Looking for a Startup grant? Here's an overview of the programmes on offer in Ireland.

Are you looking for funding? Do you have a business idea that you want to make a reality? Or are you an established small business with plans to grow?

Ireland is one of the top 10 ‘best countries to start a business in’. With so many new business projects, there has been a massive increase in the demand for Startup grants and Startup funding.

If you have a feasible new business idea but need some help in getting started, read below to find out more about the grant and funding programmes available.

Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) Working Capital scheme 

Loans of up to €1.5m will be available at reduced rates, with up to the first €500,000 unsecured. This is eligible for businesses impacted by Covid-19 and you can apply directly on the SBCI website. To be eligible for this scheme your company needs to fulfil one of the Covid-19 criteria and one of the innovation criteria set out for the scheme. Details for these criteria will be available on their website.

Enterprise Ireland

  1. A Rescue and Restructuring Scheme will be available for vulnerable but viable firms that need to restructure or transform their business.
  2. A Finance in Focus grant of €7,200 will be available to Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta clients that want to access consultancy support to undertake immediate finance reviews.

Local Enterprise Offices (LEO)

The LEO in every county will be providing vouchers from €2,500 up to €10,000 (with 50:50 match funding) to support business continuity preparedness, innovation and productivity.

MicroFinance Ireland 

The maximum loan available from MicroFinance Ireland will be increased from €25,000 to €50,000 as an immediate measure to specifically deal with exceptional circumstances that micro-enterprises – (sole traders and firms with up to 9 employees) – are facing. Applications can be made through the MFI website or through your local LEO.

Pillar Banks

The Credit Guarantee Scheme will be available to Covid-19 impacted firms through the Ireland’s Pillar Banks – Bank of Ireland, AIB and Permanent TSB. Loans of up to €1m will be available at terms of up to 7 years. Talk to your local branch for more information.

Local Enterprise Office

Your local Enterprise Office in Ireland can give you advice, information and support. They support Startups and growing businesses. Support from your local Enterprise Office including Start-your-own-business training courses, market research information, business planning advice and templates, access to experienced business mentors, feasibility grants as well as co-investment for your plans.

Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland has a range of supports and grants that are available to Irish businesses. Their funding programmes are open to anyone from entrepreneurs with a business idea that have the potential for a Startup to large companies that want to expand their business activities, improve efficiency and grow sales.

High Potential Start-up (HPSU)

If your business is headquartered and controlled in Ireland, you can apply for Enterprise Ireland’s HPSU. Your business should have the potential to become an innovative product or service for the international market. HPSU is relevant for Startups that have the potential to create 10 jobs and €1m in export sales within 3 years of starting up. Your start up has to be less than 5 years old and led by a experienced management team, in order to apply for HPSU. Your nearest Enterprise Ireland office has a specialist Startup team that can advise you on your application and give you support for moving your business forward.

Competitive Start Fund (CSF)

The Competitive Start Fund helps accelerate Startup companies that have the capability to become High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) companies. The fund offers €750,000 funding. The application process involves the submission of a written proposal and a video pitch. In addition, there is a Competitive Start Fund specifically for Female Entrepreneurs on an annual basis. Enterprise Ireland states that this fund is open for applications several times throughout the year with calls made for specific sectors, female-led Startups, and entrepreneurs based outside of Ireland.

New Frontiers

New Frontiers is a national programme designed to help early-stage ideas (0-6 Months) from a business concept to an investable business. It is by far the best way to get money if you are a Startup in the early stages. Currently, it’s based in 16 locations across the country.

For applicants to be successful, New Frontiers states that participants are selected based on: Track record, business experience or acumen, capability – having the necessary management and technical skills. A suitable background that will enable the development of a business with sustainable competitive advantage, credibility, commitment, drive & determination, quality of the business idea.

Start Up Relief for Entrepreneurs (SURE)

SURE is a tax refund scheme that applies to entrepreneurs who leave employment to start their own Limited Company. The Limited Company must be less than two years old and it cannot be an existing business. For example, a Sole Trader who later incorporated into a Limited Company cannot avail of SURE.

Under the SURE scheme, shareholders may be entitled to an income tax refund of up to 41% on the amount you invest into the company. The amount you can claim depends on the size of your investment. So you should speak to an accountant if you need help calculating your potential SURE refund.

Border Region Stimulus Package

This package includes four new initiatives to help mitigate the impact of Brexit in the Border Regions, Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan, Louth, and Sligo.

1. LEO Capability Building Programme will deliver training workshops and intensive one-to-one mentoring. These programmes will focus on developing the business capability of Irish companies in the Border regions. Support will be provided to help companies through the Brexit transition period and to drive the Future Jobs Strategy. More details on the following programmes will be announced throughout 2020: Financial Capability Programme, Scaling Programme, Exporting Programme, Green Programme, Retail Programme, Innovation Audit, Scaling Programme.

2. Brexit Transformation Fund will help strengthen the resilience and international competitiveness of individual enterprises in the Border Regions, through transformative investment. This means Enterprise Ireland will be offering Irish companies support in the following areas: Innovation, Competitiveness and Market Diversification.

Funding will be granted on a case-by-case basis. An open call for applications is open on the 5th of February until 8th April 2020. You are advised to contact your Development Adviser within Enterprise Ireland if you already have one. Other companies may contact the Enterprise Ireland Regional Office (Sligo, Letterkenny or Dundalk Offices).

3. Border Enterprise Development Fund is set to help companies in the Border Regions build enterprise capability. There are two streams of this fund. Stream One offers to fund €100k up to €500k per project that is focused on providing solutions for local, county or regional businesses. Stream Two offers to fund €500k up to €5 million per project that is focused on Strategic Change Projects with regional, multi-regional or national collaborations with a focus on delivering increased enterprise capability in the Border Regions.

This funding is only eligible for Designated Activity Companies (DAC), Companies Limited By Guarantee (CLG) and public bodies.

4. Feasibility Funding is a grant of €15k or 50% of eligible costs (whichever is lesser). This grant is for consultancy services only. It is designed to assist with researching market demand for a product or service and examining business sustainability.

NDRC

NDRC is an early stage investor in tech companies with the main focus on their NDRC Catalyser investment programme. Additionally, its aim is to identify Startups and founder teams who meet a significant global unmet market need or problem. For instance, this Startup grant could be for you if your startup has; deep know-how in technology, a globally scalable product or services-led propositions, potential to be investor ready or revenue generating within 6 months, a strong commercial and technical team.

InterTrade Ireland

InterTrade Ireland, are a cross-border body, covering the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, who offers a guide to become ‘investor ready’. Additionally, they specialise in early-stage Startups and provide a range of services and advice.

The Seedcorn Competition is another opportunity for Startups. Primarily, Startups who require new equity funding as funding received can be up to €280,000. The Seedcorn is basically a two-step application which includes:

Registration and initial application form
Visual representation of the business idea i.e either a short video clip or a slide show presentation – or both.

The applications for 2019 are closed

Women-Founded High Potential Start-Ups (HPSU)

The Enterprise Ireland Female Entrepreneurship Unit have established the importance of supporting women entrepreneurs to launch and grow their startups. The requirements for the women-founded HPSU are the exact same as all the other HPSU.

Calls open on 24th of September 2019 and close on the 8th of October 2019.

Going For Growth

Going For Growth is specifically for women entrepreneurs and to support women who are serious about growing their businesses, which has been trading for at least two years. Interactive round-table sessions are facilitated by successful entrepreneurs and practical knowledge comes from lead entrepreneurs sharing their experiences of owning and managing successful businesses.

You can start sending your applications in November 2019.

DCU’s Ryan Academy

DCU’s Ryan Academy supports women entrepreneurs by offering funding and support programmes that address the challenges women face in business. In 2017, they ran ‘Building Better Futures: Migrant Women’s Entrepreneurship Training‘ to provide migrant women with an overview of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in Ireland. Female High Fliers is an accelerator programme that is currently closed for Ireland’s best early stage startups and is specifically designed to address the challenges facing women entrepreneurs. This programme is open to startups that are less than 5 years old and helps them to accelerate to the next level.

The closing date for the receipt of applications is August 30th, 2019.

Rubicon

Rubicon in Cork Institute of Technology offers a range of programmes to support women entrepreneurship. In 2017, they ran the Exxcel Female Entrepreneurship STEM Programme, which was designed to support entrepreneurs with a business idea that had high growth and export potential within the Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) industry.

You can apply for the next project, starting in January 2020 – applications are open!

Other supports

  • Dublin BIC offers support in four key areas: investor-ready preparation, access to finance, incubation space and community and collaboration.
  • Halo Business Angel Network offer investment to companies that are usually headquartered in Ireland and in the Technology, MedTech, AgriTech or Food industry.
  • Crowdfunding is a great way for small businesses to get support from a large number of people. Ireland has a number of crowdfunding options such as Kickstarter Ireland.

Do Limited Companies have increased chances of receiving a Startup grant?

The simple answer is yes. More Startup grants and support are available to limited companies setting up in Ireland.

The Sole Trader or Limited Company and Will I Pay Less Tax If I Am A Limited Company are a great starting point for anyone thinking about setting up as a limited company. Becoming a limited company not only increases the chance of receiving a Startup grant but also boosts the credibility of the business.

Getting the right investors for your new business is critical. Before agreeing to an investment you should do everything you can to get to know those investors. Reach out to CEO’s/founders of companies they’ve invested in to understand what role they played post-investment.

Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland offers Investment Support and Pre-Investment Support for Startups moving to Ireland. Investment support includes helping projects that are coming from overseas, that are fully investor ready and meet all their criteria. This support is offered under Enterprise Ireland’s €10m fund to attract international Startups to come to Ireland.

Pre-Investment Support is aimed at projects that meet their other criteria and have made some progress but are not fully investor ready and can apply to attend an accelerator programme. Enterprise Ireland can offer some participants on accelerator programmes a grant to cover living costs.

Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP)

The Immigrant Investor Programme is open to non-EEA nationals who commit to an approved investment in Ireland. The programme requires a minimum investment of €1m, from the applicants own resources and not financed through a loan or other such facility and must be committed for a minimum of three years.

Applications for 2020

  • 17 February 2020 – 21 February 2020
  • 20 April 2020 – 24 April 2020
  • 22 June 2020 – 26 June 2020
  • 31 August 2020 – 4 September 2020
  • 26 October 2020 – 30 October 2020

Startup Entrepreneur Programme

The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme allows a non-EEA national with an innovative business idea and minimum funding of €75,000 to come and set up a business in Ireland.

Not ready to apply for startup grant?

We understand that it can be a lengthy process to get your Startup funding-ready. Pre-accelerator programmes are a great way to get support and practical coaching and experience before you start applying for Startup/accelerator programmes.

NDRC’s Pre-Acceleration Programmes

The NDRC offer pre-acceleration and pre-commercialization programmes. The pre-acceleration programme provides support for potential entrepreneurs who have an idea in technology/digital transformation. The pre-commercialistion programme is aimed to help researchers actively prepare for Enterprise Ireland commercialisation funding, feasibility funding and pre-seed investment. In 2016, NDRC ran 3 industry focused pre-accelerator programmes: HealthTech Pre-Accelerator, Fintech Pre-Accelerator, and InsurTech. Keep an eye out for their future programmes.

Startup Boost

Startup Boost is a global tech Startup pre-accelerator with locations in Dublin, London, Toronto, Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh and L.A. It is a 6-week part-time programme for early-stage entrepreneurs to prepare them for accelerator programs, seed investment and revenue. You will get access to mentoring, networking and coaching as well as connections with top accelerators, seed investors, and industry partners. There is no fee charged and no equity taken.

 

Propel Pre-Accelerator

Propel pre-accelerator is a programme that provides mentoring support and helps with refining business ideas and identifying growth opportunities. This programme supports up to 20 entrepreneurs to build a business, teaches you how to scale your business, reach significant export growth and secure external investment. Keep in mind that this is a UK-based, so your business must be in the UK or you should be willing to relocate there.

Advice for the application process

If you plan on applying for any funding or support, it is common that they will ask you to submit in-depth details about your business. Whether that is in a video, written, poster or face-to-face interviews, here’s how we recommend you prepare:

  • Use facts and be specific. Back statements with relevant evidence of business activities, i.e statistic or examples.
  • Know your business model thoroughly. It will make explaining it an easier task.
  • Make relevant content such as product specifications, business plans and so on available to the judges. Consider including links to your website.
  • As soon as the application opens, you should begin producing your video pitch – it may take longer than you think.
  • Study the marking scheme. This can give you insight into how to divide your time.

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