Small and Medium Enterprises

Ceisteanna (280)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

280. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the timeline for the implementation of the recommendations emanating from two reports (details supplied); when the consultative group is due to hold its first meeting; the budget that will be allocated to the group and towards implementation of the report recommendations; the data for Irish SME rates in tabular form; the OECD average for productivity rate, start-up rate, churn rate and percentage of SMEs trading across borders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46017/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I am committed to driving the recommendations of the recently launched Report and Strategy Roadmap of the OECD’s Review of SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland. My Department and its Agencies are focused on providing the most appropriate and focused supports to Irish firms.

Through my Department’s ongoing engagement with the OECD secretariat, I was made aware of what was at that point a forthcoming recommendation to establish an interdepartmental committee on SMEs and entrepreneurship and extending the consultative role of the Advisory Group on Small Business to a broader group of Departmental entities. The OECD also stated the vital importance of such a group being Ministerial led thus giving the group the recognition and engagement at political level it so deserves.

The Advisory Group on Small Business (AGSB) has served us well and has carried out a lot of very valuable work since its inception in 2011. However, this recommendation has hit the nail on the head and both I and Minister Breen, group chair, warmly welcomed this recommendation as a positive opportunity to broaden its current remit.

We need to use the policy experts throughout our network to the best advantage of entrepreneurs and SMEs. We need the representative groups and business people themselves to be actively involved. By involving all the different parties that interact with SMEs or are SMEs themselves, we can get the best value and effect out of relevant policies.

The inaugural meeting of the SME and Entrepreneurship Consultation Group took place on Wednesday 27rd March 2019. Subsuming the original functions of the AGSB, this new portfolio provides a platform for high-level structured engagement between Government, agencies, representative bodies and small businesses.

Over 40 stakeholders attended the inaugural meeting, together, they will be formulating a plan of how to progress the conclusions and recommendations from the OECD Review of SME and Entrepreneurship Polices in Ireland.

Through the mechanism of the new SME and Entrepreneurship Consultation Group my Department has hosted and facilitated two further meetings in 2019. In July my Department hosted a SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy Conference under Future Jobs Pillar 2 - SME Productivity at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on July 12th and the more recent launch of the OECD Report and SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy Roadmap on the 31st October at DBEI in Kildare Street.

Going forward into 2020, committee members will be asked to focus on the pillar most suited to their own expertise. The group will focus on a number of pillars such as R&D, Standards, Skills, Finance and Clustering. As we progress and firm up what the role of the Committee will be, members will be asked to take responsibility for their areas of consideration and provide structured feedback to the Group and its Secretariat who will be expecting concrete feedback and thought out suggestions.

Finally, there is no budget allocated to the running of the Consultation Group as with the previous AGSB. Those willing to participate give of their time and invaluable experience at no additional cost to the exchequer. They like I, Minister Breen and our colleagues across the whole of Government are committed to driving a new SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy which is wholly beneficial to anyone trying to turn a business idea into a business reality.

 -

Ireland

Share  of Start Ups

10%

Churn Rate

7.1%

Productivity  Rate (GDP)

83.2%

Firm Exporting Propensity

6.3%

* Share of Start Ups – SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland, Overall Assessment and Recommendations, Figure 1.3

* Churn Rate- SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland, SME and Entrepreneurship Characteristics and Performance in Ireland, Figure 2.7

* Productivity Rate (GDP)- SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland, SME Productivity in Ireland, Figure 7.2

Regional Development Initiatives

Ceisteanna (281)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

281. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation further to Parliamentary Question No. 303 of 17 September 2019, when construction will commence on the project; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46039/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

My Department’s Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) is an effective policy instrument particularly as a complement to the Regional Enterprise Plans and was introduced to support the development and implementation of collaborative and innovative projects that can sustain and add to employment at county, regional and national level. To date, through an allocation of €60 million over two competitive calls, 42 projects have been supported by the REDF nationwide, with the MERITS project referenced by the Deputy securing €1,917,200 in grant support under Call One of the REDF.

The MERITS hub is one of the projects funded under Call 1 of the REDF. The Mid East Regional Innovation Think Space (MERITS) located in Naas County Kildare is a new build project to cluster Irish and international new-technology companies and provide them with mentorship and support, including the provision of co-working and office space for up to 100 people. The project is supported by strong collaboration with Kildare County Council, Maynooth University/ MaynoothWorks, Kildare Chamber and the three Mid East LEOs (Kildare, Meath & Wicklow).

As regards an update on the MERITS project, clearance works have been completed on the site and I have been advised by Enterprise Ireland that the construction tendering process is now concluded and that the build works will commence in the coming days.

The Deputy may also wish to note that I announced a €45 million third call of the REDF in June 2019 which closed in September 2019. I expect that successful projects under this call will be announced by the end of this year.

Departmental Reports

Ceisteanna (282)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

282. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number, date of publication and details of post-enactment reports published by her Department since March 2011, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46085/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Details of the post enactment reports published by my Department during the period in question are set out below.

Name of Act

Date of Publication of Post Enactment Report

Companies (Accounting) Act 2017 (No. 9 of 2017)

19 March 2018

Competition (Amendment) Act 2017 (No. 12 of 2017)

28 August 2018

Companies (Amendment) Act 2017 (No. 13 of 2017)

19 March 2018

Work Permits Applications Data

Ceisteanna (283)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

283. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of outstanding work permit applications for employers seeking to employ skilled staff in the meat industry; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a shortage of such skills within the industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46150/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

All employment permit applications remain in the employment permit processing queue until reached for processing at which stage the appropriate economic sector and occupation is assigned. Therefore, there is no statistical data available regarding the number of outstanding work permit applications for employers seeking to employ skilled staff in the meat industry.

In 2018, at my request, following significant and ongoing engagement with the agri-food sector and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, a review of the emerging labour shortages being experienced in that sector was undertaken resulting in the introduction of a pilot scheme which provided for operatives for the horticulture, dairy farming and meat processing industries. A quota of 250 employment permits was introduced initially for meat processing operatives. This quota has been increased twice with provision made for a further 500 and 750 bringing the total to 1,500 permits. The Department is currently considering a further business case submitted by meat industry employer representatives for an additional quota for meat processing operatives and is engaging with officials in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in this regard.

In May 2019, following a submission made by meat industry employer representatives to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, citing the continuing difficulties experienced by employers in the sector to source labour to fill vacancies in such a labour intensive occupation such as the Meat Deboner role, approval was given to reopen the quota of Meat Deboner General Employment permits which had been closed since 2017. The quota was extended to provide an additional 300 employment permits. The quota was extended following consideration of the submission by the industry of a business case citing the continuing difficulties experienced by employers in the sector to source labour resources, despite their investment in training programmes and recruitment drives both nationally and across the EEA. The employment permit system offers an interim solution for employers where specific skills prove difficult to source within the EEA. To date 197 of these permits have issued.

Health and Safety Authority

Ceisteanna (284)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

284. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of a HSA investigation (details supplied). [46162/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Any death in the workplace is a sad moment, and one of immense personal loss to the friends and family of the person involved. I would therefore like to offer my personal condolences to the family and friends of the individual involved in this incident.

On a more general point, the investigation of workplace fatalities is a statutory function of the Health and Safety Authority in which I have no role. Therefore, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the status of investigations being conducted by the Health and Safety Authority.

However, in respect of the particular incident to which the Deputy is referring, I am aware that the Health and Safety Authority has been in communication with the next of kin, and that they will keep them advised of the progress of the investigation and any decisions or actions arising from the investigation. I am also informed by the Health and Safety Authority that the inquest into the unfortunate death arising from this incident, opened on the 7th Nov 2019. I understand that the lead investigating inspector from the Health and Safety Authority was present at the inquest, after which he spoke to the next of kin and their legal representative, who were also present.

I would point out that the Health and Safety Authority cannot release any details of the investigation to any party while an investigation is ongoing in order to ensure the integrity of the investigation. I am sure the Deputy appreciates the necessity for this.

Departmental Offices

Ceisteanna (285)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

285. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of vacant desk spaces available in accommodation allocated to her Department in Civil Service accommodation outside Dublin city; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46287/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Accommodation for my Department and its Offices is provided by the Office of Public Works (OPW) in buildings which are either State owned or leased by the OPW on our behalf. Typically, the Department and its Offices are in shared accommodation, either with other Government Departments, public bodies or the private sector.

The Department and its Offices are located in 11 locations across the country, six of which are in Dublin and five regionally, as set out in the table below.

The Department works closely with OPW colleagues to ensure the provision of appropriate, fit-for-purpose accommodation for our staff which must be tailored for any services being provided to the public. Every effort is made to optimise the physical space that is made available to us through the OPW.

The accommodation portfolio typically includes the provision of desk space, training rooms, meeting rooms, public hearing areas, public office areas, canteen facilities, secure onsite file storage, toilets and shower facilities amongst other things. The desk provision to staff must also take into account various working patterns in line with family friendly policies available across the Civil Service.

In addition, given the nature of certain functions carried out by the Offices, certain locations also provide for a “hot desk” option for staff to avail of from time to time. For example, the role of Inspectors in the Workplace Relations Commission involves them undertaking inspections across the country and away from their own head office.

As can be seen from the table below each location has a different scale of operation. From time to time, an office layout can be repurposed to meet business needs. The installation of additional desks must be balanced with the need to ensure compliance with health and safety legislation and its impact on other requirements such as meeting, hearing and training rooms and areas for public access. Such changes must also not adversely impact on existing lease arrangements with the landlord nor on other tenants in the building. Currently there is a 1% staffing vacancy rate across the locations below.

Office of the Department

Location

Number of posts (198 in total)

Patents Office

Government Buildings, Lower Hebron Road, Kilkenny

55

Companies Registration Office and the Workplace Relations Commission

O’Brien Road, Carlow

114

Workplace Relations Commission

Building 400, Westpark Business Campus, Shannon, Co Clare.

11

Workplace Relations Commission

Marino House, Finisklin Business Park, Sligo

10

Workplace Relations Commission

Centre Park House, Cork.

8

IDA Ireland Site Visits

Ceisteanna (286, 287)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

286. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if there are foreign direct investment visits planned for County Meath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46337/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

287. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if there are foreign direct investment visits planned for County Westmeath; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46338/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 286 and 287 together.

Regional development remains a key priority for myself and my Department. We understand the importance of achieving the best possible spread of employment and investment across the country and my Department and its Agencies have been working hard towards that goal. Significant progress has already been made, with 58% of all IDA client-supported employment, for example, now located outside Dublin. This figure represents the highest such figure in the history of the Agency. Last year the Agency also delivered 113 regional investments. Our aim is to increase these numbers further and create more jobs and economic opportunities across regional Ireland.

Whilst site visits are an important tool in helping showcase regional locations to investors, it is important to remember - as I have made clear before - that the final decision as to where to invest rests solely with the company concerned. It is also the case that site visit activity does not necessarily reflect investment potential, as a significant proportion of all new foreign direct investment (FDI) comes from existing IDA clients already present in the country.

For commercial sensitivity reasons, IDA Ireland can only make data available on site visits that have already taken place. Over the first three quarters of this year, Counties Meath and Westmeath have hosted three and 16 site visits respectively.

FDI levels in both Meath and Westmeath are trending in the right direction. Meath experienced a 4.5% increase in IDA supported employment in 2018, with the creation of 67 new jobs. Similarly, FDI employment in Westmeath increased by 16.5% with 493 net new jobs added last year. The enterprise agencies under my remit will continue to engage with their clients and with one another to secure further investment and job creation for Meath and Westmeath in the time ahead.

Work Permits Applications Data

Ceisteanna (288)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

288. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of applications for work permits received in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; the number of applications that remained to be processed by 1 November in each year in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46358/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The statistics requested by the Deputy are attached.

As the economy improves and we approach full employment, my Department has experienced a high volume of employment permit applications which has led to some delays in processing applications. The current level of demand is due to our economic success, growing labour market and reduced labour surplus.

In order to reduce processing times, the Employment Permits section has introduced a number of operational changes, streamlined processes and implemented ICT solutions. Additional staffing resources have also been assigned to the section and a fast track training programme has been devised.

Employment Permits Section is working to further reduce the current waiting times of:

- 3 weeks for Trusted Partners which account for 73% of applications this year (down from a peak of 7 weeks). Trusted Partners are regular users of the service.

- 10 weeks for standard applications which account for 27% of applications this year (down from a peak of 16 weeks).

At end October 2019, 15,538 applications have been received, an 11% increase on the same time last year. At the same time there has been a 31% increase in the amount of applications processed (16,001) compared to the same period last year. In July 2019, Employment Permits Section processed more employment permit applications (1,828) than during any month in the past 11 years. Quarter 3 of 2019 was the busiest Quarter in the last 11 years with 5,072 permit applications being processed so the changes currently being implemented within Employment Permits are resulting in higher outputs and reduced processing times. At the end of October 2019, there were 1,987 applications in the processing queue, down from a peak of 3,230 in September 2018.

An independent Business Process Review (BPR) is currently being carried out to identify further efficiencies that can be implemented in the short term and as a first step in the development of a new IT processing system during 2020 which will take advantage of all the new technologies available, including full digitisation. The Review, which included engagement from key stakeholders, is close to completion with the report expected before the end of the year.

Applicants are advised to apply for the employment permit at least 12 weeks in advance of the expected start date so that any impact of the current extended processing timelines on recruitment timeframes is minimised.

2016

2017

2018

Applications Received

11,317

13,217

16,735

*As at the 1st November 2019

1st November 2016

1st November 2017

1st November 2018

1st November 2019

Applications remaining to be processed on 1st November in each year

1,025

1,175

2,766

1,987

Enterprise Ireland Investments

Ceisteanna (289)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

289. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the reason it is Enterprise Ireland policy not to fund capacity in the meat processing sector in view of the need for competition in the sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46387/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Enterprise Ireland (EI) is tasked with strengthening Irish exporting companies throughout the country and equipping them with the tools they need to succeed in global markets.

Currently, there is overcapacity in the Irish Beef processing sector. Given this overcapacity, it is EI policy not to support new entrants to the sector at this time.

EI policy in the meat processing sector is focussed on strengthening and improving the competitiveness of the sector through Research & Development, Productivity and Training and Capability Supports. This will enable clients in this sector to compete effectively in the global marketplace.

EI continues to keep the matter under review.

Departmental Strategy Statements

Ceisteanna (290)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

290. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the details of an overview of the national policy statement on entrepreneurship; and the period it covers. [46390/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I am committed to the development of a business environment that is encouraging of entrepreneurs countrywide. My Department launched the National Policy Statement on Entrepreneurship (NPSE) in October 2014. It was designed to cover the five years up to 2019.

This Policy Statement represents the first time an Irish Government has published a comprehensive national plan for entrepreneurship in Ireland. It set out the Government’s strategic objectives as a facilitator within the Irish entrepreneurship ecosystem. Its ambition to double the jobs impact of start-ups on the Irish economy over the 5 years by:

- Increasing the number of start-ups by 25% (3,000 more start-ups per annum)

- Increasing the survival rate in the first five years by 25% (1,800 more survivors per annum), and

- Improving the capacity of start-ups to grow to scale by 25%.

The Central Statistics Office Business Demography report 2016 indicates there were 19,249 new enterprise births in 2016, up from 16,256 in 2015. This is already very close to the target of 3000 for the five-year period. The other measurements will be examined from future Business Demography reports.

In its inception, the NPSE was seen as a means for facilitating the entrepreneurs of Ireland in creating, surviving and growing their businesses after a period of huge upheaval in terms of the economy and in new technologies and disruptive business models. Irish entrepreneurs, as ever, have shown resilience, innovation and the willingness to take risks which has seen the rapid increase in the number of business births but also a reduction in the rates of business deaths. Marking the half way point of the Statement, 2017 saw the development and organisation of the Mid-term Review. My Department held a number of stakeholder meetings grouped by those involved in education; state bodies and entrepreneurs themselves.

Members of the start-up community were asked to identify those areas which have the potential to impede the growth of their businesses. Entrepreneurs expressed that the ecosystem was of good quality. However, there were concerns that there were numerous supports for start-ups but less and not enough supports once a company grew to the 8-10 employee stage. They felt strongly that there had been progress in increased female participation, but further efforts were needed. The entrepreneurs stated that there is a lack of available skilled labour in the Irish market and the current restrictions and high salary requirements are putting them under enormous pressure. The general access to finance ecosystem in Ireland was seen as under developed with a lack of Venture Capital. The Venture Capital available was perceived to be particularly lopsided in favour of male entrepreneurs. They stated that there needs to be greater diversification in this market.

In response to the feedback from the entrepreneurial stakeholders of the Mid-term Review, I committed to ensuring Ireland has an even more startup friendly environment. I recognised the need to develop a tailored SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy which would ensure Ireland’s reputation as being a positive environment to start and grow a business.

In March 2018, my Department engaged the OECD to undertake a Review of SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland to support as I saw to fit the specific needs of Irish enterprises.

It has taken 18 months of intensive largescale engagement across Government, academia, agency, business representation and our small businesses to get to where we now have a SME and Entrepreneurship Policy Roadmap.

I firmly believe that the work and engagement over the past five years carried out as a result of the NPSE, provided the impetus and conversation to accelerate the engagement of the OECD.

The final report on the NPSE is currently being compiled by my officials.

InterTradeIreland

Ceisteanna (291)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

291. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the details of the Acumen and Elevate programmes of InterTradeIreland and its funding advisory services; the current and capital budget allocation for the programme in each year over the 2018 to 2020 period in tabular form; the number of participants in each year in the programme; and the maximum funding permitted to a successful applicant. [46392/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

InterTradeIreland (ITI), offer a range of supports to help SMEs in Ireland and Northern Ireland explore new cross-border markets, develop new products, processes and services and become investor ready.

Acumen is ITI’s flagship trade programme which supports SMEs to develop cross-border business. Participant firms can access funding for either part-time or full-time sales salary support for new sales and marketing staff engaged in cross-border trade development. In 2018, over 100 SMEs were approved to participate in the programme. Of this group, 19 SMEs were supported with part-time salary support, and 97 SMEs supported with full-time salary support.

Elevate, meanwhile, is a separate programme focused on helping micro enterprises take the first steps in exporting and exploring opportunities in a new cross-border market. In 2018, 75 companies were approved for support under this initiative.

ITI also offers a Funding Advisory Service which assists SMEs by providing the knowledge and skills to secure key sources of funding to grow their business. In 2018 ITI held 12 Funding Advisory Service Workshops across the island with four in Northern Ireland and eight in Ireland. Over the course of the year, 459 firms attended these Workshops. In addition, 22 companies availed of one-to-one funding advice from ITI's delivery partner, Grant Thornton.

The tables below provide further details on the three respective programmes in terms of budget, maximum permitted funding and participation. The 2019 figures represent an estimate to include the remaining portion of this calendar year whilst the 2020 figures are projected targets.

Acumen - Maximum permitted funding £18,120

Years

2018

2019

2020

Budget

£1,479,476

£1,800,000

£1,700,000

Participants

116

128

125

Elevate - Maximum permitted funding £5,000

Years

2018

2019

2020

Budget

£375,000

£375,000

£375,000

Participants

77

80

65

Funding Advisory Service – advisory workshops, funding not applicable

Years

2018

2019

2020

Budget

£100,000

£109,350

£109,350

Participants

459

445

375

Enterprise Ireland Data

Ceisteanna (292)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

292. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of part-time and full-time staff that are specifically allocated to work in the exporter development department of Enterprise Ireland, which provides assistance to irregular exporters and would-be exporters; the annual cost of this department; and the annual staffing and non-staffing costs. [46393/19]

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. A key part of this activity is to support prospective and emerging exporters. Enterprise Ireland’s Exporter Development Department assists prospective and emerging exporters with greater than 10 employees to support them in fulfilling their global ambition. The Table below details the number of full-time and part-time staff, the annual staffing costs and non staffing costs of the Exporter Development Department.

The Exporter Development Department works with companies considering exporting as a platform for scaling through Enterprise Ireland’s client engagement model. Enterprise Ireland’s Exporter Development Department runs client knowledge events, promotional activities and provides Business Growth Advisors.

Key supports available to prospective and emerging exporters include:

- An online export preparedness scorecard to help companies to determine their capability to develop and implement an export led business plan.

- One day Exporter Development Workshops which serves to provide early stage exporters; a set of practical export development tools, a checklist which focusses on becoming export ready, access to Enterprise Ireland’s advice, reports and market research guidelines and introduction to Enterprise Ireland Export Development Advisors.

- In 2019, Enterprise Ireland in conjunction with the Local Enterprise Office Network hosted a series of half-day masterclasses on the ‘Essentials of Exporting’. The events are aimed at early-stage exporters and companies not currently exporting, to enable them to grow their business and scale in international markets.

Table 1. The number of full-time and part-time staff, the annual staffing cost, non staffing costs of the Exporter Development Department, Enterprise Ireland

Full-Time Staff

Part-Time Staff

Annual Staffing Costs

Non Staffing Costs

8

2

€772,216

€263,367

Note: The non-staffing costs includes expenditure on client knowledge events, general promotional activities, business growth advisors and administration costs.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (293)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

293. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the reason the Brexit loan scheme does not incorporate an interest rate subsidy. [46394/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Brexit Loan Scheme was launched in March of 2018. The Scheme, using a combination of Irish Exchequer and EU guarantees, leveraged up to €300 million of lending at a maximum interest rate of 4% at a cost to the Exchequer of €23 million - €14 million provided by my Department and €9 million provided by Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The Brexit Loan Scheme provides relatively short-term working capital, 1 to 3 years, to 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.

The effect of the guarantee is to lower the risk for the banks, which is passed through to the customer in the form of lower interest rates. Loans provided under the Brexit Loan Scheme are offered at a maximum interest rate of 4%. According to the Central Bank’s SME Market Report 2019, the average interest rate on similar loans to SMEs is 5.7%.

It should also be noted that loans of under €500,000 through the Brexit Loan Scheme are available on an unsecured basis, further reducing potential barriers to entry for Irish businesses.

National Standards Authority of Ireland

Ceisteanna (294)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

294. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the agency under her remit that represents Irish industry in terms of international standards participating in the International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission. [46396/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is Ireland’s National Standards Body (NSB) operating under the National Standards Authority of Ireland Act 1996. The NSAI is under the remit of the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

NSAI is the Irish member of the following:

- International Organization for Standardisation (ISO)

- International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)

- European Committee for Standardisation (CEN)

- European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC)

- European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI)

NSAI complies with EU Regulation 1025/2012 on Standardisation with regard to the encouragement and facilitation of broad stakeholder involvement in standards development, and has a database of approximately 1,600 experts drawn from Irish enterprise, regulation, academia and societal stakeholders. Experts are supported by NSAI when representing Ireland in the international standards committees and working groups of ISO and IEC. Voting on draft international standards is coordinated and cast by NSAI, taking account of the views of interested Irish stakeholders.

IDA Ireland Site Visits

Ceisteanna (295)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

295. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of IDA site visits to Waterford city in each of the past four years; and her plans for the promotion of Waterford for foreign direct investment. [46410/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

My Department and its agencies continue to work towards ambitious targets to ensure that employment and investment are distributed as evenly as possible across the country. Significant progress is being made, with 58% of all IDA-supported employment now outside of Dublin. 2018 also saw more IDA jobs added in the regions than at any time over the past 17 years.

When it comes to foreign direct investment (FDI), site visits do represent a valuable tool through which investors can be encouraged to invest in regional areas. However, as I have said before, site visit activity does not necessarily reflect investment potential, as a significant percentage of all new FDI comes from existing IDA client companies.

Site visit data is collated on a county by county basis and information on site visits to specific cities and towns is therefore unavailable. As regards Waterford as a whole, the County hosted 16 site visits over the first three quarters of this year.

The IDA continues to actively market locations in Waterford to potential investors. Under its Regional Property Programme (RPP), the Agency has constructed two Advanced Technology Buildings (ATBs) in the County. The first ATB was completed in 2015 and is currently occupied by EirGen Pharma. The second ATB was completed earlier this year and the IDA is currently seeking, through its network of offices in Ireland and overseas, an investor for it.

More generally, Waterford continues to be a strong performer in attracting FDI. There are 38 IDA client companies in the County employing approximately 7,100 people. In terms of recent investments, Emerald Contact Centre announced in September that they will create 200 new jobs over the next three years. In July, Agora Companies announced 135 additional jobs at their Waterford offices. Last May, Allstate Sales Group announced that it will establish software development and support centres in Sligo and Waterford, creating 100 new jobs in each location.

While progress has been made in helping to generating new investment in Waterford, the Government remains determined to attract more FDI to the County. The work of the IDA is obviously key in that respect and the Agency's staff will continue engaging with its clients, as well as the other enterprise agencies, to help create more jobs and economic opportunities.

The table below sets out the number of IDA site visits to County Waterford from 2015 to Q3 2019.

County

2015

2016

2017

2018

Q1-Q3 2019

Waterford

31

17

11

21

16

Freedom of Information Data

Ceisteanna (296)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

296. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when the disclosures log made by her Department under freedom of information was last updated; if this is in line with the disclosure policy of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46461/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Freedom of Information Disclosure Log was last updated and published via this Department’s website on the 25th of October 2019 in accordance with Section 8 of the FOI Act 2014 excluding FOI requests that relate to requests for personal information.

My Department has prepared its FOI Publication Scheme in accordance with the model publication scheme and guidelines made by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Workplace Relations Commission

Ceisteanna (297)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

297. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if changes in the industrial relations laws will be considered to allow former ESB workers to access the Workplace Relations Commission regarding their pension freeze; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46562/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Access to the industrial relations machinery of the State is governed by the definition of “worker” in Section 23 of the Industrial Relations Act 1990, which provides, inter alia, that a “worker” means any person aged 15 years or more who has entered into or works under a contract with an employer. However, it must be appreciated that where a person is retired they cannot have a dispute concerning their employment or non-employment. The High Court has established, back in 1977, that retired workers are classified with the status of ‘retired’ rather than ‘worker’. Such a non-worker classification is a bar to having recourse to the labour relations bodies.

A retired person can, in time limited circumstances, seek redress from the industrial relations bodies. In 2015, the Industrial Relations Acts were amended with the insertion of section 26A to the 1990 Act. It allows for a retired person access to the IR bodies in a period of 6-month post-retirement for matters arising pre-retirement. This 6-months is either from the date of retirement or the date from when it became known or should have been known, the time frame in which to make a complaint for matters arising post-retirement.

No case can be referred to the workplace relations bodies that comes within the remit of the Pensions Ombudsman. The role of the Pensions Ombudsman, within the meaning of Part XI (eleven) of the Pensions Act, is to act an independent and impartial means of resolving complaints alleging financial loss occasioned by an act of maladministration and disputes of fact or law in relation to occupational pensions schemes and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts.

At this time, there are no plans to amend the Industrial Relations Act.

Departmental Advertising Campaigns

Ceisteanna (298)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

298. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the role her Department is playing in the winter ready campaign; the expenditure her Department will incur in this campaign; and the details of expenditure on external consultancy and advertising or communication. [46622/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

My Department has a supporting role in the Be Winter Ready campaign. Officials from my Department attend the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning and relevant sub-groups.

In support of the campaign, my Department has published severe weather advice for business on its website. It is also promoting the campaign, from its website and on Twitter. In severe weather events, other relevant advice may be posted on my Department's website or that of the Workplace Relations Commission.

These supports have been provided using internal staff resources and no expenditure has been incurred on external consultancy, advertising or communications services in support of this work.

Enterprise Support Schemes

Ceisteanna (299)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

299. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the grants or supports offered to persons wishing to establish a small business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46699/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), located in the Local Authorities nationwide are the ‘first-stop-shop’ for advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports for anyone intending to start or grow a business.

The LEOs provide a ‘signposting’ service in relation to all relevant State supports available through agencies such as Revenue, the Department of Social Protection, Education and Training Boards, the Credit Review Office and Microfinance Ireland. The LEOs can also offer advice and guidance in areas such as Local Authority rates, Public Procurement and other regulations affecting business.

The LEOs can offer direct grant aid to microenterprises (up to 10 employees) in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sector which, over time, have the potential to develop into strong export entities. Subject to certain eligibility criteria, the LEOs can provide financial assistance within three main categories:

- Feasibility Grants (investigating the potential of a business idea)

- Priming Grants (to part-fund a start-up)

- Business Development grants for existing businesses that want to expand.

For Start-ups or expanding businesses, the LEOs may be able to offer ‘soft’ support in the form of training or provide a mentor to work with the business proposer including courses such as:

- The Start Your Own Business programme guides clients through the various aspects of business and business planning. The objective is to assist clients in assessing their idea, its viability and to decide if they should proceed or take a step back.

- The Mentor Programme is designed to match up the knowledge, skills, insights and entrepreneurial capability of experienced business practitioners with small business owner/ managers who need practical and strategic one to one advice and guidance.

Additionally, the Research and Development Tax credit is aimed at start-up small and micro firms, who will be able to claim a higher rate of credit of 30% and will have improved options with regards to claiming the payable credit. These firms will also be able to claim the credit for expenditure incurred in advance of commencing to trade.

Furthermore, Enterprise Ireland is the state agency with responsibility for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets. Enterprise Ireland works in partnership with Irish enterprises to help them start, innovate, scale and win export sales in global markets. In this way, Enterprise Ireland support sustainable economic growth, regional development and secure employment.

A key focus of Enterprise Ireland’s activity is supporting start-ups and the start-up ecosystem as illustrated by the following EI programmes and service level agreements:

- National Entrepreneurial Development Programme

- Competitive Start Fund

- High Potential Start Ups equity support

- Regional Accelerator Scheme 2015 -2017

- Campus Incubator Scheme

- Seed and Venture Capital Scheme 2013 -2018

- Service Level Agreement in place with the BICs (Business Incubation Centres)

- Service Level Agreement in place with Local Enterprise Offices to support micro-enterprise.

The supports and Service Level Agreements above enable Enterprise Ireland to support start-ups from idea generation up to scaling and succeeding in international markets.

I am confident therefore that in the days and weeks ahead, the LEO network and Enterprise Ireland will continue their robust and meaningful engagement with their many clients and will remain an integral component in this Government’s toolkit to prepare our SME sector to face any challenge that comes with establishing new enterprises.