Publication of the Report of the SME Taskforce: SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan

Minister of State Damien English TD and Minister of State Robert Troy TD have today welcomed the publication of the SME Taskforce’s, ‘SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan’.

The Growth Plan was developed by a taskforce of entrepreneurs, business leaders and other individuals as established under a commitment in the Programme for Government – ‘Our Shared Future’ and who are uniquely positioned to contribute to a long-term vision for the SME sector in Ireland.

The SME Taskforce’s Growth Plan sets out a wide range of recommendations for Government with long-term strategic relevance for SMEs and entrepreneurs, including in the areas of digitalisation, clustering, regulation and education. These recommendations will be reviewed and taken forward, as appropriate, by an SME and Entrepreneurship Implementation Group in early 2021.

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

“2020 was an extremely challenging year for businesses in Ireland, especially for our small and medium enterprises. As businesses get back on their feet, we must prepare for the longer-term, beyond the immediate challenges of COVID and Brexit, by setting out a sustainable and strategic vision for our SMEs and entrepreneurs.

The Taskforce’s SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan that is published today provides us with the perspective of the business community on the main challenges and opportunities facing SME owners and entrepreneurs.  I am grateful for the time, commitment and energy that the Taskforce members put into developing their collective views so that we can set out to optimise the conditions and resources for Irish SME growth and prosperity into the future.

I look forward to the establishment of an SME and Entrepreneurship Implementation Group to examine the proposals set out in more detail, and to take the vision of this Growth Plan forward.”

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

“I would like to thank the Members of the SME Growth Taskforce for their informed and considered contributions in developing the SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan. SMEs and entrepreneurs play a hugely important role in social cohesion, regional development and the generation of broad-based growth and prosperity across the entire country.

“The SME Taskforce’s ‘SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan’ provides a very comprehensive set of recommendations and proposed actions to address a broad spectrum of issues facing the SME sector. These include measures to encourage more entrepreneurs to start businesses, to enhance productivity, innovation and digitalisation in existing SMEs, to bolster business clustering and networking structures, and to help more SMEs to export. These recommendations, which come directly from members of the business community, provide a suite of proposals for the SME and Entrepreneurship Implementation Group to consider – and tap into the huge potential of our SME sector which will ultimately benefit businesses, communities and citizens.”

The development of the Taskforce’s SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan was informed by the recent OECD Review of SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland, and is based on four thematic pillars: Entrepreneurship; Productivity, Digitalisation and Competitiveness; Clustering and Networks; and Internationalisation. It also contains a dedicated chapter on the climate policy context for Irish SMEs.

The Taskforce’s SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan is an important input to the development of the Government’s forthcoming National Economic Plan.


Link to Report of the SME Taskforce: National SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan

 Notes for the Editor

Taskforce’s SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan

The Programme for Government – Our Shared Future recognises the central role that will be played by Ireland’s small and medium enterprises in determining the strength of the recovery for the economy and for jobs from the shock of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. The Programme acknowledges that “central to our recovery will be our SME community. They are the backbone of our economy and support so many jobs across the country”

The Programme for Government committed to the establishment of an SME Taskforce, to design a National SME Growth Plan that will map out an ambitious long-term strategic blueprint beyond COVID-19.

The members of the SME Taskforce were appointed by An Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar T.D. in September 2020, and the Taskforce held its first meeting on 25 September 2020.

Following the initial Plenary meeting, four dedicated subgroups of the Taskforce were established, to consider and examine in detail the specific areas of:

(a) Entrepreneurship

(b) Productivity, Digitalisation and Competitiveness

(c) Internationalisation

(d) Clustering and Networks

The four subgroups met throughout October and November 2020. The Taskforce also met in Plenary format on three further occasions, on 16 October, 11 November, and 3 December 2020 when it adopted the SME and Entrepreneurship Growth Plan.

The Taskforce’s Growth Plan contains a broad range of recommendations, taking their structure from the policy areas which were examined in detail by the four Subgroups of the Taskforce.

SME and Entrepreneurship Implementation Group.

An SME and Entrepreneurship Implementation Group will be established in January to examine and take forward, as appropriate, recommendations of the Growth Plan, including in conjunction with the National Economic Plan, and to facilitate the further detailed analysis which is appropriate for many of the recommendations in the context of their implementation.

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

Kevin Buckley                                  CEO, Spearline, Skibbereen, Cork

Cllr Seamus Butler                          Managing Director, BMS

DC Cahalane                                     CEO, Republic of Work, Cork

Brian Caulfield                                 Venture Partner, Draper Esprit

Alison Cowzer                                  Founder, East Coast Bakehouse

John Cunningham                           Commercial Director, Morgan McKinley recruitment group

Elaina Fitzgerald                              Director, Fitzgeralds House Hotel and Spa

Paula Fitzsimons                             Going for Growth Initiative

Thia Hennessy                                 Dean, School of Business, UCC

Linda Murray                                   Founder, Play Activity and Leisure Ireland

Ciaran Murtagh                               MD, Shay Murtagh Precast Concrete

Philip Noone                                    Founder and CEO, Aalto Bio

Oonagh O’Hagan                            MD, Meaghers Pharmacy

Gina Quinn                                       President, National College of Ireland

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

Oliver Tattan                                    Experienced Entrepreneur, and angel investor

Tom McDonnell                              ICTU nominee

Julie Sinnamon                               CEO, Enterprise Ireland

Danny McCoy                                  CEO, Ibec

Neil McDonnell                               CEO, ISME

Sven Spollen-Behrens                   CEO, SFA

Ian Talbot                                        CEO, Chambers Ireland