Ireland tops EU for SME 'innovation' amid decline in funding
The European Commission has released new data suggesting that Ireland's small businesses rank highest in the EU for "innovation".
The Commission's "digital scoreboard" says Irish SMEs came out on top in a comparison among 28 member states because of their strong record of "in-house innovation, the fast growth of jobs in the Irish innovation sector and the high growth in knowledge-intensive industries".
However, the Commission also said that finance for Irish businesses has declined in the last 12 months by at least 5pc.
And it claims that the venture capital investments have gone down by 8.8pc, a figure that appears to clash with rival statistics from the Irish Venture Capital Association, which has reported a doubling of venture funding in the first three months of the year to €237m.
The bulk of the Commission's positive report on Ireland is associated with licence and patent revenues from abroad.
The Commission was unable to clarify whether this includes revenue from multinational firms that have bases in Ireland.
Earlier this week, the Central Statistics Office came under fire for not explaining growth figures it published suggesting that Ireland's GDP grew by 26pc last year while its GNP grew by 18pc.
The CSO's figures appeared to be partly based on corporate 'inversions' last year, where large multinational firms redesignated Ireland as their corporate base for tax-avoidance reasons.
"Ireland is the leader for innovation in small and medium-sized companies, followed by Germany, Luxembourg, France, and Austria," said a spokesman for the Commission.
"These countries are characterised by high shares of SMEs involved in innovation activities. They introduce more innovative products and generate more new jobs in fast-growing young companies."
According to the European Commission, Sweden is the EU's "innovation leader", followed by Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands.
Sweden leads European "innovation" in human resources and "quality of academic research", according to the Commission.
Finland is top for "financial framework conditions". Germany has the best score for "private investment in innovation" while Belgium leads in "innovation networks and collaboration".
Overall, the fastest growing "innovators" are Latvia, Malta, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the UK, according to the European Commission.
Earlier this year, a similar report from the European Commission indicated that Ireland ranked first of 28 EU countries at incorporating technology at work, a jump from third place last year. It said that Ireland scores especially well in eCommerce and online sales compared to EU rivals.
Just under a third (32pc) of Irish small to medium-sized businesses sell products or services online, said the European Commission. This is twice the average among European small businesses, which stands at just 16pc.
Similarly, Irish small and medium-sized businesses record 19pc of turnover from eCommerce activities, compared to an average of 9pc of turnover across the rest of the EU.
Ireland also tops the European tables for selling online across borders, with 16pc of small and medium-sized firms trading on the internet with cross-border business partners.
This compares to a European average of just 7.5pc. However, the report also showed that Ireland lies 20th in broadband take-up.