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Demand Has Increased Dramatically For The Sustaining Enterprise Fund

Huge numbers of businesses have benefitted from the SEF since it was launched back in April 2020.

Barrie Dowsett

Chief Executive Officer


5 minute read

A surge in applications

With 2021 now in full swing, the priority for businesses across Ireland is to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

Launched in April this year, the Sustaining Enterprise Fund (SEF) has seen a surge in applications from companies negatively affected by the pandemic.

What is the Sustaining Enterprise Fund?

Aimed specifically at SMEs, €180 million of funding was set aside which companies have been benefitting from throughout 2020. The point of the funding is to boost liquidity in manufacturing and internationally traded companies that have suffered a reduction in turnover or profits and/or an increase in costs due to COVID-19. Each company was able to benefit to the tune of between €100,000 and €800,000.


This scheme was wrapped up on the 15th December 2020, but the demand particularly in the last months was far higher than expected. Besides helping to improve a company’s cash flow, the money provided could be spent on adaption operations and innovating to meet customer needs during the coronavirus outbreak. Firms could also accelerate their recovery by investing it in short term costs as needed.

More can be found on the Enterprise Ireland website.

Which sectors have most benefitted?

Companies of every size and across all sectors of the economy have benefitted from the SEF. To qualify for SEF funding, companies must be in the internationally traded services or manufacturing sectors, employ ten people or more and have seen a reduction in turnover (or expected to see a reduction) of 15%. Alternatively, firms could have experienced a significant rise in costs resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. But a particularly notable beneficiary of the scheme is Ireland's travel and tourism sector.

Indeed, COVID-19 restrictions couldn’t have come at the worst time for travel and tourism. The spring lockdown was well underway at a time when many of us typically book our summer holidays. Additionally, worries over health and border closures meant the sector took an immense beating. Even domestic tourism suffered in 2020, despite a temporary uptick over the summer thanks to ‘staycations’.

But the fact is that Irish tourism is heavily geared towards overseas visitors. The US market is traditionally strong, but with travel prohibited the market has collapsed. Indeed, cash flow for many travel and tourism businesses effectively dried up during 2020.

With no spare money coming in, sadly large swathes of the sector would’ve had to close their doors for the last time without SEF funding. Whilst clearly a downturn in travel and tourism is not unique to Ireland, it has fared better thanks to SEF cash. But with COVID-19 vaccines now being administered, it’s hoped that 2021 will bring green shoots of recovery.

Other funding opportunities are available

Throughout the pandemic, the Irish government has offered a whole host of measures to financially support businesses and individuals. These include the Enhanced Illness Benefit for COVID-19, COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, and the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme to name just a few.

But companies that are looking to grow and expand in order to weather these uncertain times can also access a range of well-established R&D grants to help. These include Enterprise Ireland grants, EUREKA Eurostars and Fast Track to Innovation.

There are many other funding options besides these that are well worth considering too. For example:

The EIC pilot programme: Aimed specifically at small and medium-sized enterprises with break-through ideas and dynamic plans for the future. See the EIC pilot programme webpage.

The LIFE program: This one provides funding for larger scale sustainability, climate change and environmental projects. Again, more information can be found on the LIFE program webpage.

COST: COST is an EU-funded program for cross-border European networks involving at least five countries. See the COST webpage.

The Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund: For collaborative enterprise-driven partnerships looking to deploy, develop and commercialise disruptive, transformative technologies. Discover more on the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund webpage.

The Connecting Europe Facility: This program supports the development of high performing, sustainable and efficiently interconnected trans-European networks across the transport, digital services and energy sectors. Information is available on the Connecting Europe Facility webpage.

Applying for R&D grants

R&D grants are available to help Irish businesses get their innovative plans off the ground. And if there’s one positive thing to come out of the pandemic, it’s that many companies have used it as an opportunity to grow.

However, putting together a high quality, successful grant application - whether during the pandemic or at any time - is resource-intensive and time-consuming. It’s a competitive sphere, and a very strong case needs to be made in order to stand out from the crowd.

Grant funding is typically run “competition style” but each one has its own very specific rules and requirements. Not only do you need to know which programs apply specifically to your business, you also need to fully understand your eligibility and the guidance available. Often there is only limited space for text on the application too, so you also need to be concise but persuasive. Often supporting information is required and should be provided in a certain format. It’s a minefield!

There’s certainly an art to it

As you may be gathering, putting together a claim for R&D grants isn’t easy. Even if you’ve applied before (for Sustaining Enterprise Fund money for instance) it certainly doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be accepted for a different grant later.

Plus how are you meant to know when each round of funding has launched? And what does a high quality application actually look like?

This is where the team of R&D funding experts at Myriad Associates come in. Through our years in business, we have our ear the ground when it comes to new R&D grants being launched that relate to your business. We’re experts in this area, and will also be pleased to help you put together an award-winning R&D grant application that gets you the funding you need. Our success rate speaks volumes.

Take a look at our recent blog Top Tips To Successfully Secure An EU Innovation Grant to start you off, or contact us to get the ball rolling.

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