Enterprise Ireland launches Covid-19 fund for small enterprises

7 May 2020

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Enterprise Ireland is offering short-term funding of €25,000 to €50,000 to eligible small enterprises to support them through the Covid-19 crisis.

Today (7 May), Enterprise Ireland announced that, as part of the €180m Sustaining Enterprise Fund recently announced by the Government, it will administer a specific Sustaining Enterprise Fund to help small enterprises during Covid-19.

The fund will provide between €25,000 and €50,000 in a short-term funding injection to eligible smaller companies to support business continuity and strengthen their ability to return to growth.

To be eligible for the funding, a company must have suffered, or be projected to suffer, a 15pc or more reduction in actual or projected turnover or profit as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Sustaining Enterprise Fund was recently listed as one of the business supports that start-up group Scale Ireland wanted to see improved by the Government. Scale Ireland said that while it welcomed the fund, it had “not been appropriately designed for innovation-driven companies” and had left some businesses excluded from supports.

Supporting businesses of all sizes

According to Enterprise Ireland, 60pc of the companies that have engaged with the agency since March said that Covid-19 has had a “very negative or critical impact” on their business to date.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD, said: “The impact of Covid-19 presents unprecedented difficulties for businesses who have already spent the past three years preparing for the possible consequences of Brexit, but those preparations will stand to us.”

Last weekend, the Government announced a major expansion of supports for businesses impacted by Covid-19, with a new €6.5bn package. Humphreys said that the Government now has a comprehensive suite of supports for firms of all sizes, which includes grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities to improve cashflow for SMEs.

“This package, which includes the €180m Sustaining Enterprise Fund, has been developed to meet the varying needs of Irish enterprise and the supports are very specifically targeted by size, sector and need,” she added.

Financial planning

Speaking about the need for supports, Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon said: “This is a very serious and challenging time for businesses with many facing acute challenges particularly around cashflow, investment and holding onto the skills that they worked so hard to recruit.”

Of the 1,000 companies that have been in contact with Enterprise Ireland in recent weeks, 63pc said that sales exports have been negatively impacted, 50pc cited trouble with staffing and retaining employees, and 28pc said there has been a negative impact on supply chain.

“The findings today cite that a third of companies have put in place a financial plan, but this should be a priority for all and we need more companies to start engaging in a planning process,” Sinnamon added.

“My strong advice to companies is, if you haven’t already done so, to prepare an assessment of your financial requirements and progress funding applications to the banks and other financial institutions immediately. Enterprise Ireland’s Business Financial Planning grant will help companies to prepare a business sustainment plan.”

Innovative start-ups

Addressing some of the concerns brought up by Scale Ireland, Enterprise Ireland said that its innovative High Potential Start-up (HPSU) Fund, which provides up to €800,000 for innovative technology companies, will help start-ups to maintain liquidity and sustain their businesses in the short to medium term.

“The innovation and dynamism of Enterprise Ireland-supported HPSU firms are vital to future economic growth, and it is absolutely essential that HPSUs that were making strong commercial and technical progress prior to Covid-19 receive the support they need to get through the crisis,” Sinnamon said.

“Start-ups, by their nature, are more vulnerable to the challenges that Covid-19 brings and we are working on a one-to-one basis with our HPSUs to identify their challenges and needs.”

Enterprise Ireland added that the “wide range of supports” for businesses available from the agency will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of industry.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic