IDA Ireland is working in various ways to encourage companies to invest in the Border region, including the attraction of potential Brexit-related projects. In addition to the general support that it provides to client firms on the investment climate in Ireland, the Agency is authorised by my Department to provide a range of particular financial supports in the form of employment, capital, research and development, environmental and training grants. While these grants are not Brexit-specific, they do represent an important means of encouraging companies to invest in regional Ireland. Last year alone, the IDA provided a total of €4.3m in grant funding to client companies in the counties of Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Louth, Cavan and Monaghan.
More broadly, my Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports to ensure that businesses nationwide are as prepared as possible for Brexit.
InterTradeIreland, for example, offers a Brexit Planning Voucher that enables businesses to seek professional advice on how best to plan and prepare for Brexit. Vouchers are worth up to €2,250 (inclusive of VAT) each. ITI has also launched a further financial support in the form of the Brexit Implementation Voucher, which offers financial support up to £5,000/€5,625 (inclusive of VAT), with ITI paying 50% towards implementing critical changes in relation to Brexit matters.
The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), meanwhile, are the first-stop-shop for anyone seeking guidance and support on starting or growing their business, including businesses in the border counties. The LEOs have organised various events to enable companies to learn about the potential impacts and opportunities of Brexit. Up to November, just under 1200 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit.
In addition, the six LEOs in the Border region are working together with their Northern Ireland counterparts under the EU Co-Innovate Programme. The aim of Co-Innovate is to give SMEs from the manufacturing and tradable services sectors in the eligible regions the tools and tailored support to help them to innovate, differentiate and compete successfully. Last month, it was announced that over €1 million of R&D funding has been awarded through Co-Innovate.
The Brexit Loan Scheme was launched by my Department in March 2018. It provides relatively short-term working capital, up to three years, to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees to help them innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenges. The scheme is open to eligible businesses from all regions of the country, including those in the Border counties. Dublin aside, the most recent quarterly report shows that the border region is the most active region in terms of eligibility applications for the scheme. Mid-November figures showed that there have been 892 eligibility applications received, of which 804 have been approved and 212 loans progressed to sanction at bank level to a value of €46.6 million. It should be noted that 159 of total applications received relate to repeat/duplicate applications, as eligibility expires after six months.
The Future Growth Loan Scheme opened for eligibility applications in April 2019. This scheme provides a longer-term facility, 8-10 years, of up to €300m to support strategic capital investment for a post-Brexit environment at competitive rates. This scheme has been jointly funded by my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to make available loans of €100,000 (€50,000 for primary agriculture) to €3 million, with loans of under €500,000 being provided on an unsecured basis. The scheme is open to eligible Irish businesses, including those in the primary agriculture and seafood sectors, to support strategic, long-term investment in a post-Brexit environment.
Enterprise Ireland (EI) has also established a Prepare for Brexit online portal and communications campaign, as well as an online “Brexit SME Scorecard” to help Irish businesses self-asses their exposure to Brexit and a “Be Prepared Grant” to support SME clients in planning to mitigate risks arising from Brexit. It has also launched a new Eurozone Strategy to help SMEs broaden their export footprint beyond the UK.
Under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) Enterprise Ireland invested in seven successful projects in the Border region with a total funding allocation of more than €10.6 million. This funding will help drive enterprise development and job creation in the Border Region.
In June, at a visit to the recently opened Cavan Digital Hub, I announced that a further €45 million is to be made available under a new third call of the REDF.