What We Do

Access to Finance hub

Our role is to ensure that SMEs can access the appropriate finances throughout their life-cycle, from early stage (including micro firms) through MFI, through seed and venture capital, credit guarantees and counter guarantees, and through prompt payments.

Access to Credit

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

Click on the map*  to view the nationwide loan figures for Microfinance Ireland (MFI) and the Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS)

       Loan figures map

*Please note that this tool may not be supported by legacy browsers including IE11

Information Guides

The Department has recently produced two guides which you may find useful:

Government working with finance providers to support SME financing

This simple guide sets out the types of equity and debt financing supports and resources available to business at all stages of the business cycle.

Currency Risk Management for Irish SMEs

This Government of Ireland Currency Risk Management guide answers many of the questions that Irish SMEs may have when assessing and managing their exposure to foreign currency risk.

SME Credit Guarantee Scheme

The revised SME Credit Guarantee Scheme 2017 has been launched by the Government in July 2018 and has replaced the previous 2012 scheme. The scheme aims to assist viable SMEs, which under normal lending criteria are unable to borrow from their bank, in accessing credit. The scheme operates by providing a 80% guarantee (previously 75%) to participating finance providers (currently AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank) on qualifying loans to SMEs.

The scheme has been designed to address three barriers to lending:

  • Inadequate collateral
  • Novel business market, sector or technology which is perceived by finance providers as higher risk under current credit risk evaluation practices
  • Need for refinancing caused by the exit of an SMEs lender from the Irish market

The Scheme is operated on behalf of the Department by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and is available from the participating banks (AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank). If you are an SME, and are encountering one of the 3 barriers set out above, you can approach one of the 3 participating banks and ask for a loan under the scheme.

Scheme Features:

  • Loan size: from €10,000 to €1 million
  • Loan Term: up to 7 years
  • Loan type: term loans, demand loans and performance bonds.

Reforms to the Scheme were provided for in 2016 amending primary legislation that led to the making of the Credit Guarantee Scheme 2017. This legislation allows new products to be rolled out by the SBCI in 2018 and following years, including the extension of the Scheme to cover loans other than traditional bank loans (i.e., invoice discounting, factoring, lessors etc.).

Brexit Loan Scheme 

The Brexit Loan Scheme, which was announced in Budget 2018, is a €300 million loan scheme offering competitively priced loans to eligible Irish SMEs and small mid-caps of up to 499 employees. The Scheme will be launched at the end of March 2018 and will run for two years. It will run on a first come, first served basis, subject of course to eligibility. Scheme features include:

  • Loan amount from €25,000 up to a maximum of €1,500,000
  • Loan term of up to 3 years
  • Loans less than €500,000 will be unsecured
  • Interest rate of 4% or less
  • Optional interest-only repayments provided at the start of the loans
  • Loans can be used for future working capital requirements and to fund innovation, change or adaption of the business to mitigate the impact of Brexit

Who can apply:

Eligible businesses of up to 499 employees, active in the Republic of Ireland, which are demonstrably exposed to negative impacts as a result of Brexit.

Approval of all loans is contingent on meeting the credit assessment criteria of the finance provider.

How to apply:

Once the Scheme is launched, applications will be handled through the SBCI website. The Scheme will be available for two years from the end of March 2018.

Microenterprise Loan Fund

The Microenterprise Loan Fund was launched in 2012 to 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 is administered by Microfinance Ireland (MFI) who make loans of up to €25,000 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.

To be eligible for a loan, applicants must submit a business plan, must have a commercially viable proposal, and must have the capacity to repay the loan.

Scheme features include:

  • Loan amount from €5,000 up to a maximum of €25,000
  • Loan term of up to 3 years (5 years for business expansion loans)
  • Free mentoring (where deemed appropriate)

If you are a microenterprise and want to access a loan from the Microenterprise Loan Fund, you can apply directly to Microfinance Ireland.

Credit Review Office

The Credit Review Office (established by Government in 2010) provides a simple and effective review process for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), sole traders and farm enterprises refused credit from Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, PTSB and Ulster Bank.

If you have been refused credit from one of these banks, you can apply for a review to The Credit Review Office, who will form an independent, impartial opinion on whether your business is viable and will generate enough cash to repay the loan.

The Credit Review Office has no statutory or regulatory powers to overturn bank lending decisions. However, they conclude that the lending could have been made within acceptable risk boundaries, the bank will be required to comply with this recommendation or explain to the Credit Review Office why it will not do so. In over 90% of the cases supported by the Office, the banks have accepted the Credit Review Office Opinion and complied with the recommendations.

As part of its remit, the Credit Review Office publishes regular reports for the Minister for Finance on the outcome of its appeals process. This is in order to inform Government of the performance of the credit systems in participating banks.

State Financial Support for SMEs in Ireland

For information on supports available to SMEs in Ireland please see the Supporting SME tool at www.supportingsmes.ie which sets out the full range of Government financial and other supports.

There are over 170 different Government supports for Irish start-ups and small businesses. 

Supportingsmes.ie is a cross-governmental initiative to help Irish start-ups and small businesses navigate the range of Government supports to see which you could possibly apply for. By answering the eight quick questions in the Online Tool, a small business will, in one location be able to:

  • Find out which of the over 170 Government business supports from 27 different Government Departments, Agencies and Initiatives are available to them;
  • Obtain information on the range of Government supports for accessing credit;
  • Be told their nearest Local Enterprise Office to discuss the outcomes of the guide further, and; 
  • Be able to download all these filtered results into a document for their further use.


For any further queries, please contact FinanceForGrowth@dbei.gov.ie.

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