Enterprise Ireland (EI) revealed last night that more than 540 indigenous companies are now engaged in meaningful research and development (R&D). The agency’s chief executive Frank Ryan said that firms clocked up more than €1bn in new export sales during 2005 as part of a three-year plan with a target of €3bn by 2007.
According to the state agency’s end-of-year statement for 2005, total full-time employment in EI companies amounted to 143,310 in 2005, a decrease of 218 on the numbers employed in 2004. New jobs created amounted to 8,680 primarily in the internationally trades services sector.
Ryan commented: “As a small open economy exports are a prerequisite for strong and sustainable growth. During 2005 client companies will reach €1bn in new export sales in the first phase of a three-year plan with a target of €3bn by end 2007. This is a very positive and encouraging outcome and truly represents a strong performance by Irish companies.
“Our strategy for growth has two main elements: growing the numbers of new high-export growth-potential companies and growing Irish companies of scale, that is companies achieving in excess of €20m in sales.”
Ryan continued: “Some 70 companies with high-export growth potential were established with support from EI during the year. These companies must succeed in winning sales in export markets from start-up. In this regard EI assisted 60 high-potential start-up companies to secure international reference contracts providing strong product or service endorsement.
Ryan revealed that some 516 client companies are now engaged in projects involving R&D investments of €100k or more and 31 are engaged in significant R&D projects involving investments of €2m or more.
It is understood that investment in R&D with EI support amounted to €120m.
Under the recently launched Productivity Improvement Fund, 39 companies have embarked on projects to improve their competitiveness and their export market readiness. To date, some €8m has been allocated by EI to support company investments of €25m in these projects. Of the 39 projects, some 85pc are located outside Dublin.
Ryan said that EI has restructured rapidly to implement the proposals of the Enterprise Strategy Group. “Our overseas offices have been integrated into one central structure. Global markets are now integrated and categorised within EI in five key areas: Northern Europe; Central Europe and Commonwealth Independent States; Southern Europe; Middle East and Africa; Asia; and the Americas.”
He continued: “In another response to recommendations we have put in place an International Selling Programme to increase the number of sales professionals within our client companies. The first programme will commence in January 2006 and has been oversubscribed.”
Ryan said that the implementation of the Government’s Asia strategy is a major focus of EI’s activity going forward. During the year, an overseas trade mission to China – the largest ever to leave Ireland, comprising 121 companies – yielded almost €126m in new contracts with Irish companies.
Looking to 2006, Ryan said: “Moderate global growth is likely to be sustained in 2006 however resurgence in oil prices, the sizeable US current account and trade deficits and the associated risks of a fall in US imports or in the value of the US dollar could act as a brake on global growth.
“Further strong export growth will be maintained only if Irish companies continue to invest in R&D and increasingly bring to market products or services that meet the specific needs of international customers and buyers. In addition further year-on-year productivity and competitiveness gains must be maintained to ensure our performance in highly competitive international markets,” Ryan concluded.
By John Kennedy