Evolve UK – Guide to Social Value in Procurement

Social Value in UK Public Sector tenders

Social Value can be described as the additional value created in the delivery of a contract to a community, beyond the monetary value of the contract itself. While Social Value has been a feature of UK public procurement over the last decade, it has grown in prominence since introduction of the Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 06/20 in September 2020. This note requires councils to include a weighting of at least 10% to social value in tenders. Therefore, it is necessary for any Irish company dealing with the UK public sector to consider social value and how they can create value in a wider community.

This Enterprise Ireland publication has been developed in collaboration with Steve Oldbury, Founder & Director, Bidwriting.com to help companies to meet the social value requirements of UK tenders and improve their capability to win business with UK public sector bodies.

This guide includes:

  • The Principles of Social Value

  • Why Social Value is so important to society

  • The importance of Social Value when tendering for work

  • Assessing Social Value and the National TOMs Framework

  • Examples of Social Value Questions

  • Actions required by companies to respond effectively to Social Value

 

 

 

The lion’s share of French business happening in Lyon

As the UK has left the European Union, France is now Ireland’s closest neighbour in the bloc and Claire Tobin Mercier, Senior Market Advisor at Enterprise Ireland, Lyon, says the strong trading history and good relationship between our two countries makes France an ideal environment for Irish investors.

“France boasts the presence of large indigenous companies across multiple sectors along with a high number of decision centres for multinational companies, which are very much aligned with Irish capabilities,” she says.

“For the second consecutive year, France is Europe’s number one destination for foreign direct investment with 23 important new projects announced weekly throughout 2020. These opportunities add to the huge €100bn investment envelope made available by the French government for post-Covid economic recovery to be spent in areas such as sustainability, infrastructure and digital transformation.”

 

Looking to Lyon

Tobin Mercier, who joined Enterprise Ireland in 2019, having originally moved to Lyon to establish the subsidiary of an Irish medical diagnostics company, went on to develop her own consulting business helping foreign companies get a foothold in the French market. So, she has a deep understanding of the capabilities for Irish industry within the region and says there is much scope for business development.

“France represents a big and vibrant market on our doorstep and our relationship with the French has always been healthy and filled with mutual respect,” she says. “However, people often think of Paris when they consider doing business in France, but Lyon is regarded as the most ‘business-friendly’ city here. It has a fantastic geographical position, being bordered by both Switzerland and Italy, and is serviced with a highly developed infrastructure for air, rail, road, and river transport. In addition, the region has many similarities with Ireland, including its size, industrial ecosystem and many SMEs are also family-owned businesses.

“The fact that several Irish companies have already set up businesses in this area is indicative of the potential the region represents – and some of the Irish players who have substantial presence include Life Scientific, Amarenco, Kingspan, Icon, Smurfit Kappa, Grant Engineering and Tricel.”

Lyon is the capital of the Auvergne Rhône Alpes region, which is the second strongest economic region in the country. It is the birthplace of life sciences in France and is home to many big names in the industry, including Sanofi Pasteur, Boehringer Ingleheim, Medtronic and BioMérieux, which helps to drive the local economy.

 

Sectoral expertise across life sciences and clean technology

“It is also the top vaccine production centre in the world and recognised as a benchmark region on immunology, infectious diseases, diagnostics and veterinary health,” says the market expert. “In addition, it is one of Europe’s most important clean technology development regions and on this basis, allocates more money to renewable energy than any other region of France, making it a place of great business opportunity for testing innovative environmental solutions in energy transition and efficiency, mobility of the future and circular economy.”

The area is also the second most important digital hub in France and the top industrial region, with a dense network of industrial corporations, SMEs, and innovative start-ups. And due to its strategic location, the logistics and transport sector is also particularly strong.

 

Covid-19 impact

Of course, the pandemic has had an impact, which can be seen in the dramatic drop in GDP of 8.3%, the largest ever measured here. But while 320,000 jobs have been lost, this figure is considerably lower than the 600,000 job losses which were predicted last year and is a result of the massive take-up of the partial unemployment measures put in place and also the much stronger performance of the economy in the last quarter of 2020.

“Overall, French purchasing power did not suffer from the pandemic and in fact, the French people have saved an extra €111bn in comparison to 2019,” says Tobin Mercier. “So, there is hope on the horizon and I would encourage Irish companies to seriously look at the French market as a territory offering great opportunities for those who want to grow their export sales.

“The ‘Irish friendly’ environment which is very prevalent here should be taken advantage of and if you are thinking of doing business in France, invest some time in research as the French market requires some investment at the start, and it can take some time to get a foothold, but once in, you will find a favourable and loyal business environment.”

For more information on doing business in France, visit Enterprise Ireland’s French market page.

The Climate Enterprise Action Fund: helping firms to boost low-carbon agendas

The Climate Enterprise Action Fund is a new initiative that was recently launched by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister Eamon Ryan with an initial allocation of €10m. The fund, which will be administered by Enterprise Ireland, is designed to help businesses take action to drive down their emissions and embed sustainability in how they work.

Aidan McKenna, manager of the Climate Enterprise Action Fund at Enterprise Ireland, says the fund is one of a number of actions underway to ensure that Ireland reaches its ambition of reducing emissions by 51% by the end of this decade.

“The fund builds on work Enterprise Ireland is already carrying out with companies throughout Ireland,” says Aidan. “We know the initiatives that work well and embed change in companies.”

 

Low-carbon future

Reducing emissions will contribute to a more sustainable future for us all. However, along with the moral and political imperative, there is a very strong business case for Irish companies to adopt a low-carbon, sustainable agenda. One of the most important emerging market demands today is the need for companies to demonstrate their commitment to low-carbon production and sustainable business processes. It is vital that these companies are responsive to emerging market conditions.”

“Many Irish companies sell products and services to larger, international companies at home and abroad. Increasingly, these companies are requiring suppliers to have sustainability at the core of their operations. A failure to show real progress can lock you out of the market.

“Likewise, many consumers are placing environmental standards at a premium when making purchasing decisions. Issues such as using recyclable packaging, adhering to international sustainability standards and having transparent supply chains are now important factors for more and more consumers. Those that don’t change will miss out on the significant opportunities emerging from the low-carbon transition and risk being left behind.”

Aidan McKenna says another important factor is that investors and capital funds – which are critical to start-up and growing companies – increasingly factor in environmental impact into their investment decisions.  “What is termed ‘green finance’ is now a reality and will shape investment decisions into the future,” explains Aidan.

 

Climate Enterprise Action Fund

Enterprise Ireland’s new Climate Enterprise Action Fund is designed to assist companies at various stages of engagement with this agenda. It comprises of three main offers:

  • Climate Action Voucher – a €1,800 grant to engage consultants to develop plans in areas such as resource efficiency and renewable energy.
  • GreenStart – up to €5,000 to measure carbon footprint and identify ways to reduce emissions and operate more sustainably.
  • GreenPlus – a fund of up to 50% to develop a multi-annual climate change plan aligned to international standards and frameworks.

“The first two offers are driven by the principle of ‘what gets measured gets done’,” explains Aidan. “Establishing a baseline of current resource consumption and emissions profile is essential to begin a change process. These offers will be particularly attractive to companies beginning their low-carbon journey. The third offer, Green Plus, is aimed at companies further along the journey align to international standards and frameworks.”

The Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) network has also recently launched a new scheme, called Green For Micro, designed to help smaller companies prepare for a low-carbon, sustainable future. With the help of a Green Consultant, small businesses with up to ten employees can get free advice and technical support on resource efficiency, how to better understand their carbon footprint and how to implement an environmental management system to reduce costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Driving change

“We are acutely aware of the pressure that companies have been under facing up to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and our fundamentally changed trading relationship with the UK. While companies see the value in adopting more sustainable processes in principle, finding the time and resources to dedicate to that mission can be difficult. That is why our new initiative is designed to provide companies with tangible baseline information and a route map of what a low-carbon, sustainable future looks like for them. Having the low-carbon concept broken down into achievable actions makes the journey all that more realistic and the business wins all that more attainable.”

“The global trading environment is tough and competitive,” says Aidan. “To succeed, companies need to think not just about the next order, but about how their sector will develop in the next five to ten years. Environmental sustainability and responsible production will be key drivers of business success into the future. Now is the time for all Irish businesses to prepare for that future.”

To get your business ready for a green future visit Climate Enterprise Action Fund or contact the Climate Action Team

 

Scale 21 – Helping businesses to get established in the UK

The UK has always been and remains Irelands largest single trading partner with a wealth of opportunities for Irish companies.

To support Irish companies to establish themselves in the UK, Enterprise Ireland has run the Scale UK mentoring programme since 2012.

This year’s Scale 21 invites companies to advance their businesses by finessing their strategies, developing their UK messaging, analysing their sales channels and becoming pitch ready with inputs from our experienced mentors.

Download more information on Scale 21 or watch our programme overview below.

Gain insights from a previous participant and mentor who discuss their experiences with Scale UK.

Gillian Doyle, CEO Cerebreon discusses her experience of participating on Scale UK and gives her advice for companies applying for next year’s programme.

Carol Ward, President at Man GLG and Scale UK mentor shares her experience of Scale UK, working with fellow mentors and Irish diaspora and the importance of supporting companies with growth ambition for the UK.

 

To learn more about the Scale 21 programme download our guide.

2021 virtual trade mission – Reaching a global audience

In the not-too-distant past, companies wishing to establish a successful business relationship with firms overseas, would have relied heavily on international travel and perhaps an office or ‘boots-on-the-ground’ in the country in question.

But these days, there is also another option as there are many international companies located across Ireland who are more than willing to do business with local businesses – and Gerard, Fenner, Senior Executive of Global Sourcing for Enterprise Ireland, says his team can help to bring Irish SMEs and multinational firms together.

“The combination of modern technology and accessible travel has made the world a much smaller place and opened up a myriad of global opportunities for Irish businesses,” he says.

 

Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland collaboration

“But travelling to or even selling out of this country isn’t the only means for companies at home to expand into the international market as there are hundreds of multinationals right here in Ireland, which are willing and able to engage with indigenous firms. Since its formation in 2012, the Enterprise Ireland Global Sourcing team has been working with colleagues in IDA Ireland to introduce Irish owned businesses to international firms to respond to their specific requirements.

“Working with companies across every sector, including pharma, medtech, ICT, engineering, financial services and energy, our team helps to develop relationships between Irish companies who are seeking to sell their product or service and multinational firms who wish to purchase same – so our particular focus is on providing sales opportunities and partnerships between Enterprise Ireland client companies and Ireland-based multinationals, predominantly IDA firms.”

According to Fenner, there are many benefits to both the seller and the buyer in these business relationships and apart from supporting industry at home, it can also lead to opportunities in export markets – and winning a contract with a multinational gives a scaling Irish company a valuable reference site for its move into export markets.

“We have found that one of the most productive means of securing relationships between Irish firms and multinationals based here is by means of events where introductions can be made, and sellers can have pre-arranged face to face meetings with potential buyers,” he says.

 

Developing international relationships

“In 2014 we organised the first Trade Mission in Ireland. The event was minister led and took place in various regional locations across the country over the course of a couple of days – and since then, it has taken place every year, apart from 2020, due to lockdown restrictions. It has always garnered a lot of interest and helped to develop contracts and future relationships.”

So it seems that trade missions have long been an effective means of introducing businesses to prospective clients, but since the onset of the pandemic, industry across every sector has had to pivot online and learn how to do business in a virtual world.

 

Online introductions and meetings

As current guidelines continue to prevent physical events of this nature taking place, this year, on May 12th, the first ever virtual Global Sourcing Trade Mission became the alternative.

Launched by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, the event proved as popular as ever with 65 multinationals and 240 Irish companies registered with over 350 meetings. And according to Gerard Fenner, the online system was popular with both the variety of different international firms and indigenous companies looking to set up new business relationships.

“When the Enterprise Ireland companies registered on the event platform, they provided some company information about what they do and what their offer is, and this allowed suppliers to search through this information and put in a request for a meeting,” says the international trade expert. “Similarly, the supplier was also able to request a meeting with a buyer in order to pitch a product or service.

“Although these 15-minute meeting slots were different to how things normally work at a physical trade mission, it proved to be very successful with feedback from both sides indicating their positivity – and early signs show the possibility of new business relationships and further revenue to add to the €32 million in contracts which have been secured from these trade missions.”

The Global Sourcing Team lead says there was also the added positive bonus of no travel, which meant that the multinational could bring in individuals from different areas of their business to meet potential suppliers – so rather than just one representative attending the event, firms could bring in someone from finance or with technical expertise to liaise directly with companies pitching a particular service.

“Overall it was a great success and we have run smaller online events similar to this over the past year and many multinational firms have come back to us to say they were impressed with the fact that they got to meet so many different businesses,” he says.

“So, the trade mission, whether it takes place at a venue or online, is an important platform for raising awareness about the capabilities of innovative Irish SMEs and helping them to establish future business relationships. And given the interest in this year’s event, despite the difficulties surrounding the current global situation, the future looks bright.”

Webinar Series: Free Trade Agreements

EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Canada, Japan, Mexico and South Korea enable Ireland to increase its trade, GDP and national income. The FTAs allow Irish exporters to explore new opportunities as market access increases and they benefit from competitive advantage in doing business in these countries.

Join Enterprise Ireland as it hosts a webinar series on Free Trade Agreements and doing business in these four export markets: Canada, Japan, Mexico and South Korea.

Each webinar will be opened by Robert Troy TD, Minister of State Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with responsibility for Trade Promotion. The webinars feature contributions from market experts and guest speakers from Irish companies who will share their experiences on doing business in specific markets.

If you’re considering exporting to these markets, or scaling your existing export business, these webinars are for you.

Click on the links below to register for upcoming webinars.

Doing Business in Japan

Thursday, 17 June 2021, 9am BST

The EU Japan Economic Partnership Agreement provides a positive backdrop to Ireland Japan trading relations. This webinar will explore the experiences of key Irish business interests in Japan, and will outline the knowledge, networks and access supports available to capitalise on what is an increasingly important market for ambitious Irish exporters.

For the full agenda and to register, click here.

 

Doing Business in Mexico

Tuesday, 22 June 2021, 3pm BST

With duty-free trade on most goods and a simplification of the customs procedures, the latest 2018 EU-Mexico trade agreement has improved the already positive and prosperous relationship between Ireland and Mexico. This webinar features two market experts who will highlight opportunities and explain business culture and processes, as well as providing practical guidance for market entry.

For the full agenda and to register, click here.

 

Doing Business in South Korea

Thursday, 24 June 2021, 9am BST

The EU-South Korea FTA can provide enhanced business opportunities for Irish businesses. This webinar brings together experts on the topic to provide knowledge and insights on key elements of the FTA, and to enable Irish businesses to make use of the FTA to its fullest in doing business in South Korea.

For the full agenda and to register, click here.

Doing Business in Canada


Tuesday, 25 May 2021, 3pm BST

Attendees will learn more about the opportunities available in the Greater Montreal region, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and Europe, and what incentives are available to Irish companies looking to expand in North America.

Watch back on-demand, available here.

Helping innovative Irish start-ups to flourish


     

    In 2018, the Central Statistics Office reported that small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represented 99.8pc of enterprises in Ireland. Small indigenous Irish companies are the backbone of the Irish economy, opening new markets and creating job opportunities.

    “20 years ago, sectoral definitions such as fintech, agtech and digital health were unknown,” says Claire Carroll. “Now we are constantly seeing the emergence of new technologies, be it iterative within existing industries or new and disruptive sectors such as those that are supporting driverless cars, satellites, Artificial Intelligence (AI) or machine learning. In Ireland we must have an environment that contributes to these innovations, stays ahead and relevant so that we can drive jobs and exports.”

     

    High potential

    Claire says that the genesis for Enterprise Ireland’s Seed & Venture Capital schemes came over 27 years ago when Enterprise Ireland identified  the need for a functioning venture ecosystem to support the emergence of technology companies as it was not feasible for the state to fund a company’s journey “all the way from establishment, right up to the point where they’re able to stand on their own two feet, particularly the typical High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) companies that need to invest heavily in research and innovation, thereby delaying the timeline to cashflow positivity”.

    “Since then, we have had five Seed and Venture Capital Schemes, to help ensure that there is an available and effective overall funding ecosystem in Ireland. To date, €565m has been invested in funds. The most recent scheme of €175m was announced in Budget 2019, and to date four funds have received commitments, whilst a number of others have received an allocation and are scheduled to close over the coming months.”

    Enterprise Ireland recently ran an €82m Call for Expressions of Interest for venture fund managers which will lead to more funds being launched over the coming year.

    Claire says “The vision of the scheme is to foster a strong pipeline of high-growth, innovative businesses in the Irish economy, and help those indigenous companies at the early pre-seed or seed stage move into their scaling, Series A phase.

    “We need to support fast-growing and disruptive sectors such as fintech and agtech, amongst others. In 2019, we invested €10m in a new European agritech venture capital fund run by Yield Lab, a venture capital company for the sector. Up until very recently, there wasn’t a sufficient cohort of companies to require such a specialist fund. Likewise, Enterprise Ireland has invested €20m across two European fintech funds, Finch Capital and MiddleGame Ventures which will support Irish companies in these sectors and help them scale internationally. When Enterprise Ireland invests in a venture fund, the manager will invest twice what Enterprise Ireland has allocated to their fund into Irish companies – this leverage is at the centre of Enterprise Ireland’s strategy to bring external capital into the Irish SME sector.

    Claire highlights the Seed & Venture Capital schemes are also used to drive other aspects of Enterprise Ireland’s strategy such as support for women in business and regional development. The Irish venture sector has an above international average of women involved in investment decision making and we want to grow this further and also, most importantly increase the number of women-led businesses that attract VC funding. We expect our venture managers to ensure they have policies and processes that are supportive and encouraging to women entrepreneurs. Ensuring that Irish businesswomen realise their full business potential is critical to Irish economic prosperity. Likewise, Enterprise Ireland’s decision-making process around commitments to venture funds gives strong consideration to the extent to which the managers will either base themselves regionally or have a strategy to source their investments across the country and not simply around Dublin.

     

    Leverage investment

    Raising capital is often a challenge for Irish early-stage companies. A key piece of this most recent scheme is that, for those funds focused on the Pre-Seed to Seed Stages of development –  where there’s little revenue in the company – Enterprise Ireland can now invest an increased maximum share of up to 70pc of these funds. This was increased from 50pc in recognition of the challenges finding investors for early stage funds. At this stage of investment, the funds are often co-investing alongside the High Potential Start-Ups (HPSU) programme as companies raise their first external investment.

    “What we aim to do is leverage our money, rather than simply hand it out,” says Claire. “So, fund managers need to raise as much as they can from their own resources by ‘matching money’.

    For example, if they are targeting a €60m fund, they might get €20m from us and must raise the remaining €40m elsewhere. I think this is great, because depending on their strategy, that can effectively treble the leverage of Enterprise Ireland’s capital for Irish SMEs.”

    The €565m funding that has been invested to date has leveraged substantial additional external funding of over €1bn, directly benefiting over 740 Irish companies.

    To learn more about the scheme or to submit an expression of interest visit Seed & Venture Capital Fund

     

     

     

     

    Plenty to celebrate stateside this St Patrick’s Day

    St Patrick’s Day offers an unrivalled opportunity to showcase Irish business innovation to a US audience.

    The traditional meeting between the Taoiseach and US President is taking place virtually this year, leveraging our important ties and connectivity with our trans-Atlantic neighbour more than ever.  

    The USA remains the world’s largest consumer market, a $22 trillion dollar economy. It grew by 4% in Q4 last year and early projections for 2021 indicate further growth of 3.2%, a strong performance for a developed economy.

    Increasingly Irish companies succeed here by recognising that the USA is no more one market than Europe is, and that to penetrate it they must go in state by state. California’s economy is, after all, approximately the same size as that of the UK. New York’s is approximately the same size as South Korea.

     

    The Pandemic Pivot

    The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact, with unemployment currently at 6.9%, up from 3.5% prior to Covid, which was a 50-year low. Lockdowns vary by state but as a whole the US is a market where the pivot happened fast, and the return will too.

    One of the biggest trends we see is how major US multinationals, such as Facebook, Microsoft, and many others are embracing the lessons learned. They have ‘leaned in’ to the opportunities that remote working, accelerated technology adoption and virtual collaboration have presented.

    Interestingly, this has also led to a level of economic migration and mobility not seen in generations as more and more people also take advantage of operating remotely and move to less dense population centres.

    The crossing of the digital Rubicon has also led to accelerated growth in sectors that were once described as emerging, these include ecommerce, cybersecurity, and digital health. There has also been a marked increase in the demand for content driven by the rapid growth in usage and choice across stream platforms. These relatively sudden supply and demand shifts always result in direct and tangential opportunities, and threats.

    As people live more online, those providing back end solutions, such as data management (provision and support products and services) and security, are seeing potential for robust growth.

     

    Building Back Better

    Further bolstering the optimism for strong 2021 GDP growth is the economic stimulus plan put forth by President Biden, further supplemented by significant planned investment in infrastructure and the green economy. At time of writing the $1.9 Trillion stimulus plan has moved back to the US House of Representatives for final ratification, this is expected to provide significant economic stimulus across the US.

    Other sectors are of course challenged. International student numbers from the US to Ireland have fallen for obvious reasons. Consumer retail, for those that have not embraced ecommerce, is struggling, and other sectors that have historically relied on a tactile or physical element to the sales process, e.g. machinery, will naturally struggle more in a virtual environment.

    A big question affecting businesses, and unknown in terms of our ‘new normal’, is what airline travel will look like. Capacity is certainly not what it was pre-Covid and there are complex variables that impact this supply and demand dynamic, not least of which are staff and equipment availability. Thankfully we continue to be relatively well served on the trans-Atlantic route.

    Over the past 12 months Enterprise Ireland has also leaned in to supporting our clients to stabilise, reset and recover. Supports such as the Sustaining Enterprise Fund, Online Retail Scheme, Virtual Selling programme, Competitive Start, our many management training programmes and others have enabled companies not just to cope with the challenges of selling into the US and globally, but to compete for and capture the opportunities that now exist in our new normal.

     

    Virtual St Patrick’s Day Celebrations

    Enterprise Ireland is walking this walk too in our traditional St Patricks Day events, having taken the traditional week-long programme of events for St Patrick’s Day and working with our Team Ireland colleagues migrating it online. Where Team Ireland would normally have the Taoiseach, Ministers, and a programme of economic, political, social and cultural events from coast to coast and border to border, we have pivoted entirely and will instead be hosting a multi-faceted programme including a series of in-depth sectoral webinars.

    We are running high profile mainstream media and social campaigns this week too, to maximise the impact of St Patrick’s Day, raising the profile of Irish companies and of the Irish Advantage.

    None of us knows what the new normal will look like. We do know that it will not be a simple snapping back into the old ways. Over the past 12 months we have crossed the digital Rubicon. It is now up to all of us to embrace the digital opportunities on the other side. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you cannot, you are right”. We can.

     

    Join Enterprise Ireland USA for the ‘Ireland and the US: On Track to Getting Back’ virtual event on 16th March where senior business leaders from both sides of the Atlantic will discuss learnings from 2020, and powering growth in 2021. Register here.

     

    Getting There: Strategies to promote gender diversity in business

    At Enterprise Ireland, we have long since recognised that one of the keys to optimising our start-up sector in Ireland is to boost gender equality in business.

    Diversity in business is vital to reflect our modern, global economy and create growing, sustainable companies. Extensive international research has shown that diversity increases innovation and creativity, while research from McKinsey & Co revealed that gender diversity leads to improved productivity and increased profitability.

    However, promoting gender diversity takes work. “Back in 2011, only 7% of our High-Potential Start-Ups (HPSUs) included a woman on the founding team,” says Sheelagh Daly, Entrepreneurship Manager at Enterprise Ireland. “Seeing this, we put in place specific goals and plans to increase this, and now, in 2020, 24% of our HPSUs have a woman founder.”

    While Enterprise Ireland is well known for its entrepreneurship supports for women, increasing gender diversity in business leadership is a relatively new objective. Towards the end of 2018, Enterprise Ireland embarked on research to look at the broader issue of women in business to assess the current situation in Ireland and to see what could be done to improve the situation. The research revealed some unsettling statistics: that less than 20% of CEOs were women, falling to 9% in larger companies; that Ireland had the highest gender gap in self-employment in the EU; and that less than 10% of venture capital funding was going to companies with female founders. The research led to the publication of the Enterprise Ireland 2020 Action Plan for Women in Business.

    “The plan has four objectives,” explains Sheelagh. “To increase the number of women becoming entrepreneurs, to increase the number of women founders in HPSUs, to increase the number of women-led companies growing internationally, and to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions in companies in Ireland. All these objectives are inter-connected, so to achieve one of them you need to achieve all of them.

    “We’ve set ambitious targets for ourselves – we’d like to double the number of women-led companies in the export market by 2025.” says Daly.

    Promoting female entrepreneurs

    While the figures have improved immensely over the past few years, it’s clear there are still some physical and psychological barriers that pose more of a challenge for women in business. For instance, women still bear the brunt of unpaid work in Ireland; in 2019, the ‘Caring and Unpaid Work in Ireland Report’ from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and the Economic and Social Research Institute revealed that 45% of women provide care for children and older adults on a daily basis, compared with only 29% of men. Networking opportunities, mentors and the visibility of women leaders in enterprise have also been identified as important for women in business.

    “One of the initiatives we developed to address the barriers to funding for women founders is a women-specific call for the Competitive Start Fund (CSF), a fund for early-stage start-ups with the potential to turn into HPSUs, with specific CSF calls for women entrepreneurs. In 2020, 42% of the CSF projects awarded were led by female founders.” says Daly.

    “We also offer the ‘Innovate’ accelerator programme for women entrepreneurs which provides mentoring and a chance for women entrepreneurs to network and learn from each other.

    This is also what is done in Going for Growth, an initiative supported by Enterprise Ireland to offer peer support along with the mentoring piece from successful women entrepreneurs through interactive round table sessions.”

    “Another important initiative is the Part-time Key Manager Grant, which we introduced last year to facilitate the recruitment of part-time senior managers. The grant is available for both men and women, but aims to attract more women to senior management roles.”

     

    Accessible help

    While the specific female entrepreneur supports outlined above give gender equality a significant boost, a key aim at Enterprise Ireland is to make every programme accessible for all. For instance, the first stop for most entrepreneurs is Ireland’s network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), with 31 offices in the country. The New Frontiers programme is delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland by Third Level Institutes in 16 locations around Ireland and helps entrepreneurs develop their business in readiness for further investment without significant financial risk.

    “We see really strong companies led by women at every stage of their journey,” says Sheelagh. “The supports are there, and we are really keen for more women to avail of those supports. I do believe that there are a lot of women with great ideas and the ability to put them into action; it’s then about the confidence to take that leap and use supports like the New Frontiers programme and aids from the LEOs. Those supports are there and can lessen the risk for both men and women when developing a new business.”

    “Through these initiatives, Enterprise Ireland seeks to address the challenges facing women in business and to inspire and accelerate the growth of Irish businesses by advancing gender diversity in leadership teams and excellence in our start-up sector.”

    Start-Up Showcase class of 2020: Proving again the ambition and resilience of Ireland’s entrepreneurs

    Starting a business is a difficult process at any time, but in 2020, it proved especially challenging, thanks to the uncertainty and difficulties created by the Covid-19 pandemic. But Irish entrepreneurs are nothing if not brave and ambitious, and 2020 was merely a year to show just how resilient and resourceful they are.

    In fact, despite having to overcome issues such as remote working and lockdowns, many new start-ups found opportunity within the Covid-19 crisis, either by pivoting their business or finding solutions to problems faced by people and countries dealing with the pandemic. To support their level of bravery and true global ambition, Enterprise Ireland approved more than €48 million in funding for new start-up companies and other start-up projects impacted by the pandemic in 2020. This figure included investment in 125 founding teams, supporting 80 companies through its High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) fund and 45 through its Competitive Start Fund (CSF) programme.

    The achievements of these start-ups were celebrated at this year’s Start-Up Showcase, which took place virtually on Wednesday 24th February and was officially launched by An Taoiseach Michéal Martin. Participants at the event included all of the HPSU and the CSF companies and a representative from each of the 13 New Frontiers programmes supported by Enterprise Ireland.

    “Most of the 125 companies at Showcase came through over the last 11 months, so the message is that we’re very much still open for business,” says Jenny Melia, Enterprise Ireland Divisional Manager, HPSU. 

    “The four main areas that we see are ICT, life sciences, fintech and food. In the last year we have adjusted to working remotely and living remotely, and many companies have been finding solutions to aid our new living and working needs, or pivoting their existing offerings to cater for this new need.”

    Funding proved difficult for new start-ups in 2020; recognising this, Enterprise Ireland provided support to existing start-up projects through the Sustainable Enterprise Fund for HPSUs, and invested earlier into some new start-ups. “There is risk involved, but we decided to go in earlier into some projects and help them deliver on their technical and commercial milestones,” explains Jenny. “Because of Covid-19, we might see that a company has had its clinical trials postponed or perhaps a company trialling a software product had to put the test on the long finger. In these cases, if the ingredients were right, we might invest a little earlier than usual. Another important aspect for us was to keep founding teams together because companies have had to work so hard to get the right talent in place and the last thing you want is to see those teams start to fragment.”

     

    Stand-out projects

    Every company featured at Showcase is fulfilling a very real need, and has the potential to globally impact their sector. “One of the most exciting is a company called Novus Diagnostics,” says Jenny. “The two founders came through DCU and have developed a rapid test for sepsis – about 11 million people die worldwide every year from sepsis, and every hour that’s missed in the diagnosis pushed up the mortality rate. As well as securing HPSU funding, the team has won EU funding, which is very competitive.

    “Another interesting company that has come through is Iamus Technologies, which has developed a smart robot for chicken breeding houses. The robot moves through the houses and measures the environment, the temperature, noting if any of the chicks are sick and alerting anything suspicious in real time. If anything goes wrong, it can spread very quickly in these environments, so having that alert in real time is really valuable. I think this is a great example of the strength we have in the agritech sector.”

     

    Supporting female and regional entrepreneurs

    Of particular interest is the promotion of women in business, and in 2020, almost 24% of the 80 new HPSUs supported by Enterprise Ireland are led by female entrepreneurs. And, 42% of the CSF projects awarded last year were led by female founders in sectors as diverse as climate change, fintech and edtech – proving that female entrepreneurship is incredibly strong in Ireland.

    Our experience over the years has shown us that it’s not just about the funding but it’s also about the networking and capability development,”

    “Alongside our female focus in the CSF, we set up a development programme called Innovate, where the female founders are networking and learning from each other, as well as learning from female entrepreneurs that have gone before them. We have found that this programme, alongside the funding and any other mentoring, has helped us to help the companies become investment-ready faster.”

    Another area of interest is to promote regional development by ensuring entrepreneurs all over the country receive the support their need. “We work closely with the four business incubation centres around Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) to ensure the companies from around Ireland are not just getting the funding support but they’re also getting the hands-on support in terms of building out the company. Balanced regional development is one of the key priorities for us at Enterprise Ireland.”

    Jenny says that the intensity of this engagement is paying off; this is reflected in 2020’s figures, with a 50/50 split between new projects based in and outside Dublin in 2020. This reflects higher numbers in the West than in 2019, and more than double the numbers in the South.

     

    Support from start to finish

    Representatives from the New Frontiers national entrepreneurship programme also took part in the Showcase, reflecting the highly connective nature of Ireland’s start-up scene. Some companies complete New Frontiers and progress to CSF or directly to HPSU; others might be growing more slowly and will engage with our colleagues in the LEOs as they begin to build out their business,” says Jenny.

    Both the CSF and the HPSU maintain strong links with Ireland’s network of LEOs and the New Frontiers programme to recognise new companies with great ideas as they emerge, getting ready to support them as they grow their idea into an innovative and thriving business. For entrepreneurs, knowing that this support is available from start to finish is encouraging, especially as we continue to navigate through the difficult economic environment created by Covid-19 and Brexit in 2021.

     

    New Frontiers: Turning great ideas into promising businesses

    Great ideas are in the Irish DNA, but turning these ideas into viable businesses takes time, ambition, hard work and support.

    To help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into promising businesses, Ireland has built up a solid network of supports for early stage start-ups, with a high level of connectivity to ensure that businesses can access the right support at the right time.

    Many entrepreneurs begin their business journey at the Local Enterprise Office (LEO), which offers a wide range of experience, skills and services.

    Typical supports offered by the LEOs include training and mentoring programmes, access to financial support and microfinance loans, general business advice and help with business planning.  and with 31 LEOs nationwide, entrepreneurs don’t have to travel far to find business support.

    The LEOs are also the front door into other support services such as the local authorities, Enterprise Ireland and State agencies, including the Department of Social Protection, Skillnets, Education and Training Boards, Microfinance Ireland, Revenue and Fáilte Ireland.

    The beauty of the structure is that it’s inter-connected,” explains Teri Smith, manager at Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) division. 

    “At the HPSU, we would communicate with the LEOs and other starter programmes like New Frontiers, so a suitable business can very readily come onto our radar if they’re going through those channels, which allows us to transition them at the right time.” 

    “From an Enterprise Ireland point of view, a lot of entrepreneurs would have started out with LEO supports or New Frontiers; when they have their business plan, their prototype and their market opportunities mapped out, and ready to raise seed investment, that’s generally when they transition to Enterprise Ireland.”

     

    New Frontiers

    The highly regarded New Frontiers programme is a popular starting point for many entrepreneurs. Like the LEO supports, New Frontiers is available nationwide and is delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland by Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities in 16 locations around Ireland. Since Enterprise Ireland began managing the programme in 2012, 4,700 individuals have participated in New Frontiers, with 1,430 going on to the immersive Phase 2 of the programme.

    “New Frontiers is a good starting point,” says Teri. “Phase 1 can be done while you’re still in your day job, so you don’t have to go ‘all in’ to progress your idea and see if it has the potential to turn into a business.” 

    The programme is aimed at early-stage entrepreneurs with business ideas from across all sectors including food & consumer products; information & communication technology; engineering & electronics; medical devices; biotechnology; pharma, digital media; cleantech/renewable energy;

    They could also be developing new solutions that would have export potential, or an innovative alternative to what is mainstream in the marketplace. Entrepreneurs would have to have qualified that there is market potential for their product in order to be eligible for a place on the programme.

    New Frontiers is delivered in three phases. Currently offered online due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, Phase I consists of weekend and evening workshops to research and test the market potential of the idea. By the end of this phase, participants should have a good idea as to whether their idea can become a viable business – and be confident enough to leave their job or take a career break to immerse themselves in their fledgling business.

    Entrepreneurs who have successfully completed Phase 1 can apply for Phase 2, which is a full-time intensive programme that focuses on developing and validating the business proposition. Participants are supported throughout this phase with workshops, mentoring, regular milestone reviews, a free co-working space and guidance from the programme team.

    In addition, a tax-free stipend of €15,000 is paid directly to the entrepreneur over a six-month period, along with web hosting and support worth $15,000 from Amazon.  No equity is taken in your business in exchange for this support package.

    Upon successful completed of Phase 2, participants can also apply For Phase 3, which focuses on bringing the product/service to market and preparing to acquire further funding.

    Many New Frontiers participants have progressed on to Enterprise Ireland supports such as the Competitive Start Fund and the High Potential Start-Up Fund; these include Wellola, Video Sherpa, Swyft Energy, Snapfix, Examfly, LiveCosts, Positive Carbon and Safecility. And from there, great things can be achieved.

    For instance, Immersive VR Education in Waterford, one of the 2016 participants, raised €6.75 million following a successful IPO in 2018. In 2020, Cork ed-tech company and New Frontiers graduate TeachKloud raised €750,000, with investment led by Frontline Ventures and ed-tech investor Sean Tai. And in terms of creating employment, 2017 participants Xerotech has established an R&D centre in Claregalway with space for 40 engineers.

    The highly connected nature of Ireland’s supports for early-stage entrepreneurs means that the sky really is the limit for ambitious innovators. Great ideas with huge potential are quickly identified and given the right support to bring them as far as possible, furthering our island’s reputation as a hotbed of promising start-ups.

    For more information on New Frontiers, including a calendar of starting dates across the country, visit www.newfrontiers.ie

    The New UK – Succeeding in a Changing Market

    The UK Market is evolving. Irish companies are demonstrating incredible resilience in adapting to a changing landscape and are now looking to the future. Join our webinar on February 11th at 9am ‘The New UK: Succeeding in a Changing Market’.

    During this webinar we will be joined by a panel of guests to explore changes underway in the UK and Ireland’s unique relationship with this major market on our doorstep. Panellists include:

    • Julie Sinnamon, CEO Enterprise Ireland
    • Adrian O’Neill, Ambassador of Ireland to the United Kingdom
    • Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
    • Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region

    The CEO of Simon-Kucher & Partners, a leading global consultancy specialising in top-line growth strategies, will share his insights on how to succeed in this new world and profit levers to consider.

    The webinar will also see CEOs from a range of Irish companies including Dublin AerospaceEI ElectronicsVRAIEPS, and Gifts Direct/The Irish Store, sharing their UK growth strategies – inspiring others with growth ambition.

    Register to view our on-demand webinar.