Companies backed by Enterprise Ireland created 13,600 jobs in this country in 2012, a net gain in employment of 3,800.

Enterprise Ireland, which supports the growth and development of Irish exporting companies, said this was the highest net gain for Irish companies since 2006.

In its end of year statement, the agency stated that employment in client companies was 172,000 last year. 147,000 of these are full-time positions.

Highlights for 2012 included the agency supporting the largest ever investment in Research and Development by an Irish company; Kerry Group's €100m global food innovation centre of excellence in Naas, which will generate 900 jobs.

Enterprise Ireland also noted that a number of Irish firms were bought by multinational companies last year, including IBM's deal to buy Cúram, Bloomberg's purchase of PolarLake, and OmniPay, which was bought by First Data Corporation.

It said the technological and skills background of these Irish companies will result in helping embed multinational companies even deeper in Ireland.

The agency also continued to work closely with Science Foundation Ireland to drive spin-out companies from higher educational institutes.

It continued to help Irish companies win funding from Europe for innovative research.

Since 2007, Enterprise Ireland has helped Irish companies secure €485m from the 7th EU Framework Programme and the European Space Agency.

''We are extremely proud of the companies we work with and their contribution to the Irish State. They have proved to be resilient and relentless in their pursuit of new market opportunities and they are to be commended on their success,'' commented Enterprise Ireland's Chief Executive Frank Ryan.

''Enterprise Ireland is determined to continue to support their job creation initiatives and identify and help secure overseas business in established and high growth markets. This will not only assist growth in exporting businesses, but local economies in every county in Ireland,'' he added.

But he also cautioned that 2013 will be a year of continuing challenges and Enterprise Ireland companies will not become complacent.

''Although 2013 will be another difficult year, this Government is determined to continually improve our supports to domestic job-creating businesses through improvements in access to finance and reductions in costs,'' said Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton.

''With the right supports I am confident that these businesses can build on this year’s performance and get more people back to work,'' he said.