With the impending date of the General Election looming, Nubie.com looks at the main parties’ various policies on Innovation and Enterprise. What could these changes mean for your business? Read on to find out the full scope on each of the candidates’ objectives.
Labour has identified two additional deficiencies in Ireland’s national system of innovation: a failure to properly support applied scientific and technology research beyond the basic stage supported by Science Foundation Ireland and the lack of financing for companies involved in this stage of technology development. As such, while basic (non-commercial) research is adequately supported by SFI and while companies that are already in the market have a range of supports from Enterprise
Ireland, there is a significant gap in the supports available for companies that are taking technology from proof-of-concept stage up to the stage where they can be taken to market by an investor. Furthermore, there are very limited prospects that this gap will be filled by private funding.
Labour will subsume the current activities and functions of Forfas, the Innovation Taskforce, the Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation and the Sustainable Energy Authority into a newly established Innovation Strategy Agency an independent agency within the IDA / Enterprise Ireland structure, whose role will be to stimulate technology-enabled innovation in the areas which offer the greatest scope for boosting growth and productivity. Labour’s Innovation Strategy Agency will promote and support investment in technology research, development and commercialisation beyond the basic research supported by Science Foundation Ireland, as well as advising government on how to remove barriers to innovation and accelerate the exploitation of new technologies. The majority of the members of the board of the ISA will be drawn from industry and finance from both Ireland and abroad with experience of technology change and innovation.
The Innovation Strategy Agency will focus its work by targeting key technology areas and sectors where innovation can be applied including but not limited to high value manufacturing, advanced materials, nanotechnology, bioscience, electronics, photonics and electrical systems and information and communication technology. application of technological innovation in established sectors of the economy like energy generation and supply, transport, creative industries, high-value services and architecture and construction by identifying challenges, establishing priorities and developing strategies which specify the necessary actions to transition to a more innovative approach.
The ISA will promote Ireland’s full engagement with the ‘Innovative Union’ proposals issued by the European Commission in October 2010 as one of the seven flagship initiatives under the EU2020 Strategy, with the specific aim of refocusing R&D and innovation policy on major challenges and at turning inventions into products.
Their main objectives are to:
• Establish an Innovation Strategy Agency to take over the duties of several key agencies to promote and support investment in technology research
• Create a network of Technology Research Centres such as the Tyndall Centre in UCC, which are focused on applied technological research and commercialisation of intellectual property, to be located in appropriate higher-education institutions.
A Single Business Tax for Micro Enterprises: Fine Gael will direct the Revenue Commissioners to examine the feasibility of introducing – on a revenue neutral basis – a Single Business Tax for micro enterprises (with a turnover of less than €75,000 per annum) to replace all the existing taxes on sole traders and small businesses (i.e. income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax, VAT and PRSI). This could cut compliance costs and make starting a business much less daunting.
Social Protection for Entrepreneurs: With a view to extending greater social protection for entrepreneurs and self-employed people who fall on hard times, Fine Gael will appoint a Commission to report on changes that should be made to the tax and social welfare system.
Regulatory Exemptions for Start-Ups: Fine Gael will also consider a set of temporary exemptions from employment and company regulations designed for bigger firms.
The Digital Gaming Industry: The rise of casual gaming, apps and smart phones have revolutionised digital gaming design. Ireland has traditionally performed strongly in the creative industries such as film and animation and with the right supports in place digital gaming can be the next big creative industry in Ireland. Fine Gael will set aside €10m from Innovation Fund Ireland for a seed capital scheme for Irish digital gaming start-ups to expand the industry from the ground up and also Fine Gael will introduce a digital media component to Transition Year programmes and promote Ireland as a digital gaming hub.
Digital Media: Fine Gael wants Ireland to become a global base for digital media, creating thousands of jobs over 10 years, by focusing on such areas as data warehousing, rights, licensing etc.
Making Ireland a Global Innovation Hub
To achieve these goals, Fianna Fáil will ensure that:
- Innovation Fund Ireland will attract international venture capital fund managers to Ireland, making their expertise, experience and network available to our enterprises.
- IDA will introduce the European Accelerator Programme to attract fast growing firms to locate their European HQ in Ireland.
- Enterprise Ireland will introduce a new approach to providing seed capital and other supports to innovative start-ups.
- Enterprise Ireland will assist Irish firms to maximise export potential through programmes for CEOs, mentoring and trade missions and will launch a campaign to attract overseas entrepreneurs to locate in Ireland.
- The ‘Silvertech’ initiative will be introduced with the HSE working closely with multinational companies in Ireland on the introduction of new technology for healthcare.
Next Generation Networks
Next Generation Networks (NGN) will facilitate the development of a new range of information-intensive service industries. There are business opportunities that can be realised only with far greater bandwidth than that currently available. Services that will require NGN include:
- Sharing of large files across different locations;
- Advanced e-commerce applications;
- Remote access to powerful computing resources (cloud computing);
The development of this technology has the potential to deliver employment-intensive investment, led by high growth in demand for services.
The Digital Economy
The digital economy is a key part of the Smart Economy. It involves the rollout of an extensive Next Generation Network and also the fostering of cloud computing services and its attendant new applications. Ireland is host to many of the world leaders in software, some of whom have located R&D centres here. These firms have developed strengths in the e-learning, financial services and telecommunications applications. The sector is an important source of high value jobs in the economy and Fianna Fáil is determined to build on these foundations. Fianna Fáil will :
- Provide direct supports for R&D and other business activities through the enterprise development agencies.
- Roll out 100 megabit connectivity to second level schools.
- Continue the roll-out of the National Broadband Scheme.
- Develop the use of ICT as an enabler of energy efficiency, which is a key area of growth.
- Working with relevant industry partners will help SME’s to better exploit the opportunities of global online markets by helping them create their first Fianna Fáilbsite and upskilling their capacity in online sales. Continue the modernisation of financial regulation according to best international practice.
- Develop Ireland as a centre for Green Data Centres and establish an International Content Services Centre.
- Complete a strategy review by the IFSC Clearing House Group in 2011.
1) In order to create a culture of innovation in the workforce, the secondary education system needs to put far more focus on encouraging creativity, investigation and ‘thinking outside of the box’. Consideration should also be given to the introduction of entrepreneurship to the second level school curriculum.
2) Set a target of getting 6,000 more under 25’s to start a new business or become self employed over the next 12 months needs to be set.
3) Focus on promoting entrepreneurship at third level. Encourage students across all faculties and disciplines being encouraged to take entrepreneurship modules.
4) Third level institutions from all over the island of Ireland should open their facilities to entrepreneuers with regards students carrying out market research projects for start up businesses.
5) Introduce improved social insurance safety nets for those who choose self-employment in the event of their business venture not working out. This would mean that self employed people would be given the option of paying PRSI at the same level as PAYE workers in order to receive the same entitlements in the event that they become unemployed.
6) Establish dedicated business and science parks in each county, linked to universities and ITs, which would offer onsite enterprise agency and banking support and access to university partnerships. There are some parks that fit these criteria, but they must become the benchmark. Too often enterprise agencies see enterprise parks as merely a property relationship of landlord and tenant rather than as an economic entity with a much wider potential.
7) Make running a business easier through the establishment either by the state or by cooperation between enterprises (for example on a regional basis) of a firm or co-op to provide tax preparation, payroll and legal services, accounting, preparation of business proposals for requests for capital and regulatory compliance services for a fee – thus reducing costs for small and start-up businesses and making it easier for them to focus on their product.
8 )Ensure that start-up enterprises can access credit. Establish a state bank that would have business credit as one of its remits, similar to the functions of the ICC, which actually returned profits to the Exchequer before it was privatised.
9) Examine the possibility of introducing some form of limited loan guarantee scheme for start-up businesses to be administered through the City and County Enterprise Boards.
10) Quadruple the target for supporting High Potential Startups (HPSUs) from 85 to 400 by the end of 2011.
11) Launch a national entrepreneurship programme with incubation centres around the country.
12) Initiate a specific Redundancy to Entrepreneurship Scheme to assist workers who have become redundant to establish their own businesses.
13) Start up enterprises including co-operatives should be able to use the vacant or empty premises under the ownership of enterprise development agencies including the IDA or Údaras na Gaeltachta rent free for one year for their activities. Similarly, given the scope of properties and developments that have come under the ownership of NAMA, cooperative enterprises should be able to have access to these properties, with the option of purchasing the assets, at a reduced price, over a period of time.
14) Reduce the costs of doing business through a cap on utility prices, including electricity and gas, for a minimum of three years.
15) Introduce employment and industrial relations law consolidation legislation. This would be easier for small business to understand and comply with.
16) Upgrade the communication infrastructure to provide a minimum bandwidth of 7Mb/s for all towns with populations of over 5,000. A target of 20 Mb/s for all businesses in towns above 10,000 people by 2012. A target of 100Mb/s in all major urban centres by 2012. Sinn Féin supports full broadband connectivity for all businesses and households. The current strategy may not deliver adequate capacity. The government as an immediate investment objective must move towards broadband not based on the current copper network, or an overdependence on wireless solutions, but a full fibre-optic digital network running as a backbone across the island.
17) Examine the social and economic benefit of introducing a new tax incentive to allow businesses and other private investors to write off investment losses in start-ups and early stage enterprises against income tax.
18) Direct Enterprise Ireland to become aggressive in seeking out High Potential Start Ups. They need to market, hold workshops in local areas and develop video business start up manuals which can be communicated by social media.
19) Create a Start Your Own Business (SYOB) mentoring programme where people who are currently in business and those who have just become unemployed but have a wealth of experience are nominated on to a SYOB mentoring panel which will hand-hold new business.
20) Create an Operation Ireland Programme where small Irish businesses with under 10 employees would be able to avail of market research of international markets and travel on export sales trips.
21) Task local authorities with the role the development of the local retail trade. Local Authorities should act as enablers where none exist, for Chamber of Commerce and Traders Associations in the development of marketing initiatives such as town websites, social media and local festivals
The Green Party proposes to:
Legislate against existing upward-only rent reviews
Many are struggling under expensive leases, dating back to boom times. The Green Party will legislate to ensure business owners can negotiate lower rents under existing leases, which so far, are not covered by the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act. They will also establish a public database which profiles letting agreements and rent reviews in the market.
Reduce commercial rates
Commercial rates are crippling small businesses. We must take the emphasis away from businesses that create employment and spread the cost of running local services among local people. By introducing fair and equitable domestic water and property charges, we can reduce commercial rates and free up valuable liquidity.
Extend Employer Job Incentive
The Green Party would also seek to extend the Employer Job (PRSI) Incentive Scheme beyond the 128,000 business it currently covers. We will carry out a review of the effectiveness of Employment Subsidy Scheme with a view to examining its reintroduction.
Introduce certainty of payment
The Seanad is currently looking at the Construction Contracts Bill to give sub-contractors certainty of payment and certainty of timing. The Green Party want to ensure this is passed in Government along with a system of payment dispute resolution.
Amend bankruptcy laws
The optimum period of twelve years is too long a time to be declared bankrupt in Ireland. It does not allow entrepreneurs to get back on their feet and start again. The Green Party wish to amend our law and reduce business bankruptcy to the UK equivalent, which is one year.