Information Security" dual-use items from Ireland are predominantly back-office IT systems e.g. data storage, networking, cybersecurity. They are classed as dual-use items by virtue of the fact that they incorporate strong encryption for data security purposes.

Applications for export licences in respect of dual-use goods are subject to rigorous scrutiny by my officials and are assessed against the criteria set out in the Dual-use Regulation. There is a particular focus on the end-user within the country of destination. As part of their application, companies are required to submit a Certificate, signed by the end-user, stating the purpose for which the item to be exported will be used. My officials also consult an EU database to check if similar licence applications have been denied by another EU member state. 

My officials apply the criteria set out in Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP when assessing applications for Dual-use licences. Criterion 2 in particular, specifies consideration of "Respect for human rights in the country of final destination as well as respect by that country of international humanitarian law". 

My officials consult with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in respect of export licence applications for sensitive destinations, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel, seeking observations on any foreign policy or human rights concerns that may arise in respect of a proposed export. Such considerations are subject to constant review in the light of developments in a particular regions.

Regional Development Policy

Ceisteanna (41)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

41. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to introduce measures to attract more indigenous businesses and multinationals to locate in regional areas here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4673/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Since becoming Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I have made jobs and enterprise in the regions my top priority. We want to have a situation where all regions are enabled to realise their potential as contributors to economic recovery and growth, and thereby reduce regional disparities.

Since the launch of the Regional Action Plan for Jobs (RAPJ) there has been an increase of 258,800 people in employment across the State since Q1 2015 to Q3 2018, with 163,500 people in the regions outside of Co. Dublin entering employment in that period, that is over 63% - or 3 out of every 5 jobs created.

To enhance the potential for enterprise development in the regions, and to add value to the core work of the enterprise agencies within the regions, I will shortly be launching nine new Regional Enterprise Plans which succeed the Regional Action Plan for Jobs (RAPJ) 2015-2017 initiative. The refresh and refocus of the RAPJs through these new Plans will ensure that through further collaborative initiatives we can enhance the attractiveness of regional locations for new investment and entrepreneurship and drive the creation of jobs of quality that are sustainable in the long term. The new Plans are also an essential element to strengthen the resilience of regions and regional enterprise in the face of new challenges, including Brexit.

Strategic investments within the overarching national context, through Project Ireland 2040 are also key to ensuring each region can contribute to, and participate in Ireland’s future national growth, and sustain a higher standard of living over the longer term.

In relation to specific measures to attract more indigenous business to locate in regional areas, Enterprise Ireland provides advice and support to indigenous companies in every county, in urban and rural areas of Ireland, to start and scale, innovate and remain competitive on international markets, now and in the future. In addition, through the network of Local Enterprise Offices, Enterprise Ireland plays a critical role in driving and nurturing entrepreneurship all the way from an originating idea at local level, to taking-on global markets.

Enterprise Ireland’s Corporate Strategy “Build Scale Expand Reach 2017-2020” places the regions at the core of economic growth in Ireland. The strategy sets ambitious targets to sustain 200,000 existing jobs and to create 60,000 new jobs by 2020 and is founded on four core objectives:

- To maximise growth of Enterprise Ireland clients in the regions.

- To strengthen Regional Infrastructure to maximise future growth of Irish Enterprise in the Regions

- To support Entrepreneurship in the Regions

- Work in collaboration to deliver Regional Growth.

In 2018 Enterprise Ireland supported companies employed 215,207 people. During that year, 18,846 new jobs were created resulting in a net gain of 9,119 jobs. Enterprise Ireland supported companies are estimated to sustain over 375,000 direct and indirect jobs nationwide. Of the new jobs supported by Enterprise Ireland in 2018, 61% were created outside of Dublin, and currently, 64% of all Enterprise Ireland supported employment is located outside of Dublin.

Enterprise Ireland is working with client companies through a network of market and sector advisers from nine offices located throughout the country. Enterprise Ireland engages with established client companies throughout the country via teams of sectoral focused development advisors using a company-led diagnostic approach which is used to establish clients’ business needs. Based on this, the agency can tailor a support package to a company’s stage of growth and level of ambition. A support package focuses, where relevant, on six business pillars (Innovation, Finance, Operations, Sales and Marketing, People and Organisational Development).

Ensuring that there is an ecosystem to support and sustain enterprises in regions is essential for regional enterprise development. To assist with balanced regional enterprise growth, Enterprise Ireland has, for example,

- Invested €60 million in 42 projects to support regions across the country to build capability in key sectors under the competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund. All regions have been supported under this competitive fund.

- Increased the number of accelerators operating in the Irish market to support entrepreneurship and job creation under the 2015 - 2017 Accelerator Development Scheme, including funding to 4 Regional Accelerators.

- Up to January 2019, has supported 38 companies through the EI Competitive Start Fund (CSF) which is targeting a range of areas of focus, such as international entrepreneurs, graduates, fintech, agritech and female entrepreneurs.

- Up to October 2018, supported 171 entrepreneurs on the New Frontiers programme which is EI’s national entrepreneur development programme for innovative, early-stage start-ups, run in the 14 Institutes of Technology and two participating Universities across the country. 

Enterprise Ireland also supports client companies in regions around the country navigate the uncertainty of Brexit and has engaged in a programme of building resilience in Irish exporting companies focused on innovation, market diversification and competitiveness; and addressing the awareness and preparedness of companies to Brexit.

As regards attracting Foreign Direct Investment, IDA Ireland's performance in 2018 resulted in the sixth consecutive year of strong growth under the Agency's current strategy. By the end of last year, total employment in the Agency's client companies stood at 229,057.

Every region in Ireland has seen foreign direct investment (FDI) employment gains and there are now over 132,000 people employed across 681 firms in IDA client companies located outside of Dublin. 56% of all net new FDI jobs created last year were based in regional locations.

Since the beginning of IDA Ireland’s ‘Winning’ Strategy, 407 Investments have been won for the regions and almost 27,000 net jobs have been added on the ground in locations outside Dublin. In addition, 58% of all IDA supported employment is now located outside of Dublin. This represents the highest number of people employed by IDA clients outside of Dublin in the history of the organisation.

The year 2018 saw more IDA jobs added in the regions than at any time over the past 17 years. There have been a number of positive FDI announcements in regional locations during 2018 such as:

- 600 jobs at Edwards Lifesciences in Limerick (March).

- 400 jobs at Wuxi, Dundalk and an investment €325m (April).

- 500 jobs at Abbott in Donegal (July)

- 200 jobs at Leetha Industries, Longford (May).

- 150 jobs at Jaguar LandRover, Shannon (January).

- 150 jobs at Phibro Health, Sligo (July).

Attracting FDI to regional areas is not without its challenges. That is largely because there is a global trend to base FDI around large urban areas where there is, for example, ready access to transport hubs and networks. Companies may also want to be located near competitors or clusters of other similar enterprises. 

The IDA's Regional Property Programme (RPP) remains an important tool through which investors can be encouraged to locate in areas outside of Dublin.  Budget 2019 saw the Agency allocated an additional €10m for the RPP on top of the €150 m for the RPP launched in 2015. This will help ensure that property solutions are in place for overseas companies considering investing or expanding, thereby encouraging more FDI to the regions. The IDA plans to develop new buildings in regional locations including Carlow, Dundalk, Monaghan, Sligo, Athlone, Waterford, Limerick and Galway.

Regional Action Plan for Jobs

Ceisteanna (42)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

42. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when the new regional enterprise plans will be launched; the benefits this will have for the midlands region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4442/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

In April 2018, I asked all the Regional Action Plan for Jobs Implementation Committees to start a process to refresh and refocus all Regional Plans to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020.

The refresh and refocus of the Plans will ensure that they remain effective and that they continue to deliver jobs across the country, in every region, and can be robust to address the challenges we face, including Brexit.

The outcomes of this refresh are nine new Regional Enterprise Plans that are focused on a smaller number of Strategic Objectives with time-bound actions to 2020.

As a ‘bottom-up’ initiative, the Plans complement national level policies and programmes emanating from the ‘top-down’ and so there is strong alignment with Ireland’s national enterprise policy, Enterprise 2025 Renewed, the forthcoming Future Jobs Ireland initiative and Project Ireland 2040.

I intend to launch the Plans at nine separate regional events over the coming weeks, in the following locations:

Region  

Date  

Venue  

Midlands

6th February

Mountmellick, Laois

Mid-East

7th February

Naas, Kildare

West

11th February

Galway City, Galway

Dublin

14th February (TBC)

Dublin City, Dublin

Mid-West

20th   February

Lisheen, Tipperary

North-West

25th February

Leitrim

North-East

25th February

Cavan

South-West

1st March

Skibbereen, Cork

South-East

22nd March

WIT, Waterford

In relation to job creation, the 2020 targets initially set out under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs (2015 – 2017) remain in place – that is to have a further 10 to 15 per cent at work in each region by 2020, with the aim of having the unemployment rate of each region within one percentage point of the State average. 

I also want to ensure that the jobs that are being created are of good quality and sustainable in the longer term, in line with our Future Jobs Ireland objective.

The Midlands has shown excellent progress in employment levels since the launch of the Regional Action Plan for Jobs, with an employment growth rate from Q1 2015 to Q3 2018 of 17.7%, which exceeds the 10 – 15%  targeted to 2020 .

However, the Midlands unemployment rate is more than one percentage point above the State average currently so more work needs to be done.

The Strategic Objectives and actions in the Midlands Plan are set out alongside the Enterprise Agencies’ (EI, IDA, LEOs) core activities. So, the Plan adds value to what the Agencies are doing on the ground, through collaborative actions, to the benefit of the Midlands region.

Under my Department’s €60 million competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) the Midlands has already secured more than €3.4 million across four projects that will enhance the region’s potential for enterprise growth and job creation.

Guided by this new Regional Enterprise Plan, the region is well positioned to build on this success and to continue to see the benefits and results of collaborative and innovative initiatives that can make a significant impact on enterprise development in the region.

Local Enterprise Offices Remit

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 31.

Ceisteanna (43)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

43. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to enhance the role of the local enterprise offices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4468/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are the ‘first-stop-shop’ for providing advice and guidance, financial assistance and ‘soft’ supports in the form of training and mentoring to anyone wishing to start or grow a business.

The LEOs can offer direct grant aid to microenterprises (10 employees or fewer) in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors which, over time, have the potential to develop into strong export entities. Subject to certain eligibility criteria, the LEOs can provide financial assistance within three main categories: Feasibility Grants (investigating the potential of a business idea); Priming Grants (to part-fund a start-up); and Business Development Grants for existing businesses that want to expand.

I have allocated additional funding of €5 million in Budget 2019 for the Local Enterprise Offices. This brings the (LEO) capital allocation for 2019 to €27.5m, a significant increase of 22% on the 2018 figure.

Since their establishment, the LEOs have responded with impressive jobs growth and initiatives to stimulate new ideas and new ventures locally. For instance, at the end of 2017, the numbers employed across the LEO supported client companies was 37,485.

In particular, having regard to the challenges presented by Brexit, the additional funding will enable the LEOs to focus on supporting, strengthening and building resilience for commercial start-ups, micro - enterprises and local businesses that will sustain and create good quality jobs in every town and County. As part of the new funding, additional resources of Business Advisors, to focus on key clients with growth potential or in need of devising a plan to counteract the impacts of Brexit, will be made available on a competitive basis across the LEO network.

Another significant measure open to all LEO clients will be the €300 million Future Growth Loan Scheme which addresses gaps in the market place for loan terms of longer than 5 – 10 years.

The partnership between Enterprise Ireland and the Local Authorities is one of the key components in the success of the LEO network nationally.  To encourage best practice and to stimulate innovation, elements of the additional funding will be allocated on a competitive basis, supporting high quality collaborative initiatives that maximise the potential to support local and regional job creation.

I am informed that the LEOs will continue to work with the broad range of indigenous enterprises across sectors to ensure soft supports in the form of training, mentoring and targeted programmes to ensure that they are informed and have plans in place to manage the new trading relationships on the island and with the UK more generally. This will include, as a priority, a new customs training programme for all businesses, exporters and importers, to be rolled out in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland.

These new initiatives will be rolled out over the coming months and I will continue to monitor and assess progress and needs over the coming period so the LEOs are best placed to support local enterprise development in all counties.  

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 31.

Industrial Development

Ceisteanna (45)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

45. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which she continues to take the necessary measures to ensure continued investment in manufacturing and services nationally regardless of the shape Brexit may take; the degree to which new markets are being identified and created; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4640/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Enterprise Ireland (EI) and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are the main agencies for supporting new start-up businesses across every region of the country.

In 2018, EI ran 9 Competitive Start Funds calls targeting a range of areas of focus, such as international entrepreneurs, graduates, fintech, agritech and female entrepreneurs. 50 companies were funded through this initiative.

New Frontiers is EI’s national entrepreneur development programme for innovative and early-stage start-ups.  The programme is based in 14 Institutes of Technology and two participating Universities across the country.  In 2018, there were 171 entrepreneurs on the New Frontiers programme.

Furthermore, 82 High Potential Start Ups (HPSUs) have been supported by EI in 2018.

Through the Regional Enterprise Development Fund, Enterprise Ireland has invested €60 million in 42 projects, with many of these projects falling within the manufacturing and services sectors. This will help to support businesses in all regions, and help manufacturing and services firms to achieve their potential.

With regard to identifying new markets, EI’s Market Discovery Fund, launched in January 2018, helps clients to research new markets for products and services.  The fund is designed to help companies of all sizes to meet the key challenges of market research.  There are three levels of funding available to companies: up to €35,000, up to €75,000 and up to €150,000.

The Local Enterprise Offices are providing a range of training programmes to support new businesses including ‘Start Your Own Business’ and ‘Management Development’ courses.  Up to 31st December 2018 there were 33,372 people on LEO training programmes and 3,921 people on Start Your Own Business courses.

All of these supports ensure that we have a continuous pipeline of start-up businesses which will create jobs across the country.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (46)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

46. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation further to Parliamentary Question No. 509 of 15 January 2019, if she will further expand on the 55 Brexit related investments with over 4,500 associated jobs; the industries the investments relate to; if the associated jobs are to be based here; if so, the regions in which they will be based; the number of new Brexit related jobs in the financial sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4429/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

IDA Ireland has reported winning approximately 55 Brexit-related investments with employment potential of more than 4,500 roles over the next two to three years. The financial services sector accounts for 62% of all Brexit related investments to date and 44% of the associated jobs (approximately 2,000 roles). The remaining investments have come mainly from life sciences and engineering (22%) and the broad technology and online/e-commerce sectors (16%).

In terms of regional distribution of projects secured so far, approximately 85% of investments and 70% of potential jobs will be in the south and east of the country. The remaining Brexit-related investment and jobs secured to date will be situated in the border, midlands and western regions.

I understand that recruitment for the Brexit-associated jobs - all of which will be located in Ireland - generated by these investments is already underway by the companies concerned, with many staff having been hired already. 

Legislative Measures

Ceisteanna (47)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

47. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when legislation to provide for a minimum five year expiry date on gift vouchers will be enacted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4525/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Government’s Consumer Protection (Gift Voucher) Bill 2018, which proposes the introduction of a minimum five-year expiry date on gift vouchers, was initiated into Seanad Eireann on 19 December 2018 and the Second Stage debate was held on 23 January 2019. Committee Stage in Seanad Eireann is scheduled for 31 January 2019. It is my wish to have the legislation enacted as quickly as possible for the benefit of consumers.

IDA Ireland Jobs Data

Ceisteanna (48)

Pat Deering

Ceist:

48. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of new IDA jobs created in County Carlow in 2018; the increase since 2011; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4526/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

My Department and its agencies are working towards ambitious targets to ensure that employment and investment are distributed as evenly as possible across the country. I am pleased to say that total employment in the Agency's client companies now stands at 229,057, with 58% of all IDA employment outside of Dublin. This represents the highest number of people employed by IDA clients outside of Dublin in the history of the organisation. The last 12 months have seen more IDA jobs added in the regions than at any time over the past 17 years.  

As regards Carlow, IDA Ireland-supported employment there has increased by 31% in the last year, with 275 net new foreign direct investment-supported jobs added in the County. Between 2011 and 2018 the total of IDA supported jobs in Carlow grew from 514 to 1,150, representing a twofold increase in total employment.  

Looking ahead, there are positive indications that Carlow will continue to see foreign direct investment-driven job growth. Last October's announcement by Merck, Sharp and Dohme - where it set out plans to construct a second manufacturing facility in Carlow and expand its workforce there with the creation of 170 new jobs - reflects the potential of the area and its capacity to attract first-class investment. The IDA will continue to work with its clients to identify further such opportunities for new investment or expansion in Carlow and the South-East region generally. In doing so, the Agency will draw the attention of investors to the region's particular strengths. These include the South-East's accessibility, its ports and its existing cluster of medical technology firms.

It should also be noted that, under the IDA's regional property programme, an Advanced Technology Building (ATB) in Carlow will soon be constructed, with work expected to begin in 2019 following completion of a site acquisition. This ATB, by providing a top-class property solution to an overseas firm, should help to attract further investment to the County.

While progress has been made in helping to generate new economic opportunities in Carlow, the Government remains determined to achieve more. That is why work is continuing to unlock further the economic potential of the County. The IDA remains central to this and the Agency's staff will be doing all they can to create new jobs and source further investment for Carlow and the South-East.