Invest NI confirms 'last-minute surge in applications' for Covid help schemes

Invest NI confirmed a last-minute surge in applications for the latest Executive Covid help schemes
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THERE was a last-minute surge in applications for two Covid support schemes which Invest NI said had attracted "encouraging levels of interest".

As revealed by the Irish News on Friday, exactly a month after their launch by the economy department on September 9, the Digital Selling Capability Grant scheme and Equity Investment Fund had garnered just eight completed applications between them.

But updated figures from Invest NI, which is administering the schemes on the Executive's behalf, revealed a huge uptake just before the closing date.

A spokesman told the Irish News: "The Covid-19 Digital Selling & Capability Grant closed for applications on Wednesday evening with 126 applications submitted.

"This is in line with the volume expected and, while the applications still need to be assessed, we are optimistic that the full £1m approved will be over-subscribed."

The £5 million Covid-19 Equity Investment Fund doesn't have a hard closing date, but instead there is a requirement for all investment legals to be completed by December 31, and applications are still being received.

The spokesman added: "The funding we have been provided by the department is to introduce specific new measures to support business recovery.

"We are developing support for different types of businesses, in different sectors where the greatest impact can be made to support economic recovery. These recovery schemes are very different to the emergency rescue funds introduced by government.

"They are more targeted and focussed on helping businesses address specific challenges, or capitalise on new opportunities. They are not broad brush and were never expected to generate high volume applications."

She said: "We currently have three specific schemes launched, with others in the final stages of development and expected to launch soon."

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