€85m fund to help Irish businesses embrace digital technology

20 Jun 2022

Image: © SFIO CRACHO/Stock.adobe.com

The Digital Transition Fund will give grants to help businesses use new software, equipment, automation and AI, with €10m available for 2022.

The Government is launching a new €85m fund to help businesses move forward on their digital journey and develop new products, services and processes.

Announced in Ireland’s 2022 Budget, the Digital Transition Fund aims to address the gap between digitally enabled firms and businesses with low levels of digital maturity.

Grants will be given to eligible companies to use technology such as AI, cloud computing and big data to improve their products, processes, supply chains and services. The funding will cover new software, equipment and staff training.

The fund will be administered by Enterprise Ireland, with €85m available between now and 2026 and €10m available in 2022.

Speaking about the new fund, Tánaiste and Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD, said digital technology has “massively disrupted traditional ways” of doing business and improved everyday lives in many ways.

“The trend is only going one way and our lives are only going to become more integrated with digital technology,” Varadkar added. “That is why we need to make sure our SMEs are prepared.

“This €85m will fund businesses looking to use cutting-edge technology like artificial intelligence to improve how they make their products and services.”

To support businesses going digital, a new website is being developed to help companies assess their needs and point them towards the next steps to embrace digital technology within their business.

A series of Grow Digital workshops are also planned in regional locations for the end of June and throughout July. These workshops will be hosted by Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation​ Robert Troy, TD, who said it is “vital” that companies seize digitalisation opportunities.

“Digital technologies can reduce costs for businesses by making processes like invoicing, stock management and supply chain logistics much more efficient,” Troy said. “In addition, the use of digital technologies will assist companies in reducing their carbon footprint and helping to tackle climate change.

“This funding will assist companies in staying competitive, resilient and productive,” he added.

One step closer to Digital Innovation Hubs

Meanwhile, two Irish locations are one step closer to being fully approved as European Digital Innovation Hubs.

The European Commission has deemed the CeADAR applied AI centre based at University College Dublin and the FactoryxChange consortium in the midlands as eligible to be co-funded under the Digital Europe Programme.

The EU is investing more than €700m to co-fund a network of hubs that will provide the expertise to help companies with digital challenges. Each Irish hub is set to receive annual funding of €1.9m from both the EU and the Irish Government.

If successful, these new hubs will work with local SMEs and public sector bodies to help them incorporate the benefits of digital technology in their operations, no matter what stage they are currently at.

Through the evaluation process, two other candidate hubs from Ireland have been deemed eligible to join the EU-wide network, but could not be funded due to European Commission budgetary restraints. These are Data2Sustain, a consortium led by Atlantic Technological University in Sligo, and Entire, a consortium led by Tyndall National Institute in Cork.

“This new network, once approved, will help enterprises all around the country to realise the huge opportunities the digital economy presents to improve services, enhance customer experience and increase competitiveness,” Troy said.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic