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This publication presents an OECD country review of small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) and entrepreneurship policy in Ireland. It was prepared at the request of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) in the Irish Government and is part of the series of OECD Country Reviews on SME and Entrepreneurship Policy undertaken by the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities. In addition to Ireland, country reviews have covered Canada, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Poland, the Russian Federation and Thailand.

The series provides a tool for assessing the design and implementation of SME and entrepreneurship policy, identifying areas for improvement and sharing policy experiences among countries. The reviews are based on a standard methodology, which includes a diagnostic questionnaire completed by national government authorities, a factfinding mission by an OECD team to hold detailed interviews with policy and business stakeholders, and discussion of a draft report at a peer review session in the OECD Working Party on SMEs and Entrepreneurship (WPSMEE). The report of the Ireland review was discussed by the WPSMEE in April 2019 and approved by written procedure in September 2019.

The country reviews typically include one or two thematic chapters on issues of special relevance for the reviewed country, as agreed between the OECD and the country concerned. This review has two thematic chapters, one on SME productivity and the other on business development services.

The report shows that Ireland’s SMEs and entrepreneurs operate in a broadly favourable business environment and that Ireland has a solid and comprehensive set of programmes targeted at SMEs and entrepreneurs. In many areas of intervention, Ireland’s policy approach could be considered as best practice internationally, such as in regulation, innovation, encouragement for high potential start ups, and opening up public procurement to SMEs. In spite of the solid overall policy framework, some improvements could be made to achieve priorities identified in this report, notably lifting productivity growth in SMEs, increasing the start-up rate, spreading entrepreneurship across all segments of the population, scaling up micro and small enterprises, increasing SME exports, and strengthening local entrepreneurship ecosystems.

The report offers policy recommendations to help achieve these ambitions. The recommendations fall across a number of areas. For example, the policy formulation and delivery framework would benefit from a unified SME and entrepreneurship strategy document. R&D and innovation policies could be made more SME-friendly. More could be done to foster networks among enterprises to deliver policy for innovation and skills. Access to finance and financial literacy need to be strengthened for SMEs and entrepreneurs. Initiatives are needed to stimulate greater numbers of SMEs to become active abroad. Managerial skills and practices in SMEs also need to be upgraded and further attention paid to increasing SME workforce skills.

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© OECD 2019

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