SFA E-Zine – The Tuesday Edition

Dear Member,

This week's e-zine presents an economic context for pay negotiations as our economy continues to recover. We also bring you details on SME Week which kicks off across Europe this week and the launch of the Government's 10-year enterprise plan, "Enterprise 2025". 

Each week in the SFA e-zine, we will profile a different government support available to small businesses, in this edition we bring you details on the €5,000 Innovation Vouchers available to explore a key problem or opportunity for your business. We also provide information on our upcoming focus groups discussing 'a vision for small business in Ireland', the next SFA webinar, the SFA Annual General Meeting, Members Christmas Drinks and recent press coverage.

As always, we’d love to hear from you about any queries you may have, issues you wish to have raised with Government or other stakeholders and your ideas on how we can improve the business environment for us all. Please contact me directly at tel: 01 605 1602 or 

e-mail: patricia.callan@sfa.ie or tweet: @SFA_Irl or visit www.sfa.ie.

Kind Regards,

Patricia Callan
SFA Director

An economic context for pay negotiations. Are your employees seeking pay increases?
We can see that 2015 has generally been a strong year for Ireland's economic recovery. As a result, we see job creation, an increase in the cost of living and competitiveness pressures.

We can see that 2015 has generally been a strong year for Ireland's economic recovery. As a result, we see job creation, an increase in the cost of living and competitiveness pressures.

The majority of small firms have been in wage freeze/reduction mode in previous years, but in economic growth periods, our employees can often seek pay increases.

Employees can be presented with better opportunities in the labour market and stronger earning potential away from their current employers in times likes these. Retaining talent is key for small firms as they face growth periods of their own.

The SFA has produced a detailed guideline on the economic context for pay negotiations to equip managers with up to date statistics and insight into the following:

  • Our economic outlook
  • Pay intentions across sectors
  • Employment figures
  • Cost of living & inflation updates
  • Competitive pressures

This publication will enable managers to have logical discussions with their employees about pay reviews and the economy, as well as setting expectations for future pay talks.

Download a copy of the publication on our website.

For advice on carrying out pay discussions or implementing a quality salary review process, contact Jonathan Callan, SFA Executive on 01 605 1668, or email jonathan.callan@sfa.ie.

€5,000 voucher to explore a key problem or opportunity for your business

Spotlight on Innovation Vouchers, which give small and medium size companies €5,000 to spend on projects with public research bodies such as institutes of technology. This article provides information on the scheme and advice for potential applicants. 

There are over 80 different government supports available to small businesses but many of them are not well known or understood. Each week in the SFA e-zine, we will profile a different support that could improve your business, giving you information and advice.

#2 Innovation Vouchers


A voucher for €5,000 to exchange for advice and expertise from a public research organisation (usually a university or institute of technology).

The vouchers can be used for:

  • new product or process development
  • new business model development
  • new service delivery and customer interface
  • new service development
  • tailored training in innovation management
  • innovation/technology audit


The Innovation Voucher scheme aims to help small firms to innovate by increasing the flow of knowledge between academia and business.

The idea is to explore a business opportunity or problem that requires research beyond the capacity of the company itself. Depending on the agreement made between the company and one of the registered knowledge providers, deliverables could include reports, drawings, technical specifications, technology roadmaps or rough product or process prototypes.   


The scheme is run by Enterprise Ireland (but is not restricted to EI client companies). Standard applications are made through an online application system during an open call period (usually three per year). The next open call will run from 20 January to 3 February 2016. For more information visit www.innovationvouchers.ie


If you are interested in applying, don’t forget:

  • The vouchers are available to small and medium sized limited companies registered in Ireland.
  • Companies can avail of a maximum of three Innovation Vouchers, but only one can be active at any given time.
  • 80% of applications are successful, with the main reasons for turning down an application being non-eligibility of applicant/activity, insufficient information or low level of innovation.
  • There are 38 approved publicly-funded knowledge providers, including 10 in Northern Ireland. Companies do not have to approach a knowledge provider before applying for the voucher.
  • The vouchers are subject to VAT and the company is responsible for the payment of the VAT. The company is also responsible for any costs above €5,000.
  • Co-Funded Fast Track vouchers are available for companies who have already used two Innovation Vouchers or for whom the open call schedule is not suitable.


Government Launches 10-Year Enterprise Plan
On Thursday, 12th November, the Government launched it's 10-year whole of enterprise policy, "Enterprise 2025". The SFA welcomed the publication which we had inputted into last November with a series of member focus groups. 

On Thursday, 12th November, the Government launched it's 10-year whole of enterprise policy, "Enterprise 2025", which you can read here.

The SFA welcomed the publication which we had inputted into last November with a series of member focus groups. The strategy is ambitious, but deliverable. It is vital for Ireland's future growth that the actions therein are implemented.

We particularly welcomed the fact that the strategy recognises that excelling at the basics, such as access to finance, supportive taxation policies, maintaining cost competitiveness and investing in infrastructure to support business are critical. These are the foundations on which we can and will achieve greater numbers of start-ups, who have better survival rates, export more and scale to create more jobs.

We plan to build on this policy document by developing a clear vision for the future from a small business perspective.

This is why we are holding three focus groups next week (23 and 24 November) to get members’ input on:

  • The number one action that would make small businesses better
  • The most important supports needed at each stage in the business lifecycle (start-up, growth, maturity, sale)
  • The main opportunities and barriers that exist for small businesses in Ireland
  • How to shift our culture to one supportive of entrepreneurship and risk-taking

The facilitated discussion will give you an opportunity to share your ideas and experiences on everything from business costs to education, skills and talent, from finance to attracting new customers and exporting.

We also welcome your input by email by Tuesday, 24 November to patricia.callan@sfa.ie or tel: 01-6051602.

Visit our website to get the full details of the focus groups and to register.

SME Week kicks off across Europe
Yesterday, Monday 16 November, was the start of EU SME Week 2015, a week focusing on promoting and celebrating entrepreneurship and small business.

Yesterday, Monday 16 November, was the start of EU SME Week 2015, a week focusing on promoting and celebrating entrepreneurship and small business.

Lowri Evans, Director General for the Internal Market in the European Commission, said "SMEs are vital to Europe's economy - they create new jobs and drive economic growth. This is why activities such as the SME Week are so important - they help us understand where action is needed to help Europe's small businesses thrive."

The aims of SME Week are:

  • to inform entrepreneurs about support available at EU, national, regional and local level
  • to encourage more people to become entrepreneurs

EU SME Week events will take place in 37 countries. The main event is the annual SME Assembly, which will take place from 18-20 November in Luxembourg. The theme of this year's event is 'Europe works for SMEs: Forward. Together'.

The Small Firms Association will be represented at the event by Assistant Director, Linda Barry.

For more information on the EU's work in support of SMEs, click here.

To see the full list of SME Week events and find events in your area, click here.

For more information on the SME Assembly, click here.

Vision for Small Business in Ireland - Focus Groups
23 and 24 November

The vision of the Small Firms Association is to make Ireland the most vibrant small business community in the world – supporting entrepreneurship, valuing small business and rewarding risk takers.

At the SFA Annual Lunch on 6 November, Chairman AJ Noonan announced that the SFA is launching a dialogue with and between members on how to make this vision a reality. Harnessing your ideas and experiences is key to mapping the way forward – both for the SFA and for the new Government, whatever its make-up.

We are organising a number of focus groups in the coming weeks to discuss the small business vision for the future of Ireland which we urge you to attend and let your voice be heard.

There are three focus groups being held in the SFA offices on:

  • Monday, 23 November from 9:30am - 11:00am
  • Monday, 23 November from 2:00pm - 3:30pm
  • Tuesday, 24 November from 11:30am - 1:00pm

Register to attend one of the events on our website

For those of you who cannot attend the focus groups in person, there will be an option to dial in via conference call. Please register for the event on our website and email Jennifer McCormack on jennifer.mccormick@ibec.ie to indicate that you need the conference call information.

We also welcome written submissions from members by email to Patricia Callan on patricia.callan@sfa.ie. The deadline for these submissions is Tuesday, 24 November.

SFA Webinar - Resourcing & Leave Entitlements during the Christmas period
Wednesday, 25 November

On 25 November from 2:15pm - 2:45pm Jonathan Callan, SFA Executive will deliver a webinar covering the upcoming public holidays and solutions to resource your business during the Christmas period. 

The webinar will also brief you on the extra cautions when employing young persons (under 18) during the busy season, as well as some other HR issues arriving in January 2016.

Register online for the webinar

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

SFA Annual General Meeting
Thursday, 3 December 2015

Patricia Callan, SFA Director, would like to invite you to the SFA Annual General Meeting, which will be held at the SFA offices at 84-86 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2 at 1:30pm on Thursday, 3 December 2015 to consider the following resolutions:

1. To approve the Report of the Director.
2. To approve the Report of the Chairman and the National Executive Council.
3. To elect two members to serve on the National Executive Council for a term of three years. Nominations close at 1:30pm on Thursday, 19 November 2015.

Full details and a nomination form can be found on our website.

If you are interested in standing for election to the Council and would like to discuss, please contact Patricia Callan on tel 01 605 1602 or email patricia.callan@sfa.ie. If you are planning to attend the AGM, please register on our website. 

SFA Members Christmas Drinks
Monday, 7 December

The SFA Members Christmas Drinks will take place on Monday, 7 December 2015 from 6.00pm-8.30pm in the Cliff Townhouse, 22 Stephen's Green, Dublin 2. The evening is intended to be informal and attendance is free of charge but you must pre-register on our website.

The purpose of the evening is to give members an opportunity to meet each other and develop business contacts.  Feel free to bring a plus one but please pre-register them.

Refreshments and food will be of a traditional fare.

Press coverage
Enterprise 2025, SFA Annual Lunch, Small Business Saturday

Government's Enterprise 2025 Policy

On 12 November, the SFA issued a press release welcoming the launch of the Government's 10-year whole of enterprise policy, "Enterprise 2025". 

SFA Annual Lunch

On 12 November, the SFA Annual Lunch was featured in the Irish Independent in recent talks about Ireland's recovery. On 14 November, the SFA Annual Lunch was mentioned in an article in the Irish Examiner on finance available for small and medium-sized businesses. 

Small Business Saturday

On 16 November, the SFA issued a press release calling for 5 December 2015 to be ‘Small Business Saturday’ to encourage Christmas shoppers to spend locally in small businesses.