Cash boost for small firms wanting to start online trading
A scheme granting money to small businesses to support online selling is being rolled out nationwide.
The scheme will award €2,500 to small businesses around the country, to support their entry into online retailing.
A total of €5m has been set aside for the fund, meaning up to 2,000 awards can be made.
Research from the European Commission indicates that traditional businesses which have a meaningful online presence grow twice as fast, export twice as much and employ twice as many people.
But Ireland's small businesses have been slow to adapt; fewer than one in four small Irish businesses are trading online.
Businesses will be eligible to apply from the middle of the year. It is restricted to enterprises which employ fewer than 10 people and have a turnover of less than €2m per year.
The €2,500 award comes in the form of a voucher rather than cash, which limits spending to designated companies that facilitate online selling.
This list includes search engine optimisation companies and website hosting businesses.
Businesses should apply through their county or city enterprise board, who are responsible for administering the scheme.
A pilot version of the scheme was trialled on 50 Dublin businesses last October and its second phase will begin next month.
"There is an enormous opportunity for Irish businesses in the online space and significant risks if they do not develop online trading platforms," said Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte. "In Ireland, where the digital economy represents 4.4pc of GDP, there is a real opportunity for small businesses to grow
"My ambition is to ensure that a much greater proportion of the online spend stays in Ireland, supports Irish businesses and creates jobs in this country.
"For that to happen many more Irish businesses need to offer services online," he added.