Enterprise Ireland-supported companies were responsible for achieving export sales of €14.3bn in 2008, of which €1.3bn were brand-new sales.
Enterprise Ireland’s annual report said that by the end of 2009, some 49 companies were engaged in ‘significant’ R&D spending, with an average investment of €2m each a year.
A further 707 companies, it said, were engaged in ‘meaningful’ R&D investment, spending over €100,000 a year.
The State agency said it supported 71 new innovative high potential start-up (HPSU) companies across a range of knowledge-intensive sectors, including life sciences, biotech, medical devices, telecoms, and niche sectors such as compliance and risk management.
The 71 HPSUs are collectively projected to create 1,000 jobs over the next three years.
“These companies and their success play a significant part in stimulating local economies,” explained Frank Ryan, chief executive Officer of Enterprise Ireland.
“The flow of innovative HPSU enterprises into the Irish economy is equally critical for future growth and this remained strong in 2008. The 71 new HPSU companies that Enterprise Ireland supported in 2008 will be part of the wave of home-grown companies whose success will drive the revival of the Irish economy.
“Clearly, Irish enterprises are operating in economic circumstances that most have never seen before, and are facing severe challenges in terms of securing their businesses and retaining jobs.
“The answer to our challenge is of course a return to export-led growth, which drove the economy forward in the foundation stages of the boom. There remain real opportunities in that regard, and we are actively working with our clients to identify those opportunities and to ensure that the companies have the resources and support they need to exploit them,” Ryan said.
“Innovation is, and will continue to be, a critical success factor, so the continued commitment to R&D among our client companies is welcome and will help ensure that they are ready for growth when the global economy takes its upward turn. Enterprise Ireland will continue to support companies and play a key role in driving industry-led R&D,” he added.
In 2008, approvals for financial support to Enterprise Ireland client companies totalled €157.1m. This included support for R&D, start-ups, expansions, competitiveness improvement projects, and management development and training. Total financial payments to companies in 2008 amounted to €100.3m.
This included €30.7m in share capital investment, €55.1m in R&D, training and other capability building support, and €14.5m in capital and employment support for capacity expansion.
While some 10,522 new jobs were created in Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in 2008, for the first time in many years, the state agency reported a net decline in employment of 8,003.
This brought total employment in Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in 2008 to 145,758.
In terms of the current economic situation, Enterprise Ireland said it has adjusted its focus and company supports to help Irish client companies to deal with the current situation, and position themselves for future growth when market conditions begin to recover.
It said its key priorities are ensuring that companies have adequate access to finance, helping companies to win sales, building competitiveness, driving innovation and fostering entrepreneurship.
The agency is also administering the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund through which the Government approved a total of €100m to be disbursed over 2009 and 2010. €50m has been allocated in 2009.
Under the scheme, Enterprise Ireland can give up to €500,000 to viable companies with robust business models that are facing difficulties as a result of the current economic environment.
The fund supplies direct financial support to internationally trading enterprises that are investing in cost reduction or other measures to gain sales in overseas markets. This fund will also be a key factor in sustaining client company employment.
To date, €9.598m has been approved for 26 projects, a further €28m is under active negotiation with 40 companies nationwide, and over 100 further enquiries have been received.
Each bank is required to make available €15m in new seed capital. According to Enterprise Ireland, it has partnered with Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland to ensure these funds are used to optimum effect.
With a matching commitment of €16m being provided by Enterprise Ireland, a total of €46m in additional seed capital investment is now being made available to early-stage Irish companies through this initiative.
“2008 saw the beginning of the global economic recession take hold and, while there was a net loss in employment, in all other areas – export sales, investment in R&D and new ventures, Enterprise Ireland clients performed robustly,” said the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan TD
“High-value sectors such as software, medical devices and internationally traded services continued to grow, and further growth is expected in these sectors this year.”
By John Kennedy