Innovation and Technology plays an important role in the development of Irish enterprise for both new businesses getting started and established companies wishing to continue to grow and expand. Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) are essential components of a company’s ability to maintain its competitiveness, its employment levels and be resilient to withstand the challenges posed by Brexit. Irish companies are using RDI in a bid to protect their current exports in the UK and to explore different markets.
Year on year the Government is increasing its support for and investment in innovation, research and development. At €3.7bn public and private R&D investment is strong in Ireland. Through its Enterprise Development agencies, my Department is driving greater engagement in research, development and innovation by both Irish and foreign owned enterprises and by both SME and large-scale enterprises.
Enterprise Ireland’s (EI) Annual Business Results Survey 2018 shows that companies that invest in innovation are higher performing in terms of employment, export sales and are more sustainable through recessionary and other economic shocks such as Brexit.
Enterprise Ireland therefore provides a wide range of supports to companies to support innovation, competitiveness and market diversification. Examples include EI’s Agile Innovation Fund – which gives fast-track access to innovation funding and EI’s Market Discovery Fund, along with the Brexit Loan Scheme and the Future Growth Loan Scheme.
Specifically, with its range of R&D supports, EI supports and de-risks RDI either by giving grants to companies to do RDI within the company, or by facilitating enterprise collaboration with Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Supports, such as its R&D Grant, Innovation Vouchers or its Programmes on Innovation Partnerships, Technology Gateways, Technology Centres or Campus Incubators assist all its client companies to develop new and improved products and services and maintain their employment levels.
The most significant and relevant support available for new start-ups is Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start Up (HPSU) support. There is a number of supports available under the HPSU offer such as the Innovative HPSU Fund, New Frontiers Programme and Competitive Start Fund. The Innovative HPSU Fund offer provides support to early stage companies considered to have an innovative product, service or technology with the potential to achieve international sales and create employment.
Direct Government support through IDA Ireland for applied RDI investment in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) companies can be a key factor in winning buy-in from company HQ to maintain the Irish operation and employment. FDI will continue to require and avail of innovation, technology and EU support and while external factors such as Brexit may have an effect on job creation performance, IDA Ireland expects that the trend of job creation achieved in the past number of years will continue in the future.
The first Pillar of Future Jobs Ireland (FJI), ‘Embracing Innovation and Technological Change’ , builds on progress made to date by focusing on securing the quantity and quality of skilled workers required in light of increased automation and digitisation, improving the capacity of enterprise to absorb technology and exploit its advantages and opportunities; and encourages greater RDI activity to keep Irish enterprise at the frontier of innovation. It also calls out measures to promote indigenous entrepreneurship and encourage clustering and stronger links between domestic and foreign owned companies. Achieving the Innovation 2020 vision of becoming a Global Innovation Leader is recognised in FJI as being key to fully embedding resilience and ensuring long term sustainable growth.
In recognition of the impact of Brexit, the Government has launched the ‘Getting Your Business Brexit Ready – Practical Steps’ campaign which focusses on the nine steps every business should take to help prepare for the UK’s departure from the EU. In September 2019 the Government also launched a booklet ‘Quick Brexit Guide for Businesses’. This aims to answer many of the questions that Irish businesses have when assessing their exposure to Brexit and determining the best course of action to mitigate their likely Brexit-related difficulties.
The ‘Brexit Preparedness Checklist’ prepared by my Department, identifies the essential actions that firms can take in advance of 31 October. It includes links to all the relevant Agencies who can provide the necessary guidance and support.