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Kelleher highlights need to support SMEs

SMALL and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) need to be supported and can be a vital part of economic recovery, according to Minister for Trade and Commerce, Billy Kelleher.
Deputy Kelleher was in Westpark, Shannon on Tuesday morning, where he addressed a seminar organised by Shannon Chamber on accessing and using EU Innovation supports.
In his address, he said, “SMEs are the backbone of the Irish economy. Over 97% of businesses operating in Ireland today are small, operating over half of the total workforce in this country. The ability of small companies to compete and grow is something that merits a lot of attention, as Ireland’s future economic growth relies on the development of our indigenous enterprise sector.”
The minister claimed that promoting innovation is a priority for the Government. “Over the past 10 years, the Government has trebled the level of investment in research and development and is working towards reaching its target of achieving a national R&D investment of 3% of GDP, public and private combined.
“With 45% of all enterprises in Ireland now engaged in some level of innovation activities, the total spend on innovation activities by companies in Ireland was almost €5.3 billion in 2008,” he added.
The minister said that seminars such as the one organised by Shannon Chamber are very beneficial for companies. “Seminars such as these can enthuse people, without spending vast sums.”
He also acknowledged that it can be difficult for companies to look at making major unforced adjustments, given the state of the economy. “There are already huge pressures and challenges for companies without trying to move up the value chain,” the minister said.
Despite this, he said that some small companies have managed to step into the global arena and have been successful. “There are companies that are internationalised and have found markets around the world, they’re not just multi-nationals.”
He said that the Irish SME sector is well thought of outside the country. “There is a recognition that Irish companies are innovative, smart and flexible.”
Shannon Chamber president, Ian Barrett said that Ireland has a number of advantages that it can build on.
“Our recovery will need to be jobs-led, based on regaining competitiveness and moving up the value curve. Our challenge as a nation is to build on our excellent people skills, our first-rate education system and to engage in more leading-edge research.
“We need to build an economy based on increased specialist knowledge and know-how, an economy with higher rates of innovation and expertise, with increased collaboration both between industrial organisations and between industry and third-level institutions, supported by personal, corporate, national and EU funding,” he said.
EU commissioner, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn was not at the seminar but said it is important that people are aware of the support offered by the EU.
“I congratulate the organisers on offering this opportunity to stakeholders in the West, Mid-West and South-West. I fully support this type of event, in Ireland and elsewhere. The more information we can get across on EU research funding and how to get it, the more applicants we will have and the higher will be the quality of the projects we fund. Ultimately, events like this help boost the contribution of EU-funded research to the products and services of the future,” she said.

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