Dáil Éireann - Volume 592 - 16 November, 2004
Written Answers. - Enterprise Policy.
Mr. Allen Mr. Allen
107. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to help in the implementation of the enterprise strategy group’s recommendation to establish a five-year programme to place on a cost-sharing basis 1,000 graduates and internationally experienced professionals in Irish firms  to augment the stock of national sales and marketing talent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28357/04]
Mr. Allen Mr. Allen
113. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to help in the implementation of the enterprise strategy group’s recommendation to establish with Enterprise Ireland a dedicated structure, Technology Ireland, with its own budget and strong leadership, to develop a cohesive, strategic and focused approach to market-led applied research and technological development and to leverage increased enterprise investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28358/04]
Ms McManus Ms McManus
114. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has yet received the report of the high level group considering the implications of the report of the enterprise strategy group and the best manner of implementing its recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28337/04]
Mr. Kehoe Mr. Kehoe
129. Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the setting up of the enterprise strategy group was a worthwhile endeavour in view of the shortcomings in its report as perceived by many; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28362/04]
Mr. O’Dowd Mr. O’Dowd
142. Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the steps he has taken to help in the implementation of the enterprise strategy group recommendation to establish within Enterprise Ireland a dedicated structure, Export Ireland, with its own budget and strong, experienced leadership to develop a more focused approach to export market intelligence and promotional activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28356/04]
Mr. Connaughton Mr. Connaughton
147. Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will allocate a budget of €20 million per annum for five years from existing enterprise development agency resources to support the creation of enterprise-led networks to foster collaboration in defined areas of activity, as recommended by the enterprise strategy group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28359/04]
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
Mr. Martin: I propose to take Questions Nos. 107, 113, 114, 129, 142 and 147 together.
As I previously advised the House, the Government considered the report of the enterprise strategy group in advance of its publication on 7 July last. In view of its extensive recommendations and their impact on a range of Departments other than my own, the Government decided to establish a high level committee to consider the implications of the report and the best manner in which to address its suggestions. As the report contains 51 recommendations, Deputies will appreciate that the high level com mittee must stringently examine all these recommendations. The group is finalising its report and on this basis, I expect to report to Government on its work shortly. The group’s report will deal with the recommendations referred to specifically in the questions raised by Deputies O’Dowd, Allen and Connaughton. Until such time as I have received the group’s report and conveyed my views to my Cabinet colleagues, it would be inappropriate for me to comment in detail or to pre-empt continuing discussions.
On Deputy Kehoe’s question, I state categorically that I consider the enterprise strategy group’s report to provide an important roadmap for future economic and enterprise-centred strategy. The group undertook its enterprise policy review following the period which saw the most rapid and sustained economic growth in the history of the State. While it acknowledges this success, the report identifies both the challenges and opportunities facing the enterprise sector in Ireland over the coming decade. Central to the group’s analysis is that we must adopt and develop our strengths if we are to succeed in tomorrow’s knowledge economy. As a small economy, open to the powerful changes taking place in international trade and business, we must consistently ensure the environment for doing business in and from Ireland provides companies with the right balance of entrepreneurial incentives. Policy architecture to help enterprises grow and expand must be distinctively aligned with the enduring needs of international business. The report makes a valuable contribution to embedding strategies appropriate to the new realities and challenges facing the Irish economy today.
Mr. Gilmore Mr. Gilmore
108. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the review that has been carried out by or on his behalf in regard to the operation of the EU small business operational programme that ran from 1995 to 2001; the findings of any such review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28333/04]
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
Mr. Martin: The small business operational programme, or SBOP, which ran from 1995 to 1999 was Ireland’s response to the EU’s SME initiative. The initiative was aimed to stimulate small and medium-sized industrial or service enterprises, especially in less developed regions such as Ireland, to adapt to the Single Market and to ensure they could become internationally competitive. The SME initiative was adopted by the Commission on 15 June 1994 and supported by the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund.
The aims of the SBOP mirrored the aims of the SME initiative and were achieved through five principal measures. These were improving small business access to finance and credit; facilitating small business access to public markets; facilitating the adaptation of service firms to the internal  market; the activation of a programme of practical research to assist the dissemination of best practice among small business; and the fostering of pilot projects concerned with the improvement of the business environment. Standard provision was made under measure 6 for technical assistance in support of the programme. The Commission granted assistance from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund. By the end of the programme, a total of 1,570 projects had received EU funding while total programme expenditure amounted to €66.73 million which included EU funding of €26.9 million, Exchequer funding of €13.16 million and private funding of €26.67 million. My Department had ultimate responsibility for all aspects of the SBOP and managed expenditure under the programme. The Department put in place appropriate financial and other controls including those required under the relevant EU regulations.
In accordance with EU requirements, a mid-term review of the programme was carried out in 1997 by the economic consultants Fitzpatricks and Associates. On foot of the review, the consultants made a number of recommendations designed to improve the effectiveness of the programme. The recommendations were taken into account in the subsequent management of the programme. The EU regulations required the production of a final report following the completion of the programme. In this context, my Department prepared a final report which outlined the background to the establishment of the programme, described programme administration and management and provided a detailed report on the implementation of each measure. The report was submitted to the EU Commission in March 2003. The final report reflected the outcome of activities of the Department which were designed to ensure the programme was being properly managed and controlled. These activities included monitoring checks conducted directly by the Department on many of the projects supported, two reviews of systems conducted by the Department’s internal audit unit and verification audits conducted on behalf of the Department by Chapman Flood Mazars, a firm of registered auditors. While some deficiencies resulting in the disallowance of some expenditure were identified by these activities, the reviews did not identify any systemic problems with the programme.
Dáil Éireann 592 Written Answers. Enterprise Policy.