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SMEs to get tech boost from trio of schemes

€5m injection to encourage technology take-up

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Three new initiatives aimed at helping small businesses make use of new technology are to receive €5m in government funding.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheal Martin approved funding for the three schemes on Monday. The aim of the Knowledge Acquisition Grants scheme, the Innovation Vouchers scheme, and the ICT Audits programme is to boost the productivity of the small business sector by encouraging it to more actively embrace innovation and new technology.

The schemes were designed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Enterprise Ireland, and the County and City Enterprise boards.

"I am delighted to be able to announce that funding of €5m will be provided for these new schemes. As I indicated when launching the Report of the Small Business Forum, I am committed to the implementation of the recommendations of the forum to the maximum extent possible. Today's announcement is a sign of my determination to deliver on the promise of improving the environment in which small business operates," Minister Martin said.

The Knowledge Acquisition Grants scheme is designed to develop the innovation capability of small companies. The scheme will be available to clients of Enterprise Ireland and the grants will be focused on companies which are formalising their research and development activities for the first time. Grants of up to €50,000 will be available on a once-off basis for projects up to one year.

The ICT Audits programme will, over the next three years, allow several thousand small businesses to undergo a subsidised audit of all their information and communications technology systems. Upon completion of the audit, firms will be presented with a strategy for their business aimed at developing ICT skills within the organisation. The scheme will be administered by the County and City Enterprise Boards.

Finally, the Innovation Vouchers scheme aims to generate innovation within the small business sector by helping them to work with institutions such as universities in researching ideas for expanding their business.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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