Companies engaged in research and development in Ireland are being encouraged to bid for new public sector contracts, and there are now many funding supports available for research and development ventures in Ireland.
One example is the €500m Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF), through which funds are provided to researchers who deliver research and development on request to Irish private sector companies.
The Government also offers an SME Credit Guarantee Scheme, which is intended to encourage additional lending to SMEs by banks, by offering a partial government guarantee (currently 80%) to banks against losses on qualifying loans to eligible SMEs. Under the initiative, businesses can secure loans up to €1m for a period of up to seven years.
Applications for the SME Credit Guarantee Scheme can be made to AIB, Bank of Ireland, and Ulster Bank. Long-term loans are also available through the Future Growth Loan Scheme, launched last year.
Recently, owing to COVID-19, new opportunities have arisen for companies to access finance or funding for ventures. In April, the Government granted €5m in funding to the first 26 projects being launched in response to COVID-19, under a newly-established national response to COVID-19.
Further, the Irish Government has set up a €180m Sustaining Enterprise Fund, which is intended to provide vital funds for viable firms with 10 or more employees. Meanwhile, the Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund will guarantee access to credit for medium and large businesses on commercial terms.
Microenterprises can access COVID-19 Business Loans of up to €50,000 from Microfinance Ireland.
In addition, the Irish Government has committed funding to businesses adapting their places of work to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through the SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme.
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program
New public sector contracts have been announced worth €1.14m, for healthcare, transport, and plastic waste reduction-related solutions.
The funds have been allocated to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Through SBIR, the Irish Government provides funding for projects proposed by private sector businesses. To secure funding, a business will need to put forward a proposed solution to a "challenge" identified by a government department that affects Ireland and its citizens.
In the recently announced latest round of funding, five "challenges" have been identified by the Government. The funding available is:
- €240,000 for solutions that would counter the problem of plastic waste. Bids are being encouraged on solutions to create a "circular economy" for soft plastic waste in Ireland, beginning with the waste created from school lunches.
- €200,000 for solutions that would reduce the incidence and impact of inpatient falls within hospitals.
- €200,000 for solutions to improve the autonomy of persons with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a condition characterised by breathing difficulties.
- €300,000 to map Ireland's coastal seaweed resources.
- €200,000 for a final project, requested by the National Transport Authority, which would look at ideas to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to public transportation offerings that meet their needs.
Companies that consider they are able to deliver a solution in these areas can submit a bid. A handful of companies will then be invited to prepare a feasibility study, and thereafter prepare a prototype of the specific project. Importantly, businesses will retain the intellectual property rights from their created solution, with certain rights granted to the government department.
So far, funding for 25 challenges has been granted under the SBIR initiative. Previously, projects included tackling illegal dumping, devising new diabetes treatments, and improving rural transport.
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