A Policy Briefing for IITD Members
By Gerard Walker, Future Jobs-Skill-Work Insights
The Government has announced the development of a new policy on SMEs and Entrepreneurship as part of Future Jobs Ireland. The announcement was made at a conference held on July 12th to discuss a draft roadmap for SME and Entrepreneurship policy prepared by the OECD on behalf of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI).
This Review will be filly published in October and will assist DBEI to develop an SME strategy as part of the Future Jobs Framework. The Conference had a particular focus on improving productivity among indigenous SMEs. This is against the background of a decline in productivity growth within indigenous SMEs over the last decade. The OECD highlights that the resilience of the Irish economy hinges on unblocking the productivity potential of our local businesses.
Some of the emerging OECD recommendations are to:
• Establish an interdepartmental committee on SMEs and entrepreneurship.
• Draft an SME and Entrepreneurship strategy document.
• Scale up current Enterprise Ireland and InterTrade Ireland initiatives to support SME exports.
• Scale-up the policy focus of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) to include SMEs.
• Implement a simple online diagnostic assessment tool for micro and small enterprises by the LEOs to better match the enterprise with advisory and mentoring services.
• Encourage a wider take-up of Skillnet Ireland programmes to develop management capabilities in Irish SMEs, with a particular focus on technology skills.
• Simplify the process for applying for R&D tax credits, to encourage more take-up by SMEs.
• Promote the role of standards to drive enterprise competitiveness and enhance productivity in SMEs, facilitate supply chain linkages, and enhance spill-overs from multinationals to SMEs.
Two new funds worth a combined €3 million were also announced by Government to enhance the productivity of small indigenous enterprises. These funds will operate through the regional network of Local Enterprise Offices.
The first is the “Local Enterprise Office Competitive Fund” with a budget of €2.5m. The LEOs will compete for this on behalf of their clients, whether individually or through collaborating with other LEOs. Projects should focus on the priority areas identified in Future Jobs Ireland, and the Regional Enterprise Plans, including themes like innovation, Brexit readiness or market diversification.
The second is a pilot “Small Business Productivity Initiative” worth €500,000. This is for businesses who are not currently LEO clients. Productivity vouchers will support the engagement of a consultant to address productivity gaps, including by embedding lean business practices and improving processes, “greening” the business and reducing waste; and training and capability and performance management. This scheme will open for applications in October.
The IITD welcomes the draft recommendations contained in the review as well as the two new funds combined with existing supports, aimed at increasing the productivity of SMEs.