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Economy Minister Diane Dodds today announced two new support schemes to help businesses bounce back from the impact of Covid-19.

A new £1million Digital Selling Capability Grant to help retailers and wholesalers generate business online, and a £5million Equity Investment Fund targeted at early stage and seed stage SMEs, will open for applications tomorrow (9 September 2020).

The schemes, operated by Invest Northern Ireland, are the first of a number of new initiatives being developed by the agency to help companies respond to a new business environment in the wake of Covid-19.

Announcing the schemes, the Minister said: “I have allocated funding to Invest NI to specifically develop and operate a number of new schemes this year to support business and economic recovery. I am pleased to announce two of these schemes will open for applications tomorrow.

“The Covid-19 Digital Selling Capability Grant is specifically aimed at helping retail and wholesale businesses better access consumer demand and grow online sales. For the retailer, taking business online is one of the ways it can adapt to any current limitations and continue to sell to their customers. Going online will also open up opportunities to reach new markets and new consumer demand.

“The Covid-19 Equity Investment Fund will provide access to finance for high growth potential SMEs. The funding landscape has changed since Covid-19 and brought with it many challenges for early stage businesses. This equity fund will support their growth and will stimulate other investors to ensure we continue to create new businesses and drive our economy forward.”

The Covid-19 Digital Selling Capability Grant will provide a maximum grant of £20,000 to eligible small and medium-sized retailers to support 50% of eligible costs. Projects must have a minimum eligible expenditure of £10,000. Full details on the scheme and eligibility criteria are available on www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/dscg

The Covid-19 Equity Investment Fund will provide matching equity investment or convertible loan notes of up to a maximum of £700,000 for technology and innovative businesses. The scheme is typically focussed on the sectors of advanced manufacturing, materials and engineering, digital and creative technologies, life and health sciences, cyber security, precision medicine, big data, internet of things and analytics. Full details on the scheme and eligibility criteria are available on www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/ceif

Kevin Holland, CEO, Invest NI, said: “These two new recovery schemes are part of a range of solutions we are putting in place to help businesses progress recovery plans, strengthen supply chains, develop new products and access finance.

“We are confident that the Digital Selling Grant will provide exactly the sort of practical support that will help retailers to develop new ways of doing business and support them to remain viable and competitive for the longer term.

“SMEs are the lifeblood of the Northern Ireland economy, and the Equity Investment Fund will provide early stage SMEs with access to vital investment to develop their business.

“We are continuing to work through the necessary approvals and testing to get our other new schemes operational as soon as possible.”