A group of Northern Ireland manufacturers has benefited from a €300,000 (£268,000) cross-border fund as well as support packages from Ulster Bank to help it carry on making face shields for the healthcare sector.
Hero Shield Ltd, which is headed by baby product maker, Shnuggle, and is currently producing 70,000 visors a week for the health sector north and south, benefited from the €300,000 Co-Innovate scheme, led by InterTradeIreland and supported by the European Union's INTERREG VA Programme.
The cash injection to the group of 18 cross-border firms will help it continue the production of low-cost face shields.
Meanwhile, Ulster Bank has supported two of the companies behind the scheme; Shnuggle and Minprint, with loans, including UK Government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans, to help support their main working lines.
Hero Shield began at the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak here. It used donations to cover the cost of the materials, while also tapping into participating firms' resources.
From an initial idea on March 20, the collective worked at break-neck speed to re-purpose their manufacturing facilities and supply chains.
Adam Murphy, chief executive of Shnuggle, said: "We saw an opportunity to use our collective skills and knowledge of precision engineering, plastics and manufacturing to create a low-cost, fast-manufacture face shield.
"We wanted these to be distributed free of charge or at-cost. We will sell some product at a small profit to private companies, which will raise funds to make even more Hero Shields, allowing us to continue operating as a not-for-profit company. Funding from Co-Innovate has provided us with the financial support to keep this amazing venture running for the benefit of all in society."
The partners, none of whom had ever produced face shields before, also include Northern Ireland companies Crossen Engineering, Denroy Plastics, Minprint and Ad-Vance Engineering, with support from Queen's University of Belfast.
Neil Ryan, InterTradeIreland's director of Co-Innovate, said the fund will provide a "financial lifeline" for the Hero Shield.
"The partners have been running at their own cost, as working capital is vital for keeping this operation going for as long as it's needed. Co-Innovate will continue to play a central role in coordinating the collective," he said.
Girvan Gault, Ulster Bank's director of commercial banking, said: "Across our communities, business and personal banking customers have banded together to show their support frontline health workers by lending their skills and expertise. We're strongly committed to supporting these customers and all those who bank with us with the assistance they need during these challenging times."