Wednesday, 17 December 2014
8. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which jobs have been created in each of the past three years to date arising from small and medium enterprise investment; the extent to which the current trend will continue into the foreseeable future; the extent to which he expects investment resulting in job creation to spread evenly across the country in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48135/14]
This question relates to the need to encourage investment in small and medium enterprises in order to facilitate job creation. I am seeking to discover the extent to which trends have been established in this regard and emphasise the need to recognise the obvious advantages in spreading the type of investment to which I refer across the country in an even way.
I thank Deputy Durkan for tabling this question. As he will be aware, Enterprise Ireland is the agency under the aegis of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation with responsibility for the development of Irish enterprise - the majority of which can be classified as small and medium sized - thereby deepening Ireland’s footprint in world markets and supporting employment creation in our economy. The agency works with its clients to increase job creation with the aim of increasing national and regional prosperity. For the three years 2011 to 2013 - based on Enterprise Ireland's 2013 employment survey - full-time employment rose from 143,657 in 2011 to 149,718 in 2013. For the three years 2011 to 2013, the position with regard to other, mainly part-time employment, was 24,695 in 2011. This dropped to 24,210 in 2012 and rose again to 26,032 in 2013, a total increase of 1,337. When taken together, total employment in Enterprise Ireland client companies rose from 168,353 in 2011 to 175,750 in 2013. The 2014 results of the agency's employment survey of its client companies are expected to be announced in early 2015. It is expected that these will be positive in nature. Based on the pipeline of projects approved by Enterprise Ireland, the continued strengthening of key export markets and significant improvements in the domestic economy, it is strongly anticipated that the recent trend of jobs growth across Enterprise Ireland's client base will be continued in 2014 and will provide a strong platform for growth in employment in 2015.
Local enterprise offices are significant drivers of local economic growth in every county and region of the country. My Department is leading the development of a regional enterprise development framework, which has recently been agreed and which will involve the development of strategies for regional enterprise covering the entire country. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, referred to this matter earlier in the context of the midlands strategy and that relating to the south east. We will be rolling out various strategies next year across all the regions in order to try to ensure that we strike the type of balance in respect of regional growth which the Deputy wishes to see.
I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive reply. Will he outline the extent to which he is satisfied that the necessary strategic infrastructure is in place throughout the county to ensure that attempts at job creation, through small and medium enterprises, will not be impeded? Will he also indicate the extent to which he is satisfied about the trends established in this sector, particularly in the past two years, and the degree to which he expects such trends to continue and result in further increases in job creation?
There has been significant infrastructural development throughout the country during the past ten to 15 years or more as a result of the efforts of successive Governments. The various regions are well placed to attract foreign direct investment and ensure that indigenous enterprises can grow. They are also well placed in the context of ensuring that companies can export. In that context, there has been a real resurgence in exports in recent years. I am aware, from my travels throughout the country, of Irish companies fighting for and winning business abroad and increasing employment locally and nationally. The local enterprise offices are a really important element of the infrastructure network. The Minister and I are keeping a close eye on how those offices are performing as they represent a significant investment by the Government. The relationship between them and local authorities is extremely important. The regional enterprise strategies are going to be a significant dynamic for regional employment growth over the coming period. As I said, we will be rolling out the midlands strategy shortly and the south-east strategy and various other strategies will be rolled out across the country over the coming time to ensure we have the balanced economic growth all Members want.
To what extent is the small and medium enterprise sector assisted by technology and innovation? The Minister might also comment on the degree to which such enterprises can boost their opportunities and competitiveness through technology and innovation and the extent to which he expects this to be of benefit to them in the future.
This is not directly my area of responsibility. The Minister of State, Deputy English, is the expert on this. However, I am aware that Ireland has in the recent past ranked highest in terms of draw down of innovation vouchers from the European Union. Horizon 2020 is a significant element of that, ensuring that Irish companies continue to invest in research and innovation.
Having led trade missions abroad with Enterprise Ireland I know the Irish SME sector is hugely respected in terms of innovation and technology. Given the know-how that we have developed in this area over a long period and the supports provided for industry by Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and our third level institutions we have a strong platform in our SME sector. We have the know-how and the skills but we need to keep a close eye on this area and ensure that we target technological investment into our SMEs because that gives them an added competitive advantage when competing for business nationally and internationally. I would be very confident that the SME sector in Ireland is very technologically advanced and well positioned to continue to take advantage of European and international opportunities for funding and growth.