Enterprise Ireland reported that record levels of exports were achieved and employment in Irish exporting companies stabilised in 2011. While the economic context of 2011 was challenging, Irish companies increased exports and are now using this renewed confidence to aggressively target opportunities in international markets.
Enterprise Ireland estimates that client companies’ export sales grew in 2011 and that the final export figures will exceed the pre-recession record levels of 2008. ‘New export sales’ in excess of €1 billion are expected to be recorded for 2011.
Throughout the year, Irish companies faced severe global economic conditions head on. They have emerged leaner, stronger and with a greater appetite for international growth than ever before.
Employment in client companies stabilised this year. Total employment (full and part time) in Enterprise Ireland client companies stood at 162,692in 2011. Of these, 141,228 are full-time jobs – a similar number to last year while 21,464 are part-time jobs - a slight increase on last year.
The World economy is predicted to grow moderately in 2012 (source World Bank 2011). This is important because it offers opportunities for Irish companies to increase exports which sustain and create employment in Ireland.
During 2011 Enterprise Ireland continued to focus its human and financial resources on driving exports, innovation and improving competitiveness. A number of new initiatives were introduced in direct response to the demands of entrepreneurs and client companies including;
Competitive Start Funds for very early stage entrepreneurs – €50k per start-up – 55 start-ups supported
€10m International Fund for attracting entrepreneurs from overseas
Graduates 4 International Growth programme saw 120 graduates placed with Irish companies all over the world.
Leadership training for Chief Financial Officers
Staff resources in key markets were re-aligned to maximise impact in key ‘first time export’ and High Growth Markets.
Enterprise Ireland also opened its first office in South Africa
In 2011 we also had a record number of Irish companies being acquired by overseas Multinationals, such as Research in Motion (Blackberry), BAE Systems, AMDOCS and IBM giving the acquired companies significantly greater global reach.
Building the innovative capabilities of Irish companies was a major focus of Enterprise Ireland in 2011. Large scale R&D expansions were supported in 110 companies. The Technology Centre programme, which Enterprise Ireland runs jointly with the IDA, is already delivering next generation technologies to key industry sectors such as manufacturing, bio-energy, nanotechnology, microelectronics, IT, composite materials, energy and food. The programme expanded in 2011 with the announcement of centres in Financial Services, Cloud Computing and Learning Technologies.
Enterprise Ireland continued to introduce Irish companies to ‘big ideas’ from 3rd level research in 2011. More than 90 technologies were licensed to companies during the year and a further 30 spin-out companies were created through Enterprise Ireland’s support of the technology transfer offices in Higher Education Institutions.
A further 51 companies were supported through the Innovation Partnership programme which enables companies to source technical solutions to their business challenges from Higher Education Institutions.
748 companies received Innovation Vouchers worth €5,000 which allowed them to work with researchers in local third level institutes and colleges and access knowledge and specialist equipment.
Enterprise Ireland continued to help companies to win funding from Europe for innovative research. In 2011 Enterprise Ireland helped Irish companies secure €31.8 million from the Seventh EU Framework Programme (FP7) and the European Space Agency, both important sources of non-exchequer funding.
Frank Ryan, Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Ireland said:
“Enterprise Ireland is proud of the companies we work with. They have proved to be resilient and relentless in their pursuit of new market opportunities and they are to be commended on their success. Enterprise Ireland is determined to continue to support their job creation initiatives and identify and help secure overseas business in established and high growth markets. This will not only assist growth in exporting businesses, but local economies in every county in Ireland. It is also apparent that Companies that invest in continuous research and development have been our most successful in overseas markets.
“There should be no misunderstanding however, and it’s been widely reported, that 2012 will be a year of continuing challenges. In preparation for this, Enterprise Ireland will move rapidly to implement the Government’s planned Jobs Strategy. We will continue to focus on lean programmes to increase clients competitiveness; we will continue to increase numbers of High Potential Start Ups from within Ireland and from overseas; we will continue to help companies win business overseas in both established and high growth markets; and we will continue to introduce new offers and initiatives to ensure that the full focus of Enterprise Ireland is aimed at meeting the needs of our clients so they can sustain and grow employment.”
Noting the outturn for the year, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton T.D. said:
‘Creating an indigenous engine of economic growth is central to my plan for revitalising the economy. Enterprise Ireland, and the various supports it provides to domestic businesses, particularly in the exporting sector, will be key to this.
“In these very difficult times, to have kept employment steady in the companies it supports, with increases in certain categories, is a creditable performance. I commend Frank, his team, and above all the businesses on this record. Although 2012 will be another difficult year, this government is determined to continually improve our supports to domestic job-creating businesses through improvements in access to finance and reductions in costs. With the right supports I hope that these businesses can build on this year’s performance and get more people back to work”.
(1) Source: The Annual Employment Survey carried out by Forfás. The full 2011 report will be published in early 2012.