Are you looking for startup business grants or government business support in Ireland?
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 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 advantages of setting up a company in Ireland.
In this guide, we give you an overview of the different organisations in Ireland that provide small business grants in Ireland.
List of startup and small business grants available in Ireland
- Government startup support – Local Enterprise Office (LEO), Enterprise Ireland
- Private support for startups – NDRC, Dublin BIC, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland
- Supports For Women Entrepreneurs – Women-Founded High Potential Start-Ups (HPSU), Going For Growth, Rubicon, – Women Entrepreneurship, SheGenerate
- Support for startups moving to Ireland – Enterprise Ireland, Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP), Startup Entrepreneur Programme (STEP), Back For Business,
- Government support for starting a business in Ireland – Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA), Short-Term Enterprise Allowance (STEA)
Government/public startup grants & support
Local Enterprise Office (LEO)
The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) is a network of 31 offices throughout Ireland and is usually the first place to go if you need support starting or growing a business in Ireland.
Each location has knowledgeable Business Advisors, workshops and resources available to give you advice, information, and support on starting a business in Ireland. Find your nearest LEO here.
Here are some of the key business supports from LEO:
- Training and development: LEOs provide a range of workshops and courses for business owners. Topics they cover include business planning, financial management, marketing, and e-commerce.
- Advice and mentoring: If you’re a new business owner and need dedicated one-to-one support, we recommend that you seek advice and mentoring from LEOs Business Advisors. They can help you with areas such as business planning, finance, marketing, and innovation.
- Financial supports: Eligible businesses can apply for grants for feasibility studies, capital expenditure, and employment.
- Networking and events: If you’re looking to build your network or if you’re seeking inspiration, LEO regularly hosts networking events and seminars to help businesses connect with experts and other entrepreneurs.
- Information and resources: LEOs provide a range of information and resources to businesses, including market research, business directories, and access to business databases.
Grants & Supports from 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 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.
Types of 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.
Enterprise Ireland 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
- Innovative HPSU Fund (Equity)
- Redesdale Food Fund (for food, beverage, and nutrition companies)
Private support for business startups
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
Business Innovation Centres (BICs)
BICs are private-led organisations that help entrepreneurs start and scale their businesses. There are three in Ireland: Cork BIC, West BIC, and South East BIC.
Each BIC offers support in the following areas:
- Investor-Ready preparation
Your local BIC can help prepare you for investment with programmes to support startups at the concept, seed, or scaling stage.
- Access to Finance
The BIC’s can help to match your business with the most suitable source of finance. They can work with you on financial modelling so you can proof your financial model and business plan to secure the right type and level of funding.
- 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.
- 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.
Furthr [formerly Dublin BIC]
Furthr is publicly funded via The Department of Trade, Enterprise & Employment. Furthr offer one-to-one consultancy service without charge and all of its support are free for businesses who intend to create jobs in Ireland, looking to scale into international markets and want to raise funding.
List of programmes Furthr delivers on behalf of Enterprise Ireland & Skillnet Ireland
- The Innovation Exchange: The Innovation Exchange 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.
- Ready Set Go Furthr: This programme caters to ambitious entrepreneurs looking for guidance to grow into a significant player in the Irish market and beyond. It offers market evaluation and support for early-stage startups at the launch or pre-launch phase.
- Pre-seed Start Fund: This programme is for startups looking to raise early-stage funding from Enterprise Ireland. It is a learning workshop on preparing a successful Pre-Seed Start Fund application.
- Sprint: This programme is aimed at founders of pre-investment High Potential Start-up companies seeking seed investment in the next 3-9 months. It is a blended learning format where the founder will be expected to contribute 2 to 3 hours of pre-work every week.
Social Entrepreneurs Ireland
Social Entrepreneurs Ireland is an organisation that supports social entrepreneurs in Ireland. They provide funding, mentorship, and training to social entrepreneurs who are addressing social problems and creating positive change. They don’t limit the sectors they support, but some projects they have supported in the past include education and learning, children and young people, mental health, diversity and inclusion, housing and the environment.
- Ideas Academy: Designed for people from all backgrounds with early-stage innovative ideas to solve social problems in Ireland. This is a 3-month programme that provides training, support, networking and programme bursary and the opportunity to pitch for seed funding.
- Impact Programme: This programme supports social entrepreneurs who have an established business model and are looking to scale their impact, offering direct funding worth over €20,000.
- Changing Ireland Accelerator Programme: Tailored support in areas such as strategy, HR, finance and marketing, mentorship from experienced social entrepreneurs, and €60,000 funding available to underserved social entrepreneurs needing support to accelerate their impact.
Grants and supports for women entrepreneurs
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.
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.
Support for startups moving to 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.
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 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.
Supports for businesses in the Midland And Western regions of 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.
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.
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 businesses in this region.
Government grants for starting a business ireland
Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA)
The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) is suitable for people who are currently unemployed and receive social welfare payments, such as Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) and Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA).
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 businesses.
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.
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:
- Use facts and be specific. Back up statements with the 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.
Rose is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Accountant Online. Rose has worked in senior leadership roles for over 20 years in both US corporates and Irish SME’s. Areas of expertise: Leadership, Strategic Planning, Executive Coaching, Mentorship, Online Business Management