EI targets €3bn in new export sales

5 May 2005

A newly invigorated, restructured and re-focused Enterprise Ireland (EI) will be targeting some €3bn in new export sales by Irish high-potential start-ups and existing SMEs by 2007 as part of an ambitious plan unveiled yesterday.

Its chief executive Frank Ryan yesterday unveiled the export agency’s plan to accelerate the development and internationalisation of Irish-owned businesses that will see the seeding and funding of more than 200 new high-potential start-up companies, 300 productivity and competitiveness projects by 2007 and the doubling of Irish companies engaged in research and development (R&D) (spending in excess of €100k each) to 1,050 companies by 2010.

To underpin this strategy, EI has created a new €20m productivity fund aimed at encouraging existing Irish businesses to engage in R&D and internationalisation of their products. “We want to see an R&D department in every company in our portfolio. We want an R&D department to be as common in an Irish company as a procurement department,” Ryan said.

As part of the restructuring, EI has established three new major sectoral divisions: food and retail consumer markets; software, services and emerging sectors; industrial and life sciences markets. Within each of these divisions will be a large number of sub-groups with dedicated budgets covering, for example in software, areas such as e-learning, mobile and IT security.

“Ten years ago, exports of software by indigenous companies amounted to €57m. Last year exports in this sector reached €1.3bn. Prepared consumer foods now account for exports of €600m from a standing start only five years ago. Increasingly, Irish companies through their ingenuity creativity, knowledge and expertise in developing new products and services are securing major contracts in overseas markets.

“The challenge for EI and our clients is to continue the transformation into an innovative and productive enterprise base where market knowledge and innovation will increasingly determine success in export markets. Our new structure will be adaptable, innovative and responsive to our clients’ requirements. Our core focus will be on internationalisation and export growth; industry-led research and innovation; assisting SMEs to break the €20m threshold to achieve scale; and increasing the number of high-potential start-up companies,” Ryan said.

Ryan added that there will be an emphasis on rolling out a series of regional offices to establish greater cohesion with the county enterprise boards. Close co-operation with other state agencies such as IDA Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Bord Bia and Forfás, he explained will be critical to the new plan. For example, a proposal is currently awaiting the go-ahead from Minister for Enterprise Michaél Martin TD to embark on a major strategy with FÁS to train graduates in sales and marketing skills for deployment amongst SMEs in need of this expertise. The creation of other competencies such as supply chain management were also emphasised by Ryan.

In terms of boosting R&D amongst Irish companies, Ryan said the new plan “will see EI spend €400m on applied research amongst SMEs and high-potential start-ups over the next three years”. To put this in context, Ryan said SFI has spent €200m on applied research since its inception.

Asked about whether the restructuring will result in EI moving staff to the Shannon region and the future of Shannon Development, Minister Martin told siliconrepublic.com that such a decision has not yet been taken as factors such as the future of Shannon Airport needs to be taken into consideration. He said the matter is currently under discussion between his department and the Tourism and Transport Departments respectively.

Commenting on EI’s new strategy, the minister said yesterday: “I am satisfied the strategy is appropriate, necessary and achievable and will position Irish industry as a key driver of Irish economic growth, jobs and wealth creation in an increasingly competitive global environment.”

By John Kennedy