OECD Study on SMEs and Entrepreneurship in Ireland
On 31 October the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation launched (DBEI) an OECD Review of SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland and an accompanying road map with priority areas for implementation. The OECD was commissioned in March 2018 by Minister Humphreys to undertake the Review. The SFA was heavily involved in the OECD study visits to Ireland and in the various working groups that supported the work of the OECD. The SFA has been calling for the introduction of a national Small Business Strategy that places a clear focus on the 98% of businesses employing half the private sector workforce for a few years now. It is very gratifying that the Government has listened to what the SFA and OECD have been saying about the need to improve SME and entrepreneurship policies and programmes in order to boost the number and performance of small businesses.
The OECD’s analysis will form the basis for a new government strategy on SMEs and Entrepreneurship, which will be published by the end of the year following further consultation.
The key OECD recommendations for Ireland and areas for focus in the forthcoming new strategy include:
- Publish a unified cross-government policy statement covering both SMEs and entrepreneurship, setting out ambitious targets and aligning all relevant policies and schemes. Implementation of the national strategy should be overseen by a new interdepartmental committee on SMEs and entrepreneurship.
- Target a 50 per cent increase in the number of SMEs exporting including by driving ambition and innovation among indigenous SMEs.
- Increase adoption of best practice management techniques, including in the key areas like digital and automation skills and in sales, marketing and accountancy. Also encourage a wider take-up of Skillnet Ireland programmes to develop management capabilities in Irish SMEs.
- Achieve a step-up in financial skills and knowledge among SMEs so they can make better use of the mix of debt and equity finance available in the Irish market. Similarly, increase the take-up of guarantee schemes to improve the financing environment for SMEs.
- Encourage and support SME involvement in innovation collaborations between SMEs and research institutions, as well as collaborations between SMEs, research institutions and multinationals. This will benefit everyone involved and also help SMEs to discover new technologies and improve their management practices.
- Ramp up support for the digitalisation of SME business processes, especially through the LEO network.
- Simplify the administrative processes for SMEs applying for R&D tax credits to encourage more take-up. This will build on the improvements already made.
- Support greater SME engagement in the areas of energy and the environment, particularly in research, innovation and procurement. This will improve productivity and competitiveness and accelerate the transition to the low-carbon economy.
- Roll-out a new standards adoption programme for SMEs. This should include guidelines on integrating standards in products and services together with consulting advice on adopting appropriate standards. Standards development and use can enhance productivity in SMEs, facilitate supply chain linkages and international collaborations and enhance spill-overs from multinationals to SMEs.
- Establish a national support framework for local enterprise-led networks and clusters across the country to drive SME participation. This will help to spread the message around the supports and opportunities available. It will also support the professional development of managers of these networks.
The full report can be downloaded here.
Pictured (from left to right): SFA Director, Sven Spollen-Behrens, Minister Pat Breen, Minister Heather Humphreys and Professor Thomas M Cooney, College of Business, TU Dublin.