Starting or growing your business in 2021? Here’s the ultimate guide to resources, grants, allowances, accelerators and programmes in Ireland.

Navigating Covid-19: Business supports

piggy bank on top of face masks.

The much-anticipated July Stimulus Plan from the Irish Government contained €7.4bn worth of measures aimed at getting the economy up and running after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The plan includes more than €5bn in cash and €2bn in loan guarantees devised to keep businesses afloat and keep people at work.

Credit Guarantee Scheme

Announced as part of the Government’s suite of supports for businesses that have been negatively impacted as a result of the outbreak of Covid-19 in Ireland, the Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme will facilitate up to €2 billion in lending to eligible businesses.

The Scheme offers a partial Government guarantee (80pc) to participating finance providers against losses on qualifying finance agreements to eligible SMEs, small Mid-Caps and primary producers.

It is designed to incentivise participating finance providers to continue to play their role in supporting the availability of additional liquidity to Irish businesses.

Loans under the Scheme range from €10,000 to €1 million, for terms of up to five-and-a-half years. Financing will be offered through a range of products, including term loans, working capital loans and overdrafts. Loans of up to €250,000 under the Scheme are available unsecured (except where this is a requirement of the product feature, as in the case of asset finance, invoice discount facilities, etc).

As the Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme to help Irish businesses navigate the ongoing pandemic, Bank of Ireland has created a new online portal to simplify the application process.

Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), provides a flat-rate subsidy to qualifying employers based on the numbers of eligible employees on the employer’s payroll. The EWSS, operated by Revenue, has replaced the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and will run until 31 March 2021.

COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment is available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost their job due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sustaining Enterprise Fund

Important amendments are being made to liquidity and medium-term financial supports provided under the Sustaining Enterprise Fund (SEF) to Covid -19 impacted enterprises operating in the manufacturing and internationally traded services areas. Supports being provided under the SEF will now comprise a non-repayable grant element of up to 50pc of the total value of the support being provided, up to a maximum value of €200,000, with the balance of funding being in the form of repayable support (equity, loan note or repayable advance).

These changes are being made in response to the extended ongoing difficulties and evolving liquidity needs being experienced by companies resulting from Covid-19.

The changes being introduced will provide greater assistance to vulnerable but viable companies to address their immediate liquidity needs, while taking the necessary actions to return to a position of viability and growth over the medium term.

SME Brexit Preparedness

€20m in funding has been allocated for two initiatives to support SMEs to strengthen their customs and other supply chain infrastructure. Support will be in the form of:

Recruitment grants towards the costs of recruiting customs intermediaries.

Funding of up to €5,0000 towards the cost of software, IT systems and other supply chain upgrades that are needed to meet future trading and customs declaration requirements.

Covid-19 Life Sciences Fund

The Covid-19 Life Sciences €25m Scheme is a targeted State support managed by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland to aid the research, development and production of Covid-19 products in Ireland that are used in the fight against Covid-19.

SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme

The SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme for eligible businesses supports loans from €25,000 up to €1.5 million (first €500,000 unsecured) with a maximum interest rate of 4%. Applications can be made through the SBCI website at sbci.gov.ie. Eligibility criteria apply.

Future Growth Loan Scheme

The enhanced Future Growth Loan Scheme makes up to €800m of loans available for terms of 7-10 years. This scheme is available to eligible businesses in Ireland, including those in the primary agriculture (farmers) and seafood sectors, to support strategic long-term investment.

Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs)

A package of liquidity and enterprise investment measures worth €55m has been put in place to support small and micro companies through additional resources for MicroFinance Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices.

Business Response Plan

Enterprise Ireland has published a COVID-19 Business Response Plan which includes a step-by step risk assessment process. 

Online Retail Scheme

So far, 145 retailers have been approved €5.3m in funding as part of Irish Government’s Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme, which is administered by Enterprise Ireland.

The scheme is targeted at retailers who already have an online presence to strengthen their online offering and enable them to reach a wider customer base.

Successful applicants will receive funding ranging from €16,000 to €40,000 to strengthen their online offering. The average grant value is €36,700 and covers up to 80pc of project costs.

Starting a business in Ireland

Kid with a rocket on his back.

Local Enterprise Office

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.

TheStartup.com

Howth-based TheStartup.com aims to be the Swiss Army Knife of starting a business with cloud, business plan, mentor and investor resources every entrepreneur needs. TheStartup.com is the brainchild of Rich Corbett and Fionan Murphy and aims to be a global resource for start-ups all over the world.

Bank finance

When growing a new business, talk to your bank about funding options.

get a loanBank finance has many features that will appeal to SMEs and early-stage growth businesses. You can calculate your repayments and apply for a loan now. Just press the button. The orange button will bring you to a loan application form from Bank of Ireland, which is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland, terms and conditions apply. Bank of Ireland has also created a Business Startup Package that includes a business current account. To learn more click here

Startup Refunds for Entrepreneurs (SURE)

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.  

Short Term Enterprise Allowance

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).

Three-year corporate tax exemption

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.

Back to Work Enterprise Allowance

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: 100pc – year 2; 75pc). 

The Employment and Investment Incentive Scheme

This scheme replaced the business expansion scheme and allows individual investors get tax relief on investments they make in other companies.

Start Your Own Business scheme 

The Start Your Own Business scheme provides relief from income tax for long-term unemployed people who start a new business.

Innovation Vouchers (€5,000)

This voucher was developer to establish greater links between the business community and knowledge providers i.e. universities. The voucher allows companies to test a potential business opportunity. The voucher can be redeemed at registered knowledge providers. You must have a limited company in order to qualify for the funding.

Feasibility Study (€15,000)

The feasibility study is designed to help with researching market demand for a product or service. The maximum grant available is 50 per cent of the costs up to a maximum of €15,000. You don’t need to have a company to be eligible for this.

Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN)

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. 

Start-up Capital Incentive (SCI)

SCI is designed to assist start-up companies raise equity financing. It is a tax relief available to family members of existing shareholders. The conditions to avail of relief under SCI are:

  • The company must be carrying on a brand-new venture.
  • None of the shareholders can carry on a similar venture.

Employee Investment Incentive Scheme (EIIS)

The Employment and Investment Incentive (EIIS) is a tax relief incentive scheme which provides for tax relief of up to 40pc in respect of investments made in certain corporate trades. The EII scheme allows an individual investor to obtain income tax relief on investments for shares in certain companies up to a maximum of €150,000 per annum in each tax year.

Formerly known as the “friends and family” round, the scheme has been changed and you will qualify if you, or your family, do not own any capital in the company. Irish entrepreneurs have criticised the EIIS for not being as compelling or flexible as its UK counterpart.

Public supports for start-ups and scale-ups

Woman standing in front of a scale-up curve.

ACORNS

The ACORNS programme is designed to support early-stage female entrepreneurs living in rural Ireland through a peer learning approach. Thanks to the support of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the voluntary contribution of time by Lead Entrepreneurs, there is no charge for those selected to participate.

Any woman with a new business based in rural Ireland, or a well-developed idea for a new venture, can register for the programme at www.acorns.ie.

ACORNS is based on peer support and collaborative learning. Each participant will have the opportunity to learn from successful fe

Going for Growth

Going for Growth is a free, six-month, part-time programme, supported by Enterprise Ireland and KPMG, which assists ambitious female entrepreneurs to achieve their growth aspirations.

Ideally, businesses should be well established and trading for at least two years. Applications will also be considered from highly innovative entrepreneurs with significant growth expectations at an earlier stage of their development if they have already generated some sales.

Those selected for the Going for Growth initiative join interactive round table sessions led by Lead Entrepreneurs. The Lead Entrepreneurs are successful businesswomen with personal experience of growing a business. These high-profile business leaders volunteer their time to encourage participants to set and achieve personalised goals and milestones to address the opportunities and challenges they face in driving growth in their businesses.

New Frontiers entrepreneur development programme

The purpose of the grant is to accelerate new sustainable business which can contribute to job creation in the economy. It is a programme which is split into three phases: Test, Development and Implementation.

The initial test phase is 8-10 weeks part-time. Phase two, development, is six months full-time and phase three is three months full-time. If you qualify for phase two, you get a support package valued at €30,000 which includes €15,000 tax free and no equity is taken in your business.

Incubators and accelerators

The NDRC (National Digital Research Centre)

A network of innovation hubs led by Dogpatch Labs and including Portershed GalwayRepublic of Work Cork and RDI Hub Kerry as well as the Ignite Ormeau Baths in Belfast has won the contract to manage the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC).

The previous NDRC based out of the Digital Hub in Dublin is being wound down and is being replaced by a new network of innovation hubs with a focus on enabling entrepreneurs from every corner of Ireland to thrive.

Established in 2006, the NDRC is a Government initiative to invest in very young digital enterprises and start-ups. Notable NDRC alumni include Irish biotech company Nuritas (which has raised almost €55m from investors including U2 rockers Bono and The Edge), Soundwave (a music discovery service backed by Mark Cuban and bought by Spotify in 2016), Boxever (which has raised $19m to fund their AI marketing cloud software), and Silvercloud Health (a digital health platform, used by over 300 organisations, that raised €14.7m in 2020) .

Following a competitive process, Dogpatch Labs, supported by its partner hubs in Cork, Kerry and Galway has been awarded the €17m contract to manage the service for the next five years. Ignite, which is the UK’s most active regional accelerator, also supported the bid and will provide international support and knowledge sharing with the network through its Ormeau Baths hub in Belfast.

The awarding of the contract coincides with the launch of the Irish Tech Hub Network which connects best-in-class hubs across Ireland who have significant potential to catalyse innovation in their regions: Ludgate (Skibbereen); Republic of Work (Cork); RDI Hub (Kerry); Portershed (Galway); Ormeau Baths (Belfast); and Dogpatch Labs (Dublin).

The new NDRC programmes will take place in Cork, Dublin, Galway and Kerry, with applications opening in Q1 2021.

The newly designed national accelerator programme will be open to globally ambitious early ventures and national and international entrepreneurs. Successful startups will receive €100,000 investment with founder friendly terms, workspace in Dublin’s Digital Docklands, and a mentor-led programme delivered by international and national industry experts. New features include global trips, access to an international VC and corporate network, and a unique three- month programme to accelerate the growth, scaling and fund raising for start-ups after the accelerator.

Non-equity pre-accelerator programmes will be delivered to a broad range of early stage companies and entrepreneurs across the Republic of Ireland, providing support at each stage of growth and acting as a pipeline to the accelerator programme. 

The network will also offer training services to stakeholders working in the start-up space, teaching them how to support young digital venture teams with significant scale potential.

The Rubicon Centre, Cork

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.

Technology University Dublin Hothouse

Technology University (TU) Dublin Hothouse is the award-winning Knowledge Transfer and Incubation Centre at Technological University Dublin; responsible for the commercialisation of intellectual property arising from TU Dublin research. TU Dublin Hothouse is the hub of innovation and technology transfer activities in TU Dublin, the place where business meets innovation. TU Dublin Hothouse has a range of spinout technologies available to industry across Life Sciences, Food, ICT, Software, Industrial Technology, Manufacturing and Clean Technologies. Its team works with students, lecturers and research teams across TU Dublin as well as with entrepreneurs, industry leaders and investors. Through the TU Dublin Hothouse New Frontiers Startup Programme, it provides a start-up incubator for innovative and promising start-up companies.

Enterprise Ireland funded campus incubation centres

This is a list of incubation centres funded by Enterprise Ireland and located on the campuses of Irish Universities and Institutes of Technology.  

Origin8 from NCAD

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.

NovaUCD 

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.

Tangent, Trinity’s Ideas Workspace

As a European leader in student entrepreneurship, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin has established Tangent, Trinity’s Ideas Workspace. This new space, housed in a world-class facility, co-located within an expanded School of Business, offers students, staff, and the wider innovation ecosystem a place to come together to collaborate, build and innovate.

Launchbox at Trinity College Dublin

LaunchBox, in partnership with Bank of Ireland, and managed by experts in Tangent, Trinity’s Ideas Workspace at Trinity College Dublin, provides mentorship, funding, access to alumni and investors, and the ideal collaborative environment to launch new startup ventures.

Alssesor AI accelerator

Trinity College’s Tangent has partnered with Altada Technology Solutions to create an accelerator programme to support early-stage start-ups and entrepreneurs focused on artificial intelligence.

Alsessor has issued a call out to all early-stage artificial intelligence start-ups in retail, digital health, fintech, insurtech, regulatory and compliance.

Ignite incubator programme

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.

Invent Centre DCU, Dublin City University

A core part of the centre’s work is to “identify opportunities for partnership between DCU and industry through state-funded innovation partnerships”. 

The Ignite Technology Transfer Office (Ignite TTO) Galway

This centre explores and facilitates commercial opportunities for the research community at NUI Galway.

Incubation Centre at Maynooth University

Opened in July 2015, this centre is “focused on ensuring a professional and efficient approach to the commercialisation of research.”

The Nexus Innovation Centre University of Limerick

Nexus has a number of flexible programmes tailor-made for startups. 

Food Academy Start programme

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.

Institute of Technology Incubation Centres 

Above is a full list of the Institute of Technology Incubation Centres (including NCI).

Propeller Venture Accelerator programme 

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.

Dogpatch Labs

Dogpatch Labs is a curated startup hub located in the chq building, in Dublin’s digital docklands. With a mission to accelerate the development of Ireland’s startup ecosystem, it provides a valuable community from where to grow, share knowledge and form connections. A key programme it runs is First Fridays for Startups, where startups can speak with mentors including founders, VCs, and a variety of experts.

Start-up funds

The word funding written on wooden blocks.

Enterprise Ireland’s portfolio of top startup funds

Enterprise Ireland falls somewhere in the middle between pre-seed and seed stage investment. It has a number of solutions aimed at startups, including:

The Competitive Feasibility Fund for Female Entrepreneurs 

The Competitive Start Fund 

The High Potential Startup Unit 

Graduate Start Fund

There is also now a Competitive Start Fund for Irish graduates worth €50,000. 

Google Ventures

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”.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular option for businesses looking to raise seed capital. In Ireland, there are sites such as:

Linked Finance

Fundit.ie 

Spark Crowdfunding

Seed Ups 

Kickstarter 

Here is a list of the top crowdfunding sites worldwide. 

Venture capital

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.

Also, check out the Irish Venture Capital Association for more information on the activity of venture capitalists in Ireland.

Growing your business

Woman at desk looking at a white board of business objectives.

Bank finance

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.

Microfinance

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.

Credit Guarantee Scheme

As above, the Scheme offers a partial Government guarantee (80pc) to participating finance providers against losses on qualifying finance agreements to eligible SMEs, small Mid-Caps and primary producers.

It is designed to incentivise participating finance providers to continue to play their role in supporting the availability of additional liquidity to Irish businesses.

Loans under the Scheme range from €10,000 to €1 million, for terms of up to five-and-a-half years. Financing will be offered through a range of products, including term loans, working capital loans and overdrafts. Loans of up to €250,000 under the Scheme are available unsecured (except where this is a requirement of the product feature, as in the case of asset finance, invoice discount facilities, etc).

The Credit Review Office

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.

R&D Tax Credit

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. Money spent by a company on research and development activities may qualify for the R&D Tax Credit. The credit is calculated at 25% of qualifying expenditure and is used to reduce a company’s Corporation Tax (CT). Where a company has offset current and previous years’ CT liabilities, it may apply for a credit payable in instalments. 

Recruitment resources

Grow Remote

Grow Remote is a not-for-profit organisation, which started life as a WhatsApp group in 2018, and now has over 130 local chapters across Ireland and 10,000 members.

The organisation has a focus on remote working career opportunities and the intrinsic role this plays in boosting the economic life of regions. A key element of this is its jobs notice board. In its own words Grow Remote is “on a mission to enable us to work, live and participate locally. We do this by making remote work (via employment) both visible and accessible.”

The Grow Remote movement – which last year secured €500,000 from the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) – recently appointed a new general manager, Men’s Sheds founder John Evoy, and has appointed a new board that includes Tomás Ó Síocháin, CEO of The Western Development Commission, Liz McCarthy, CEO Scale Ireland, and John Riordan, Director of Support at Shopify.

Job Plus

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.

Published: 23 December 2020

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