From starting to running to growing, below are over 50 funds and supports available for businesses in Ireland.
While the list below is extensive, it is by no means definitive. If you are aware of any other supports, public or private, and you think they belong on this list, please contact ThinkBusiness with the name and a link and we will review it for inclusion.
This list begins with funds and supports for startups and then gravitates towards funds and loans for companies that are already running and finally supports for companies that are growing.
READ MORE: Here’s an extensive list of coworking spaces available for startups and freelancers in Ireland.
STARTING – EARLY STAGE SUPPORTS FOR COMPANIES
The Local Enterprise Office is for people interested in starting a new business or people already trading, including entrepreneurs, early-stage promoters, startups and small business looking to expand. With 31 dedicated teams across the Local Authority network in Ireland, Local Enterprise Offices offer a wide range of experience, skills and services.
When growing a new business, talk to your bank about funding options. Bank finance has many features that will appeal to SMEs and early-stage growth businesses.
This is for people who start a company and need cash to fund its growth. You may claim back the income tax if you are an employee, an unemployed person or a person recently made redundant and are starting a business.
The Short-Term Enterprise Allowance (STEA) gives support to people who have lost their job and want to start their own business. It’s paid instead of Jobseeker’s Benefit for a maximum of nine months. It ends when the entitlement to Jobseeker’s Benefit ends (that is at either nine or six months).
Under this scheme, you can [technically] earn €120,000 tax-free for the first three years. The scheme gives relief from corporation tax on your trading income, and certain other gains new companies may acquire, for the first three years.
If you have been out of work and in receipt of social welfare for more than twelve months, under the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance you can keep your social welfare payment for two years if you set up a business (year 1: 100% – year 2; 75%).
This scheme replaced the business expansion scheme and allows individual investors get tax relief on investments they make in other companies.
The Start Your Own Business scheme provides relief from income tax for long-term unemployed people who start a new business.
The fund gives small business owners the e-tools and know-how to ‘optimise’ their existing website and grow their business online.
If you own or manage an SME, and it’s a limited company, you can apply for an innovation voucher worth €5,000.
You can get 50% of the costs of your study, not including VAT, up to €15,000. Importantly, you don’t have to pay back the money.
The HBAN umbrella group supports the early stage entrepreneurial community across the island of Ireland and actively works to increase the number of angel investors investing in early stage companies.
PUBLIC SUPPORTS FOR STARTUPS
There are limited places available each year and the successful candidates each receive cash and training in areas like business planning, sales and marketing. It’s a very competitive programme, so make sure you have a sustainable new business idea, that will “trade internationally, create employment and generate revenue”.
PRIVATE SUPPORTS FOR STARTUPS – INCUBATORS
One of the best tech incubators in the world, the NDRC is the place to apply if you are a very early stage digital company.
This is for aspiring entrepreneurs with ideas “capable of being brought to market and achieving a commercial return”. The NDRC provides pre-seed money of €20,000 per project to support founders during the three-month programme as well as a host of business and mentor supports.
Female Founders, a pre-accelerator for new technology startups with gender diversity in their founding teams is run by NDRC in partnership with AIB and Enterprise Ireland. Women with high-tech business startup ideas can apply.
The Rubicon Centre is jointly financed by CIT and Enterprise Ireland and is a leading business innovation hub, helping entrepreneurs to take their projects to the next level. The centre offers a multitude of programmes for firms at all stages.
Supporting startups through Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme.
This is a list of incubation centres funded by Enterprise Ireland and located on the campuses of Irish Universities and Institutes of Technology.
A new on-campus centre for commercialisation and innovation at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), Origin8 aims to allow industry partners to access the very best and latest in design research. At the same time, it allows on-campus designers and researchers to get access to successful companies that need good designers.
Based in Ireland’s largest University, NovaUCD is a centre of excellence for startups from a variety of disciplines. Nova provides mentoring, free legal, tax and marketing advice and helps startups securing funding from angels and venture capitalists.
The Trinity Technology and Enterprise Campus has space available to let for small and medium-sized enterprises. It also has bio-incubation space available, funded by Enterprise Ireland, for biotechnology firms.
Ignite is the incubator programme at University College Cork (UCC). The college does not take an equity stake in the startups. On completion of the programme, businesses get a further six months office space free-of-charge at the National Software Centre in Mahon in Cork. Entries are welcomed from graduates of any third level institution and each year ten teams are chosen for the programme.
A core part of the centre’s work is to “identify opportunities for partnership between DCU and industry through state-funded innovation partnerships”.
This centre explores and facilitates commercial opportunities for the research community at NUI Galway.
Opened in July 2015, this centre is “focused on ensuring a professional and efficient approach to the commercialisation of research”.
Nexus has a number of flexible programmes tailor-made for startups.
Do you have an idea for a food business or product? Food business startups can apply to the Food Academy Start programme, a collaborative initiative between the Local Enterprise Offices, Bord Bia and SuperValu.
Above is a full list of the Institute of Technology Incubation Centres (including NCI).
PRIVATE SUPPORTS FOR STARTUPS – ACCELERATORS
DCU’s Ryan Academy runs the Propeller Venture Accelerator programme for early-stage technology startups. This three-month accelerator offers €30,000 seed funding plus €15,000 in services costs to entrepreneurs with winning ideas.
LaunchBox is a three-month accelerator open to teams of Trinity students (undergrad and postgrad) with an early-stage business. Participants receive funding, office space and mentorship as well as other networking supports.
Startupbootcamp is a global network of industry-focused startup accelerators. “We take startups global by giving them direct access to an international network of the most relevant partners, investors and mentors in their sector.”
Seedcamp is a leading European pre-seed and seed stage acceleration fund. “We back ambitious founders from around the world and help them build billion-dollar global companies.”
The project aims to create “open source entrepreneurship”, where entrants share space, ideas, referrals, and networking contacts.
MasterCard has an eCommerce and Fintech focused accelerator for innovative early-stage European startups. Successful companies receive access to ‘experts’ from the Mastercard network.
Enterprise Ireland falls somewhere in the middle between pre-seed and seed stage investment. It has a number of solutions aimed at startups, including:
There is also now a Competitive Start Fund for Irish graduates worth €50,000.
Google has set up an arm of Google Ventures (GV) in Europe and allocated an initial fund of $100 million for local startups. GV is looking for “ambitious companies in every field, but we have a unique focus on machine learning and life science investing”.
COMPETITIONS FOR STARTUPS
The #IBYE competition is open to all sectors. The competition takes place at county level initially, with a prize fund of €50,000 available to the winners of three separate categories. Are you 30 or under with a business idea or an existing business? If so, Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) competition could be for you.
This is a competition for third-level students. The idea is that students will go on to develop their concepts into successful startups. The Imagine Cup has been running in Ireland for the past eight years and previously Irish teams have had great success on the global stage. Microsoft Imagine Cup is partly sponsored by Invest Northern Ireland.
A range of supports is on offer for the winner of this awards. The awards are open to all sole traders, partnerships or bodies corporate, trading in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.
This competition is for firms that are in business for more than one year, currently generating revenue and with a strategy in place for acquiring new customers.
CROWDFUNDING & PEER-TO-PEER LENDING
Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular option for businesses looking to raise seed capital. In Ireland, there are sites such as:
Here is a list of the top crowdfunding sites worldwide.
CREDIT FOR ESTABLISHED BUSINESSES IN IRELAND
If it’s time for your business to borrow, you can talk to a bank about a small business loan. Banks have secured and unsecured interest rates and more than that, they have many financial products and services for SMEs of all sizes and stages. READ MORE – How to apply for finance.
Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland
The SBCI was set up to offer loans to SMEs that are up to two percent cheaper than market rates. For example, an SBCI five-year loan of €400,000 will cost an SME between €15,000 and €20,000 less than a typical market loan.
The Microfinance fund is aimed at all micro-enterprises in Ireland – startups and growth firms. Loans of between €5,000 and €25,000 are available for commercially viable products. Borrowers must pay a commercial interest rate. Borrowers must be based in the Republic of Ireland and have fewer than 10 employees and a turnover of less than €2 million per annum. Microfinance loans are now also available through Local Enterprise Offices with a reduced rate for LEO clients.
If you need working capital but can’t get it from a bank, the Credit Guarantee Scheme may be for you. The idea is that the Irish Government provides the lender with a 75% guarantee for which the borrower pays for a 2% premium. Up until now, the scheme was only available to businesses applying for new loans. It’s now also available to companies that want to move loans from a bank that is leaving the Irish market. The maximum length of the guarantee has been extended from three to seven years.
If you are a small business owner or a sole trader and have had difficulty accessing loans from a bank or commercial lending firm, you can apply for an independent review from the Credit Review Office. You can also apply for a review if your existing credit terms have been changed.
GROWING YOUR BUSINESS
This is to encourage investment by companies into research and development. The main challenge for SMEs is knowing the difference between everyday commercial activity and R&D. You may need assistance from a qualified accountant to establish what can be claimed against R&D.
This is to encourage companies, paying corporation tax, to buy energy efficient equipment and machinery. You can write-off 100% of the purchase value of qualifying energy efficient equipment against your profit, in the year of purchase.
HELP WHEN RECRUITING
JobsPlus is an employer incentive that offers you financial support if you take on an unemployed person. JobsPlus offers up to €10,000 for a qualifying recruit, payable on a monthly basis over a two year period, providing the employment is maintained.
Participants receive certified classroom training and work experience with a company. This is for people who have been on the live register for 12 months or receiving credits.
Can you introduce a company to Ireland?
Is your’s an ambitious, fast-growing company with the potential to develop into a significant global business? Venture Capital funds invest in companies that are raising €500k+ in equity. You must be in a fast-growing, attractive sector, with a strong management team and demonstrable skills. Your product/service must solve a clearly identified problem. This website includes a list of the most active and the largest VC funds, innovation funds and development funds in Ireland at present.
READ MORE: A Guide to Early Stage Investment and VC Funds.
READ THIS: The Thinkbusiness Guide to Crowdfunding.
MORE TIPS: Top Tax Tips for Businesses.