The year ahead for start-ups and SMEs was the topic of much interest ahead of the release of Budget 2016, but while some have criticised it for not doing enough for small businesses, the Digital Hub and the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) have received financial backing.
While the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan TD was quick to point out that SMEs account for 68pc of all employment and some 730,000 jobs, criticism of the Budget’s actual reach from figures like Brian Caulfield, chair of the Irish Venture Capital Association, says it does not go as far as, say, similar schemes in the UK to support SMEs and entrepreneurs.
However, one area where start-ups and SMEs will be receiving direct funding will be in the Dublin 8 region where the Digital Hub and the NDRC are based, in what is being described by the Government as a means to “support digital entrepreneurship”.
Elsewhere, the Government will allocate further funding of €3m to be divvied up among 1,000 small businesses through the Trading Online Voucher Scheme.
This, the Government says, will offer grants of up to €2,500 – subject to matching funding – as well as training, mentoring and networking support to help them get their businesses online.
This would be deemed a necessity given that research earlier this year found that 91pc of Irish SMEs had no e-commerce capabilities whatsoever.
The BenefIT programme aimed at helping people from at-risk backgrounds develop basic internet skills will continue into 2016 with expectations being that the allocated funding can support the training of 30,000 people.
Schoolchildren have also been taken into consideration with the news last week that the Government’s Digital Strategy for Schools plans to invest €210m over five years to bring high-speed broadband to the country’s schools.
With this in mind, the Government plans on introducing the School Digital Champion pilot programme to roll out 100Mbps broadband connectivity to every second-level school in Ireland.
Digital Hub office space image via moppet65535/Flickr