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Issue 2 2018

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Supporting Innovation in SMEs Cork Chamber has been collaborating as the Irish project partner on the Interreg Europe RATIO* project since its initiation in 2016 with a specific focus on the identification of actions to support innovation in rural based SMEs. In collaboration with our regional project stakeholder group, we have developed a set of recommendations to support and diversify the current operating environment. We grouped these recommendations into three main opportunity areas

1 Clusters and Collaboration 2 Human Capital 3 Access to Finance

In brief, we believe there is a strong case developing a strategic framework for clusters via a National Cluster Policy. We highlight the value-add of supported, collaborative business networks at local level and propose the increased emphasis on these, and their importance in connecting with more centralised networks. We also emphasise the opportunity of further developing the Enterprise Centre (E Centre) network offering, to increase their effectiveness in meeting the needs of SMEs. A key point identified in the regional analysis was the capacity of rural based SMEs to attract and retain people with valuable skills. Discussions with stakeholders highlighted the importance for regional growth, innovation and competitiveness of policies and practices to help businesses attract, retain and develop a talented workforce. Currently, the LEO network offers considerable support for skills development,

RATIO European Project Partners visit the Ludgate Hub, Skibbereen.

particularly in the area of business skills through training and mentoring. Other training supports are available through the Skillnets programme. However, to complement these supports, it was concluded that ancillary actions are needed, for example targeted communications focused on the attractions of the rural areas in terms of quality of life. This, and the potential associated with developing HR focused training courses via the LEO network for SME’s to improve recruitment, retention and incentivising of employees is included within the recommendations for consideration. Finally, the issues associated with accessing alternative and emerging

Cork Chamber Economic Bulletin contact: Michelle O’Sullivan, Public Affairs Executive e: michelle@corkchamber.ie / t: 021 4530132

sources of finance for entrepreneurship were at the forefront, particularly on getting high potential start-ups investor ready. With this we are proposing the development of training, advice and mentoring supports that prepare SMEs for private equity investment, with a particular focus on business pitching. We believe that in collaboration with our regional stakeholders we have developed a set of practical recommendations that have the highest long-term value to the continued development and strengthening of an innovative and competitive SME culture. *The RATIO acronym stands for Regional Actions to Innovate Operational Programmes (RATIO) involves partner organisations from Spain, Portugal, Latvia, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Italy and Ireland.



Economic Trends Survey Results


Executive Summary The first Economic Trends Survey of 2018 reflects the business experiences of Cork Chamber members over the course of January, February and March. The survey gathered information on the financial experiences of Cork Chamber member organisations, and also member opinions on workplace inclusion and diversity, policies and progress. In Q1 2018, we see business confidence being reported at 91%, even though a decrease on the most recent surveyed figure of 95% it is very positive and interestingly mirrors that reported for Q1 of 2017. Alongside this we see the continued consistency amongst members when asked about overall confidence in the Irish economy, with 46% reporting more confidence, showing no significant deviation across recent surveys.

RESPONDING BUSINESS The responding businesses represent a broad cross section of business sizes. Micro Enterprise (2 - 10)

Over 201 Between 51 - 100




Between 101 - 200




They also represent of a broad range of sectors. 15%


Industry/ Manufacturing

Science and Technology


Tourism, Travel Culture and Arts


There is definitely progress to be made especially when it comes to provision of childcare supports/ facilities with a large number of members noting the prohibitive costs of childcare as a barrier to lower income households taking up employment opportunities. We are acutely aware of this as a persistent challenge to business as well as from a socio-economic perspective and we are committed to being part of the change in addressing this challenge.


Threats to Business Growth

1. Brexit, & Skills Availability 2. Changing Consumer Spending/ Reduced Orders 3. Cost Competitiveness

Between 11 - 50

Sole Trader

Inclusion and diversity in the workplace is a particular focus for Cork Chamber as we start out in 2018 with a greater emphasis on this. It is encouraging to report the efforts of members in this area and via their day to day practices with 72% supporting flexible working hours (also noted as one of the main challenge to inclusion and diversity), and 74% of those surveyed highlighting the promotion of continuous professional training and education opportunities.



Representative Respondents


The Q1 survey saw the re-emergence of Brexit as the number one threat to business, alongside skills availability. In the previous Q4 2017 survey, the Top 3 threats reported were Cost Competitiveness, Availability of Housing/ Rental Accommodation for Employees and Skills Availability.





Services (Including Financial)



Response Percent %


No Change



42% 44%







Business confidence remains high at 91%, comparing well with the 95% reported for Q4 2017.

The % reporting an increase in turnover and net profit for Q1 2018 is down on the previous quarter reported at 65% and 54% respectively, however there is a strong 70% reporting an expected increase in net profits for the 12 month ahead.

Inclusion & Diversity in the Workplace

Of those we asked which policies are supported currently:

As part of the recent survey we asked members about their organisational experiences and while there are persistent challenges it is encouraging to note the engagement with the topic and efforts ongoing.


Flexible Working Hours


Work From Home Options

Responding companies with active policies

Headline Comments:


“T “A

he main point is to ensure constructive discussions are live in the organisation”

Yes No

s opposed to discussing D&I in terms of being a problem, change the dialogue more to the benefits and successes of D&I”

Childcare Facility /Support



Employee Assistance Programme



Continuous Professional Training & Education Opportunities


Health & Wellbeing Programme


ack of females applying for certain types of roles, apprenticeships, operations and maintenance”


Education For Inclusion & Diversity In The Work Place

We asked members what the significant challenges are, here’s what you told us.

Response Percent %



Neither Agree nor Disagree

62% 47%


38% 22%


Equal Pay For Equal Work

Flexible Working Hours


Remote Working Options


Education For Inclusion & Diversity

36% 13%

Access To Childcare


The sentiment surveyed for Q1 2018 is similar to that reported in Q4 2017, which had 48% reporting a more confident sentiment.








“As a country and city in particular, we need to spend seriously on transportation infrastructure” Paul Dennehy, Arachas Corporate Brokers “Tax harmonisation for e-commerce as retailers in Ireland are at a disadvantage to countries with an e-commerce platform whose costings are lower, and whose VAT rates are less than those in Ireland” Patrick Leader, Leader Menswear


EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK Change to employee numbers over Q1 2018




Stay the same



Expected changes to employee numbers over the next 12 months



“Public infrastructure - a lot of productivity is lost through poor infrastructure in the greater Cork area” (Anonymous)


Stay the same



Number of businesses with vacancies advertised currently

“Regional development is crucial as it has social as well as economic benefits” John Finn, Treasury Solutions

Yes No

30% 70%

Engineers (across a range of disciplines) is the No. 1 Difficult to Fill Vacancy, consistent with recent surveys.

We thank members for their valuable input. The work of Cork Chamber is shaped by you and for you, and your participation is key in guiding our focus as we promote and advocate for an ever-thriving Cork region.

January NK Communications announced 25 new positions in Cork and Limerick Data Centre development taking shape in Little Island as joint venture between JCD Group and US firm T5 Data Centres announced

18 Q1 20


February IT firm Ergo brings 100 new jobs to Cork and Dublin

50 new jobs @ Financial Services provider Apex Fund Services

200 new jobs @ Clearstream Global Securities Services March 50 new jobs @ Cyber Security firm Keeper Security, opening of new EMEA office

70 new jobs @ Pilz, opening of new software development centre

Build, Grow, Transform – The KPMG Inspire Series comes to Cork KPMG is committed to sharing the very best business insights on how to build, grow and transform a business. KPMG Private Enterprise has a long and proud history of working with entrepreneurs in Munster and indeed throughout Ireland, helping them to move through the various stages of the development of their businesses, from the early days to scaling up. According to KPMG’s Cork based partner Michael Lynch, “We’re always looking for new ways to share insights and business success stories and that’s what led us to launch the KPMG Inspire Series.” With this in mind, the first Cork Inspire Series event takes place in June featuring entrepreneur Mark Little. Mark started his career in RTE and then sold his Storyful business to News Corporation. He’s now CEO of Neva Labs and intends to use the latest artificial intelligence (AI) to restore “truth and trust” to the distribution of information at a time when tech companies have been criticised for their role in the spread of “fake news”. KPMG’s Michael Lynch notes that “There’s a real hunger amongst our clients to share and learn more about

building and growing a business in a fast changing world and we’re delighted that Mark Little will be joining us in Cork in June for our first Inspire Series in the city.” Previous speakers in the series have included Nick Wheeler, founder of online shirt retailing success story Charles Tyrhitt and more recently, Professor David Robertson - a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Robertson is the award-winning author of Brick by Brick: How Lego Rewrote the Rules of Innovation, which describes the company’s near bankruptcy and subsequent spectacular recovery. KPMG partner Michael Lynch concludes that Irish businesses are naturally innovative. “Irish businesses have had to be innovative – post crisis in particular they had to really think about every aspect of what they do and in many cases the results are hugely impressive. We hope to help that process further by sharing more insights at the Inspire Series in Cork in June.”

At the heart of business in Ireland © 2018 KPMG, an Irish partnership

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Cork Chamber - Economic Bulletin

10/01/2018 10:17

Profile for Cork Chamber

Cork Chamber Economic Bulletin Issue 2, 2018  

Cork Chamber Economic Bulletin Issue 2, 2018. Every quarter we ask for your views on key opportunities and challenges facing your business t...

Cork Chamber Economic Bulletin Issue 2, 2018  

Cork Chamber Economic Bulletin Issue 2, 2018. Every quarter we ask for your views on key opportunities and challenges facing your business t...