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Work of the SME Policy Unit

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National Level

Access to Credit

It remains the responsibility of the banking system to provide credit to businesses. However, Government is prepared to offer some additional targeted supports where there are market failures.

Credit Guarantee Scheme

The Credit Guarantee Scheme was launched on Wednesday 18th October 2012 by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister Bruton. The Scheme has been introduced by the Government, in the context of its work in restructuring the Irish banking system, and to assist viable SMEs on the margins of commercial lending decisions in accessing credit. It provides a 75% State guarantee to banks against losses on qualifying loans to micro, small and medium enterprises with growth and job creation potential. Bank of Ireland, AIB and Ulster Bank are participating in the Scheme.

The Scheme will facilitate up to ¤150 million of additional lending to eligible SMEs per annum. The Guarantee Scheme is intended to address specific market failures that inhibit bank lending to some commercially viable micro, small and medium enterprises, by providing a 75% State guarantee to banks against losses on qualifying loans to firms with growth and job creation potential.

The precise requirement could be lower or higher than ¤150 million, depending on SME credit needs and economic conditions over the duration of the Scheme. Take- up of the Scheme will be closely monitored.

For further information on the Credit Guarantee Scheme click here

Microenterprise Loan Fund

The Microenterprise Loan Fund was launched on the 27th September 2012 and will improve access to credit for microenterprises and facilitate the growth and expansion of viable businesses from all industry sectors across the country, which have been refused access to credit from the banks.

The Fund will provide support in the form of loans for up to ¤25,000, available to start-up, newly established, or growing microenterprises employing less than 10 people, with viable business propositions, that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by banks. The potential viability of the business proposal will be the dominant factor in all credit decisions.

For further information on the Microenterprise Loan Scheme Fund click here

Credit Review Office

The Minister for Finance is calling for suggestions from members of the public on what more the Credit Review Office can do to ensure SMEs are getting the support on bank lending they require.

More information is available on the Department of Finance website

Business Plan Guidance

John Perry, T.D., Minister for Small Business at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation launched the Business Plan Guidance, published by the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies-Ireland (CCAB-I) and the Irish Banking Federation on Tuesday 4 September 2012.

This new Business Plan Guidance has been designed to assist SMEs and microenterprises in developing and presenting a robust business plan and cash flow forecast as a key part of an application for credit.

Primarily intended for use by accountants with their SME clients and by bank lenders with their SME customers, it is expected to also be widely used by other agencies working with SMEs and microenterprises - such as City and County Enterprise Boards and other agencies of the State, Microfinance Ireland on its establishment, as well as business representative bodies.

A copy of the Business Plan Guidance and other business-relevant material on the IBF website.

Small Business Finance Website

The Small Business Finance website is a joint initiative by the Irish Banking Federation (IBF) and Chambers Ireland. Supported by additional content from sponsors Eversheds, Mazars and Energia, the Small Business Finance website is an open resource for small businesses of all backgrounds and at various stages of development on business planning and financial management.

Advisory Group on Small Business

The Advisory Group on Small Business, chaired by Minister Nash was established on 16th June 2011. The objective of this group is to facilitate structured and regular dialogue between the Minister and representatives of the small business sector on issues of concern. The membership is focussed on business people with direct experience in running a business.

Primarily, the Group will provide policy advice for onward reference to Government, on the key issues affecting the SME sector and what initiatives/actions could address these.

The Group’s Report ‘The Voice of Small Business – A Plan for Action’ was published in November 2011.

Late Payment Legislation

The Unit promotes improved payment practices and monitors the operation of the Prompt Payment of Accounts Act, 1997, and the Late Payment in Commercial Transactions 2012 The Regulations implement EU Directive 2011/7/EC on combating late payment in commercial transactions.

This Directive came into force on 15 March 2011. Statutory Instrument No 580 of 2012 was signed by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on 22 December 2012 which transposes this Directive and came into effect on 16 March 2013.

This legislation will act as a deterrent to late payment and a driver for payment on time by establishing a clear expectation in law that payment will be made according to agreed terms that creditors will not be penalised financially when paid late and debtors will not benefit.

15 day Prompt Payment requirement by Government Departments and Agencies

The Unit collates and publishes the composite quarterly returns by Central Government Departments of payments made to their suppliers within 15 days. The Government commitment under the EU/IMF Programme of Support for Ireland will extend the 15 day prompt payment rule, to include the Health Service Executive, the Local Authorities, State Agencies and all other Public Sector Bodies (excluding Commercial Semi-State Bodies). The new arrangement will apply in respect of valid invoices received on, or after, the 1 July 2011.

Prompt Payment Official Notice

As a follow-up to Government Decision No: S180/20/10/1428 of 24 November 2011, and in order to implement:

  • the recommendation of the Advisory Group for Small Business in its Report “The Voice of Small Business” published on 3 November 2011 (above Government Decision refers) and
  • two of the Key Deliverables in the Action Plan for Jobs, (Key Actions 3.44 and 7.13.2) which are required to be implemented by the end of Quarter 1, 2012 (i.e. 31 March 2012);

This Department has prepared the attached Official Notice (PDF format, 30KB)

International Level

European SME Week

The 5th European SME Week 2013 will take place from 25-30 November this year.

Coordinated by the European Commission, this campaign promotes enterprise across Europe in line with the Small Business Act for Europe.

It is taking place in 37 countries, so events and activities – national, regional or local – will be as close as possible to existing and potential entrepreneurs.

This week encompasses events organised by business organisations, business support providers and national, regional and local authorities and enables existing companies to share their experience and develop further themselves.

The main event will take place together with the SME Assembly and the European Enterprise Promotion Awards Ceremony, on 25, 26 and 27 November 2013 in Vilnius, Lithuania

The European SME Week 2013 Portal is now active and can be accessed on

European Union Support Programmes for SMEs - An overview of the main funding opportunities available to European SMEs

The European Commission’s latest publication on SMEs is available here:


The EUGO network of Points of Single Contact assists business to provide services in the EU by proving information and assistance with completing the relevant administrative procedures required. Irish based businesses can access information through the relevant Point of Single Contact on the procedures required for doing business in the EU. (e.g. an Irish business can contact the Hungarian Point of Single Contact if they wish to provide services in Hungary).

The Irish National Point of Single Contact website can also be found in the link below.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development

The Unit also has responsibility for OECD initiatives in relation to enterprise and entrepreneurship policy including, in particular, the OECD ‘Working Party on SMEs and Entrepreneurship’ and ‘Local Economic and Employment Development’ (LEED) Programme.

State Financial Support for SMEs in Ireland

For information on supports available to SMEs in Ireland please see the Department of Finance table which sets out the full range of Government financial supports.

E-Day Friday 19th September 2014

Friday September 19th. That is the date from which all Government Departments and Public Bodies will stop sending and receiving cheques to or from businesses in Ireland. It is called e-Day and it is part of the National Payments Plan. The particular focus of e-Day is to encourage SMEs to migrate from cheque usage as they are either issuers or receivers of more than 60% of all cheques in Ireland. One of the prime motivations behind e-Day is to help businesses, particularly small businesses, to reduce the costs that are incurred through the use of cheques for making payments. The National Payments Plan (NPP) has identified potential savings in the order of ¤1 billion per annum that could be saved in Ireland by achieving a significant reduction in cash and cheque usage in favour of electronic payments.

There is also a strong correlation between late payments and cheque usage. Business representative groups involved in the national payments plan process, including Chambers Ireland, ISME and SFA are all supportive of e-Day as they recognise the benefits that will ultimately accrue to their members. The SME Policy Unit of the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation plays a central role in tackling Ireland’s late payment culture and improving cash-flow for SMEs.

Businesses will have to switch to card or e-Payments – the more efficient, secure way to pay Government and public bodies. Talk to your bank about e-Day. They can help you make the switch to e-Payments – the more efficient secure way to pay Government and public bodies.

Further information can be found on the Central Banks website

Last modified: 10/11/2014

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