Ireland must remain optimistic but realistic in terms of its economic future. We face many challenges as businesses struggle in the aftermath of the crisis. However, we also need to believe that better times are ahead and that we have the resources that will help deliver our economic recovery – specifically our entrepreneurs.
Ireland has built a strong foundation of support for entrepreneurs but there are many ingredients required to improve entrepreneurial growth. Ernst & Young in conjunction with the G20 Young Entrepreneur Summit, highlighted five key pillars from discussions held with over 1,000 global entrepreneurs, which they agree must remain top priorities to enable this.
1) Entrepreneurship culture
Having a supportive entrepreneurial culture is fundamental. Entrepreneurs surveyed believe the most effective way to promote this culture is to align entrepreneurship and job creation.
The announcement by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD, that the Government would introduce proposals aimed at removing obstacles to job creation, making it easier for businesses to employ people, is to be welcomed. These steps are to include measures to reduce the cost base for employers, minimise bureaucracy, red tape and promote easier access to finance and credit – all critical to help encourage job creation.
2) Education and training
A good education system and continuous training strengthens the entrepreneurial environment.
Entrepreneurship education and training is often viewed as a sub-discipline of business studies, meaning that potential entrepreneurs in other fields, such as science and technology, are sometimes neglected. Targeted education and training needs to become associated with a wider range of disciplines.
Making use of interactive education resources such as the Entrepreneur Of The Year’s education channel (www.eoy.tv) allows schools and colleges to develop a clear understanding of the world of the entrepreneur as well as providing insights into how to apply entrepreneurial vision across a diverse range of sectors.
3) Access to funding
Access to funding continues to be one of the most significant challenges for the creation, survival and growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The majority of entrepreneurs interviewed (80 per cent) confirm that governments have an important role to play in creating the right environment for access to funding for young entrepreneurs.
In Ireland a number of initiatives are present to help address this including business angel networks and most notably a new €10 million Enterprise Ireland fund to help attract digital companies to Ireland. However, there remains significant pressure on SMEs; for example, start-up funding can require lesser amounts of funding with a far greater return to investors in terms of equity investment.
4) Regulation and taxation
Entrepreneurs believe that governments have a substantial role to play in regulating, incentivising and directing private sector activity.
Policies around severance costs, innovation grants and tax incentives need to be designed with stakeholders being involved during the design phase. Entrepreneurs highlighted the need for feedback loops to be incorporated into the process. Within its Entrepreneur Of The Year® programme in Ireland, Ernst & Young is increasingly using this process to provide a collective voice to the entrepreneurial community.
5) Co-ordinated support
There is considerable potential for better coordination between government agencies, business incubators, universities and training programmes, to unlock greater entrepreneurial activity. One development that has emerged globally is the ‘one-stop shop’, which centralises the bureaucratic components of new business formation. In Ireland, some excellent incubator initiatives exist including InterTrade Ireland’s Seedcorn Programme, the Endeavour Programme, and the NDRC Launchpad. The next step is to continue to promote across Ireland the benefits of engaging with these programmes.
Ireland faces significant economic challenges in the immediate future and government alone cannot create jobs – entrepreneurs can. The key role of government is to build and maintain the environment within which entrepreneurship can thrive. Indeed, Ireland has the potential to become a world leader in this regard. By harnessing our resources, at home and abroad, and supporting our entrepreneurs, recovery will be within our grasp.