Irish companies founded within the past six years are impressing investors lately with their innovative devices to improve patients’ quality of life and recovery, writes Sorcha Corcoran.

Irish SMEs have proven their resilience over the past few years, but they are still facing multiple
challenges given the current business environment, including the ongoing economic effects of
Brexit, recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, the availability of skilled staff and access to new
customers and markets.
As June Butler, Chief Executive Officer of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI),
points out, the abrupt increase of input costs, in particular energy costs, presents the most
significant challenge to SMEs in Ireland right now. However, relative to their European
counterparts, Irish SMEs have not invested to the same levels in energy-efficiency measures in
recent years.
The European Investment Bank Investment Survey, ‘European Firms and Climate Change
2020/2021’, shows that European SMEs allocate on average 12% of their total investment to
measures to improve their energy efficiency. Comparatively, Irish SMEs devote only 6% of their
investment budget, suggesting there is opportunity for efficiency gains in this area.
“We want to help Irish businesses to address this gap and make it easier for them to enhance
their energy efficiency and improve their sustainability in the long-term. In order to stay
competitive and improve their future growth prospects, Irish SMEs need to consider their green
transition and invest more in areas such as sustainability and digitalisation,” says Butler.
“We know that making a significant investment decision can be difficult when costs are rising,
but we are committed to helping Irish SMEs overcome these challenges by providing them with
accessible and affordable finance. To this end, we have developed and recently launched our
Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme [EELS].”
Specifically tailored
The EELS is a €150m loan guarantee scheme specifically tailored to the needs of SMEs,
farmers and fishers investing in energy efficient equipment and looking to reduce their energy
The scheme offers low-cost finance ranging from €10,000 to €150,000 at reduced interest rates
and with repayment terms of up to ten years. “This repayment flexibility aims to ensure that the
business’s existing cash flow is not negatively impacted for the investment cost,” notes Butler.
“Credit is available across a range of finance products to ensure the best match for the business
funding requirements. Types of finance include term loans, hire purchase and asset-finance

At present, EELS is available through AIB, Bank of Ireland and Capitalflow, with additional on-
lenders to follow in the coming weeks. Businesses can apply for the funding through a

straightforward two-step process that starts by completing the eligibility application form
available on the SBCI website ( Eligible businesses will receive an eligibility
number (a code) that applicants provide to one of the participating on-lenders as part of their
credit application.
The energy-efficient equipment SMEs can invest in through the scheme ranges from heat
pumps, solar panels, LED lighting, chillers and fluid coolers to commercial water boilers, electric
vehicle charging points and other energy-saving technology.

“For instance, from conversations our team had with farmers who visited our stand at the
National Ploughing Championships in September, there was a lot of interest in EELS funding for
the installation of solar panels on farm buildings. Most farms have abundant roof space suitable
for this,” says Butler.
“Businesses in the hospitality sector may choose to avail of EELS funding for installing solar
panels or switching to LED lighting, but they could also use it for the purchase of energy-efficient
A4-rated kitchen equipment. This could include commercial ovens, fridges and dishwashers, or
even commercial water boilers and commercial laundry washers or dryers – all of which will
reduce their ongoing energy usage.”
Other businesses are considering this scheme to fund the installation of electric vehicle
charging points, so that their customers can charge their electric vehicles while staying at their
hotel or having dinner at their restaurant, she adds.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland maintains a central listing, the ‘Triple E Register for
Products’, which contains details of all of the energy-saving equipment that is eligible for funding

under EELS. This exhaustive register contains products that all meet a minimum set of energy-
efficiency criteria and typically are of a best-in-class efficiency standard.

Stimulating climate-friendly investment, supporting sustainability and the transition to a net-zero
economy is one of the key priorities of the SBCI’s strategy, according to Butler.
“EELS represents a milestone in our commitment to support the Government’s goal of achieving
a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, as indicated in the Climate Action Plan
2021. Businesses in Ireland account for around 13% of the country’s greenhouse gas
emissions, so reducing the energy that a business consumes will contribute to the reduction of
their carbon emissions,” she says.
“Not only does EELS offer businesses opportunities to lower their running costs and increase
profit margins; it also protects them from current and future risks such as energy costs and
carbon tax.
“Making a commitment to save energy and reduce emissions may also help businesses attract
and grow their base of customers in line with increasing consumer interest in climate change
and sustainability.”
Purpose and priorities
Established in 2014, the SBCI’s purpose is to improve the structure of finance markets for Irish
businesses, so that it is easier for these businesses to get the finance they need. This helps
businesses to prosper and builds economic activity in Ireland.
To date, more than 50,000 Irish SMEs from across different economic sectors, from agriculture
to wholesale and retail, have availed of SBCI-funded or guaranteed products. It has provided a
combination of low-cost liquidity and risk-sharing guarantees on loans to Irish SMEs totaling
over €3.2bn.

“We continue to support businesses that are still dealing with the economic impact of the Covid-
19 pandemic and the continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Our COVID-19 Loan Scheme

and Brexit Impact Loan Scheme offer low-cost lending of up to €1.5m per applicant over a six-
year period,” says Butler.

“In addition, as we provide an 80% guarantee to the participating on-lenders, collateral
requirements are reduced, with loans up to €500,000 being unsecured. Both of these schemes
will run until the end of December 2022 or until fully subscribed and are available through a
range of finance providers, including credit unions.”
Chief Executive Officer of the SBCI since September 2021, Butler has over 20 years’
experience in the financial services sector. Prior to her appointment, she served as Head of
SME Banking and Sectors in Bank of Ireland where she was responsible for formulating and
driving the strategic direction for the business, including the delivery of the finance and funding

requirements of Irish SMEs. She has also led a team of sector specialists providing strategic
insight into the needs of Irish businesses across a variety of sectors.
“My priorities as CEO of the SBCI over the coming months are threefold. Firstly, I want us to
continue delivering government policy measures by increasing access to finance for Irish SMEs
through large-scale loan guarantee schemes,” she says.
“At the same time, we will endeavour to promote sustainability through the development of
targeted financial solutions such as EELS, which address the challenges posed by climate
change to SMEs and the broader economy.
“Thirdly, I want us to enable SMEs to grow and prosper through the delivery of innovative
supports which we may develop through strategic partnerships for SMEs as they grow their
For more information, visit the website,, follow the SBCI on social media
(@SBCIreland) or get in touch via email at