Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will report on the Startup Gathering 2015, which took place last month; if he has analysed the events and continuously monitored the impact, which was hoped to include the creation of at least 2,500 new jobs within the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Deputy Seán Kyne: as there any analysis of the Startup Gathering, which took place in five cities, including Galway, last month, and will there be continuous monitoring of its impact on job creation and the target of 2,500 jobs?
Minister of State, Gerald Nash: The Action Plan for Jobs 2015 outlined an action in respect of a national week of events promoting entrepreneurship and showcasing Ireland’s startup sector to entrepreneurs from all over the globe, including the Irish diaspora, with the message “Start, Scale, Succeed from Ireland.” The initiative that was put in place as a result was the Startup Gathering. It featured more than 400 business events, held over five days, making it one of the biggest startup events in the world in 2015.
Five cities, Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway, acted as the hubs for the Startup Gathering, and there were also associated regional events in a total of 22 counties, including a programme of events in the north east. The aims of the Startup Gathering were to promote entrepreneurship and help identify entrepreneurial talent at an early stage across the country; to help develop world class regional startup hubs around the existing strengths in each region to accelerate the growth of startups and scale-ups in Ireland; and to raise the international profile of the startup sector in each region of Ireland to global entrepreneurs, investors and research and development teams. The Startup Gathering was led by the not-for-profit organisation Startup Ireland. It was sponsored by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and by Bank of Ireland.
Initial reaction to the Startup Gathering has been positive in terms of number of events and participants. However, given the scale and extent of the week, it is necessary to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of all aspects of the initiative. The Startup Gathering was but one element of work on entrepreneurship detailed in the Action Plan for Jobs 2015. This work has seen Irish performance in the area of entrepreneurship improve substantially in the past year, as has been recognised in two international indicators released in the last couple of weeks. The 2015 Small Business Act Fact Sheet for Ireland, which was published last week by the European Commission, shows that Ireland has one of the friendliest environments for small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs, in the EU; and in the Global Entrepreneurship Index, also released earlier this month, Ireland moved from 17th to 12th place among 132 countries and from 12th to seventh place among 40 European countries, which puts Ireland’s global entrepreneurship ranking ahead of such notables as Israel, the Netherlands and Finland and just one place behind Singapore. The report states that Ireland’s biggest opportunities for improvement are in the areas of entrepreneurship opportunity recognition and reducing risk aversion.
A Startup Gathering exit review report is being prepared and is due to be sent to the Department in the coming weeks. The report will include an analysis of the core objectives and key performance indicators, a survey of startups, and an overview of the various events, including marketing, advertising, branding and so on. The Department, Bank of Ireland and Startup Ireland will be meeting in early December on the issue and the national steering group that I chair will then meet in advance of finalisation of the report. Work on the entrepreneurship area will continue in 2016, when we will continue to put in place actions to help improve our performance.
Deputy Seán Kyne: Ithank the Minister of State for his reply. I spoke at the event in Galway on 5 October and would like to acknowledge the work of Eoin Costello, the chief executive of Startup Ireland, the Galway city co-ordinator, John Breslin, Bank of Ireland, which was a key sponsor, Enterprise Ireland, EI, and the local enterprise office under Breda Fox. The meeting was very impressive. There was an array of people from the business and higher education sectors and the wider community of the Galway area. I welcome also the initiatives in respect of the jobs action plan for the west, including the specific measures for micro-enterprise in conjunction with EI, the LEOs and Údarás na Gaeltachta. I commend the Minister of State and the Department on the work they have done for startups. The Minister of State mentioned the 2016 action plan. What specific measures will be rolled out in that in respect of startups, or will they flow from the analysis of the events this year?
Deputy Gerald Nash: We are working to finalise the elements that will inform part of the package for the action plan for jobs 2016. While we are not in a position to discuss those here today, there will be a very clear suite of proposals, many of them emanating from changes introduced in the budget this year to help the enterprise sector, but also to build on the publication of the national entrepreneurship strategy last year. It is our ambition to increase the number of startups by 25%, which would represent 3,000 more startups per annum, and to increase the survival rate in the first five years by 25%, as well as to improve the capacity of startups to grow in scale by 25%. We constantly look for ways in which we can continue to improve the models across the country to bring coherence to the supports that startups enjoy. There has been reference to that area in the regional action plan for jobs, which is the right way to go about building up our enterprise ecosystem on the ground across the country – by responding to regional needs and working with the private and public sectors. We are ambitious for startups, and that is enshrined in our Enterprise 2025 strategy, the Government’s National Policy Statement on Entrepreneurship in Ireland, and the Action Plan for Jobs provisions, which will be published in January for 2016 and will be very ambitious.
Deputy Seán Kyne: Start-up companies have created up to two-thirds of the jobs created in the past five years – that is, around 90,000 jobs – so it is a very important sector. The Minister of State must be familiar with the PorterShed initiative in Galway; he may have visited it. It is a space for people setting up companies to work together. There are several other such initiatives, especially in the large urban areas. Does the Minister of State think it would be a good idea to consider incentivising these types of incubation space for startups in the large towns? Would it be possible to develop something within the action plan in 2016 or any other initiatives in the Department? This could include the large towns in my area, An Cheathrú Rua, Clifden and Oughterard, because the entrepreneurial concentration may have been in the urban areas and we need to spread it out to the large towns as well.
Deputy Gerald Nash: I agree with Deputy Kyne that the startup sector has been the unsung hero of our economic recovery. There has been a record number of new company registrations over the past couple of years, which is very encouraging for those of us interested in creating and helping startups. Coming from a constituency that includes Ireland’s two largest towns, I agree that we have to focus on improving the ecosystem in major regional towns. We have two funding calls out at the moment: a €5 million fund for a community enterprise initiative and a €5 million LEO fund to try to encourage LEOs to collaborate on opportunities that will focus on the existing strengths and try to build capacity in those areas. We also have a considerable fund available, and EI has advertised for expressions of interest, for the development of big ideas in areas where private industry and the public sector can prove they are collaborating on clustering and so on. That initiative will have a huge impact on our towns, because startups are so important for the economic vibrancy of the regions.