My Department has a strong focus on developing the most appropriate conditions for SMEs and entrepreneurs to grow and prosper. In March 2018, I as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation commissioned the OECD to conduct a Country Review of SME and Entrepreneurship Policies in Ireland.
This 18-month project aims to provide tailored analysis and recommendations to my Department and the wider Government on how to improve the design and implementation of national SME and entrepreneurship policies and programmes. The outcome will be founded on an assessment of the country’s current SME and entrepreneurship performance, framework conditions and policies based on international comparisons.
My Department has played a central role supporting and facilitating the OECD during this process. My officials have organised and officiated at stakeholder events throughout the process to facilitate detailed engagement between my Department, other Government Departments, agencies, academia, business representatives and small businesses themselves. This engagement has enabled the OECD to gain insightful knowledge of the Irish SME and entrepreneurship ecosystem at the various critical stages of building this report.
I have, and will continue to, champion the development of our SMEs. I will ensure that the work and findings of the OECD Review and Strategy Roadmap will be central to our Future Jobs initiative into the future.
To this end, I and Minister of State, Pat Breen TD, hosted a very successful SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy Conference, which incorporated Future Jobs Pillar 2, at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on July 12 last. The event drew over 200 attendees with a broad representation of Irish SMEs, policy makers, agency leaders, academia and international representatives.
The Taoiseach also attended and addressed the event, reinforcing the natural alignment between that of the OECD Review and the Future Jobs Initiative. He spoke of the need to change the way we work and to focus on improving our productivity to ensure continued progress and prosperity for all Irish citizens, throughout all of the regions.
The key recommendations of the Review include:
- Publish a whole of government SME and entrepreneurship-specific national policy and strategy;
- Establish an interdepartmental committee on SMEs and entrepreneurship;
- Introduce a pre-approval procedure of R&D tax credits to help reduce uncertainty for SMEs;
- Enhance Network and cluster organisations operational capacity;
- Scale-up the policy focus of Local Enterprise Offices to include SMEs with more than 10 employees;
- Encourage a wider take-up by SMEs of Skillnet Ireland programmes especially in management capabilities, financial management and next stage digital skills;
- Implement a simple diagnostic assessment tool for micro and small enterprises that can be completed online;
- Promote SME involvement in standards development and adoption in order to enhance their productivity and facilitate supply chain linkages.
This review is currently nearing completion and I, together with Minister Breen and OECD Deputy Secretary General Knudsen will be launching it, with an accompanying SME Strategy Roadmap, on the 23rd October 2019. This will assist my Department in developing a SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy for Ireland which will be part of the Future Jobs Framework.
It is evident in the significant literature produced by the OECD that regional development is essential to drive forward our indigenous small businesses. The network of clusters and the enhancement of the LEOs, who are present in every county, is a clear indication that the development of businesses in every region will benefit Ireland as a whole. It will remain a key focus of mine.
The final Report and Roadmap will provide my Department and the whole of Government with the necessary recommendations to progress and develop future policies specific to the needs of our business ecosystem, both on a national and regional basis.
The outcome of the OECD Review, including both the Report and the Roadmap, will provide highly valuable inputs to enable us to move on to prepare our own national SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy. Given the depth and detail of the OECD Report, and the very significant level of informed analysis both at a domestic and international level that it provides, it will be important that we distill the findings of the Report to ensure that our own national Strategy benefits fully from the comprehensive detail of the Report.
I intend to bring forward a properly informed SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy for Ireland by the end of the year.