Leo Varadkar TD
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment,
Department of Enterprise
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the lifeblood of the Irish economy. They make up over 99 percent of the total number of Irish companies, employing over a million people in cities, towns and rural areas in all parts of Ireland.
No one could have predicted the challenges our small businesses have faced over the past couple of years – Brexit and then a pandemic – but our SMEs have shown remarkable fortitude. I do not underestimate the personal toll this will have taken on each and every business owner and their staff.
From the Government’s perspective, we have sought to minimise the financial impact on businesses by providing wage subsidies, grants, commercial rates waivers, reduced VAT rates and low-cost loans. Our objective has always been to make sure businesses survive and are well placed to bounce back quickly.
Now, we must make sure that recovery happens, that we continue to support businesses as they transition back to normal working conditions, reopen their doors with confidence and think about expanding again.
We must transition to digital
More and more, digital will be part of the fabric of our everyday lives, and the Government wants to make sure that small businesses are prepared for this. For many Irish businesses, online shopping, booking, and using social media to reach new customers kept them afloat during lockdowns.
Our objective has always been to make sure businesses survive and are well placed to bounce back quickly.
Digital technologies are crucial for economic recovery
The recently launched National Digital Strategy aims to drive and enable digital transition across the economy, especially in small businesses. This includes helping small businesses benefit from digital opportunities by providing grants and assistance. We’ve set a target of 90% of SMEs at basic digital intensity by 2030, and 75% enterprise take-up in cloud, AI and big data. This will be supported by the €85 million Digital Transition Fund, which will be used to help companies at all stages of their digital journey.
Contact your Local Enterprise Office (LEO) for support
Throughout the pandemic, the LEOs, in partnership with Enterprise Ireland, have been offering help and advice to companies to help them sustain, grow and in some cases pivot their businesses. Trading Online Vouchers have enabled thousands of businesses to open virtual doors and reach new markets both in Ireland and overseas.
Considering sustainability is the new normal for enterprises
The LEO Green for Micro programme helps small businesses to take the first steps to sustainability by introducing green principles into their businesses. Other initiatives, like the Climate Toolkit 4 Business provide practical ways to help SMEs decarbonise.
As we transition to this exciting post-pandemic phase, government remains fully committed to future-proofing our entrepreneurs and small businesses for the challenges of tomorrow.