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Growth and Sustainability Loan Scheme

The Growth and Sustainability Loan Scheme (GSLS) is a new long-term loan guarantee scheme jointly developed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The scheme is underpinned by resources from the European Investment Bank Group (EIBG) and delivered by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI).

The Growth and Sustainability Loan Scheme (GSLS) will make up to €500 million in longer-term lending available to SMEs, including farmers and fishers and small mid-caps. Loans of between €25,000 and €3 million, with terms of up to 10 years and attractive terms and conditions, will be made available through the scheme to eligible SMEs through participating finance providers, with loans of up to €500,000 available unsecured.         

The scheme will target a minimum of 30% of the lending volume towards environmental sustainability purposes with the aim of encouraging SMEs to take positive actions in support of the climate change agenda. Up to 70% of lending will be for strategic investments with a view to increasing productivity and competitiveness and thus underpinning future business sustainability and growth.  

Key features of the scheme:

  • loans from €25,000 to €3,000,000
  • repayment terms from 7 to 10 years
  • loans unsecured up to €500,000
  • competitive interest rates
  • loans for climate action and environmental sustainability purposes will also benefit from an additional interest rate discount

The Growth and Sustainability Loan Scheme will operate until 30 June 2026 or until the scheme has been fully subscribed (whichever is earlier). 

Application process

The Growth and Sustainability Loan Scheme features a two-stage application process:

Step 1 – Applications for eligibility under the scheme will be made through the SBCI website. Once the online form is completed, successful applicants will be issued with an eligibility code.

Step 2 – The applicant applies for a loan under the scheme with one of the participating finance providers using the eligibility code. 

Eligibility code

Once issued, an eligibility code is active for six months. 

Finance providers participating in the scheme

Once applicants have received their SBCI eligibility code, SMEs are invited to submit their credit application, together with the eligibility code, to a participating finance provider to begin their loan application process.

The list of finance providers participating in the scheme is available on the SBCI website.

Bank of Ireland, the first on lender launches the scheme in two phases and initially climate action and environmental sustainability loan applications will be prioritised. 

Scheme duration 

The Growth and Sustainability Loan Scheme will be available up to 30 June 2026 or until the scheme has been fully subscribed (whichever is earlier). 

Eligibility criteria

This scheme is available to eligible SME and small mid-cap businesses, including those in the primary agriculture (farming) and seafood (fishing) sectors in Ireland to support strategic long-term investment.

The scheme provides eligible enterprises, with long-term financing to either:

  • encourage the growth and resilience of their enterprise or
  • invest in climate action and environmental sustainability measures designed to improve their performance.

SMEs are defined by the EU standard definition (Commission Regulation 2003/361/EC) as enterprises that:

  • have fewer than 250 employees
  • have a turnover of €50 million or less (or €43 million or less on their balance sheet)
  • are independent and autonomous, that is, not part of a wider group of enterprises
  • have less than 25% of their capital held by public bodies

A small mid-cap is an enterprise that is not an SME but has fewer than 500 employees. 

Loan purposes supported

The Growth and Sustainability Loan Scheme will be launched in two phases.

In Phase 1, the scheme will open for climate action and environmentally sustainable investment loan applications. This will shortly be followed by the launch of Phase 2, which will also offer loans for general long-term investment.

According to current estimates, loans for general long-term investment under Phase 2 will be available from December 2023. 

Loans for climate action and environmental sustainability

These loans are for long-term investment towards climate action and environmental sustainability.

Businesses wishing to invest in climate action and environmental sustainability may be categorised as one of the following:

  • investment in green/sustainable measures
  • any investment by SMEs classified as a green / sustainable enterprise
  • any investment by farmers classified as a holder of a sustainable enterprise / green eco label 

The scheme is open for a broad range of investments that can qualify for eligibility as investment in green/sustainable measures. These include but are not limited to:

  • building upgrades and renovations
  • roof and wall insulation
  • replacement windows
  • replacement of existing lighting with energy efficient LEDs
  • electric vehicles and, electric vehicle charging points
  • manufacturing of energy efficient equipment
  • manufacturing of renewable energy equipment
  • minimum tillage equipment
  • tractor and harvester replacement
  • agriculture building renovation or upgrade

Qualifying climate action and environmentally sustainable loans will receive a discounted interest rate when compared to equivalent loans.

For a full breakdown of criteria and more information on how to apply for the scheme please visit sbci.gov.ie.  

Loans for growth

These loans are for long-term investments towards the growth or resilience of the enterprise.

Loans will be allowed, subject to certain conditions, for, but not limited to, the following purposes:

  • investments in tangible or intangible assets
  • machinery or equipment
  • research and development
  • business expansion
  • premises improvement 

For a full breakdown of criteria and more information on how to apply for the scheme please visit sbci.gov.ie.  

Refinancing

Loans granted under this scheme cannot be used to refinance existing loans. 

State agencies clients

This scheme is open to all businesses that meet the eligibility criteria. Therefore, both State agency clients and businesses that are not in any way engaged with State agencies are encouraged to apply. State agencies include Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Office (LEOs) and Bord Bia, for example.

State aid 

Loans in the Growth and Sustainability Loan Scheme are subject to the State aid rules listed below. The relevant rules will depend on the borrower and the loan type.

  • De Minimis Regulation
  • Article 17 and 29 of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER)
  • Articles 14 and 17 of the Agriculture Block Exemption Regulation (ABER)

For a more extensive description of the State aid measures applicable to the scheme, please refer to the relevant regulations.

Excluded sectors 

Loans are not available to SMEs and small mid-caps, including farmers and fishers, with a business focus on one or more of the restricted sectors. There is an indicative and non-exhaustive list available on sbci.gov.ie. The various legal documents presented by the scheme on-lenders will contain the full terms and conditions of the scheme. 

If a loan application is refused by a finance provider

In the event that a business has made a formal loan application to one of the participating finance providers and has been refused, the applicant must first make an appeal to the finance provider. If this internal appeal is unsuccessful, then an appeal may be made to the Credit Review Office, if the lender is a participating bank. 

Full information on the application process is available from the Credit Review Office

About the European Investment Fund 

The European Investment Fund (EIF) is part of the European Investment Bank Group. Its central mission is to support Europe's micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by helping them access finance. EIF designs and develops venture and growth capital, guarantees and microfinance instruments which specifically target this market segment. In this role, EIF fosters EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth, and employment. 

About the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland 

The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) was set up by the Department of Finance in September 2014 to ensure that SMEs in Ireland have access to stable, lower-cost, long-term funding options. By supporting and helping to develop an effective credit market for SME finance, the SBCI ensures that it is easier for SMEs to get the finance they need to prosper and build economic activity in Ireland.

Since its incorporation, the SBCI has built out and further expanded its range of supports providing liquidity and/or risk-sharing guarantee schemes to a wide range of finance providers. This expansion of partners has delivered more choice for Irish SMEs in accessing lower cost finance for their business.