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Tánaiste speaks to SMEs on long-term plan for future

The Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar TD, today, joined by Minister of State Damien English TD and Minister of State Robert Troy TD, chaired the first meeting of the new SME Growth Taskforce. 

The SME Growth Taskforce is a commitment in the Programme for Government and was formed in order to design a National SME Growth Plan that will map out an ambitious long-term strategic blueprint for SMEs and entrepreneurs beyond COVID-19. The Taskforce is composed of a broad range of business people with expertise in range of sectors, as well as SME representative groups and other individuals uniquely positioned to contribute to a long-term vision for the SME sector.

The Tánaiste said,

“It’s been a really difficult few months for business. Beyond the immediate challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit however, we need to set out a long-term, strategic vision for our small and medium sized enterprises. We must look at how we can raise productivity levels among the SMEs which are lagging and encourage innovation. Digital technology and the need to decarbonise are transforming almost every aspect of our lives and we need to plan for how SMEs can adapt and take advantage of the opportunities this presents.

“I met with business leaders and representative bodies today to start looking at how we can put in place a plan so that our SMEs can continue to sustain Ireland’s economy in the long run. This group will continue this work and I look forward to the proposals they bring forward.”

 Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD said,

“In setting out a long-term plan for the sector, the work of the SME Growth Taskforce will focus on a number of key themes, including increasing start-up rates and business dynamism, enhancing productivity, innovation and digitalisation, bolstering business clustering and networking, and increasing SME activity on foreign markets. I am confident that this work will represent a positive step towards positioning Ireland as the best place to start, grow and scale a business”. 

Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Robert Troy TD said:

“As an integral part of our country’s economy, SMEs and entrepreneurs are central to our ambition to generate broad-based growth and prosperity in every part of the country.  I look forward to working with the Taskforce to ensure we can harness the potential of our SMEs and entrepreneurs by boosting innovation, productivity and economic growth, resulting in higher living standards for all our people.”

The meeting also heard contributions from Kristin Schreiber, Director of SME Policy, European Commission; Jonathan Potter, Senior Economist, OECD; and Frances Ruane, Chair, National Competitiveness Council. 

The work of the SME Growth Taskforce will draw upon the recent OECD Review of SME Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland and will have a small number of focused sub-groups, which will have the capacity and expertise to progress work on thematic areas arising from the OECD’s recommendations and respond to the long-term challenges faced by SMEs.

The SME Growth Plan will ultimately form part of the National Economic Plan, which will be published in November of this year.


Notes for the Editor

OECD Review of SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland 

The OECD Review of SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland was published in October 2019 following extensive engagement with Government Departments, agencies, academia, business representatives, and the small business sector. 

The OECD report identifies a number of challenges for SME policy in Ireland. These include increasing productivity growth in SMEs, increasing the business start-up rate and business dynamism, facilitating entrepreneurship among women, youth and migrants, scaling up micro-enterprises and generating more medium-sized firms, and increasing SME activity on foreign markets. A number of recommendations are provided to help meet these challenges.

Selected recommendations:

  • Draft a unified national SME and entrepreneurship strategy document
  • Simplify the approval procedure for R&D tax credits for SMEs Encourage SME involvement in innovation collaborations to increase their knowledge absorption capacities
  • Create network of regional enterprise network managers to identify local cluster challenges
  • Increase support for international standards adhesion by SMEs as an additional lever for encouraging upgrading to best practice business management approaches.
  • Scale up current SME internationalisation initiatives to increase SME direct exporting and expand the range of markets addressed.
  • Expand current access to credit initiatives for SMEs
  • Develop an action plan for financial education to strengthen the financial skills and financial management of small business owners and managers.
  • Introduce a tax relief for non-domiciled new hires by Irish SMEs to increase access to international talented labour.
  • Ramp up support for the digitalisation of SME business processes to address low digital skills among SMEs and increase SME take up of key digital technologies 

Membership of SME Growth Taskforce



Leo Varadkar TD

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Damien English TD

Minister of State for Employment Affairs and Retail Businesses

Robert Troy TD

Minister of State for Trade Promotion

Kevin Buckley

CEO, Spearline Labs, Skibbereen, Cork

Thia Hennessy

Dean, School of Business, UCC

DC Cahalane

CEO, Republic of Work, Cork

Alison Cowzer

Founder, East Coast Bakehouse

Paula Fitzsimons

Going for Growth Initiative

Ciaran Murtagh

MD, Shay Murtagh Precast Concrete

Philip Noone

Founder and CEO, Aalto Bio

Oonagh O’Hagan

MD, Meaghers Pharmacy

Helen Ryan

Former CEO Creaganna Medical, strategic advisor to Atlantic Bridge Ventures on University Bridge Fund

Julie Sinnamon

CEO, Enterprise Ireland

Oliver Tattan

Experienced Entrepreneur, and angel investor

John Cunningham

Commercial Director, Morgan McKinley recruitment group

Patricia King

General Secretary, ICTU

Linda Murray

Founder, Play Activity and Leisure Ireland

Cllr Seamus Butler

Managing Director, BMS

Gina Quinn

President, National College of Ireland

Brian Caulfield

Venture Partner, Draper Esprit

Elaina Fitzgerald

Director, Fitzgeralds House Hotel and Spa

Sven Spollen-Beherns


Ian Talbot

CEO, Chambers Ireland

Neil McDonnell


Danny McCoy

CEO, Ibec