Digital, skills and exporting supports for business in 2021

The Irish Government has through Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices reiterated key supports and schemes available to Irish businesses in terms of digital, exporting and upskilling.

ThinkBusiness has compiled the latest range of supports available to Irish SMEs from the Irish Government.

Almost a year since the first lockdown began, many businesses have learnt to adapt through innovation, digitalisation and upskilling. As the onset of vaccinations signals a potential return to a new normal, businesses need to ensure they are in fighting shape to capture opportunities.

Brexit: Ready for Customs grant

Container cargo ship in import export business logistic on digital world map, 3d rendering.

Ensure that your company has the capacity to deal with the new customs procedures by availing of the Ready for Customs grant.

The Ready for Customs grant, administered by Enterprise Ireland, will assist your business to increase its capacity to manage the customs process:

  • Up to €9,000 is available for each new full-time employee engaged in customs work
  • If you employ a new person to deal with customs on a part-time basis a grant of up to €4,500 is available
  • This grant contributes to recruitment costs, employee costs and provision of IT infrastructure.

Learn more about the application process and eligibility in Enterprise Ireland’s Ready for Customs webinar or apply here

Trading Online Voucher

A shopping trolley filled with goods sits on top of a computer keyboard.

The Trading Online Voucher Scheme offers financial assistance of up to €2,500 with co-funding of 50pc from the business. Previous voucher recipients may apply for a second voucher where upgrades are required.

Funding can be used towards adding payment facilities or booking systems to your website or developing new apps for your customers. The voucher can also be used towards subscriptions to low cost online retail platform solutions, to help companies quickly establish a retailing presence online. Training and further business supports are also provided by Local Enterprise Offices. To find out more, email or telephone your Local Enterprise Office.

Skills and training supports for businesses

Woman doing a video conference from home.

Enterprise Ireland

  • Strategic Consultancy Grant: The Enterprise Ireland Strategic Consultancy Grant funds the hiring of a strategic consultant to support the development and/or the implementation of new strategic initiatives to facilitate business growth.
  • Covid-19 Act on Support: The Act On initiative offers advice, support and access to external consultants on strategic sourcing and transport and logistics. For more information, contact your Enterprise Ireland Development Adviser.
  • Key Manager Grant: The Key Manager Grant provides partial funding towards the recruitment of a full or part time manager with critical skills to support a business and its future growth.
  • eiLearn online learning platform: Enterprise Ireland’s online learning platform, eiLearn, supports companies in overcoming some of the key challenges in growing a business and preparing to tackle international markets. It is a resource were over 400 pieces of customised content designed for Irish SMEs can be accessed. In the current environment of the COVID-19 crisis, there is new content added daily across six business pillars, including People and Management.
  • Virtual Mentoring Network: Virtual Mentoring Network has a panel of more than 400 highly experienced business people who can offer practical advice, guidance and support at this time. For further information email

Local Enterprise Offices

  • Training webinars: In response to the pandemic, the LEOs have launched a series of LEO training webinars. These live video sessions cover topics such as what financial supports are available to businesses; how to manage cashflow during and after the crisis and; how to innovate and adapt your business to overcome the challenges of the crisis.
  • Expert views videos: The central LEO network website is hosting videos from experts focusing on issues that are common amongst businesses during the COVID-19 crisis, for example, what supports best suit a business, how to manage staff remotely, or how to maximise a business’ digital footprint.
  • Training programmes and workshops: The LEOs have moved training programmes, workshops and networking meet-ups online, covering areas such as cash management in a crisis, leading your business through COVID-19 and advice for employers impacted by the crisis – to find out more contact your Local Enterprise Office.

Regional Skills Fora

Skillnet Ireland

  • Skillnet Networks: Over 70 distinct Skillnet Networks work with businesses in specific sectors, developing bespoke, State subsidised solutions to meet existing and emerging skills needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses in every sector. Adapting to the new economic reality has meant that it is more important than ever to develop and upskill employees. The establishment of different Workforce Management processes and the move towards the wider adoption of technology will be necessary. Skillnet Ireland has many networks already existing that can prepare businesses and allow for their workforce to be more agile, flexible and skilled: Skillnet Ireland Covid-19 Supports.
  • ReBound – Back to Business Safely: As part of its response to COVID-19, Skillnet Ireland launched the ReBound – Back to Business Safely initiative, which aims to help Irish SME owners and managers across all sectors to prepare and implement a return to work safely plan for the reopening of their business. The initiative is being offered in conjunction with industry and Government partners including Ibec, Chambers Ireland, the National Standards Authority of Ireland and the Small Firms Association. The ReBoundinitiative will upskill business owners and managers to ensure they are well equipped to take on this challenge.
  • Skills ConnectSkills Connect facilitates the rapid reskilling of workers most impacted by COVID-19. The Skills Connect programme is designed in partnership with enterprise to enhance cross-sector employability and support people who have lost their jobs. It offers a suite of bespoke upskilling and training solutions, designed by enterprise, aimed at supporting re-entry into the workforce.
  • MentorsWork programme: The MentorsWork 8-week business-support programme is FREE to SMEs nationwide and is designed to provide the skills and supports to help business owner-managers and leaders sustain and improve their business. These supports include one-to-one mentoring sessions, peer-focused workshops, expert-led masterclasses and access to a curated online learning platform. Skillnet Ireland is also supporting Chambers Ireland Reboot Your Business initiative for SMEs.
  • Transform your Business programme: Skillnet Ireland has identified key areas that will prepare businesses of all sizes and in all sectors for the realities they are now facing. These include the introduction of new Business strategies such as Transform your Business programme, which was launched by the Construction Professionals Network in April. The three-month online initiative has allowed owner managers of SMEs in the construction industry to use this challenging time to plan their next business steps and develop fresh strategies and to develop their leadership skills.
  • Designing Growth programme: Another programme from Skillnet Ireland is Designing Growth – a Growth Innovation Framework programme from the Design Skillnet targeting SMEs in the manufacture and service-based sectors. The framework will develop the skills and talent for business to innovate through the rebuilding phase of the recovery.


  • Skills to Advance: The Skills to Advance initiative offers valuable skills development opportunities to those in lower skilled jobs, working in small and medium sized enterprises in vulnerable sectors. Skills to Advance can work for enterprises by helping to identify any potential skills gaps they may have and by offering subsidised upskilling and reskilling options for staff. Enterprises can contact their local Education and Training Board (ETB) to avail of this support.
  • eCollegeeCollege is the national online learning service for the Further Education and Training sector, funded by SOLAS. Its courses may benefit those already doing a FET course who would like to augment their learning, those who have recently become unemployed or had their hours reduced, and those wishing to upskill and reskill. The courses are designed to give a flexible response to the specific skills needs of individuals who require training interventions with certification to assist them to re-enter or upskill in the labour market. eCollege courses are temporarily available free of charge as an additional support to those impacted by COVID-19 containment measures.
  • Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme: The Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme provides financial support for apprenticeship employers who take on apprentices on national apprenticeship programmes. The incentive support covers all national apprenticeship programmes – 58 programmes as of August 2020 – and will apply to any new apprenticeship programmes which are launched in 2020. Apprenticeship employers are eligible for a €3,000 payment for each new apprentice.


  • Springboard+: From June 2020 Springboard+ offer over 11,000 free or subsidised places on 332 courses leading to awards at certificate, degree and post-graduate level. The majority of courses are part-time for a maximum of 12 months and are open to all applicants; Employed, Unemployed, and Returners who meet the eligibility criteria at the time of course commencement. Places are available on courses in a wide range of skills areas, including artificial intelligence, smart factory technology, sustainable energy, medical device technology and cybersecurity. For more information on eligibility criteria and how to apply for courses in 2020/21, please consult the website.

By John Kennedy (

Published: 8 March 2021