Announcing its highest jobs gain in a single year, Enterprise Ireland has revealed that its client companies now employ almost as many people as multinationals in Ireland.
Companies supported by Enterprise Ireland increased net employment by almost 12,000 in 2021, with the majority (68pc) of these jobs created outside Dublin.
The strongest jobs growth was seen in life sciences (14pc), business services (12pc) and digital technology (10pc).
A total of 20,342 new jobs were created by Enterprise Ireland companies in 2021, amounting to a net increase of 11,911 when job losses are taken into account. This brings the number of people in employment supported by Enterprise Ireland to 207,894.
“That’s almost as many people working for multinationals,” noted Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, TD.
“This is an extraordinary performance,” he added. “We are well on our way to meeting our target of having 2.5m people at work in Ireland by 2024.”
New strategy goals
Now under the stewardship of CEO Leo Clancy, Enterprise Ireland is embarking on a new three-year strategy. Its vision for 2022 to 2024 targets 45,000 new jobs created, continuing last year’s trend of more than two-thirds of these jobs based outside Dublin.
Having supported 125 new start-ups in 2021, the agency is targeting support for 450 early-stage companies over the next three years and plans to grow its cohort of high-potential start-ups by 20pc.
It also aims to support scaling businesses to achieve a 10pc increase in the number of companies reaching sales of more than €10m, €20m and €50m.
In order to build out its nationwide start-up pipeline, Enterprise Ireland plans to lead a coordinated approach in cooperation with Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) as well as other regional entrepreneurship stakeholders and third-level institutions.
Supporting this pathway from LEOs to Enterprise Ireland will be an enhanced digital platform targeting micro and small enterprises.
The agency has also set a target of €1.4bn in enterprise expenditure on R&D and support for 300 R&D projects of over €100,000.
It is aiming to support 400 companies with digitalisation and 425 with climate action and green economy interventions. As part of broader climate action, the agency aims to stay the course on its carbon emissions reduction targets to 2030.
Continuing its drive to improve gender diversity in Irish business leadership, Enterprise Ireland is aiming for 30pc participation by women in its management development programmes, which will support a further 1,000 leaders and managers up to 2024.
September 2021 saw the resumption of physical trade missions and Enterprise Ireland reports that more than 1,300 overseas contracts were secured with its assistance. To 2024, the goal is to drive an increase in exports to €30bn, with more than 70pc based outside the UK.
Opportunities and challenges
Summarising Enterprise Ireland’s ambitions, Clancy said: “Our core focus for the coming years will be on helping our clients realise further growth resulting from the significant opportunities that a recovering global economy presents for the benefit of every community in Ireland.”
Government representatives praised the strong regional jobs performance in 2021, and this will continue to be a point of focus.
Every region saw an uptick in employment, with the north-west and west marking the greatest increases, both up 9pc. Dublin also continued to grow with a 7pc increase, matched by the south-east.
“I am encouraged by Enterprise Ireland’s new strategy which fits with the ambitions of our enterprise community to grow business, grow jobs, and grow into new markets,” said Damien English, TD.
“It supports Government’s National Economic Plan, which has a strong focus on creating more and better jobs, and in ensuring that job creation occurs throughout the country.”
English also welcomed the fact that Enterprise and LEOs will work together to “ensure that companies of all sizes will be provided with a flexible service model in response to their growth and development needs”.
Minister of State for Trade Promotion Robert Troy, TD, welcomed the recommencement of trade missions and was also encouraged to see there will be further cooperation with the country’s network of LEOs.
“In collaboration with the Local Enterprise Offices, great strides have also been made in accelerating the pace of innovation, digitalisation, and transition to a low-carbon economy,” said Troy.
“I am happy that these core ambitions are also at the heart of Enterprise Ireland’s new strategy launched today and that Enterprise Ireland and the LEOs will continue to be an integral part of balanced regional development in the future.”
Clancy acknowledged that this new strategy comes at “a time of remarkable change for business”. The overall goal, he said, is to build “resilient, internationally focused and productive Irish enterprises” that are “critical” to the growth of the Irish economy.
“Business is being transformed by factors such as climate change, the accelerated adoption of technology, and changing trends in globalisation in a way that presents unprecedented market opportunities, notwithstanding ongoing challenges for companies,” he said.
“To succeed in changing times, Irish enterprises must invest to strengthen capability and competitiveness, respond quickly to changing consumer preferences, innovate ahead of competitors, and be flexible and open to changing business models.”
Speaking on the Government’s broader ambitions for the economy, Varadkar added: “To ensure our economy is diversified and future-proofed against shocks, this means going for growth across a broad range of sectors including exports, construction, the public sector and the care economy, the new green economy, digital, tourism and services. This strategy being published today fully aligns with that vision.”
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