Grants and Support to Help New Businesses in Ireland


You think you have a great business idea – but how do you get it off the ground? Well, for budding entrepreneurs, there’s no end of help available. Here's a round up of grants and supports to help new businesses in Ireland:

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More people than ever before are grasping the opportunity to set up in business. According to the most recent figures from Vision-Net, over 61 new companies were formed each day in the first eight months of 2018. That comes off the back of a record 22,534 new firms registered in Ireland in 2017, up by 6% on the previous year.

Professional services companies lead the way, followed by finance and social and personal services firms.

Teri Smith, manager of the high potential start-up (HPSU) division at Enterprise Ireland, says: “During the economic downturn of 2010, there was a trigger for entrepreneurial activity. There is also a lot more media focus, including many TV programmes that focus on setting up your own business. It gets people thinking about doing it for themselves.”

An expansion in support services and funding for new entrepreneurs has helped their ideas and ambitions come to fruition.

“There has been a dramatic increase in the support structure over the past five years,” adds Smith. “We have a robust system, which is admired internationally, so much so that it can be confusing for entrepreneurs to know where to go. It can be a challenge navigating the start-up landscape and determining what their starting point is.”

So, what help is available to start-ups and early-stage businesses hungry for growth? How can they head in the right direction?

Public funding

There are more than 170 key government supports for Irish start-ups and SMEs, so entrepreneurs should spend time researching the best scheme to suit their needs.

Enterprise Ireland runs a number of helpful grants and schemes to assist new businesses, including the High Potential Start-up programme. It’s for firms that have the potential to develop an innovative product or service for sale on international markets, while creating 10 jobs and achieving €1m in export sales within three years of starting up.

“These are companies with the potential to succeed in global markets such as manufacturing or those doing research and development,” explains Smith. It includes a feasibility grant of up to €15,000 to assist an early-stage company or individual entrepreneur to investigate the viability of a new export-oriented business or proposition.

Enterprise Ireland also runs the New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme in partnership with 14 institutes of technology across the country. It supports entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas and strong employment and growth potential. It has a range of support, including mentoring, incubation space and a €15,000 scholarship scheme.

Meanwhile, Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund is an accelerator initiative designed to help start-ups reach key technical and commercial milestones. Businesses can apply throughout the year to receive up to €50,000 of funding in return for an ordinary 10% equity stake.

Recommended Reading: A Guide to Supports for Women in Business in Ireland

Local enterprise offices (LEOs)

Often, the first port of call for new firms is their LEO, which has 31 teams across the country. LEOs offer feasibility study grants, which can help firms with innovation, including market research, determining their product or services’ sustainability and design and prototype development, and priming grants available to micro enterprises within the first 18 months of business life. Its business expansion grant assists a firm in its growth phase after the initial 18-month start-up period.

Business advisers

Start-ups looking for guidance and support to navigate through this funding environment could turn to business advisers and consultants.

“There has been a dramatic increase in the support structure over the past five years. We have a robust system, which is admired internationally”

Teri Smith, Manager, Enterprise Ireland

“Companies need to spend time researching the best fit, but business advisers can help them get the very best funding package possible. We work with every type of business, from cheesemakers to airports,” says Orla Casey, founder of business advisory service Momentum Consulting.

Casey says one of the most important things entrepreneurs can do is to make sure to frame their business proposal in order to excite funding bodies. “What impact will the grant investment create: new jobs, new market opportunities, new sales? The business plan needs to be robust and the entrepreneur themselves needs to ensure they are positioned as very investible – people buy people.”

Private funding

The main sources are business angels, seed funds and venture capital. Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN) is an umbrella group aiming to increase the number of angel investors involved in investing in early-stage companies. In 2017, HBAN business angels across Ireland invested €12.8m in 45 companies.

Crowdfunding – which, as the name suggests, means you receive funding from a small group or individual investors – is another option. Fund It is a crowdfunding site for Ireland’s creative projects. It charges a fee of 5% to support the running of the site and 3% to cover the transaction and other costs of processing pledges from investors. Other crowdfunding sites include iCrowdFund, Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Spark is an equity crowdfunding platform, which means owners give up a share of their business to crowd investors.

Competition time

Winning first prize in industry- or company-sponsored competitions can also give your start-up a boost. The 31 local enterprise offices run Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition for budding business people aged 35 and under with an “outstanding idea or commercial venture”. Local winners can receive investments of up to €15,000 each.

Or try Google’s Adopt A Startup scheme, where winners get access to the expertise of industry peers. At the end of the scheme, entrepreneurs get the chance to pitch their business model to senior Google executives to secure €10,000 in AdWords credit.


The Female High Fliers accelerator programme is run by the DCU Ryan Academy to fast-track the business development and leadership skills of women entrepreneurs. The 13-week long scheme includes access to the DCU’s entrepreneurs and investor network as well as weekly practical workshops and “critical challenges on your business plans”.

Recommended Reading: Top Tips for Creating a Successful Business Plan

NUI Galway runs the medtech accelerator BioExel programme, offering €95,000 in seed funding along with six months of intensive training, lab space and investor interaction. NDRC has the Dublin Accelerator investing €135,000 into digital companies and offering advice around mentoring, networking, pitching to investors and support through to seed investment.

Mentors and networking

Enterprise Ireland runs a Mentor Network Programme involving a panel of more than 400 highly experienced entrepreneurs, founders and senior executives with international commercial business development experience. EI provides grant support to qualifying companies towards the cost of a mentor for up to 10 sessions to a total of €1,750.

Enterprise Ireland also runs the HPSU Founders Forum. “It brings entrepreneurial teams together to network. It can be a lonely time being an entrepreneur and they might begin to do business together if their aims are complimentary,” says Smith.

InterTradeIreland runs Fusion, which is open to manufacturing or tradeable services firms. “The programme helps to fund the placement of a high-calibre science, engineering or technology graduate in a business, and partnering firms with a third level institution with specific expertise,” explains Alan Morrow, assistant director of programmes and business services at InterTradeIreland. “On average, each company taking part on the Fusion programme benefits from over €1,140,500 worth of sales or efficiency savings in the three years following the project.”

Recruitment help

JobsPlus encourages employers and businesses to employ people who have been out of work for long periods. Grants of €7,500 and €10,000 are available.

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