Midlands-North-West candidate for Europe, Pat the Cope Gallagher MEP, has called on the Government and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton, TD, to prepare a “plan of action” designed to maximise Ireland’s share of EU funding for SMEs for the period 2014 to 2020.

Mr Gallagher said today the Irish Government needs to explain in detail how it intends to tap into the following funding instruments:

– The €2.3 billion fund for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs;

–  The €9.3 billion envelope available for SMEs under the Horizon 2020 programme for research, innovation and science;

–  Finance available from the European Investment Bank for the specific purpose of lending to SMEs.

Mr Gallagher said today “SMEs account for 98.8% of all businesses in Ireland, with the vast majority employing less than 10 people. SMEs are a key driver for economic growth, innovation, employment and social integration. They are the engine of the Irish and European economy.

“Help is available for our SMEs at an EU level. However, Ireland needs to plan properly in order to secure this funding. The European Parliament was centrally involved in establishing the new COSME fund worth €2.3 billion designed to provide greater access to finance as well as to facilitate market access inside the EU and globally. It is essential that Irish SMEs are informed and tuned into the opportunities available under this important initiative.

“I also believe that the Government needs to launch an enhanced information campaign to outline to Irish SMEs the opportunities now available under the Horizon 2020 programme which includes a dedicated envelope of €9.3 billion in research grants for SMEs.

Mr Gallagher further stated, “The Irish banks are clearly not doing enough to help SMEs in Ireland. This is totally unacceptable.  A good deal more is required from the Irish Government to adequately address this problem. For example, the Government needs to be banging on the door of the European Investment Bank requesting funding at reasonable rates. This must be a priority.

Mr Gallagher concluded “the Government needs to wake up to the opportunities available for Irish SMEs at a European level. A plan of action for SME funding is urgently required.”