Project Ireland 2040 Funding

Ceisteanna (12)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

12. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when the next round of the Project Ireland 2040 disruptive technologies fund will open for applications; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11202/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

My Department launched the €500 million Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund in June 2018. Information on the Fund and how to apply was provided by my Department with the support of Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland. Expressions of Interest were sought for funding commencing in 2019.

In December 2018, I was delighted to announce the 27 projects that were approved in principle for funding under the first Call. These projects will receive over €70 million in government funding between now and 2021 and they represent the health, food, ICT and manufacturing sectors in Ireland. The projects involve partners right across the country, showing that excellence in collaborative research, development and innovation transcends county borders and every part of Ireland is capable of participation in one of the most unique Funds Ireland has developed. In fact, 18 of the successful projects involve partners based outside the capital. The projects are co-funded by the enterprise partners in each consortium.

A second call will launch in 2019 but the date has not yet been finalised. My expectation is that the call will issue before the summer. We will advertise the details widely.

In terms of the first Call that we issued in 2018, it is worth re-stating that each project that is supported is a collaborative partnership that will develop, deploy and commercialise disruptive technologies to transform business and each is focussed on “industrial research”. The projects are impactful and are seeking at least €1 million in funding over 3 years, involving enterprises and research partners, At least one SME was required to be part of each collaboration in order to be eligible for funding.

The Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund is a competitive offer and all applications for funding under this first call were subject to the same assessment and selection criteria with an international panel scoring the eligible proposals to assist us in our deliberations.

The successful projects under Call 1 are currently in contract negotiation stage with Enterprise Ireland. Project start dates are expected to commence in Q2 2019 and grant drawdown will follow thereafter.

Regional Development Policy

Ceisteanna (13)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

13. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans for future investment and jobs in County Meath. [11270/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Regional development remains an absolute priority of the Government and my Department. 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. My Department and its agencies are working to ensure that employment and investment are distributed as evenly as possible across the country including in County Meath.

Co. Meath forms part of the Mid-East region and on 7th February 2019 I launched the new Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020 for the Mid-East. Building on the previous Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015 to 2017, the new Plan targets a 10-15 percent growth in employment over the period to 2020 and to ensure that unemployment reduces to within at least one percentage point of the State average. Since commencing the Regional Action Plan for Jobs in 2015, excellent progress has been made on job creation in the Mid-East region, with 42,400 more people in employment in the region from Q1 2015 (baseline year) to Q4 2018. The unemployment rate in the Mid-East region at Q4 2018 stands at 4.9 percent, below the State average of 5.4% and down from 9.6 percent in Q1 2015.

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. Meath continues 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.

A total of 18,846 new jobs were created in EI companies in 2018 (net 9,119 jobs created). In County Meath, 500 new jobs were created by Enterprise Ireland client companies. A total of 7,135 people are now employed in 155 Enterprise Ireland supported companies in Co. Meath. In the period 2016 - 2018 Enterprise Ireland paid €4,146,291 million to client companies in Meath to support companies to be innovative, improve competitiveness and to diversify their global footprint.

The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Meath is the ‘first-stop-shop’ for providing advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports to those wishing to start or grow their own businesses in the county.

In 2018, LEO Meath supported the creation of 231 gross new jobs and approved 37 grants in total for the year, to a value of €470,165. LEO Meath ran training courses for 894 participants and provided mentoring services for 306 participants. I also announced an extra €5 million in Budget 2019 which will enable the LEOs, including LEO Meath, to support a broad variety of home-grown micro-enterprises.

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 County Meath. My Department and its Agencies are pivotal to this. The energy and resources we have invested into regional growth is, as the evidence illustrates, now helping produce results. We will continue to do our utmost to encourage further such job growth across all parts of Ireland in the time ahead.

Job Creation Data

Ceisteanna (14)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

14. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the regional spread of additional jobs added over the 12 months of 2018. [11230/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Since the launch of the Regional Action Plan for Jobs (RAPJ) there has been an increase of 266,900 people in employment across the State since Q1 2015 to Q4 2018, with 166,400 people in the regions outside of Co. Dublin entering employment in that period.

The recently published Q4 2018 CSO Labour Force Survey employment figures are overall very positive. Figures show that employment continues to grow strongly with 50,500 jobs created in the year from Q4 2017 to Q4 2018. This brings total employment to 2,281,300, the highest number at work ever recorded.

During this period, the number of people employed and the unemployment rate decreased in all regions. While the number of people in employment increased in six of the eight regions in the last year, the exceptions to this are the Mid-West and the Border region.

We remain committed to achieving an overall jobs uplift of between 10 and 15 per cent in each region by 2020 and to bring and/or maintain unemployment levels in each region to within at least one percentage point of the State average.

Unemployment has fallen in every region since the launch of the RAPJ in 2015. Only two regions, the Midlands and South-East are currently outside the unemployment target set for 2020.

Earlier this month I announced very good results from the Local Enterprise Offices around the country. Overall, they supported the creation of 3,656 new jobs (net) in 2018.

All regions saw increases in IDA employment over 2018, with the Midlands region experiencing the highest growth at 14 percent.

Also, two-thirds (64 percent) of new Enterprise Ireland jobs created in 2018 were outside of Dublin. The North West saw the largest level of increases at 9 percent.

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, so 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 outcome of this refresh process is nine new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020, which build on the very strong progress made on employment creation under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017. I am currently in the process of launching the new Plans, with eight Plans launched to date.

Shaped from the ‘bottom-up’ by regional stakeholders, and overseen by my Department, the new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020 complement national level policies and programmes emanating from the ‘top-down’ and, there is strong alignment with Ireland’s national enterprise policy, Enterprise 2025 Renewed and the forthcoming Future Jobs Ireland initiative.

The principle behind the Regional Enterprise Plans is collaboration between regional stakeholders on initiatives that can help to realise the region’s enterprise development potential so that all regions can meet and exceed the regional job creation targets set to 2020. These stakeholders include: the Local Authorities, the LEOs, the enterprise agencies, the Regional Skills Forum, tourism bodies, private sector ‘enterprise champions’, and others.

It is also important to note that as well as meeting the numerical targets, it is also about creating jobs that are of good quality and sustainable over the longer term.

The Government is focused on this agenda at the national level through the Future Jobs Ireland initiative, and we are focused on this agenda through these new Regional Enterprise Plans.

EU Legislation

Ceisteanna (15)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

15. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if her French or German counterparts have spoken or written to her or officials on her behalf regarding their proposals to reform EU competition law; and if so, her views on their proposals. [9385/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

A document entitled “A French-German manifesto for a European industrial policy fit for the 21st century” was launched in Berlin on 19 February 2019 by the Ministers of the Economy of both France and Germany which includes their proposals for reforms of EU competition law.

The document has not, as yet, been officially communicated to me, or to my officials by our French or German counterparts, nor have I nor my officials been approached formally or informally on the matter.

As EU competition law falls within the exclusive competence of the EU Commission under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, it would be premature to comment on the proposals prior to any formal discussion on the issue by the EU Commission and EU Member States. It is understood that the document may be formally raised by the French and German Governments at the next scheduled European Council on 21 March 2019.

EU Competition law is working well. A ten-year review of the operation of the European Competition Network has resulted in the recently published Directive 2019/1, known as the ECN+ Directive. It will bolster the powers of national competition authorities and ensure a more uniform application of EU Competition law throughout the European Union. The Directive will be transposed into law in early 2021 and will result in significant additional powers for the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and ComReg as the national competition authorities in Ireland.

It is, or course always useful to evaluate the operation of competition policy, not just in an European Union capacity but its implications for businesses competing at a global level. I am sure that the proposals contained in the French/German manifesto will form part of this ongoing discourse.

Brexit Expenditure

Ceisteanna (16)

John Curran

Ceist:

16. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the expenditure spent to date on Brexit supports in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10954/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Brexit represents a significant challenge for businesses in Ireland, which cannot be underestimated. That’s why my Department started developing supports for businesses from the time when Brexit first became a possibility. Government’s priority is to ensure that businesses around the country can manage risks and avail of any opportunities. This has informed the range of advisory and financial supports that are in place.

My Department’s total exchequer allocation increased by 9.1% year on year, up from €871m to €950.2m. This is made up of a record €620m in capital and €330.2m in current funding, which includes an increase of €65m in capital – up 11.7% on last year’s allocation of €555m; and, an increase of €14.2m in current – almost 4.5% more than our 2018 allocation of €316m.

I allocated an extra €5m to the 31 LEOs, up 22% on 2018, which have a presence in every county, to support start-ups and growth and, in particular, to support businesses to prepare for Brexit. The LEOs will work with the broad range of small and micro indigenous enterprises across sectors 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 includes a new customs training programme for all businesses, exporters and importers, rolled out in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland.

I was also pleased to announce an additional capital allocation €2.75m to Enterprise Ireland to start developing regional innovation and technology clusters with Institutes of Technology right across the country, positioning them as drivers of world-class start-ups and growth enterprises and helping businesses adjust to market changes, including Brexit.

Through Enterprise Ireland, I also doubled funding for the Online Retail Pilot Scheme to €1.25m in 2019, which will support SMEs in the retail sector to have a stronger online presence and find new markets. This new Scheme follows through on my commitment to increase the scale and internationalisation of indigenous enterprise; increase productivity in high-employment sectors; and encourage Brexit readiness. I announced the first 11 successful applicants on Friday 1st March last and there will be a further call for proposals this year. In addition, Enterprise Ireland invested €74 million in Brexit impacted businesses in 2018.

Funding to InterTradeIreland has been increased by 18% and they, along with the Local Enterprise Offices, are offering a range of Brexit-focused supports to companies, including those engaged in cross-border trade with Northern Ireland.

The Brexit Loan Scheme, using a combination of Irish Exchequer and EU guarantees, leveraged up to €300 million of lending at a maximum interest rate 4% at a cost to the Exchequer of €23 million - €14 million provided by my Department and €9 million provided by Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme was announced in Budget 2019. The scheme will be available in early 2019 and it 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 Scheme is jointly funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (€37.2 million) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (€24.8 million) at a total cost to the Exchequer of €62 million.

The table attached sets out the respective exchequer increases in allocations to ITI, EI, IDA and the LEOs between 2018 and 2019 and the cost/expenditure of the supports available. Whilst these increases are not all due to Brexit, their mainly provided to assist the enterprise agencies in their responses to the challenges posed by Brexit.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (17)

Joan Burton

Ceist:

17. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the level of state aid that will be made available in the event of a no-deal hard Brexit; the provision that is provided for same in the Revised Estimates; if she has sought permission from the European Commission for aid to specific sectors; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9964/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Across Government Departments significant work is ongoing to ensure all necessary supports will be available to enterprise regarding a wide variety of Brexit implications. Provision in the revised estimates for financial support is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform.

In relation to State Aid, my Department and its agencies have been working closely with the EU Commission and DG Competition since November 2017 through the Irish/EU Technical Working Group on State Aid. The objective of the Group is to scope and design schemes to support enterprises across various sectors, impacted by Brexit in line with State Aid rules. Much has been achieved by this Working Group. It has examined and explored a range of opportunities within State Aid rules including the development of the Future Growth Loan Scheme under General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) rules and the expansion of Ireland’s Rescue and Restructuring Scheme to include Temporary liquidity aid and to increase the budget for the Rescue & Restructuring Scheme to €200 million.

Through the mechanism of the Technical Working Group Ireland has fully utilised the provisions of the State Aid framework to enable the investment by Enterprise Ireland of €74 million in Brexit impacted businesses in 2018.

The Group is currently working closely with DG Agriculture to explore the range of opportunities under the Agriculture and Forestry State aid guidelines, and as part of this State Aid approval was received in February for capital investment by Enterprise Ireland in an Irish cheese producing company, Carbery Food Ingredients Ltd, to help the company towards financing a diversification project to mitigate the impacts of Brexit. The Group met most recently in Brussels last week.

On 24th January 2019, I met with the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager. The focus of the meeting centred around the severe challenges that Irish businesses will face when the UK leaves the EU and the need for appropriate and timely State supports. It was agreed that Irish officials will continue to work closely with the Commissioner's team in addressing any State aid issues that may arise to ensure a rapid and appropriate response as the ultimate shape of Brexit and its firm-level implication become known. The Commissioner emphasised that the Commission stands ready to act urgently in mitigation against the impacts of Brexit on Irish firms.

Regional Development Policy

Ceisteanna (18)

James Browne

Ceist:

18. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to address the need for additional jobs and greater investment in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10958/19]

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 spread as evenly as possible across the country. I am firmly focused on delivering on the Programme for a Partnership Government target, to create 200,000 new jobs by 2020, with 135,000 of these jobs to be located outside of Dublin.

Co. Wexford forms part of the South-East region and later this month I will be launching a new Regional Enterprise Plan to 2020 for the South East. Building on the previous Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015 to 2017, the new Plan targets a 10-15 percent growth in employment over the period to 2020 and to ensure that unemployment reduces to within at least one percentage point of the State average.

Since commencing the Regional Action Plan for Jobs in 2015, very good progress has been made on job creation in the South-East region, with 18,500 more people in employment in the region from Q1 2015 (baseline year) to Q4 2018. The unemployment rate in the South-East Region at Q4 2018 stands at 7.7 percent, down from 11.7 percent in Q1 2015.

There are 19 IDA client companies located in County Wexford employing a total of 3,139 people there. I am pleased that these companies have exhibited strong growth in recent years, as evidenced by the 5% increase in IDA supported employment in the County from 2017 to 2018.

More broadly, the energy and resources we have invested into regional growth is, as the evidence illustrates, now helping produce results. In 2018, for example, the IDA delivered 113 regional investments with 56% of net new jobs created outside Dublin. The last four years have seen 44,500 new FDI jobs created outside the capital.

In terms of recent announcements, in November 2018 Bausch Healthcare announced an additional 100 new jobs in Waterford, MSD announced 170 new jobs in Carlow in October 2018 and Indos Financial announced in July that it will expand its operations centre in Enniscorthy with a move to new premises which will create up to 15 new roles over the next two years.

Looking ahead, the IDA will continue to work with its clients to identify opportunities for new investment or expansion in Wexford and the broader South-East region. In doing so, the Agency will draw the attention of investors to the region's strengths including its ports and existing clusters of financial services, technology and high-value manufacturing firms.

Enterprise Ireland client companies based in Wexford created 200 new jobs in 2018, bringing total employment by Enterprise Ireland clients to 4,674 while direct payments to client companies in the county increased from €2.1 million in 2017 to €4.7 million in 2018.

The South East Region secured over €10m in funding under the regional Enterprise Development Fund. Significant investment announced in Co. Wexford include the re-opening of Glanbia Ireland’s Wexford cheese plant following a major capital investment programme. The €35 million investment has been supported by the Government through Enterprise Ireland since 2014 and has increased peak capacity at the plant.

The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) in Wexford is 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 in the area. In 2018 the LEO in Wexford supported 227 clients with 1,308 total jobs which was a gross increase of 302 jobs on 2017.

In addition, I announced an extra €5 million in Budget 2019 which will enable the LEOs, including LEO Wexford, to support a broad range of indigenous micro-enterprises.

These initiatives, along with the many supports available to businesses from my Department through Enterprise Ireland, IDA and the Local Enterprise Offices, are designed to maximise the creation of quality and sustainable employment in all regional, rural and urban areas, including Co. Wexford and the wider region. I am focused on doing everything I can to deliver the fairest possible spread of investment across the country. I want to emphasise that creating jobs in the regions is a priority for both the Government and my Department.

Local Enterprise Offices

Ceisteanna (19)

Pat Deering

Ceist:

19. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the important role the local enterprise offices have to play to support job creation in the regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11205/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

This Government has a clear focus on regional jobs and investment and the LEOs play a crucial role in this effort.

Funding through my Department enables the LEOs to respond with impressive jobs growth and initiatives to stimulate new ideas and new ventures locally.

In 2018 clients supported through the LEOs increased employment by 8,007 gross new jobs which resulted in 3,656 nets jobs being created across the LEO client portfolio bringing the total number employed to 36,666.

The LEOs approved grants to 1,259 clients in 2018, with over €18.2m. in funding to projects approved. Also, in 2018, the LEOs provided training to 34,907 participants. Of these, 3,944 participants took part in the LEO-run ‘Start Your Own Business’ programmes.

It is my priority as Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation to see more jobs created around the regions. In 2018 alone, 84% of LEO Jobs created were outside of Dublin with 79% of the growth in LEO Jobs in the regions.

It is in that context, that the LEOs have continued to support, build resilience and scale up within their client base. I am informed that 171 of LEO client companies progressed to Enterprise Ireland along with 796 associated jobs. This is an increase from 60 companies in 2017.

In particular, having regard to the challenges presented by Brexit, I was pleased to announce additional funding of €5M to the LEOs in budget 2019. The additional funding will help to continue to build resilience and will enable the LEOs to continue to support a broad range of indigenous micro-enterprises prepare for both the challenges and opportunities presented by Brexit.

The additional funding provided will support a range of Brexit-resilient initiatives including customs training. With that in mind, I launched the LEO Brexit Customs Training Workshops in Cavan on the 25th February last with additional dates to be announced across the LEO Network nationally in the coming weeks.

IDA Ireland

Ceisteanna (20)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

20. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the performance of IDA Ireland in attracting investment and creating jobs in the regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11207/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

As Minister, regional development is one of my absolute priorities. I am focused both on sustaining existing employment in the regions whilst also working to significantly grow both job creation and investment in every county of the country.

The recent annual results of the IDA have shown that we are making significant progress in increasing foreign direct investment supported jobs in the regions. In 2018, for example, 56% of all net new jobs created by the Agency were in locations outside Dublin. Similarly, every region in Ireland posted net gains in jobs last year. There are now over 132,000 people employed across 681 firms in IDA client companies outside the capital with 58% of all IDA-supported employment now outside of Dublin. This represents the highest number of people employed in the regions by IDA clients in the Agency’s history with 2018 seeing more IDA jobs added in the regions than at any time over the past 17 years.

The IDA is working, on a daily basis, to promote regional cities and towns to potential investors. Since the beginning of IDA Ireland’s ‘Winning’ Strategy in 2015, 407 investments have been secured for the regions and almost 27,000 net jobs have been added on the ground in locations outside Dublin. To put that in context, an average of 102 investments have been won annually for locations beyond Dublin, compared to an annual average of 69 under the previous strategy. This a testament to the focus IDA Ireland has placed on regional investment and the whole of government action to enhance our regional offering.

It is important to emphasise that FDI only forms one part of investment in regional locations. Indigenous enterprise is responsible for a significant portion of employment growth, especially outside Dublin. Companies supported by Enterprise Ireland (EI) created over 9,000 net new jobs last year with every region benefitting from these increases in employment. There are now over 215,000 people employed in EI-supported companies, with 64% of these jobs located outside of Dublin.

The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) have also performed well with 3,656 net new jobs created in 2018. This brings the total number of people employed in LEO-supported companies to 36,666, with 83.7% of these jobs located outside Dublin.

I remain optimistic about the job creation potential of Irish companies across the regions. To date, I have launched eight of nine Regional Enterprise Plans that my Department has spearheaded with regional stakeholders. The final plan for the South East will be launched on 22 March. These Plans will play an important role in encouraging regional investment and job creation across the regions.

I want to emphasise that creating jobs in the regions will remain a key objective of the IDA, EI, the LEOs and my Department. We are collectively focused on delivering the fairest possible spread of investment across the country. The energy and resources we have invested into regional growth is, as the evidence illustrates, producing results. We will continue to do our utmost to encourage further such job growth across all parts of Ireland in the time ahead.

Job Creation

Ceisteanna (21)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

21. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she will consider, in conjunction with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, establishing a task force to tackle unemployment blackspots nationally; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11150/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I do not have plans at present to establish a task force to tackle unemployment blackspots. We have made extraordinary progress in reducing unemployment in recent years and there are a number of major initiatives currently underway to build on this success.

Employment continues to grow strongly with 49,900 jobs created in 2018, bringing total employment to 2,272,200, an all-time high. There are over 392,900 more people at work since the first Action Plan for Jobs was launched in Q1 2012. This includes a 19.7 per cent increase in employment outside Dublin. The Programme for Government set targets for 200,000 new jobs by 2020, with 135,000 of these outside Dublin. The 200,000 new jobs target was met in Q4 2018, while 133,000 jobs have been created outside Dublin, which equates to 98.5% of the target.

From Q4 2017 to Q4 2018 the unemployment rate decreased in all eight regions with, for example, the rate in the Mid-West region decreasing from 6.1% to 5.6%. This has declined from a high of 16.7% in Q3, 2012. In the Mid-West region, employment has grown from 189,000 at the start of 2012 to 211,000 at the end of 2018.

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, so that they continue to deliver jobs in every region. The outcome of this refresh process is nine new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020, with eight Plans launched to date. Shaped from the ‘bottom-up’ by regional stakeholders, and overseen by my Department, the new Regional Enterprise Plans complement national level policies and programmes emanating from the ‘top-down’ and, there is strong alignment with Ireland’s national enterprise policy, Enterprise 2025 Renewed and the forthcoming Future Jobs Ireland initiative. Regional stakeholders include the Local Authorities, the LEOs, the enterprise agencies, the Regional Skills Forum, tourism bodies, private sector ‘enterprise champions’, and others.

For example, the Strategic Objectives and actions in the Mid-West Plan are set out alongside the Enterprise Agencies’ (Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland) and the Local Enterprise Offices core activities in Co. Limerick and the wider region. In this way the new Plans add value and support the work of the agencies on the ground in the Mid-West, through a collaborative approach. Initiatives to be pursued under this Plan's objectives of particular significance for Limerick include the development of an Autonomous Mobility Testbed; the positioning of Limerick/Mid-West as a national centre for advanced manufacturing; and the development of a Sports Tech cluster - building on the initial study by Limerick City and Co. Council.

Guided by this new Regional Enterprise Plan, the Mid-West Region and Co. Limerick in particular are 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 and unemployment in the region.

More broadly, I will shortly publish Future Jobs Ireland, a new whole of government, multi-annual framework designed with the aim of integrating innovation and resilience into our economy. It will ensure our enterprises and workers are well positioned to adapt to the technological and other transformational changes our economy and society will face in the years ahead. Future Jobs Ireland proposes a paradigm shift if we are to sustain and increase labour market participation by easing barriers to entry into the workforce including investment in Early Learning and Care, providing tailored activation and training supports and generating attractive employment opportunities. These actions will help to prevent and reduce unemployment, including in any blackspots.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (22)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

22. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the uptake of the Brexit loan scheme; the number of applications applied for and granted, respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11079/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

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 to facilitate the practical actions to be taken in response to the UK's exit from the EU.

The Brexit Loan Scheme provides affordable working capital to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees that are or will be impacted by Brexit and meet the scheme criteria. The €23 million exchequer funding (€14 million from my Department and €9 million from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) has been leveraged to provide a fund of up to €300 million.

It has been designed to assist eligible Irish businesses in the short-term to deal with the challenges of Brexit, which include the pressures of increased market instability and currency volatility. The scheme is open to both State Agency clients and businesses that do not have any relationship with State Agencies. Sole traders may also apply.

The scheme was launched in March 2018 and, at close of business on 1st March, there have been 479 eligibility applications received of which 430 eligibility applications have been approved and 82 loans progressed to sanction at bank level to a value of €17.35m.

IDA Ireland Jobs Data

Ceisteanna (23)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

23. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of new first-time investments by new IDA Ireland client companies in County Donegal in each of the past ten years; the percentage of the national total of new client investments in each of those years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10960/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Regional development remains an absolute priority of mine. I am focused on both supporting and sustaining current regional employers and working to create new economic and job opportunities across the country. The recent performance of IDA Ireland, the State Agency tasked with promoting inward investment into Ireland, demonstrates the progress we are making in this context. By the end of last year, total employment in the IDA’s client companies stood at 229,057, the highest on record. 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. I am determined, together with the IDA, to see this trend continue and we will be doing everything possible in 2019 to encourage more firms to invest further in the regions.

Donegal has benefitted from this strong regional focus. The County has experienced a 60% increase in FDI-driven employment since 2012, with job numbers in IDA client firms there increasing from 2,223 in 2012 to 3,564 at the end of last year. In 2018 alone, the total of IDA supported jobs in Donegal increased by 5%, with the County now home to 12 IDA companies including SITA, Optibelt and Pramerica.

As regards new-name investors, there was one new name investment in 2009 in Donegal representing 2.5% of the national total in that year. In 2010 there were no new name investments in the County. In 2011 there was one new investment out of a total of 61 such investments nationally, giving a percentage of 1.6% of national new name investment. In 2012 there was also one new investment in Donegal out of 65 nationally, which was 1.5% of the total figure. Between 2013 and 2018 there has been no new name investments in County Donegal. Those statistics, however, only serve to emphasise that FDI performance is not accurately measured by the number of new-name investors, given Donegal’s strong performance – as outlined above – over the last decade.

With respect to the year ahead, the indications are that FDI in Donegal will continue to increase. For example, Abbott Laboratories announced plans last July to expand its workforce in the County with the creation of 500 new jobs. The IDA is already working hard to attract further such high-quality investment to Donegal, thereby creating more jobs and economic opportunities for the region.

More broadly, the Agency are also directly investing, through their regional property programme, in property solutions to attract more FDI to regional Ireland. This programme has a particular focus on the Border and Midlands regions. Three buildings are planned for the Border area and I am confident, once completed, that they will help attract further overseas firms to the region.

While clear progress has been made in creating new jobs and economic opportunity in Donegal, the Government is determined to achieve more. We will continue working hard in 2019, whether in support of indigenous or overseas enterprise, to help create more employment for the County.

Economic Competitiveness

Ceisteanna (24)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

24. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the productivity of the workforce in view of recent reports expressing widely different estimates of productivity including reports by the OECD and the Central Bank; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10956/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Productivity measures the efficiency with which an economy transforms inputs (labour and capital) into outputs. As such, productivity is a key factor of national competitiveness. Ultimately, productivity is the main engine of economic growth in the medium to longer run and the main driver of improvements in living standards by determining sustainable wage levels and financing of public services.

The most widely used productivity metric is labour productivity, which is measured as output (e.g. GDP or GVA) per person engaged or output per hour worked.

The OECD published on February 8th new estimates for 2017 showing that the labour productivity of Ireland’s workforce was the highest among advanced countries with output per hour worked of $99.5 (€87).

Following a request by the Irish Times, the Central Statistics Office - CSO (not the Central Bank, as clarified with the Deputy) has released details of their forthcoming study showing that overall labour productivity for Ireland in 2017 was $87.30 (€77), which is relatively close to the OECD results. The small differences arise mainly from the unit of measurement used for comparison purposes.

Unlike the OECD, who only published headline figures for the total economy, the CSO also provided the Irish Times with initial estimates of labour productivity for the Domestic Sector showing that output per hour worked in 2017 was $54.20 (€47.80), which is significantly lower than OECD headline figure of $99.50 (€87). This substantial difference arises from the impact of large foreign-owned multinational corporations on Ireland’s headline figures of labour productivity.

Following recommendations from the National Competitiveness Council, the CSO published in May 2018 “Productivity in Ireland 2016” including separate results for the Domestic and Foreign-dominated sectors.

The CSO report indicated that overall labour productivity increased by 97 % in Ireland over the period 2000-2016. However, labour productivity in the foreign-dominated sector had increased by 342 % compared to just 49 % growth in the Domestic sector.

These CSO results, which will be updated for 2017 in the first half of 2019, illustrate the large productivity differences between both sectors, particularly after the impact that foreign firms had on official statistics in 2015 and thereafter.

Over the past year, my Department staff has published economic research highlighting the increasing productivity gap between the most and least productive firms in Ireland and measuring the impact of large foreign-owned firms to aggregate productivity growth.

My Department with the Department of An Taoiseach is leading on the development of Future Jobs Ireland, which is a new whole of government, multi-annual framework designed with the aim of integrating innovation and resilience into our economy. It will ensure our enterprises and workers are well positioned to adapt to the technological and other transformational changes our economy and society will face in the years ahead. In particular, a Future Jobs pillar on increasing the productivity of Irish SMEs will focus on actions to boost the productivity performance of SMEs including through improving management skills and facilitating linkages between SMEs and multinational firms.

Economic Competitiveness

Ceisteanna (25)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

25. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the actions being taken to reduce the costs of doing business in Ireland and reverse competitiveness deficiencies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11167/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Ireland’s overall competitiveness performance remains positive. Our improved fiscal position and increased cost competitiveness have contributed to Ireland’s improved international competitiveness. This improvement is reflected in a range of metrics, notably economic growth, increased employment, falling unemployment and a strong trade performance. Ireland’s inflation figures are particularly encouraging. In 2018, the inflation rate in Ireland was 0.7%, which was the lowest in the euro area, and the joint lowest in the EU.

Notwithstanding this strong position, addressing Ireland’s cost competitiveness remains a key economic priority for Government. We continue to monitor Ireland's cost base and to analyse the factors that are crucial to improving our cost competitiveness.

The Costs of Doing Business in Ireland 2018 report, published by the National Competitiveness Council on 1 June, found that the cost base for enterprise is internationally competitive across a range of metrics, including the cost of starting a business, communications costs and average income taxes. However, the Council also highlighted that Ireland remains a relatively high cost location and cost pressures are evident in residential property, credit, labour and business services.

A range of initiatives are in train across Departments to enhance our cost competitiveness and productivity, improve the ease of doing business, reduce the administrative burden business face and drive greater efficiencies across the enterprise base.

Through the Action Plan for Education and Pathways to Work, the Government is working to ensure the pipeline of talent can meet the demand for labour to reduce labour cost pressure. The ongoing work of the Personal Injuries Commission, the implementation of the report on the cost of motor insurance, and the complementary work of the cost of insurance working group should help to reduce insurance costs for businesses.

Rebuilding Ireland – the Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness - presents a wide-ranging set of commitments to address housing supply and, while many of these will take time, the Government is implementing and driving change.

My Department and the Department of the Taoiseach are also developing Future Jobs Ireland, a cross-government initiative with a strong focus on improving productivity, that will be published shortly. This initiative will propose concrete and ambitious actions to enhance our productivity and competitiveness and will ensure that we are well positioned to adapt to transformational changes the economy will face in the years ahead.

IDA Ireland Jobs Data

Ceisteanna (26)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

26. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the most recent occasion on which IDA Ireland visited counties Cavan, Monaghan and Meath; the number of new jobs that have been created by the IDA in the past 12 months; the steps it is taking to attract companies to the counties; the success it has had with the strategy for the counties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11078/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Regional development, not just in the Border area but across Ireland, remains a key priority. Together with my Department and its enterprise Agencies, I am focused on strengthening investment and job creation all over the country.

The recent annual results of the IDA demonstrate that we are making significant strides. In 2018, for example, 56% of all net new jobs created by the Agency were in locations outside Dublin. Similarly, every region in Ireland, including the Border Region, posted net gains in jobs last year. There are now over 132,000 people employed across 681 firms in IDA client companies outside the capital. In fact, 58% of all IDA-supported employment is now outside of Dublin. This represents the highest number of people employed in the regions by IDA clients in the Agency’s history.

While there were no new foreign direct investment (FDI) supported jobs created in Cavan in 2018, Monaghan experienced an 8% increase in FDI employment, with 12 jobs added by companies in the County. Similarly, Meath saw a 4.5% increase in IDA supported employment, with the creation of 67 new jobs last year.

Since this question was last raised by the Deputy, IDA Ireland has released the site visit data for all of 2018. County Meath has reported a twofold increase in site visits with six visits in 2018. County Cavan hosted two site visits, whilst there were three site visits to County Monaghan, compared to one visit in 2017.

While more work remains to be done, the Border region has benefitted from the IDA's regional focus. The area experienced a 3% growth in employment by overseas companies in 2018 and we are already working hard to increase this figure in 2019. As part of that work, the IDA are directly investing in a building programme to help ensure property solutions are in place for overseas companies considering investing or expanding outside our major cities.

As part of Budget 2019, I allocated an additional €10m for the next phase of the IDA Regional Property Programme (RPP). The RPP includes plans for an Advanced Technology Unit (ATU) at Knockaconny, County Monaghan. As the Deputy will be aware, earlier this week, I announced the appointment of a design and delivery team for this Unit. The wider Border region will also benefit from the RPP, with new buildings planned for Dundalk and Sligo, which I am confident will help generate new opportunities for the wider area.

The IDA has a dedicated regional manager for the North East/North West Region and an office in the Cavan Innovation and Technology Centre. As part of its strategy to promote the area, it is focusing on sectors including agrifood, manufacturing, tourism and internationally traded services. The Agency's staff regularly engage with key stakeholders on the ground in Cavan and Monaghan, including with local authorities, public bodies, the education sector and companies from both its own client base but also from the indigenous sector. County Meath, meanwhile, is being actively marketed by the IDA as a location for second sites for multinationals in the Dublin region, with a focus on building clusters in existing sectors like high-value manufacturing and international services.

It is important to emphasise that FDI, of course, only forms one part of investment in regional locations. Indigenous enterprise is responsible for a significant portion of employment growth, especially outside Dublin. Both Monaghan and Cavan have seen promising growth in the numbers employed in Enterprise Ireland-backed firms, with increases of 5% and 6% respectively. County Meath has seen a 4% increase in EI-backed businesses. The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are also performing well, with net increases of 146 jobs, 134 jobs and 143 jobs in LEO-supported companies in Cavan, Monaghan and Meath respectively in 2018.

Another example of the success of this Government's strategy for regional job creation is Combilift's new €50 million Research & Development and Testing Centre in County Monaghan. This new investment will create 200 jobs and represents a home-grown success story. The positive impact that Combilift has on the county and the border area cannot be underestimated.

Under my Department's Regional Enterprise Development Fund, I was pleased to allocate funding for a number of projects in the three counties including the Boyne Valley Food Hub in Meath, the Bioeconomy Research Centre in Monaghan and Cavan Digital Hub.

We recognise that there is room for improvement in Cavan, Monaghan and Meath and we are working hard, across Government, to further unlock the economic potential of these counties. The Enterprise Agencies under my remit will continue to engage with their clients, and with one another, to create more jobs and source new investment in 2019.

Proposed Legislation

Ceisteanna (27)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

27. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of gift voucher legislation; the way in which this will benefit consumers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11248/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Consumer Protection (Gift Vouchers) Bill 2018 completed Second Stage in Seanad Éireann on 23 January 2019 and Committee and Remaining Stages on 31 January 2019. The Bill completed Second Stage in Dáil Éireann on 14 February 2019 and was referred to the Select Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation. The Bill will benefit consumers by requiring gift vouchers to be valid for a minimum term of five years and by addressing certain unfair practices relating to gift vouchers. I welcome the broad support shown for the Bill in both Houses of the Oireachtas and hope that it can be enacted at the earliest possible date.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (28)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

28. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to hold more Brexit advisory clinics; her further plans to expand awareness of the clinics, particularly in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11267/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Being prepared for Brexit is critical for companies, therefore to support companies navigate potential emerging challenges, my Department and its agencies 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 part of this, Enterprise Ireland is running Brexit Advisory Clinics to support companies to take immediate action to address their potential exposure. These clinics aim to strengthen their capabilities in the business areas of financial and currency management, strategic sourcing, and customs, transport and logistics. These clinics are open to non EI clients. Since January 2018, over 1,200 companies have attended the clinics throughout the country. The most recent clinics held in 2019 were; in Galway (14th February), Cork (27th February), Letterkenny (5th March). The next clinics are planned for Dublin (14th March), and Portlaoise (20th March).

At the Cork clinic, Enterprise Ireland had 7 expert desks around the areas of Strategic Sourcing, Currency and Financial Management and Customs & Logistics. These meetings generated 54 one to one meetings between clients and the EI panel of experts across the day.

Allied to that, the Local Enterprise Offices have also commenced the national roll-out of customs training workshops. This series of Prepare Your Business for Customs one day interactive workshops will begin on the 8th March in Cork, followed by workshops in Dublin on the 13th March and Portlaoise on the 21st March.

In addition to the regional events, Enterprise Ireland will be running a Brexit Advisory Webinar Series to share with companies the main business insights, tips and tactics from the Advisory Clinics. These webinars are scheduled for the 6th, 13th and 27th of March and are open to all companies.

Employment Rights

Ceisteanna (29)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

29. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she has engaged in discussions to introduce an employment regulation order to ensure a minimum standard of pay and working conditions for seasonal workers in the agriculture sector. [8111/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Employment Regulation Orders (ERO), are provided for in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012 and set the minimum rates of pay and conditions of employment for workers in a specified business sector.

An ERO is drawn up by a Joint Labour Committee (JLC). A JLC is composed of equal numbers of representatives of employers and workers in an employment sector with an independent chairman. The Committee meets to discuss and agree proposals for terms and conditions to apply to specified grades or categories of workers in the sector concerned. If agreement is reached on terms and conditions, the JLC publishes the details and invites submissions from interested parties.

A JLC can be set up to agree rates of pay and conditions of employment for vulnerable workers in sectors that are not otherwise represented. To become an ERO, the proposals drawn up by the JLC must be adopted by the Labour Court and an Order giving them statutory effect must be made by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. If an ERO is put in place employers are then obliged to pay wage rates and provide conditions of employment to workers that are not less favourable than those set out in the Order.

A review of the JLC structure, as required under the 2012 Act, was undertaken by the Labour Court in 2018. While there is a JLC in place for the agriculture sector, the review noted that it had been inactive since the last review (2013).