Harney praises EI as sectors say it lacks focus

7 Apr 2003

On a day when news of sharply critical research findings into its activities reached the media, the Tánaiste has been lauding the work of Enterprise Ireland (EI) in helping start-ups in Ireland.

Ms Harney said that last year EI had supported the establishment of 51 new high-growth potential start-up businesses involving a total investment of €70m with a projected employment potential in these business of 1,600 over the next three years.

She said: “This number of start-ups during a time of difficult global markets is clear evidence of a strong level of serious entrepreneurial activity.”

“Despite the continuing tough global environment, the rate of new start-ups continues to be strong, running at approximately one every week. In the first quarter of this year, 13 start-ups with a total investment of €6m are being supported by Enterprise Ireland,” she added.

“State support for entrepreneurship, through EI, is clearly focused on the ongoing creation of new entrepreneur-led business entities with a solid base in innovation, intellectual capital and a capability of becoming internationally competitive within a short period of time,” Harney continued.

But studies carried out by Drury Research on behalf of the agency were today reported to have found that the agency did not adequately understand the needs of its client companies.

It also found that the focus of EI’s efforts was not clear.

While software companies were happy with the performance of the agency, medical and giftware companies were much less so, saying that events it organised were unfocused and did not deliver new business.

It also felt the agency’s commitment to the sector left a lot to be desired.

Giftware companies said there was: “little or no co-ordination between Dublin and international markets as to a strategic approach to the sector”.

In her speech at a business start-up showcase organised by EI Harney also said: “Interestingly – two years ago the IT sector, and software in particular, would have dominated the start-up pipeline. This year Enterprise Ireland estimates that emerging businesses in new sectors such as biotechnology, photonics, medical devices and functional foods will play a significant part in boosting start-up numbers to 60. These are new areas of opportunity where we have a strong research base – a base that can provide the foundation for a new generation of campus companies.”

The research was conducted in late 2002 and early 2003 and used companies from the medical, software, consumer and education/engineering/diagnostics sectors.

By Suzanne Byrne