A €500m expansion to the Future Growth Loan Scheme, the Government's scheme to support SMEs, farmers and fishing, has been announced today. 

The scheme's additional funding is being provided by the European Investment Bank. 

The Government launched the first €300m round of the scheme last year and it has helped 1,150 SMEs, farmers and fishers to date make strategic investments to grow their businesses. 

Today's announcement will see the European Investment Bank Group provide an additional €500m, bringing the total investment in the scheme to €800m.

Under the scheme, loans of between €25,000 to €3m are available to companies at competitive rates for terms between seven and 10 years. 

It aims to make available injections of liquidity for businesses looking to develop strategic responses to the changing business conditions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as Brexit. 

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said that the past few months have been very difficult for businesses here. 

"Things will continue to be extremely challenging over the coming months and the Government must do everything possible to help businesses navigate this unprecedented time and get back on their feet," Leo Varadkar said. 

The chief executive of Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, Nick Ashmore, said he has seen strong uptake of the scheme since its introduction. 

"With this expansion, the scheme can continue to deliver real impact and much needed support for SMEs. The addition of new partners will help to generate much needed competition in the SME finance sector," he added.

Andrew McDowell, Vice President of the European Investment Bank Group, said the bank had worked closely with the Government and the SBCI to ensure that Irish businesses can access finance and working capital through the Brexit Loan Scheme, the Future Growth Loan Scheme and the new Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme. 

"In recent weeks the European Investment Bank and European Investment Fund have expanded financing for Irish companies, and we stand ready to further enhance our support for a solid, resilient and sustainable economic recovery in Ireland," he added.

One of the companies that availed of the scheme was Luzern Technology Solutions. 

Its CEO Ken Doyle said the scheme provided important liquidity support to the company at a vital period of growth and expansion for our business. 

"Having access to loan facilities such as this is critical in ensuring that Irish businesses have the capacity to compete and win on the world stage and I would encourage every business and entrepreneur to look at the benefits this loan scheme can provide, especially in these unprecedented times," Mr Doyle said.

Both AIB and Bank of Ireland have welcomed the expansion of the Future Growth Loan Scheme to support small businesses, farming and fishing.

AIB said it had sanctioned over €550m in SBCI funding, and €73m in Future Growth Loan Scheme funding.

"The expansion of the Future Growth Loan Scheme is a vital piece of the support systems which have been put in place by the state to allow the banks channel credit to Irish businesses in order to preserve and create jobs and drive the country's economic recovery," AIB's chief executive Colin Hunt said. 

"These funds will provide much needed working capital to businesses throughout the country during this particularly uncertain economic period," Mr Hunt said.

Bank of Ireland - the largest lender under the Future Growth Loan Scheme - said it gave funding to almost 600 businesses under the scheme last year.

The bank's Director of Business Banking, Michael Lauhoff, said the scheme is particularly attractive to its small business and agriculture borrowers as it facilitates business expansion and investment. 

"Last year our average deal size was €185,000 confirming the value of the scheme as we collectively work to reboot Ireland’s economy," Mr Lauhoff said. 

"New features to the scheme such as reducing the minimum loan amount to €25,000 and enabling the refinance of certain liabilities attributable to the consequences of Covid-19 will further enhance the attractiveness of the scheme," he added.