Enterprise Data

Ceisteanna (417)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

417. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the annual number of exporting firms between Enterprise Ireland client companies and IDA supported companies over the 2014 to 2018 period and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31110/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Enterprise Ireland supports companies in urban and rural areas to start, innovate and remain competitive in international markets, now and into the future. Enterprise Ireland client exports reached €23.8bn in 2018, representing an increase of 6% on 2017.

Enterprise Ireland client company exports increased in 2018 across sectors such as FinTech, Digital Technologies, Engineering, Construction, Consumer Retail, Life Sciences, Food and Business Process Outsourcing. In 2018 Enterprise Ireland client companies reported strong employment performance with 215,207 people employed in companies supported by the agency.

Enterprise Ireland records client exports as part of the Annual Business Review (ABR) survey. The following table presents the number of EI client companies that reported exports in the ABR survey 2014-2018.

 

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

No. of EI client companies reporting exports

2,014

2,039

2,142

2,133

1,897

Source: ABR 2014-2018

Note: The table above shows the number of Enterprise Ireland clients that returned an ABR survey, that recorded an export value in the year in question. The ABR Survey takes place once a year, after year end so there are no 2019 figures available.

IDA Ireland clients in the main service markets outside of Ireland.  However, there may be some instances where clients also service the domestic market.  According to the 2017 Annual Business Survey of Economic Impact (ABSEI), 97% of goods and services produced by IDA Ireland clients were exported outside of Ireland.

The total number of IDA Ireland clients as outlined in the Annual Employment Survey (AES) for the period 2014 to 2018 is included in the following table.

Note: The AES Survey takes place once a year, after year end so there are no 2019 figures available.

 

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

No. of IDA client companies

1,262

1,308

1,397

1,465

1,444

Source: AES 2014-2018

Enterprise Data

Ceisteanna (418)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

418. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the exporting firm to active enterprises ratio in each year over the 2014 to 2018 period and to date in 2019; the corresponding EU average rate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31111/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Table 1 shows the number of goods exporting enterprises and the total number of active enterprises in Ireland for the years 2015-2017 as sourced from the CSO. It also shows the ratio of goods exporting enterprises to all active enterprises for these years. The ratio of goods exporting enterprises to total enterprises was 3.7% in 2015, 3.5% in 2016 and 3.5% in 2017. Data for 2018 and 2019 are not yet available.

Table 1: Ratio of goods exporting firms to all active enterprises for Ireland, 2015-2017

-

2015

2016

2017

Goods Exporting Firms (Source: CSO, Trade by Enterprise Characteristics)

8,561

8,693

8,614

All Active Firms (Source: CSO, Business Demography Statistics)

248,843

250,033

271,166

Ratio of goods exporting firms to all active enterprises

3.7%

3.5%

3.5%

A comparable goods export ratio for the EU as a whole is not available, however comparable data is available for selected EU countries and this is presented in Table 2.

Table 2: Ratio of Goods Exporters to All Firms for Selected EU Countries, 2016. Source: Eurostat

Country

All Firms

Number of Goods Exporters

Ratio of Goods Exporters to All Firms

Belgium

659,387

54,438

8.3%

Bulgaria

347,962

23,068

6.6%

Czechia

1,037,883

17,865

1.7%

Denmark

224,942

25,598

11.4%

Germany

2,801,030

311,904

11.1%

Estonia

85,737

15,111

17.6%

Greece

765,974

18,521

2.4%

Spain

3,026,237

162,821

5.4%

France

3,558,735

107,835

3.0%

Croatia

147,181

7,998

5.4%

Italy

3,849,594

223,322

5.8%

Cyprus

52,325

3,102

5.9%

Latvia

116,393

12,420

10.7%

Lithuania

197,254

15,600

7.9%

Luxembourg

32,391

2,678

8.3%

Hungary

535,507

39,218

7.3%

Netherlands

1,155,256

117,517

10.2%

Austria

406,079

43,044

10.6%

Poland

2,015,506

121,169

6.0%

Portugal

843,693

48,687

5.8%

Romania

717,388

21,677

3.0%

Slovenia

143,451

22,404

15.6%

Slovakia

454,191

30,394

6.7%

Finland

289,631

14,225

4.9%

Sweden

758,640

45,414

6.0%

United Kingdom

2,467,365

142,520

5.8%

Goods exporters make up the vast majority of exporters in Ireland and data on the number of services exporting enterprises is not available from the CSO.

Enterprise Support Schemes

Ceisteanna (419)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

419. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of participants in the rescue and restructuring scheme since it was established in tabular form; and the amount drawn down to date. [31112/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

At the outset, I want to assure the Deputy that my Department and its Agencies are working proactively with Brexit exposed firms to support their contingency planning and business transformation investments in order to help them prepare for the potential impacts of Brexit, to protect jobs and to build resilience so that enterprises do not reach the stage where they need rescue and restructuring support.

The rescue and restructuring scheme was put in place for "Undertakings in Difficulty" and operates under the EU Rescue and Restructuring Guidelines. Under the scheme, an undertaking is considered to be in difficulty when, without intervention by the State, it will almost certainly be condemned to going out of business in the short or medium term.

This scheme was developed as it was considered prudent to have contingency measures in place so that my Department can respond swiftly to changing circumstances, as necessary. However, there are many other supports in place that enterprises can avail of which should prevent them from reaching the point where they are in severe difficulty and at risk of going out of business. However, we also recognise the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and therefore this scheme is part of a belt and braces approach to supporting enterprise.

To date, no applications for support have been received under the Rescue and Restructuring scheme.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (420)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

420. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the latest figures regarding the Brexit SME loan scheme launched in March 2018 for each item (details supplied) up until the end of the second quarter of 2019, in tabular form. [31114/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Brexit Loan Scheme provides affordable working capital to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees that are or will be Brexit impacted and which 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 over the lifetime of the scheme.

The scheme features a two-stage application process. First, businesses must apply to the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) to confirm their eligibility for the scheme. Businesses can use guidelines provided on the SBCI website to determine if they are eligible, and if so, to complete the eligibility form. As part of the process, businesses must submit a business plan, demonstrating the means by which they intend to innovate, change or adapt to meet their Brexit challenges. The SBCI assesses the applications and successful applicants receive an eligibility reference number.

Successful applicants can then apply for a loan under the scheme with one of the participating finance providers using their eligibility reference number. Participating finance providers are the Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and Allied Irish Bank. Approval of loans is subject to the finance providers' own credit policies and procedures.

The figures in the table are those as to 5th July 2019. The Department receives a report each quarter from the SBCI on the uptake of the scheme. A number of requested figures have not been included in this table as they pertain to the relationship between banks and their client SMEs and so are beyond the remit of these reports. Some questions requested the same information and have, therefore, been answered once.

-

Requested Details (as at 5 July 2019)

Number of businesses which have applied to the SBCI to confirm eligibility for the scheme

669

Number of businesses which have had their applications assessed by SBCI

622

Number of businesses which have not had their applications assessed by SBCI

47

Number of businesses which have had a successful application and received an eligibility reference number

608

Number of businesses which had a successful application and received no eligibility reference number

N/A

The number of businesses who did not have a successful application and received no eligibility reference number

14

List of current finance providers

Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and AIB

Number of SMEs which have progressed to sanction at finance provider level

150

Total value of loans progressed to sanction at finance provider level

€32,926,800

Current interest rate for those in receipt of approved loans

Maximum interest rate under the scheme is 4%

Enterprise Support Schemes

Question No. 422 answered with Question No. 400.

Ceisteanna (421)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

421. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the latest figures regarding the future growth loan scheme launched in March 2019 for each item (details supplied) up until the end of the second quarter of 2019 in tabular form. [31115/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Future Growth Loan Scheme makes up to €300 million worth of loans available with a term of eight to ten years and is open to eligible Irish businesses, as well as the primary agriculture and seafood sectors, to support strategic long-term investment. Finance provided under the scheme is competitively priced and has favourable terms, for example, no security is required for loans up to €500,000.

The scheme has been developed by my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in partnership with the Department of Finance, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland and the European Investment Fund.  

Loans to businesses under the scheme can be used to fund investments in equipment, machinery, buildings and associated overhead costs for organisational and/or process innovation.  Loans to primary agriculture under the scheme can be used to fund investment in tangible and intangible assets on agricultural holdings linked to primary agricultural production.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme features a two-stage application process. Applications for eligibility under the scheme is made through the SBCI website. The SBCI assesses the applications and those successful will be issued an eligibility reference number.

Eligible businesses will then be able to apply for a loan under the scheme with one of the participating finance providers using the eligibility reference number. Approval of loans are subject to the finance providers’ own credit policies and procedures.

The figures in the table are those as to 5th July 2019. The Department will receive a report each quarter from the SBCI on the uptake of the scheme. A number of requested figures have not been included in this table as they pertain to the relationship between banks and their client SMEs and so are beyond the remit of these reports. Some questions requested the same information and have, therefore, been answered once.

 -

Requested Details (as at 5 July 2019)

Number of businesses which have applied to the SBCI to confirm eligibility for the scheme

524

Number of businesses which have had their applications assessed by SBCI

485

Number of businesses which have not had their applications assessed by SBCI

39

Number of businesses which have had a successful application and received an eligibility reference   number

482

Number of businesses which had a successful application and received no eligibility reference number

N/A

The number of businesses who did not have a successful application and received no eligibility   reference number

3

List of current finance providers

Bank of Ireland with additional providers joining in the coming weeks

Number of SMEs which have progressed to sanction at finance provider level

 17

Total value of loans progressed to sanction at finance provider level

€2,957,200

Current interest rate for those in receipt of approved loans

Maximum interest rate of 4.5% for loans less than €250,000 and 3.5% for loans more than or equal to €250,000

Question No. 422 answered with Question No. 400.

Economic Growth Initiatives

Ceisteanna (423)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

423. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the action and corresponding timeline for delivery in each year over the 2019 to 2025 period under the five pillars under Future Jobs Ireland; the actions targeted for 2019 and corresponding timeline to be completed; and the actions completed or not completed by the timelines set to date in 2019. [31117/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

On 10 March 2019, I, along with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, launched Future Jobs Ireland 2019: Preparing Now for Tomorrow's Economy. This whole-of-Government framework, which forms a key part of Ireland’s economic agenda over the medium term, aims to ensure our enterprises and workers are resilient and prepared for future challenges and opportunities

Future Jobs Ireland 2019 is the first in a series of annual reports as part of a multi-annual framework. It outlines 2019's ambitions and deliverables and also longer-term ambitions for the future of the economy. Each year we will set out the steps to deliver on these ambitions with the ultimate goal of increasing the resilience of our economy and future-proofing it.

Future Jobs Ireland focuses on five Pillars in the areas of:

1. embracing innovation and technological change;

2. improving SME productivity;

3. enhancing skills and developing and attracting talent;

4. increasing participation in the labour force; and

5. transitioning to a low carbon economy.

Future Jobs Ireland 2019 includes 26 meaningful and impactful Ambitions which contain 127 Deliverables in total for completion in 2019. These Deliverables are built on extensive engagement, including through the national Future Jobs Summit held in November 2018 which brought Government and stakeholders together to discuss the Pillars within Future Jobs Ireland. The Deliverables for 2019 are outlined in the table at the link. Each Deliverable has a quantifiable output, lead Department and timeframe the details of which can be found in Appendix A of Future Jobs Ireland 2019 available on gov.ie (https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/33b78d-future-jobs-ireland-preparing-now-for-tomorrows-economy/?referrer=/futurejobsireland).

Implementation of Future Jobs Ireland 2019 is ongoing. It is expected that a Progress Report providing an update on the progress of the Deliverables that were to be implemented in the first half of the year will be published shortly.

Tables

European Council Meetings

Ceisteanna (424)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

424. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the recent items discussed at the informal EU Competitiveness Council meeting in Helsinki; if an overview of decisions regarding recent trade agreements agreed or being negotiated will be provided; and the status of discussions on trade with the United States of America and recent developments regarding proposed duties on EU imports. [31118/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The discussions at the informal EU Competitiveness Council, which took place on 5th July, were on the theme of sustainable growth. Ministers focussed on integrating the single market, the digital economy and a modern industrial policy. In the afternoon, the Council discussed smart solutions for a competitive and climate neutral Europe. Trade matters are discussed by a different Council formation, whereas the Competitiveness Council - or COMPET - is generally composed of "industry" Ministers.

With regard to your request for an overview of EU Trade agreements and trade discussions, the EU’s suite of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), go beyond the reduction or elimination of conventional tariff barriers to include:

- non-tariff and regulatory barriers, services,

- investment,

- recognition of professional qualifications,

- intellectual property rights,

- access to public procurement,

- regulatory cooperation,

- sustainable development,

- labour and environment.

They help to open new markets, break down barriers and provide new opportunities for Irish-based firms.

The latest up-to-date information on specific FTAs is as follows:

EU-Canada (CETA) - On 21st September 2017, CETA was "provisionally applied", under which EU/Irish companies gain access to the removal of customs duties and substantially improved access to the Canadian public procurement market. CETA also opened up new sectors of the Canadian services market, reduced regulatory barriers and provided more transparent rules for market access.

Ireland already has a strong trading relationship with Canada which is reflected in the €3.2 billion worth of annual trade between both countries. The value of Irish exports to Canada is worth €2.4 billion whilst the value of Irish imports from Canada is worth €780 million.

EU-Japan - The EU-Japan Economic Partnership (EPA) was signed in Tokyo on the 17th July 2018. The European Parliament and Japan's National Diet voted to ratify the EPA in December 2018 and the Agreement entered into force on 1st February 2019. Tariff reductions will be delivered on a phased basis over a period of up to 15 years. It is expected that the Agreement will open up new opportunities for Irish exporters and companies across a wide range of sectors, including the agri-food sector, which will see particular benefits with new access for dairy products and beef. It will also facilitate greater ease in doing business in the financial services, med-tech, and green energy sectors and across the full range of trade interests that Ireland and Japan share. The Agreement also creates opportunities for Irish-based manufacturers in our pharmaceutical sector through an expansion of existing Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) on Good Manufacturing Practice to cover new pharmaceutical products.

EU-Mexico - On 21 April 2018, the EU and Mexico announced that they had reached Political Agreement in their negotiations to modernise the existing EU-Mexico Global Agreement to broaden its scope to include regulatory cooperation, more trade in agriculture and food, common phytosanitary standards (food safety and animal and plant health), sustainable development, rules of origin, public procurement. The EU and Mexico hope to finalise the full legal text before the end of the year. The final text will be reviewed by lawyers from both parties, a process called “legal scrubbing”. After this, the agreement will be submitted for the approval of EU Member States and of the European Parliament before signature. The Agreement will provide a platform to increase Irish exports to Mexico, this will be significant for Ireland’s important Agri-food sector especially for dairy, pork and beef products. Ireland is a significant exporter to Mexico of powdered milk and milk derivatives. There are also many exciting opportunities in Mexico for Irish businesses including in the automotive, aeronautics, electronics, financial and telecommunications sector.

EU-Singapore - The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was signed by the EU and Singapore at the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit on 19th October 2018. The FTA was ratified by the European Parliament on 12 February 2019. The aim is for the FTA to enter into force during 2019. The deal goes beyond many other free trade accords in committing to open up public procurement, an area where the EU has many leading suppliers, and agreeing on technical standards in areas such as motor vehicles, electronics and green technologies.

EU-Vietnam - A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was successfully negotiated with Vietnam in 2015. The European Commission and Vietnam signed the FTA on 30 June 2019 in Hanoi. The hope is that it will be ratified by the European Parliament during 2019. The EU-Vietnam FTA will eliminate over 99% of tariffs and will unlock a market with huge potential for Irish exports. The FTA will also create opportunities by addressing other barriers to trade and will address trade-related areas such as public procurement, regulatory issues, competition, services, investment, intellectual property rights, and sustainable development. The Agreement creates opportunities for the Irish Agri-food sector, in particular. Ireland's food exports to Vietnam have grown considerably in recent years and the FTA will support further growth. There are opportunities for Ireland to grow exports in dairy products, pork, seafood, and alcoholic beverages by taking advantage of reduced tariffs under the FTA. Currently tariffs on EU exports of spirits to Vietnam are particularly high at 48% and will be eliminated under the FTA. The elimination of tariffs of 15% on frozen pork products is also significant for Irish producers.

EU-Mercosur - The EU has recently reached political agreement on FTA with the Mercosur region (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay). The EU-Mercosur Agreement is the EU’s largest trade deal to date. The Agreement covers a population of over 770 million with trade in goods and services valued at €122 billion. It aims to reduced and, in some areas, eliminate trade tariffs between the EU and the Mercosur region. In 2018, Ireland exported €0.5 billion worth of goods to the Mercosur region. In 2017 – the latest year for which data is available – services exports to Mercosur totalled almost €1.5 billion. Trade with this region has grown by 19% in the period 2010 to 2016. The EU-Mercosur Agreement will, we anticipate, allow Irish exporters to expand faster, and will open opportunities across a wide range of sectors – in business services, chemicals, machinery, medical devices and processed food and dairy. This Agreement will see a significant reduction or elimination of tariffs and barriers to trade that will allow a cross flow of trading and investment between Ireland and the rest of the EU, and the Mercosur region. The EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement will make exports from Ireland more attractive and potentially increase the demand for Irish products. The final text of the Agreement will be reviewed by lawyers from both parties, a process called “legal scrubbing” and translated into the various EU and Mercosur languages. After this, the agreement will be submitted for the approval of EU Member States and of the European Parliament before signature - a process we believe will take 2 years based on previous FTAs.

EU-Australia and New Zealand - Negotiations for separate FTAs with Australia and New Zealand commenced in July 2018. Three rounds of negotiations have been held with the most recent taking place from 25th-29th March 2019. The fourth round is expected to take place during July 2019. Good progress has been made in many areas to date, however more challenging discussions are also anticipated on sensitive issues such as recognition of the EU’s Geographic Indicators for food and beverages, and in finding agreement on the structure of tariff offers. To date there have been four rounds of negotiations for an EU-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement with the most recent taking place from 13th-17th May 2019 in Wellington. Overall, progress has been constructive with some chapters capable of being closed.

EU-Chile - The EU and Chile launched negotiations for a modernised Association Agreement in November 2017. There have been three rounds of discussions to date, the latest taking place in Brussels, 28 May-1st June 2018. Over the course of the round the negotiating teams discussed all the issues covered by the Agreement. While no date has been confirmed for the fourth round of negotiations, both sides agreed on work in relation to various areas, and contact will continue to this effect to continue advancing in all areas of preparation for the next round of negotiations.

Indonesia - Indonesia is a member of the ASEAN group. The first FTA negotiations with Indonesia took place in September 2016. The eighth round of negotiations took place in Jakarta from 17 - 21 June 2019. The potential for further progress before October is limited as Indonesia will not have a new government in place until then following elections in April. The negotiations are approximately at the half-way point. Good progress has been made in a number of areas, however more difficult discussions undoubtedly lie ahead.

EU-US trade discussions - On the 25th July 2018, European Commission President Juncker and President Trump met in Washington to launch a new phase in the close friendship and strong trade relations between the United States and the European Union. They agreed a Joint EU-US Statement to –

- work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies (on non-auto industrial goods) and to work to reduce barriers and increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans,

- strengthen strategic energy cooperation to potentially increase US imports of (LNG) to diversify the EU’s energy supply,

- launch a close dialogue on standards to ease trade barriers, reduce bureaucratic obstacles, and slash costs, and

- work closely together with like-minded partners to reform the WTO and to address unfair trading practices, including intellectual property theft, forced technology transfer, industrial subsidies, distortions created by state owned enterprises, and overcapacity.

An EU-US Executive Working Group (EWG), was established on foot of the July joint statement, co-chaired by EU Trade Commissioner Cecelia Malmström and the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The EWG is vehicle for carrying forward this joint agenda and is scheduled to meet again in early May 2019.

On 15 April 2019 the EU Council voted by qualified majority to approve the negotiating directives for the commencement of trade negotiations with the US in the sectors of conformity assessment (making it easier for companies to prove their products meet technical requirements on both sides of the Atlantic) and one on the elimination of tariffs for industrial goods (excluding agricultural products). The approval of the negotiating directives is a key step on the road to a possible future trade agreement between the EU and US. Furthermore, these mandates will enable the EU Commission, in consultation with Member States, to work towards removing tariff and non-tariff barriers to EU-US trade in industrial goods, key goals of the July 2018 Joint Statement of EU Commission President Juncker and US President Trump.

A recent economic analysis released by the EU Commission found that a targeted EU-US agreement eliminating tariffs on industrial goods would increase EU exports to the US by 8% and US exports to the EU by 9% by 2033. In this context where Ireland and the US have a bilateral trading relationship worth more than €100 billion per annum, the potential gains for Ireland, and resultant employment, from an EU-US trade agreement would be very positive.

It will be a matter for the EWG to determine the timing of future EU-US trade negotiations.

In relation to the Deputy’s reference to proposed duties on EU imports, I assume that this refers to two long-running disputes between the EU and US regarding alleged subsidies provided to their respective commercial aircraft manufacturers, Boeing (US) and Airbus (EU). In both cases the WTO has found that the EU in relation to Airbus, and Washington State in relation to Boeing, provided subsidies to support these airlines in contravention of WTO rules.

The US has requested the authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion, commensurate with their estimation as to the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies to Airbus. However, a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating the claim and the report is due before the end of 2019 such that the amount has yet to be determined. However, in advance of the arbitrator’s decision, the US published in April 2019 a draft list of products that may attract increased tariffs. This US list is divided into two sections, the first included aircraft related products and is targeted at the four Member States (France, Germany, Spain and the UK) that provided support to Airbus the second section targets a wide range of products to be applied across all 28 EU Member States. Included in both sections are products that Ireland exports in significant volumes to the US, including aircraft and aircraft parts, butter, cheese and liqueurs.

On 1st July the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) published a supplementary list of product lines which may be subject to increased tariffs. The list includes agricultural products exported by the EU 28. Dairy spreads, Italian cheeses, olives, coffee and pasta are all included, as are Irish and Scotch whiskies, as well as pork products. This supplemental list adds 89 tariff subheadings with an approximate trade value of $4 billion to the initial list published in April. In line with its standard procedures, the USTR has invited written submissions on the supplemental list and will hold a public hearing on 5th August 2019.

It is important to note that the US lists (initial and supplemental) are only proposed lists and it will be for the WTO arbitrator in the case to determine the amount of possible damage. Only after the WTO Arbitration report is issued can the US choose products to impose tariffs on and only up to a value that matches the amount awarded.

The EU has stressed that the arbitrator in the Airbus case has yet to release its report which could permit the EU to impose tariffs on the US to the value of the arbitration findings,

Importantly, the EU remains open for discussions with the United States on both cases and believes the US estimate of $11billion worth of tariffs to be greatly exaggerated. Ireland continues to support the EU position of seeking a negotiated resolution to the Airbus/Boeing disputes that is to the benefit of both sides and has encouraged discussions to start as early as possible to this end.

Finally, at a national level, my Department continues to monitor the potential impacts of the trade measures being proposed by the US. Officials in my Department continue to engage with the European Commission on the matter as it is important that we maintain a common EU position, principally given that the EU Commission has competency on trade matters under the EU Treaties.

European Council Meetings

Ceisteanna (425)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

425. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if changes to EU state aid rules as a policy lever to support exposed firms and exports from a no-deal Brexit were discussed at the informal EU Competitiveness Council meeting in Helsinki; and if not, the reason Ireland did not raise the issue. [31119/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

My colleague Minister Breen attended the informal EU Competitiveness Council meeting on 5 July to which the Deputy refers.  State Aid rules did not feature on the agenda of this meeting.  The Competitiveness Council is a consultative committee and is not a forum for direct representations from Member States.  Changes to State Aid rules is therefore not part of the remit of the Council.

However, my Department and its agencies are providing extensive supports, schemes and advice to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit.  My Department has been working closely with the EU Commission and DG Competition since November 2017 through the Irish/EU Technical Working Group on State Aid. The Group comprises senior representatives from DG Comp, my Department, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Enterprise Ireland.  Its objective has been to scope and design schemes to support enterprises impacted by Brexit in line with State Aid rules.  

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.  Options available through the Agriculture Guidelines are also being developed to support large food companies.

Earlier this year I met with Commissioner 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.

Should issues arise that require an approach that does not fit within the existing State aid rules, this will be raised as part of these Working Group discussions.

Appointments to State Boards

Ceisteanna (426)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

426. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the reason the application of a person (details supplied) to be a member of the National Competitiveness Council was not successful; and the criteria for selecting persons on the council to ensure there is SME representation. [31120/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The call for expressions of interest for members of the National Competitiveness Council was advertised on the State Boards website by the Public Appointments Commission (and on the DBEI and NCC websites) on 10 May.

The following criteria were outlined in the Call for Expressions of Interest Booklet:

“Expressions of interest are now being sought from suitably qualified persons, (for example, economists, or individuals who have a direct experience of competitiveness and productivity issues from a business perspective), at an appropriately senior level, for consideration for appointment as a Member of the NCC for a period not exceeding 6 years.

Members are drawn from civil society (e.g. union representatives, business representatives, businesses, and academia) and must have an interest in, and understanding, of the factors that affect the competitiveness of the Irish economy and of the polices that can influence productivity levels in the economy.  As evident from the work programme of the Council and its publications (see Section B above), this involves the Council and its members considering and commenting on a wide range of important national and sectoral policy issues.

The members of the NCC are appointed by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

The Minister shall have regard to the desirability for gender balance and regional and international perspective on the Board as the Minister considers appropriate.

The Minister shall have regard to the particular skills, knowledge and abilities of applicants when making appointments to the Board.

Desirable attributes include but are not limited to:

- Demonstrated understanding of the factors that affect the competitiveness of the Irish economy and the policies that can influence productivity levels in the economy

- Experience of effective leadership at a senior level in an applicant’s area of expertise

- Demonstrated understanding of the policy development process

- Critical thinking skills with a proven ability to grasp the detail of a wide range of issues

- Experience of participation on similar committees or groups."

Applications were received by the closing date on 7 June. The selection panel shortlisted candidates and submitted the shortlist to me from which to appoint new members to replace those stepping down/retiring from the Council.

I appointed three highly qualified people to the Council on 26 June 2019 arising from the above process.

Project Ireland 2040 Implementation

Ceisteanna (427)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

427. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of payments issued to date for successful applications made under the disruptive technologies innovation fund by county; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31122/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF) is a €500 million fund established under Project Ireland 2040 and forms a key part in the delivery of the Pillar 1 goal of Future Jobs Ireland to embrace innovation and technological change.

In December 2018, 27 collaborative projects were approved for funding under the first call of the DTIF. The DTIF will see investment in the research, development and deployment of disruptive technologies and applications on a commercial basis. The successful projects represent the health, food, ICT and manufacturing sectors in Ireland.

There are 104 organisations involved across the 27 projects that will receive funding and these include large enterprises, SMEs, colleges and public research bodies. Several colleges and public research bodies are involved in multiple projects. There are 18 successful projects involving partners based outside Dublin and they are located country-wide in Limerick, Cork, Galway, Kildare, Monaghan, Waterford, Louth and Tipperary.

As indicated in December 2018, the 27 projects involve a request for DTIF funding of approximately €75 million of which €20 million is due to be drawn down during 2019. The DTIF is being administered by Enterprise Ireland on behalf of my Department.

Contracts are now being finalised by Enterprise Ireland in respect of each of the 27 projects and grant drawdown will commence shortly. With this Fund, as with typical grant funding programmes, most recipients will have to incur up to six months of costs before grant payments will issue. A proportion of the funding can be provided in advance to the higher education institutions involved in the projects and, in certain circumstances, to small firms below 50 employees.

By September 2019, the first payments under DTIF Call 1 will have been made and we will be in a position to provide information by county at that point. I expect that it will be late in 2019 before we can report on the full 2019 drawdown of DTIF funding.

Pending this, the details of each of the successful projects including the partners involved in each, a brief description of each project and the value of funding approved is available on my Department’s website.

Together with my colleagues, Paschal Donohoe, TD, Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform and Patrick O'Donovan, TD, Minister of State for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, my Department launched the 2nd call of the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund at an event in the University of Limerick on Friday 5 July. Over 300 delegates registered for the event, which included an information session on the Fund and a networking session for potential applicants. Details of the Fund are available at www.dbei.gov.ie/dtif. The closing date for applications under Call 2 of the DTIF is Wednesday 18 September at 15.00.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (428)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

428. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the web addresses for each State agency under her remit that have a dedicated web page portal to Brexit that provides information relating to preparing for Brexit, business supports and advice. [31123/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

In addition to Brexit information on the Enterprise Agency websites, my own Department’s website has a dedicated Getting Business Brexit Ready page at www.dbei.gov.ie/brexit. This page provides information on the steps companies can take to limit the impact of Brexit on their business, including information on issues such as certification, working capital and financing.

Details of the range of Brexit-related advisory and supports across all Departments is available at www.gov.ie/brexit.

Enterprise Ireland provides a range of supports to help companies plan for both the opportunities and challenges that Brexit poses. While the outcome of the Brexit negotiations remains uncertain, Enterprise Ireland is actively supporting Irish companies to prepare and take action.

Enterprise Ireland has established a Prepare for Brexit online portal (www.prepareforbrexit.com). The online portal provides information on the range of Enterprise Ireland supports available to assist Irish companies to respond to the challenges and opportunities posed by Brexit.

The National Standards Authority of Ireland has a dedicated Brexit portal on its website (www.nsai.ie/brexit). The development of Brexit portal was central tool in raising awareness of the possible Brexit ramifications in standards and certification for Irish businesses. 

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has dedicated Brexit web pages on both the consumer and business sections of its website, which are:

 https://www.ccpc.ie/consumers/shopping/brexit/ and https://www.ccpc.ie/business/help-for-business/guidelines-for-business/brexit/

Science Foundation Ireland's website contains information on Brexit at the following address: http://www.sfi.ie/funding/international/

The Patents Office has a dedicated Brexit page outlining Intellectual Property information and supports for business at:

https://www.patentsoffice.ie/en/commercialise-your-ip/taking-ip-global/ip-rights-in-the-eu-brexit/

The Health and Safety Authority has a Brexit portal at: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/Topics/Brexit/

The Local Enterprise Offices national website has information on Brexit supports at: https://www.localenterprise.ie/Discover-Business-Supports/Brexit/

Individual LEOs also have information on Brexit related supports on their respective websites.

Brexit Preparations

Ceisteanna (429)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

429. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the national Brexit mentorship and training programmes open to SMEs and which are in operation. [31124/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) and Enterprise Ireland provide a range of supports to help companies plan for both the opportunities and challenges that Brexit poses. While the outcome of the Brexit negotiations remains uncertain, the LEOs and Enterprise Ireland are actively supporting Irish companies to prepare and take action.

The LEOs and Enterprise Ireland are providing companies with mentorship and training programmes to prepare for any kind of Brexit. These include:

- The Brexit SME Scorecard online tool is an important first step in helping small businesses think about how their businesses may be impacted by Brexit. Developed by Enterprise Ireland, questions in the scorecard are built around six key business pillars to help SMEs self-diagnose how prepared they are. A comprehensive report is automatically generated to assist with planning and to highlight what further supports are available.

- The Brexit Act On Programme has been developed to focus on three main areas of capability: (1) Financial and Currency Management; (2) Strategic Sourcing; and, (3) Customs and Logistics.  Delivered over the course of two half day sessions with an independent consultant, the initiative assists companies decide on specific actions over a short period to address some of the risks and opportunities from Brexit.

- The Brexit Mentor Programme was developed for businesses to work with an experienced mentor on a one-to-one basis to identify key areas of exposure within their business. With advice and guidance from their mentor, businesses develop strategies that are more robust, which address issues and maximise potential opportunities around Brexit.

- Prepare Your Business for Customs is a one-day interactive workshop, run regionally by Local Enterprise Offices, which provides businesses with a better understanding of the potential impacts, formalities and procedures to be adopted when trading with a country which is outside the Single Market and Custom Unions. Open to all businesses, these workshops cover areas such as what export and import procedures apply, how tariffs work and how to correctly classify goods.

- Customs Insights course from Enterprise Ireland which helps businesses understand the key customs concepts, documentation and processes required to move goods from, to and through the UK. The online course, which is open to companies of all sizes, provides learners with a firm understanding of the customs implications for their business and the options from Revenue to make this process more efficient.

- LEAN for Micro which has been adapted by Enterprise Ireland for Local Enterprise Office clients to help small businesses boost competitiveness, increase performance and profitability as well as building resilience within their companies. Under this programme, clients can avail of five days of consultancy with a Lean Expert (a qualified practitioner), who will work with the company to introduce lean principles, undertake a specific cost reduction project and assist the company in benchmarking its performance.

- Technical Assistance for Micro-Exporters (TAME) Grant supports clients to explore and develop new export market opportunities, such as participation in international trade fairs and development of export related marketing and websites. With a focus on helping companies to diversify, this scheme is a match-funding opportunity with up to €2,500 available.

- The Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) which is the world’s largest support network for small and medium-sized enterprises that have international growth ambitions. The EEN is active in more than 60 countries around the globe, bringing 3,000 experts together from more than 600-member organisations. Through the Local Enterprise Offices, the EEN can help small businesses get expert advice, source technologies and identify trusted business partners.

- Be Prepared Grant, launched in June 2017 by Enterprise Ireland, supports the costs of SME clients in preparing a plan to mitigate risks and optimise opportunities arising from Brexit. This grant support, of up to €5,000, can be used to help cover consultancy, travel and out of pocket expenses associated with researching the direction of their Brexit action plan.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (430)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

430. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to introduce trade support measures such as further export trade financing and export credit guarantees as a mitigation measure to Brexit. [31125/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The availability of and access to sufficient working capital is critical for the success of any business. Trade financing and credit insurance products can help SMEs by bridging the gap between exporters’ and importers’ differing expectations about when payment should be made.

Under the 2017 Action Plan for Jobs, a High Level Group chaired by my Department was established to progress the development of an export finance strategy for Ireland. The group's work led to the development of the Brexit Loan Scheme, which provides low cost working capital at favourable terms and conditions to businesses impacted by Brexit. 

My Department will work together with the Department of Finance to build on the learnings from this Scheme in further achieving the availability of appropriate financing supports for exporting Irish businesses.

In addition, SBCI has been working with non-bank finance providers to improve the availability of market solutions for SMEs with regard to trade finance options. For example, a new trade finance product was developed by Bibby Financial Services in collaboration with SBCI making available €70 million in funding to Irish SMEs. The new product allows businesses to buy, receive and sell goods before needing to pay for them and it is ideally suited to Irish SMEs needing to bridge the gap between paying suppliers and receiving payment from customers.

While the nature of the UK's departure from the EU still remains to be determined, Brexit continues to represent a significant challenge for businesses in Ireland. Supports such as the Brexit Loan Scheme are designed to provide short-term finance and with Brexit on the horizon, investment in working capital diversification has never been more important.

Skills Shortages

Ceisteanna (431)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

431. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on a recommendation in a report (details supplied). [31128/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Minister for Education and Skills leads on skills development in the economy and works closely with a range of stakeholders across Government, industry and the education and training sector to ensure the availability of relevant talent and skills, which is a key enabler of enterprise, especially SMEs, productivity and innovation.

EI provides a range of supports tailored to meet the requirements of its client companies including the following programmes tailored for the sales and marketing area:

- The Go Global 4 Growth programme is targeted at ambitious top teams from all sectors, committed to adapting and evolving their business functions to prepare for global growth.

- The International Selling Programme is targeted exclusively at maximising export sales for ambitious Irish SMEs. The programme aims to deliver an international sales plan based on a combination of sales methodologies, skills-based learning, in-company assignments and access to a panel of experienced sales experts and business advisors.

- The Excel at Export Selling workshops are aimed at rapidly embedding the proven tools of best international selling practice into Irish companies across all industry sectors who are looking to upskill for export growth and want access to selling skills development.

- EI’s Strategic Marketing Review is designed to bring structure and focus to a company’s marketing operations through a diagnostic framework.  The programme assists the management of Irish exporting companies to develop a strategic planning framework to achieve sales growth.

The LEOs provide a wide range of high-quality soft supports tailored to meet specific business requirements such as:

- Sales & marketing for Business Growth

- Essential Steps to Achieving More Sales

- The Art of Successful Tendering

- Promoting Your Business Using Social Media

- Developing an Effective E-mail Marketing Campaign

- Digital Marketing

- Improving your digital strategy through social media management.

These courses give participants an insight into the various elements of sales and marketing including sales process management, prospecting and evaluating leads, essential sales skills, promoting a business, pricing from a marketing perspective, the integration of online and offline marketing, target marketing and customer segmentation, USP identification, customer identification, direct marketing, and essential skills of customer service.

The LEOs also deliver the Trading Online Voucher which offers financial assistance of up to €2,500 along with training and advice to help business trade online.  It is a prerequisite of the scheme that any business applying for a voucher completes an information session covering various topics, including developing a website, digital marketing, social media for business and search engine optimisation.

The overall management and leadership skills and practices in SMEs are also of some importance in this context.  Future Jobs Ireland 2019 sets the ambition to improve leadership and management skills in SMEs in Ireland.  A range of management development training is provided by Enterprise Ireland, Skillnet Ireland, and others, both public- and private-sector, and provision is to be increased under the Skillnet Ireland SME Management Development Programme and Springboard+ 2019.  World Management Survey data suggest that managerial practices are poor in SMEs in Ireland compared to other OECD countries.  It is essential that SME managers become more aware of their own development needs and seek out and participate in further training wherever possible.  Research is being initiated to quantify the comparative performance of managers in Irish SMEs, as well as the adequacy of training provision, which will allow the identification of any gaps or weaknesses that may exist. 

Skills Shortages

Ceisteanna (432)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

432. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on a recommendation in a report (details supplied). [31129/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

My colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills leads on skills development in the economy and works closely with a range of stakeholders across Government, industry and the education and training sector to ensure the availability of relevant talent and skills, which is a key enabler of enterprise, especially SMEs, productivity and innovation.  

Regarding the sales supports provided through my Department to SMEs, some of the marketing supports and training available from Enterprise Ireland (EI) and the 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) for their clients are outlined as follows. 

EI provides a range of supports tailored to meet the requirements of its client companies including the following programmes tailored for the sales and marketing area:

- The International Selling Programme is targeted exclusively at maximising export sales for ambitious Irish SMEs. The programme aims to deliver an international sales plan based on a combination of sales methodologies, skills-based learning, in-company assignments and access to a panel of experienced sales experts and business advisors.

- The Excel at Export Selling workshops are aimed at rapidly embedding the proven tools of best international selling practice into Irish companies across all industry sectors who are looking to upskill for export growth and want access to selling skills development.

- The Go Global 4 Growth programme is targeted at ambitious top teams from all sectors, committed to adapting and evolving their business functions to prepare for global growth and incorporates modules including Strategic Sales and Marketing.

- EI’s Strategic Marketing Review is designed to bring structure and focus to a company’s marketing operations through a diagnostic framework.  The programme assists the management of Irish exporting companies to develop a strategic planning framework to achieve sales growth.

EI also provides supports such as the Market Research Centre and its network of International offices to support client companies to address and develop their sales and marketing skills.

The LEOs provide a wide range of high-quality soft supports tailored to meet specific business requirements. LEOs recognise the importance of sales and marketing capability development and across the network run courses such as:

- Sales and marketing for Business Growth

- Essential Steps to Achieving More Sales

- The Art of Successful Tendering

- Promoting Your Business Using Social Media

- Developing an Effective E-mail Marketing Campaign

- Digital Marketing

- Improving your digital strategy through social media management.

These courses give participants an insight into the various elements of sales and marketing including sales process management, prospecting and evaluating leads, essential sales skills, promoting a business, pricing from a marketing perspective, the integration of online and offline marketing, target marketing and customer segmentation, USP identification, customer identification, direct marketing, and essential skills of customer service.

The LEOs also deliver the Trading Online Voucher which offers financial assistance of up to €2,500 along with training and advice to help business trade online.  It is a prerequisite of the scheme that any business applying for a voucher completes an information session covering various topics, including developing a website, digital marketing, social media for business and search engine optimisation.

Enterprise Ireland Data

Ceisteanna (433)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

433. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the Enterprise Ireland skills audit tool and the extra supports initiative which help SMEs to meet skills needs; and the 2019 funding allocation to these items. [31130/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

In recent client surveys, Enterprise Ireland client companies highlighted that skills were a major challenge to their company development and growth. In response to this challenge, Enterprise Ireland, in partnership with the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation, identified the need to run Skills Analysis Workshops around the country, which would provide client companies with an appropriate toolkit to assess their skill needs.

Under this collaborative programme, Enterprise Ireland rolled out the Spotlight on Skills Workshops, which were designed and delivered by the Irish Management Institute.  The Spotlight on Skills workshops are part of the Skills for Growth Initiative, which is led by the Department of Education and Skills.  The aim of these workshops is to assist companies to identify their skills needs to support the growth of their business.

The output from these workshops deepens Enterprise Ireland’s understanding of the specific skills needs within EI client companies and, in collaboration with the Department of Education and Skills and the Regional Skills Fora managers, helps to inform engagement with the Higher Education, Further Education and other training providers to tailor future supports to assist client companies to meet their skill requirements.

The workshops were open to all Enterprise Ireland client companies and aimed at members of the senior management team. The programme aims to empower the SME client base to examine and articulate their skills requirements.  

It is anticipated that after completion of the workshop and follow-on implementation support, participants will have: adopted a framework to assess the skill needs of their business and applied this tool or framework within the company, and they will have the ability to communicate with confidence the current and future skills needs of their business for engagement with the Regional Skills Managers, Enterprise Ireland, key stakeholders including the Regional Skills Fora and the Higher or Further Education institutes or other training providers.

A total of 23 Spotlight on Skills Workshops have taken place to date between Q4 2017 to Q2 2019 across the following regions; North East, North West, West, Midlands, Mid-East, Mid-West, Dublin, South East and the South West. A total of 223 companies have participated in the workshops, with 371 individual participants having attended. The industry sectors that have participated include; Food, ICT & International Services, Industrial, Life Science and Consumer.

Since the commencement of this initiative in 2017, Enterprise Ireland has to date paid approximately €169,000 to support its implementation.

Consumer Protection

Ceisteanna (434)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

434. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on placing targeted caps on the prices paid by consumers in which they have rolling contracts in order to ensure vulnerable consumers are not exploited by loyalty penalties on goods or services products. [31131/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The loyalty penalties referred to in the Deputy's question occur where long-standing customers pay significantly more than new customers for the same services. Competition among suppliers focuses on attracting new customers with lower introductory prices with the result that customers who stay with the same supplier can end up paying higher prices. As such penalties may have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable consumers such as those on low incomes or those who have difficulty in accessing online offers, I share the Deputy's view that this is an issue that needs to be examined and, where required, addressed.

The information available to me suggests however that loyalty penalties are concentrated in a small number of sectors where contracts are automatically renewed or rolled over or are of indefinite duration, principally electronic communications services, energy, banking and insurance. As these are regulated sectors for which I have no direct responsibility, the Deputy's question is more appropriate to the Ministers with responsibility for the sectors concerned.

National Training Fund

Ceisteanna (435)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

435. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the recommendation of the National Competitiveness Council that the National Training Fund must have a clear mandate and objectives regarding in-company training; her further views on reorienting the expenditure profile of the fund to provide greater support to effective in-employment training programmes; and if she had discussions in this regard with the Minister for Education and Skills. [31132/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The National Competitiveness Council (NCC) plays an important institutional role in ensuring that the Government has an independent voice raising important competitiveness and productivity issues.

Under the Council's Terms of Reference, it is required to prepare two annual reports, one of which - the Competitiveness Challenge - outlines the main competitiveness challenges facing the business sector over the medium term, and the policy responses required to meet them. It also produces research and statements on the cost of doing business, productivity and other areas relevant to the competitiveness agenda.

As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I am responsible for presenting the findings of the NCC to the Taoiseach and Government.

The Deputy is referring to a recommendation in the 2017 Competitiveness Challenge. In the intervening period there have been significant developments in the national training fund, which were noted in the 2018 Competitiveness Challenge.

As part of the process announced in Budget 2018, of increasing the NTF levy to 1% of reckonable earnings by 2020, an independent review of the Fund was commissioned by the Department of Education and Skills to examine a number of strategic policy and operational issues associated with the NTF and to inform its future direction. My Department and its enterprise development agencies inputted into this review, which was published in August 2018.

The review had a number of key recommendations, which relate directly to enhancing support for in-company training, including:

- A focus on close to labour market skill requirements, and in targeted interventions to support enterprise training and prepare individuals to take up employment opportunities

- Introduce greater information sharing and coordination across programmes to increase employer buy-in

- Increase focus on supporting in-company training underpinning increased productivity and innovation capacity particularly in SMEs

- Fund SME upskilling as a target theme in Higher Education competitive funding programmes

- Implement a structured process to facilitate NTF focused inputs from employers, employees and representative bodies prior to annual expenditure decisions

The Review indicated that the NTF should be more responsive to employer needs, highlighting the importance of increasing the role of employers in determining the priorities and strategic direction of the fund and the need for additional and refocused expenditure on programmes relevant to employers.

An Implementation Plan to deliver on these recommendations was published by the Department of Education and Skills alongside Budget 2019 and is now being actioned. Budget 2019 also began the process of aligning the Fund with the recommendations set out in the Review, in particular those related to close to labour market and in-company training.

As the economy approaches full employment, the reforms to the Fund and the associated reorientation of expenditure will be key supports to the objectives set out in Future Jobs Ireland- a central part of Ireland’s economic agenda over the medium term, to ensure we are well positioned to adapt to the technological and other transformational changes our economy and society will face in the years ahead.

The pace of technological change means that workers across all skills levels must be prepared to reskill and upskill throughout their working careers. This is a theme that is emphasised in Future Jobs Ireland, which aims to boost participation in lifelong learning from 8.9% to 18% in 2025.

To this end, Future Jobs highlights the reforms to the National Training Fund and sets out a series of actions related to the implementation or expansion of in-employment programmes supported under the Fund- apprenticeship and traineeship offerings, the EXPLORE Digital Skills programme, Skillnet Ireland’s training provision, especially in the area of emerging technologies, SOLAS’ Skills to Advance initiative, Springboard+, and the forthcoming Human Capital Initiative.

My Department will continue to work with the Department of Education and Skills to ensure that the National Training Fund is fully aligned with the skills needs of enterprise, that it works to support the increasing in-company training needs of firms, and that it contributes to realising the ambitious lifelong learning target set out in Future Jobs Ireland.

European Council Meetings

Ceisteanna (436)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

436. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the date of each EU Competitiveness Council Ministers' meeting since June 2016; the specific meetings at which she or her predecessors made the case for the need for a revision of state aid rules of regulation EU 1407/2013 to protect exposed Irish enterprises and exporters from a potential Brexit; the date of each such meeting at which this was raised in tabular form; the status of progress being made at EU level to increase state aid thresholds to support Irish enterprises in the event of a hard no-deal Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31137/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Since the Brexit Referendum, the then Minister for Business, Enterprise & Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, attended meetings of the Competitiveness Council on 29th September 2016, 28th November 2016 and 20th February 2017. My colleague, Minister Breen, attended meetings of the Council on 30th November 2017, 12th March 2018, 28th May 2018 and 16th July 2018. The meeting on the 27th September 2018 was attended by the Permanent Representative and I attended the meeting on 29th of November 2018.

To date in 2019 the meetings on 18 February and 27 May were attended by the Deputy Permanent Representative, the meeting on 2 May was attended by an official from my Department and the meeting on 5 July was attended by Minister Breen.

State Aid rules did not feature on the agenda of these meetings. The Competitiveness Council is a consultative committee and is not a forum for direct representations from Member States. Changes to State Aid rules is therefore not part of the remit of the Council.

However, my Department and its agencies are providing extensive supports, schemes and advice to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit. My Department has been working closely with the EU Commission and DG Competition since November 2017 through the Irish/EU Technical Working Group on State Aid which was established following a meeting between my predecessor, Francis Fitzgerald and the Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager. The Group comprises senior representatives from DG Comp, my Department, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Enterprise Ireland. Its objective has been to scope and design schemes to support enterprises impacted by Brexit in line with State Aid rules.

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. Options available through the Agriculture Guidelines are also being developed to support large food companies.

Earlier this year I met with Commissioner 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.

Should further issues arise that require an approach that does not fit within the existing State aid rules, this will be raised as part of these Working Group discussions.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (437)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

437. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of food businesses that applied for working capital under the Brexit loan scheme which opened in March 2018; the number of such businesses sanctioned financing to date; and the value of same. [31208/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The €300 million Brexit loan scheme provides relatively short-term working capital of one to three years for eligible businesses with up to 499 employees to help them to innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenges. 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.

Given its significant exposure to the UK market, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine contributed 40% of the State funding. As a result, at least 40% of the fund will be available to food businesses.

In terms of the number of applicants for the Brexit loan scheme, the latest data available to my Department show that, at close of business on 5 July, 669 eligibility applications were received by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, of which 608 were deemed eligible by it. Of the 608 eligible applicants, 150 have progressed to sanction with their banks. The value of the sanctioned loans from banks on 28 June was €32.93 million.

To date, 107 food businesses have applied for eligibility under the Brexit Loan Scheme while 28 food businesses have been sanctioned financing for a total value of €7.98 million.

In addition to the Brexit loan scheme, my Department, together with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Finance and with the support of the European Investment Bank guarantee, has developed the Future Growth Loan Scheme. The scheme is making up to €300 million worth of loans available with a term of eight to ten years and is open to eligible Irish businesses, as well as the primary agriculture and seafood sectors, to support strategic long-term investment. Finance provided under the scheme is competitively priced and has favourable terms, for example, no security is required for loans up to €500,000. The scheme opened for eligibility applications on 17 April since then the SBCI has received 524 eligibility applications and issued 482 eligibility letters. With Brexit on the horizon, the availability of both the Brexit loan scheme and the future growth loan scheme means that qualifying Irish businesses will have access to low cost capital without delay. It forms part of the supports in place for Irish business to cope with potential Brexit challenges.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (438)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

438. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of farmers in addition to food businesses who applied to the future growth loan scheme which opened in March 2019; the number of farmers and such businesses sanctioned financing to date; and the value of same. [31209/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Future Growth Loan Scheme makes up to €300 million worth of loans available with a term of eight to ten years and is open to eligible Irish businesses, as well as the primary agriculture and seafood sectors, to support strategic long-term investment. Finance provided under the scheme is competitively priced and has favourable terms, for example, no security is required for loans up to €500,000.

The scheme has been developed by my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in partnership with the Department of Finance, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland and the European Investment Fund.

Loans to businesses under the scheme can be used to fund investments in equipment, machinery, buildings and associated overhead costs for organisational and/or process innovation. Loans to primary agriculture under the scheme can be used to fund investment in tangible and intangible assets on agricultural holdings linked to primary agricultural production.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme features a two-stage application process. Applications for eligibility under the scheme is made through the SBCI website. The SBCI assesses the applications and those successful will be issued an eligibility reference number.

Eligible businesses will then be able to apply for a loan under the scheme with one of the participating finance providers using the eligibility reference number. Approval of loans are subject to the finance providers’ own credit policies and procedures.

The scheme opened for eligibility applications on 17 April, and since then the SBCI has received 524 eligibility applications and issued 482 eligibility letters. In relation to the agri-food sector, to date, 279 primary agriculture businesses and 48 food businesses have applied for eligibility with 261 and 48 respectively receiving eligibility letters. In addition, 12 applicants have been sanctioned financing for a value of €1.68 million.

With Brexit on the horizon, investment in innovation and diversification has never been more important. The Future Growth Loan Scheme unlocks a large fund of affordable financing to support businesses in investing for the future.

Enterprise Ireland Funding

Ceisteanna (439)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

439. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of businesses that availed of the Enterprise Ireland grant for the online grant scheme; her views on whether restrictions are blocking applicants; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31254/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Retailing supports jobs in every city, town and village in the country and so it is critical that our retail sector is competing at the forefront of the digital revolution. As Chair of the Retail Consultation Forum, I have prioritised supporting the retail sector to develop their online capability in order for them to expand their market reach nationally and internationally and enhance their competitiveness. 

Increasing the international sales of Irish companies translates into sustaining and creating high-quality, sustainable jobs across the country – something that this Government is firmly focused on through the Future Jobs Ireland framework. In support of this, I introduced a new pilot Online Retail Scheme, administered by Enterprise Ireland, in September 2018. The €1.25m fund, is targeted at retailers with an online presence to encourage acceleration of their online offerings and can be used to fund research, strategy development, implementation and training.  

The fund will provide grants between €10,000 and €25,000 on a match fund basis with the purpose of enhancing their online offering. Applications for funding under this pilot Scheme are considered on a competitive basis under calls for applications. Once the fund criteria is met, at least half of the total number of funds will be awarded to Irish retail businesses based outside of Dublin. By delivering the Online Retail Scheme, I intend to support Irish retailers to innovate, and through innovation, increase their competitiveness and international reach.

The first call opened on 24th October 2018 and closed on 5th December 2018, I announced the eleven successful applicants on 1st March 2019 in Skibbereen, Co. Cork. The approved applications were in sectors ranging from; pharmacy, giftware, lifestyle, entertainment, outdoor clothing and equipment, garden furniture and safety equipment. Following the first call, my Officials in conjunction with EI, undertook a review of the feedback on Call 1 to examine ways in which the Scheme offering could be strengthened.

On foot of that, I approved that the eligibility criteria of the scheme be expanded to widen the reach of the scheme. The scheme will now accept applications from Irish-based retailers with 10 or more full-time employees (including over 250 employees). Call 1 of the Online Retail Scheme was open to applications from Irish owned retail businesses with 20 or more employees, and who have a physical retail outlet. By opening up the Scheme  to more retailers for Call 2,  I expect to see even stronger interest and volume of applications.

In addition, Enterprise Ireland delivered advisory clinics for retailers at the Retail Excellence Retail Retreat Conference 21-22 May, 2019. The clinics offered retailers an opportunity to raise questions or issues in relation to the application process for Call 2 of the pilot Online Retail Scheme and receive expert advice from Enterprise Ireland.

Peer learning is an integral aspect of the pilot Online Retail Scheme in order to encourage knowledge sharing. Enterprise Ireland have already held online retail specific workshops with the successful entrants from Call 1 and further workshops are planned for the successful applicants from Call 2.

The second call of the pilot Online Retail Scheme opened for applications on 19 June 2019 and will close at 3pm on 31 July 2019. I look forward to announcing the successful applicants from Call 2 later this year.

IDA Ireland Portfolio

Ceisteanna (440)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

440. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she will consider approving Mullingar as a preferred location for an advanced technology unit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31263/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

As part of its €150m Regional Property Programme (RPP) the IDA are directly investing in a building programme to help ensure property solutions are in place for overseas companies considering investing or expanding in Ireland, thereby encouraging more foreign direct investment (FDI) in the regions.  Budget 2019 also saw the Agency allocated an additional €10m for the RPP bringing its yearly capital budget for property to €47m.

While Mullingar has not been selected by the IDA as a location for an Advanced Technology Unit (ATU), the Agency continues to draw the attention of investors to the town. The IDA operates a Business and Technology Park in Ardmore with marketable lands and also owns land in the Clonmore area. These lands are being actively marketed by the IDA to prospective and existing clients through its network of offices in Ireland and overseas. In addition to this, the Agency also actively engage with owners of privately owned buildings and lands in the Mullingar area as potential locations for investment.

County Westmeath has benefitted from the RPP. In 2014, the IDA successfully constructed an ATU in Athlone and secured Aerie Pharmaceuticals as a tenant. Under the current first phase of the RPP, the construction of an Advanced Office Building (AOB) in Athlone is expected to begin late this year or in 2020. In the second phase of the RPP, construction will begin on an additional AOB for Athlone in 2020. Once the first and second phases of the RPP are completed there will be a total of three buildings constructed in Westmeath and I am confident that these will stimulate further investment and job creation for the entire county. My Department will continue to keep the IDA's property requirements under review in the time ahead.

More broadly, the FDI trend in Westmeath is positive. There are currently 21 IDA client companies located in the County, employing 3,466 people. Three of these companies are located in Mullingar, employing approximately 150 people. The wider County has seen an almost 17% increase in FDI employment from 2017 to 2018 and the IDA actively engages with its client base to support them in growing their business and footprint further.

Departmental Communications

Ceisteanna (441)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

441. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the oversight of her Department of directives, circulars, advice or requirements issued since 2016; if surveys have been carried out of compliance with these communications to date; the surveys carried out; the results of the surveys; the compliance rate; the actions taken by her Department following these results; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31318/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

As the Deputy will be aware, in addition to their statutory responsibilities,  both my Department and those bodies under its aegis are subject to normal Civil and Public Service Governance practices and procedures across all areas of operations including  Corporate Governance, Finance,  Human Resources, Procurement etc.

As such it is standard practice that directives, circulars, advice or requirements issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, or other Government Departments or Agencies in relation to matters under their remit, are brought to the attention of Department  staff and the management of bodies under the remit of the  Department.