Exports from Irish companies supported by Enterprise Ireland reached record levels last year as they broke through the €16 billion mark for the first time.

Figures from Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation show that value of these companies' exports last year was €16.2 billion, up 6.6% on figures from 2011.

The greatest gains were in the life sciences, engineering, electronics and clean-tech sector, which saw exports rise 16% to €2.5 billion.

The value of software and public procurement exports also saw significant growth, rising 19% to almost €1.03 billion in 2012.

Over €1.78 billion worth of these exports went to the US and Canada, a 20% increase on 2011.

Meanwhile, exports to the Asian Pacific rose 17% to €1.02 billion, while figures for Latin America were up 24% to €138 million.

Enterprise Ireland also said today that its chief executive Frank Ryan is to retire in November after ten years in the job.

A recruitment process to find his successor will begin in the coming weeks.

Mr Ryan said that Enterprise Ireland companies are responsible for 300,000 jobs and spend over €18 billion in the Irish economy each year by winning business all over the world.

''It is especially encouraging to see significant gains in established markets like North America, the High Growth Economies of Asia Pacific and record performances from advanced engineering, software and medical device sectors,'' he added.