Enterprise Agency Supports

This is a two-section blog post; the first part deals with supports arising from Covid-19; while the second section which was written before Covid-19 provides a comprehensive overview of supports for business available from the Enterprise Agencies to include LEO, Enterprise Ireland and Leader. And if you are looking for information on Brexit supports that is addressed in my BREXIT FAQ article.

November 2020 – Summary of Covid-19 Supports for Business in Ireland:

Here is a Google Slides presentation that summarises the supports available to business 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 provides the best source of up to date information on the full range Government Supports for Covid-19 impacted businesses. For smaller businesses the top five most relevant are 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 business who were closed or impacted by at least 25% projected reduction in turnover to 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 has 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.

Enterprise Ireland Covid 19 response
Visit EI Global Ambition Website

Pre-existing supports remain valid and relevant so the key first step is to contact your Development Advisor in Enterprise Ireland or your Local Enterprise Office.

Which brings us to the original (updated) blogpost on pre-existing supports…

Enterprise Agency Supports

If you have ever wondered what supports that 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 November 2020. The accompanying presentation has also updated most recenty in 2017.

A lot has happened in nearly 10 years. The big 4 changes to 2017 were: the Enterprise Boards being rebranded as the Local Enterprise Offices while Enterprise Ireland have also rebranded the EPPs as New Frontiers. The scheme formerly known as Seed Capital Relief is now SURE – Startup Refunds For Entrepreneurs.  Fourthly, CSF has also been launched since this post was first published!

There have been several subsequent changes to the ‘enterprise agency funding landscape’ in 2019/20 with Brexit and Covid 19 to include for instance changes to TOV (Trading Online Voucher) with LEO which is now €2,500 at 90% funding for businesses trading 6 months.

donncha hughes, business advisor

This article will now address the supports available depending on the stage of development of your startup company: pre-enterprise; early stage; and established startup. The image below makes the point that the range of supports increases with ambition and potential to internationalise as this is a higher risk which is not for every startup.

Supports for my startup business 2015

Pre-Startup Trading

For those in the pre-enterprise stage (thinking of starting up and probably still at work) the options are:
•    Feasibility
•    Start Your Own Business Programmes,
•    Mentoring.
•    Soft supports like GMIT’s Empower Start Programme and LEO Donegal’s Ambition programme with NDRC for female entrepreneurs.

In Ireland, the bodies who are worth talking to at this stage include the Local Enterprise Office; Enterprise Ireland; the BICs such as WestBIC; Partnerships and possibly the Chambers.

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.

Your local bank manager is also worth approaching! The website ThinkBusiness is definitely worth a visit as is Startups.ie while I also recommend the Startup Digest for an up to date digest of events for Startups in Dublin.

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.

Early Stage Startups

For companies in the early stage of business the enterprise support agencies become even more relevant:
•    Innovation Vouchers
•    Priming Grant, TOVs and TAME with your LEO
•    Soft supports like DCU Ryan Academy’s Female High Flyers and Acorns and GMIT’s Empower Programme
•    JobsPlus an employer incentive which encourages and rewards employers who employ jobseekers on the Live Register.

Campus incubation centres such as ArcLabs (Waterford), Synergy Centre (Tallaght) and the Innovation Hubs (iHubs) in GMIT are a great resource to startup entrepreneurs.

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.

New Frontiers is Ireland’s national entrepreneur programme located in the Institutes of Technology around the country.

The Competitive Start Fund (CSF) is also relevant at this stage – check out my blogposts on applying for CSF and my online training –  as are the various NDRC programmes to include NDRC @ Portershed operating in Galway since 2017.

The Microsoft for Startups programme (formerly called BizsSpark programme) is also worth investigating.

Other finance options to be aware of are MicroFinance Ireland (previously First Step) which now works closely with LEO.

Established Startup Supports

For more established startup businesses the Local Enterprise Offices offer Business Expansion Grants and soft supports like Lean for Micro while for companies with international potential Enterprise Ireland offer:

•  Strategic Consultancy,
•  Export Development supports
•  R&D supports and
•  HPSU supports to include equity investment, key person support
•  Access to international offices
•  Use of their information centre.
•  Horizon 2020 funding to include SME Instrument

InterTrade Ireland also offer a range of supports to startups and SMEs to include 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)

Other finance options to be aware are SBCI – Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland which provides loan products via the main banks (BOI, AIB and Ulster) and also Invoice & Trade Financing through Bibby Financial Services.

Tax Relief for Seed Investment

There are three different incentives under which companies can raise funds through equity-based finance investment by individuals (including by the owner and family members) to qualify for Tax Relief from Revenue:

  • Employment Investment Incentive (EII)  … formerly known as Business Expansion Scheme
  • Start-up Capital Incentive (SCI)
  • Start-Up Relief for Entrepreneurs (SURE)….  formerly known as Seed Capital Relief

If you have started a new company, you may be able to apply for tax relief for start-up companies. This tax relief, also known as Section 486C tax relief, is a reduction of your Corporation Tax (CT) for the first three years you trade.

Other organisations to check out include 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) which was established in April 2015; Nucleus Venture Partners; IBM Global Entrepreneur Initiative and the Small Business Advice Programme; Skillnets, Plato, and Supply Network Shannon.

As this 2014 blog post indicates I have a long-standing interest in crowdfunding  so worth checking out Spark Crowdfunding; and Fundit.ie;

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.

Supports for Social Enterprise

There is also a range of supports for Social Enterprise – businesses delivering a strong social impact.

Engaging with your local LEADER organisation is also suggested.

NDRC announces new supports for entrepreneurs – 2021

This Irish Times article (Feb 2021) explains that NDRC now has supports to help entrepreneurs from initial concept to established start-up. The €17 million contract to manage National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) was awarded to Dogpatch Labs with regional partners Portershed Galway, Republic of Work Cork and RDI Hub Kerry

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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  1. Hi Donncha

    This looking very professional.

    As for the grants all seems to be at a stand still at the moment.

    I would agree with your comments talk to all of the agencies about what is really available.

    However there will be a merging of some kind with all the agencies over the coming months so all systems change.

    In the current climate if you can get the money form else where then do so.


    1. Paul

      Thanks for sharing that link. It is great to have the information on Enterprise Ireland initiatives, events and supports in the software and services area.


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