Enterprise Ireland reports progress

Enterprise Ireland, the trade and technology body set up by the Irish government to establish VC funds, has released its investment figures for 2001. In the final year of the five-year programme, EURO28.5 million was invested in 51 companies. Software businesses, one of Ireland’s strongest sectors, accounted for 82 per cent of the funds invested. First round investments in 21 companies totalled EURO14.3 million with a total of EURO14.1 million follow-on investments in 30 companies.

Investments by Enterprise Ireland-backed funds in 2001 were at the second highest level since its launch despite a general slowdown in venture investing and a particularly challenging environment for high tech companies. The best year for the programme, in terms of amount invested, was unsurprisingly 2000 when EURO36.5 million was committed by the partnership funds.

Enterprise Ireland has also issued a report on the overall success of the programme, which was launched in 1995, to invest in SMEs, with a combination of both government and private sector funding. Mary Harney, Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, said: “The support of a positive venture capital market is vital to the development of business. It is equally important that the private sector companies should be lead players in providing such important funding at critical points in the development of success-driven businesses.” The programme has helped establish 15 new funds, one of which has a follow-on fund. A total of EURO113.3 million has been invested in 123 companies. To date the funds have returned EURO32.3 million and Enterprise Ireland has reallocated its portion of this to venture capital investment.

Following the success of the first five-year programme, Enterprise Ireland last year launched another that will run until 2006. A sum of EURO95 million was allocated to the new programme, which has been designed to encourage the venture capital market outside Dublin and in sectors that find it difficult to secure finance. The aim is to launch 12 new funds, nine of which are already operational.