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SME and Entrepreneurship Taskforce

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

15 Dec 2022

Tánaiste welcomes SME and Entrepreneurship Taskforce progress

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, and Ministers of State Dara Calleary and Damien English, have welcomed the progress report on priority actions identified by the SME & Entrepreneurship Taskforce, and the publication of the OECD report on Recent Developments in Entrepreneurship Training, which will inform the development of inclusive entrepreneurship initiatives in Ireland. Both were noted by Government this week.

The Taskforce, which is an initiative of the Programme for Government, is composed of a broad range of business leaders with expertise in a range of sectors, SME representative groups and other individuals uniquely positioned to contribute to the government’s long-term vision for the SME sector.

The SME Taskforce’s Report: National SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan was published in January 2021 and an Implementation Group was established in February 2021 to address their recommendations and work with relevant government departments and agencies to deliver these reforms. The Implementation Group agreed ten priority areas where significant progress could be made in the short term.

The progress report highlighted achievements such as:

increasing first time exporters through the extension of the Local Enterprise Office mandateintroduction of the Digital Transition Fund to support companies at all stages of their digital journeyensuring an adequate supply of credit to SMEs through State-backed loan schemes and equity investment schemesSME management skills and the launch of the new Skills for Better Business tool which is an online assessment tool and a course resourcereducing the regulatory burden on SMEs through the application of the SME Test across 6 government departments and with commitments by more departments to apply itan enhanced single portal for business information and assistance

The OECD report notes that levelling the playing field in entrepreneurship can create jobs, fight social and financial exclusion and help respond to economic challenges.

Based on the report the department has identified priority actions to strengthen entrepreneurship training for people from under-represented groups by adapting existing measures to meet the needs of different social groups.

The Tánaiste said:

"Our SMEs and entrepreneurs have endured a challenging time since the SME Taskforce began its work in 2020. Despite the difficulties, the Taskforce has made genuine and valuable progress by improving the ecosystem in which our SMEs and entrepreneurs continue to operate and evolve.

"Guided by the new White Paper on Enterprise, I look forward to seeing the Taskforce continuing to drive the improvements that matter most to small businesses, particularly in the revolution towards green and digital industry. Successful interventions, like the Digital Transition Fund are helping our SMEs to adapt to and take advantage of the digital transition in areas such as data, robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality and autonomous transport."

Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Dara Calleary said:

"Equipping our small and medium businesses for the rapidly accelerating transition to digital ways of working is a crucially important part of building a resilient, competitive SME sector. In addition to the successful implementation of the Digital Transition Fund, Government through our enterprise agencies have delivered advisory and skills development supports such as the Skills for Better Business portal to help businesses build a culture of innovation and adaptation – two vital elements needed for future success and to grow the digitalisation of our SMEs.

"Fostering digitalisation across our enterprise ecosystem is a key priority for Government and it is therefore very welcome that further progress has been made to ensure that Ireland will soon be part of a network of European Digital Innovation Hubs. These hubs will play a critical role in facilitating the digitalisation of Irish SMEs across industries and regions in these new technology areas through services such as “test before invest”, innovation and financing advice, and training and skills development.

"For SMEs to thrive they need a legislative framework that is balanced and proportionate. The SME test encourages policymakers to consider the impact that new regulations will have on small businesses, and I welcome the fact that a number of departments have already begun to apply the test with more having committed to doing so. I look forward to continuing whole-of-government engagement and support of the SME test into next year."

Minister of State with responsibility for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English said:

"Local business, our SMEs and entrepreneurs across the country continue to be the backbone of the Irish economy. The work of the Taskforce has helped to deliver important changes to our enterprise policy, such as the expansion of the Local Enterprise Office mandate to support new exporters by providing direct grants to firms who employ more than ten people and are operating in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors.

"The recent relaunch of the web portal is another important outcome of our engagement with the Taskforce. This newly designed single hub includes up to date and easily accessed information on targeted supports around Scaling, Access to Finance, Exporting, Climate, Skills and Digitalisation for the SME community in Ireland."

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