Who can apply for business start-up grants?

As a business owner, you may be looking for funding support to help grow and expand your business. If you’re just starting out, you may need seed funding to help make your business idea a reality.

There are lots of great government grants for entrepreneurs starting a business as well as grants that support SMEs that are growing and scaling into international markets.

In general, there are more grants available for Limited Companies which is one of the reasons we suggest setting up a company rather than being a Sole Trader.

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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Local Enterprise Office

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 county in Ireland has its own LEO and you can find your local office on its website.

Support from LEO includes:

Local Enterprise Office: What Do They Do?

Local Enterprise Office: What Do They Do?

Read this blog to find the location of your nearest LEO, discover what they do, read about the different types of LEO business grants and support available and how to choose the best support for your business.

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Enterprise Ireland (EI)

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 are greater supports available from EI but there are also stricter qualifying criteria to satisfy before you can avail of their support. However, being a client of EI has excellent benefits so if you are eligible for their support you’ll see results straight away!

Supports offered by Enterprise Ireland

EI provides support for businesses in the start-up and expansion stages, including:

The Business Financial Planning Grant

This 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.

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Digitalisation Vouchers

These vouchers help businesses adopt new digital tools and techniques to help them optimise their activities and stay competitive in the digital age.

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The Mentor Grant

This grant matches both new and existing business owners with experienced mentors to offer tailored help and advice on running their business and overcoming obstacles to growth.

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The Market Discovery Fund

This fund supports businesses in conducting market research and developing viable market entry strategies into new geographic markets.

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EI helps fund business participation in the LeanStart programme, which provides an introduction to Lean concepts, helping businesses optimise their operations and minimise waste.

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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 applies to you, contact EI’s Start-up Team to discuss your idea and Startup needs.

EI support for HPSU's

For businesses in the development/feasibility stage – developing a business idea or proposal

For businesses with a well-developed business plan and need to raise additional funding

Setting up a business in rural Ireland


ACORNS is a part-time programme runs over 6 months and is designed to support early-stage, female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland. It is centred around interactive sessions, facilitated by other successful female entrepreneurs. 

The Connected Hubs Fund

Managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development, The Connected Hub Fund programme provides hot desks, office spaces, and meeting rooms for remote working. It will also be used to fund electrical car charging points, upgrade disability access and improve IT facilities. 

The Digital Innovation Programme

The Digital Innovation Programme encourages digital development in rural areas. This supports businesses in trialling new technologies or scaling up existing ones in order to be competitive in the digital age. 

Údarás na Gaeltachta

Údarás na Gaeltachta offers a range of supports to help businesses start up, develop and expand in Gaeltacht areas in Ireland. 


NDRC is an early-stage investor in tech companies. Its aim is to identify Startups and founder teams who 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

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.

Each BIC offers support in the following areas:

  1. Investor-ready preparation
  2. Raising finance
  3. Incubation space

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

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 be the main shareholder and key influencer in the running of the company.

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

DCU’s Ryan Academy

DCU’s Ryan Academy offers a Female High Fliers accelerator programme for Ireland’s best early-stage Startups.

It’s specifically designed to address the challenges facing women entrepreneurs. This programme is open to companies that are less than 5 years old and helps them to accelerate to the next level.

Successful applicants will receive weekly training and homework after each session so it’s important that those applying are able to commit to the time involved with this programme.


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 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.

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.


A pilot scheme by AwakenHub that aims to help women start their female founder journeys.

AwakenHub are looking for 35 women to join their group. Participants will have access to tailored workshops and a private slack group that includes “Big Sisters” (Innovators, Investors, and Entrepreneurs). They’ll also be invited to AwakenHub community events, and get ongoing advice on what their next steps should be. The closing date for applications is October 8th, 2021, at 5pm.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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 and the maximum length of time that you can receive this support for is 9 months.

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.


This is a pre-accelerator programme that aims to support high-potential sport and fitness startups. It will run between mid-October and late November 2021. Participants will gain a better understanding of their entrepreneurial career path and gain the tools they need to pursue opportunities in the sector. They’ll also have access to industry experts who will be on hand to offer guidance and support.

This programme is being run by NDRC.

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.

We’re here to help!

Need help?

Our client services team are always happy to talk to you about what's best for your needs

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