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Minister McEntee Urges Rural Businesses to Think Big, Act Smart, and Embrace Innovation in all its Guises

The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Shane McEntee TD, today urged all entrepreneurs in rural areas to think big, act smart, and embrace innovation in all its forms. Speaking at the 6th annual awards ceremony of the JFC Innovation Awards for Rural Business in the Clayton Hotel, Galway, the Minister endorsed the view that start-up businesses are one of the sectors where innovation would contribute to economic recovery and strong regional economies.

The Minister congratulated the award organisers - Teagasc, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Northern Ireland, the Irish Local Development Network, the Irish Farmers Journal, and the sponsor, JFC - for running a timely and successful competition and commended the ambition demonstrated by all the applicants to the JFC Innovation Awards for Rural Business.

Referring to the role of innovation in the agri and marine food sectors and rural tourism the Minister said that "The Food Harvest 2020 report has identified the importance of innovation and practical actions to facilitate and promote it at all levels." These include the granting of over 200 Innovation Vouchers to companies to explore commercial ideas and innovative techniques with 3rd level institutions; the roll out of science-based innovation, new product development (NPD) and testing support for over 300 food business clients in Teagasc's new Technology Support for Food SMEs, and the recent launch of FoodWorks by Teagasc, Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland to identify and support small food entrepreneurs with scalable business ideas. The Minister highlighted the resilience of small food businesses, which had increased sales by 7% a year since 2007. 

Remarking on the importance of building the innovation or 'ideas' component of economic growth, the Minister stated that "other key factors such as our strong educational standards, an export focus, and a favourable tax and regulatory environment" are also critical. The Minister recalled that the World Competitiveness Report 2010 ranked Ireland 1st for corporate taxes that encourage entrepreneurial activity; 4th for availability of skilled labour; 4th for having a culture that is open to new ideas; and 6th for the productivity of our labour force. He emphasised that the Government is committed to improving these rankings and in this context, pointed to measures introduced in Budget 2012 such as those related to corporation tax and R&D tax credits aimed at encouraging small and medium sized businesses to innovate further.

In concluding, the Minister acknowledged the tough economic challenges facing the country but stated "it is my firm belief that if we all focus our energies on doing things efficiently, identify new opportunities, work cohesively and avail of the supports provided by the State, there is significant potential to grow the small business sector, particularly in rural areas because we have an abundance of natural bio-resources, a well earned reputation, an export focus, and an entrepreneurial culture and ethos. The future can indeed be bright if we bring together all these strands and fully embrace innovation."

Date Released: 08 May 2012