If you have ever wondered what support from the Enterprise Agencies you and your startup business could and should apply for, read on:
This blog post was first written in 2011 and has been updated several times, most recently in late 2023. The accompanying pdf of this slide presentation – 50 slides – was updated in January 2023.
The download link may be useful if this embedded pdf is not displayed on mobile or tablet.
This article seeks to comprehensively identify and signpost enterprise agency supports particularly grants available at each stage of development of your startup journey: pre-start; early stage; and established startup. The image below (slide 3 of the deck) makes the point that there are more supports available for startups with ambition and potential to internationalise as this represents the higher risk (and is not for every new business).
Who to talk to first? Your Local Enterprise Office
For those in the pre-enterprise stage (thinking of starting up and probably still at work) the suggestion is to start by engaging with the Local Enterprise Office.
This could include signing up for a Start Your Own Business programme. In Galway, there is a programme called Lean Launch which is highly recommended (runs once a year). Some startups may apply for a Feasibility study (see slide 14). Mentoring is also a valuable support at this stage. Bizmentors in Galway and the Small Business Advice Programme are mentioned on slide 9.
Engaging with your local LEADER organisation will be relevant for rural-based businesses particularly Food & Tourism. The LEADER Programme provides funding to support community-led rural development.
If you intend to trade as a Sole Trader as opposed to setting up a company, my Guide to Self-Employment in Ireland in 2023 is highly relevant.
And don’t forget to talk to your local Social Welfare Office about the Short Term Enterprise Allowance.
Other organisations to contact include Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and your local Community Enterprise Centres (slide 22 in the presentation). Connected Hubs is a website facilitated by the Western Development Commission which allows the booking of Hub facilities to include desks and meeting rooms.
The next level of supports
For companies with growth (and employment creation) potential, the enterprise support agencies become even more relevant. Your Local Enterprise Office office will be happy to discuss the following:
- Innovation Voucher
- Trading Online Voucher
- Priming Grant
- Business Expansion
- Agile Innovation
The LEO websites are great at sharing stories of their successful clients – a wide range of sectors supported provided they have the ambition to grow internationally creating employment in Ireland.
For established businesses, the Local Enterprise Offices offer soft supports like Lean for Micro, Green for Micro and Digital Start. LEO Galway also offer an Export preparation programme. The following initiatives are also relevant at this stage:
- JobsPlus is an employer incentive which encourages and rewards employers who employ jobseekers on the Live Register.
- Going for Growth is designed to support women who are serious about growing their businesses (trading for at least two years).
- Acorns programme has been designed to support early-stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland and runs over six months part-time
There is a national network of Community Enterprise Centres such as GTC and SCCUL in Galway while centres such as The PorterShed in Galway City and the Bia Innovator Campus in Athenry also offer modern world-class facilities.
InterTrade Ireland also offers a range of supports to startups and SMEs including Fusion and Acumen and of course the Seedcorn Competition (also see my business plan case study about a client company which won a Regional award of €20,000 in 2014)
BTW, Intertrade Ireland offers monthly regional clinics with Drew O’Sullivan aimed at helping companies seeking equity investment – this would be a good starting point for companies seeking equity investment.
As this 2014 blog post indicates I have a long-standing interest in crowdfunding so worth checking out Spark Crowdfunding; Fundit.ie and of course Kickstarter and UK-based Seedrs (and Odin where you can gather your own investment community at lower fees). The Irish Angel Investor Network is also worth a look.
Other Finance options to be aware of are SBCI – Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland which provides loan products via the main banks (BOI, AIB and Permanent TSB) and also Invoice & Trade Financing through Bibby Financial Services.
Peer-to-peer lending platforms such as Flendr and Linked Finance have gained a solid reputation in the SME market. (slide 45)
High Growth Potential – Enterprise Ireland
Enterprise Ireland is responsible for supporting High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) companies – start-up businesses with the potential to develop an innovative product or service for sale on international markets and the potential to create 10 jobs and €1m in sales within 3 years of starting up. EI targets funding supports to align with a company’s stage of development.
The first step is to work with Pre-Accelerators (slide 25) funded by EI to develop the business idea to the point where it is investor ready.
- New Frontiers is Ireland’s national entrepreneur programme located in the Technological Universities around the country.
- NDRC delivers programmes in Dogpatch Labs, Dublin; Portershed Galway, Republic of Work Cork and RDI Hub Kerry.
- Accelerate Green is the leading accelerator programme in Ireland dedicated to scaling companies leading the response to climate action and sustainability, by developing products and services based on green innovation (Bord na Móna)
- Trinity Accelerators – Tangen Trinity’s Ideas Workspace is host partner for ClimAccelerators focusing on Carbon Removal, Built Environment, and Circular Cities.
- Campus incubation centres such as ArcLabs (Waterford), Synergy Centre (Tallaght) and the Innovation Hubs (iHubs) in GMIT are great resources for startup entrepreneurs.
- The big tech companies also have initiatives such as Google Adopt a Startup, The Microsoft for Startups programme (formerly called BizSpark), and the Startup with IBM program.
- The Innovation Exchange facilitates collaboration between Irish SME’s and large multinationals to boost innovation. To find out more in Galway about this marketplace for innovation contact Platform 94 (formerly Galway Technology Centre).
Investor-Ready Supports – Companies that have a well-developed business plan and need to raise investment for their business can apply for the following supports.
- Pre Seed Start Fund – replacing the Competitive Start Fund in late 2022, the Pre-Seed Start Fund of up to €100,000 for 10% equity, will support early-stage companies to reach key technical and commercial milestones required to attract future seed funding within 6 – 18 months. Funds will be allocated to key tasks including the development of a market-ready product/solution, product testing in the marketplace, and building critical skillsets within the start-up team.
- iHPSU Equity – The Innovative HPSU Fund allows Enterprise Ireland to offer equity investment to HPSU clients, on a co-funded basis to support the implementation of a company’s business plans. First-time and follow-on equity investments in HPSUs are supported under this offer.
- EI may refer clients at this stage to the BICs- Business Innovation Centres such as WestBIC for one-to-one support to get investor-ready.
Post Investment Supports are focused on exploring new international opportunities and continued development of the management team. There is also a strong focus on supporting R&D capability development. Talk to your DA – Development Advisor in EI.
Organisations such as Skillnets, IRDG and regional/industry clusters provide collaboration opportunities to address; staff training, R&D, productivity, supply chain efficiencies, and new market development.
Tax Relief for Seed Investment
As mentioned above, EI invests in HPSU on a co-funded or matched basis. One source of matched investment is tax refunds from revenue whereby startup promoters can invest in their business and claim back tax paid in the last 6 years. There are 3 specific schemes for external investors, secondly family members, and finally for the individuals directly involved in the startup. More details included in slide 28-30 .. see Revenue website for latest information on Relief for Investment in Corporate Trades.
InterTrade Ireland, mentioned above in relation to Seedcorn, Equity Advice, R&D and Sales, now offer specialist SEIS/EIS advance assurance consultancy support (part funded) to establish whether early stage companies will qualify to secure Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS)/ Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) as part of their fundraising.
Other organisations to check out include venture capital providers such as Enterprise Equity (AIB Seed Capital Fund); Kernel Capital (Bank of Ireland Seed Capital Fund); and HBAN – the business angel network to include WXNW (West by North West) Angel Group which was established in April 2015; and Nucleus Venture Partners. For full list of VCs see IVCA – Irish Venture Capital Association.
Supports for Intellectual Property
The EU funded Ideas Powered for business SME Fund is a grant scheme designed to help EU-based small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) protect their intellectual property (IP) rights to include patents, trade marks and designs. Check out the SME Fund website on how to apply in 2024.
The IP Start grant from Enterprise Ireland and LEO supports companies in obtaining the necessary external expert IP services to address immediate intellectual property issues – max grant €2,160. IP Start can be used for instance to buy consultancy to draft and file a patent.
Supports for Social Enterprise
There is also a range of supports for Social Enterprise – businesses delivering a strong social impact. See slide 46 in the deck.
- Social Entrepreneurs Ireland
- Rethink Ireland – check out Open funds
- Pobal – works on behalf of the Government to support communities and local agencies toward achieving social inclusion and development.
- The DAF Scaling Fund for Social Enterprises scheme is designed to improve the impact and sustainability of social enterprises that address economic, social, and educational disadvantages, or support those with a disability. Feasibility studies can be supported up to €10,000 and funding of a minimum of €40,000 up to a maximum of €100,000 can be provided for “medium scale capital projects”.
Sectoral Agencies – Enterprise Remit
Bord Bia has a range of programmes and supports for those thinking of starting a new business in the food or drink manufacturing area – see slide heading 12. Similar to Enterprise Ireland and LEOs, Bord Bia can provide access to an information library for secondary research.
BORD IASCAIGH MHARA (BIM) is the Irish State agency responsible for developing the Irish seafood industry. The organisation helps to develop the industry by providing technical expertise, business support, funding, training and promoting responsible environmental practice.
Teagasc provides training and advisory services to promote and sustain a range of enterprise development in rural areas. The Options Programme is designed to assist farm families in looking at all options for growing farm profit and other possibilities for the future. Teagasc also provides a range of supports for early stage food entrepreneurs. Teagasc’s Food Research centres are Knowledge Providers for Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Voucher Scheme.
Engaging with your local LEADER organisation (Local Development Company) is also recommended – see slide heading 12.
The Design and Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCI) mentoring programme provides design/craft businesses with tailored support from a range of experts in design, production, business, marketing and branding, and design/craft specific technical expertise.
As the national tourism development authority, Fáilte Ireland provides consumer and buyer insights, mentoring, training programmes and buyer platforms to help tourism businesses innovate and grow. An online business support hub has been created in consultation with industry experts to meet the recruitment, marketing and finance needs of Ireland’s tourism and hospitality sectors.
Údarás na Gaeltachta is the regional authority responsible for the economic, social and cultural development of the Gaeltacht – offer full range of supports provided to LEO and Enterprise Ireland.
2020 will always be remembered as the year of Covid 19. Business was hugely affected by the lockdowns but the Government rallied all its agencies to create a comprehensive response. At the end of 2020, I edited this article to record these supports.
Here is my Google Slides presentation that summarises the supports that were available to businesses in Ireland as a result of Covid 19. Click the full-screen option in the slides for best (the contents page links to the relevant slide)
The Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment provided the best source of up-to-date information on the full range of Government Supports for Covid-19 impacted businesses. For smaller businesses the top five most relevant were probably:
1. Business Continuity Voucher – apply to your Local Enterprise Office. Designed for businesses across every sector that employs up to 50 people, the voucher is worth up to €2,500 in third-party consultancy costs (at no cost to the company) and can be used by companies and sole traders to develop short-term and long-term strategies to respond to the business challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. [Please note that I have been asked by both LEO Galway and LEO Mayo to assist some businesses under this initiative].
2. Trading Online Voucher – the expanded TOV scheme available from your LEO helps small businesses with up to 10 employees to trade more online, boost sales and reach new markets- There is up to €2,500 available with co-funding of 10% from the business.
3. Microfinance Ireland loans
The COVID-19 Business Loan from Microfinance Ireland (MFI), in partnership with Local Enterprise Offices, provides business loans of up to €50,000 for eligible micro-enterprises (ie businesses with less than 10 employees and up to €2 million in annual turnover). Loan terms are typically 3 years, 6 months interest-free and repayment free moratorium with an interest rate of 4.5%.
4. Restart Grant
From your Local Authority, the Restart Grant provides direct grant aid to micro and small businesses that were closed or impacted by at least 25% projected reduction in turnover by the end of June 2020. The grants will be equivalent to the rates bill of the business in 2019 or a minimum of €2000, with a maximum grant of €10,000 – even if you paid less than €2000 in 2019. This is now closed with the launch of CRSS in the budget.
The COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) offers support to businesses forced to close or trade at significantly reduced levels as a result of restrictions imposed on them in response to COVID-19. Apply via Revenue.
5. Enterprise Ireland
EI had a very comprehensive website outlining their response to severe challenges posed for Irish businesses from Covid-19 – this is a screenshot from their Global Ambition website as of early June 2020. The Sustaining Enterprise Fund for Small Business is a superb support for eligible businesses impacted by coronavirus.
Pre-existing supports remained valid and relevant so the key first step was to contact your Development Advisor in Enterprise Ireland or your Local Enterprise Office.
All of the organisations listed in this blog have specific criteria that you should familiarise yourself with before making an official application. I think it is worth contacting them for a chat at an early stage to build a relationship.
As always I welcome your comments, social shares and suggestions. I would appreciate your help in adding to this list!
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