Are you looking for Startup grants, Government supports, or funding options for your growing business?

Starting a business is an exciting journey but sometimes, getting off the ground can be harder than you think. You may have a business plan, but you need seed funding or government support as Startup grants to turn it into a reality. Or you may need to expand your staff, grow your operations, or develop your own skillset so you can manage business growth.

There are many great government grants for entrepreneurs starting a business and small business grants that support SMEs to grow and scale into international markets. In general, there are more supports available for Limited Companies which is one of the reasons we suggest setting up a company rather than being a Sole Trader.

In this guide, we connect you to the different Startup networks in Ireland and help you to decide which Start-up grants are suitable for your business.

Startup and small business grants available in Ireland

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Local Enterprise Office Supports

Local Enterprise Office (LEO)Your Local Enterprise Office (LEO) can give you advice, information, and support on starting a business in Ireland.

They support business owners and growing businesses from Sole Traders to Limited Companies. Each country in Ireland has its own LEO; you can find your local office on its website.

Business Support from LEO includes:

  • Training programmes
  • Mentoring
  • Financial supports
  • Brexit support
What do Local Enterprise Office do?

What do Local Enterprise Office do?

For a full list of the different types of small business grants and supports available from your Local Enterprise Office, and to find out where your nearest office is, read our dedicated guide.

We hope it will help you disocver the range of support available and choose the best support for your business.

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Grants & Supports from Enterprise Ireland (EI)

Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland is an organisation that supports the growth of Limited Companies into other markets.

Usually, entrepreneurs start by going to their Local Enterprise Office, and then when they’re ready to expand business activities, improve efficiency, and grow sales, they visit EI for further support.

There is greater business support available from EI but there are also stricter qualifying criteria. However, being a client of EI has excellent benefits so if you are eligible for their support you’ll see results straight away! Check out our starting a business FAQ page for more information.

Supports offered by Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland provides business support in the Startup and expansion stages, including:

  • The Business Financial Planning Grant – allows businesses to hire third-party consultants to help them create detailed plans to manage their business and finances and source the external funding they need to expand.
  • Digitalisation Vouchers – helps businesses adopt new digital tools and techniques to help them optimise their activities and stay competitive in the digital age.
  • The Mentor Grant matches new and existing business owners with experienced mentors to offer tailored help and advice on running their business and overcoming obstacles to growth.
  • The Market Discovery Fund – supports market research and the development of viable market entry strategies into new geographic markets.
  • LeanStart – an introduction to Lean concepts, helping businesses optimise their operations and minimise waste.

Are you a High Potential Start-up (HPSU)?

EI are looking for a certain type of company to support – which they call a “High Potential Start-up (HPSU)”.

A HPSU is characterised as “a start-up business that has the potential to develop an innovative product or service for sale in international markets and the potential to create 10 jobs and €1m in export sales within 3 years of starting up”

If this sounds like it might apply to you, contact EI’s Start-up Team to discuss your idea and Startup needs.

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Enterprise Ireland support for HPSU's

NDRC

NDRC is an early-stage investor in tech companies, run by Dogpatch Labs, a Startup hub in Ireland. Its aim is to identify Startups and founder teams that meet a significant global unmet market need or problem.

Typical companies that go to NDRC for support have the following features:

  • 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

If you are interested in the NDRC Accelerator programme you can register your interest here. The programme includes:

  • Funding of up to €100,000
  • 12 months of workspace at Dogpatch labs
  • Over €500,000 worth of free perks
  • Mentorships from successful entrepreneurs
  • Post-accelerator support

Business Innovation Centres (BICs)

BICs are private-led organisations that help entrepreneurs start and scale their businesses. Each region in Ireland has its own; Dublin BIC, Cork BIC, West BIC, South East BIC.

If you’re interested in getting involved with a BIC, we recommend contacting them directly or checking out one of our webinars with Dublin BIC.

Each BIC offers support in the following areas:

1. Investor-Ready preparation

Your local BIC can help prepare you for investment with programmes to support startups at the concept, seed, or scaling stage.

2. Access to Finance

Dublin BIC manage Ireland’s Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN) - Ireland’s largest network of angel investors, which offers funding to early-stage companies. Your local BIC can help guide you on investment options for your business.

3. Incubation Space

The BIC’s operate their own incubation spaces to provide affordable office space for startups. They can also advise you on office space in your local area to suit your business.

4. Community and Collaboration

The BICs organise a range of events to help you grow your business network and connect with industry experts in fields such as technology, as well as with investors who can help you fund your business growth.

The Innovation Exchange

The Innovation Exchange is a multi-year programme, managed by Dublin BIC and Skillnet Ireland.

The programme connects large businesses facing innovation challenges with ambitious Startups and SMEs that can help them solve these challenges. It aims to address the barriers that prevent SMEs from being able to do business with corporates and government bodies.

To find out more and apply, visit the Innovation Exchange website.

Women-Founded High Potential Start-Ups (HPSU)

The requirements for the women-founded HPSU are the exact same as all the other HPSU.

The Enterprise Ireland Female Entrepreneurship Unit was established to support women entrepreneurs in Ireland.

If you need further information about HPSUs, you can contact Enterprise Ireland’s Startup Enquiries Team for advice on what it takes to be an Enterprise Ireland client. Email: HPSUenquiries@enterprise-ireland.com and phone: +353 1 727 2130.

Going For Growth

Going For Growth is specifically for women entrepreneurs in Ireland who are serious about growing their businesses. 

You should be the owner/manager of an established business and the main shareholder and key influencer in the company’s running.

Applications must be sent to register your interest in being a part of this programme.

Accelerating the Creation Of Rural Nascent Start-ups (ACORNS)

The ACORNS programme supports early-stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland. Participants take part in interactive round table sessions with female entrepreneurs who have successfully started and grown their own businesses, known as “Lead Entrepreneurs.”

Applicants can register their interest on the  ACORNS website. You must have recently set up a business that you own or part-own, be in the advanced stages of planning a new venture, and live in a rural area to apply.

Competitive Start Fund – Women Entrepreneurship

Enterprise Ireland invites applications from individual women entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial teams, and existing early-stage, women-led start-ups in the Manufacturing & Internationally Traded Services sectors to compete for funding to expand their businesses.

Applicant companies must have at least one female promoter on their lead management team who owns or will own at least 25% of the voting share of the company.

Rubicon

Rubicon in Cork Institute of Technology offers an ‘Exxcel Programme’, which was designed to support entrepreneurs with a business idea that has high growth and export potential within the Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) industry.

This business programme is delivered over 6 months, with ongoing, one-to-one mentoring and coaching. If you’re interested in this programme, you need to make an application to express your interest.

Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland offers Investment Support and Pre-Investment Support for Startups moving to Ireland.

Investment support includes helping projects coming from overseas, fully investor-ready, and meeting all their criteria.

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 in 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 applicant’s own resources and is not financed through a loan or other such facility and must be committed for a minimum of three years.

Startup Entrepreneur Programme (STEP)

The Start-up Entrepreneur Programme allows a non-EEA national with an innovative business proposal and minimum funding of €50,000 to come and set up a business in Ireland.

You apply for this programme online and there is a €350 application fee. Once you’ve applied, an Independent Evaluation Committee will consider the application and determine the suitability of your proposal.

IDA Ireland

IDA Ireland is a statutory agency set up to help businesses set up and expand in Ireland. They advise entrepreneurs on the benefits of doing business in Ireland.

The IDA can advise you on a wide range of funding programmes and incentives to help get set up in Ireland. They also provide training and mentorship programmes for improving your business practices.

Back For Business

Back for Business aims to support returned emigrants or those planning to return to live in Ireland to set up their businesses.

It’s suitable for returned emigrants who have lived abroad for at least a year and returned to Ireland in the last three years. Applicants should have recently started or be well advanced in their plans to start their business.

Participants will receive support and advice from experienced Volunteer Lead Entrepreneurs, who will facilitate round tables, based on a model of peer support.

Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA)

If you are currently unemployed and receive social welfare payments, such as Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) and Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA), you can apply for the Back To Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA). This scheme allows you to retain a percentage of your social welfare payments for up to two years while you start your own business. You must be under 66 and have been receiving JB or JA continuously for at least 9 months to avail of this programme.

Short-Term Enterprise Allowance (STEA)

The Short-Term Enterprise Allowance (STEA) allows people who have lost their job to start their own business. In order to receive this support, you must be receiving Jobseeker’s Benefit without working part-time. Your entitlement to the STEA is not affected by grants from a local development company or a Local Enterprise Office; the maximum length of time you can receive this support is 9 months.

InterTrade Ireland

InterTrade Ireland helps small businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland explore cross-border markets. They support businesses in developing new products, processes, and services.

They also support businesses with funding and by helping them become investor-ready.

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Údarás na Gaeltachta

Údarás na Gaeltachta offers support to businesses from a range of sectors to start up and expand in Gaeltacht regions.

This includes providing grants and advice, as well as support for finding business premises in Gaeltacht areas.

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Atlantic Economic Corridor

The Atlantic Economic Corridor aims to attract investment and create jobs along the Irish western seaboard, from Kerry to Donegal.

They provide free advice and support and mentoring, and networking opportunities to entrepreneurs starting or growing their business in this region.

Find Out More

Not ready for Startup grants?

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.

Startup Boost

This is a Startup organisation that offers a 6-week part-time programme for early-stage entrepreneurs to prepare them for accelerator programs, seed investment and revenue.

Startup Boost is a global tech Startup pre-accelerator with locations in Dublin, London, Toronto, Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh and L.A.

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.

Cash Flow Supports For Businesses Impacted By Covid-19

Businesses that have been negatively affected by Covid-19 can avail of government supports to help in areas such as paying staff (Employment Wage Support Scheme) or getting their businesses online (Trading Online Voucher Scheme).

Check out our blog on Cash Flow Supports For Businesses Impacted By Covid-19 for more information on the supports available. If your business needs accounting or compliance advice during this time, please reach out to our Client Services Team today. We’re here to help!

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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 via video, written application, poster or face-to-face interview, here’s how we recommend you prepare:

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

Want to talk to us?

If you need support during your Startup journey, talk to our Client Services Team about our Company Formation and Accountancy services.

We offer a wide range of services for SMEs in Ireland and the UK. You can chat online, call us on +353 (0)1 905 9364 or email hello@accountantonline.ie.

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