Where to Start With The Enterprise Agencies When Starting a Business?

Are you considering starting a business in Ireland? Have you wondered where you should begin when seeking support from the State Enterprise Agencies. When you look at the graphic below you might be overwhelmed by all the organisations involved in assisting startups but it worth taking some time to familiarise yourself with the type of businesses which they support. This blogposts (updated October 2016) sets out 5 good places to start.

(for a comprehensive regularly updated list of enterprise supports from around Ireland head on over here)


Supports for my startup business

The first step is to build a relationship with a contact in your local and/or sectoral organisation. I would suggest meeting them in advance of making any application for support so that they become familiar with your project.  The same applies to your local financial institution.

#.1 Short Term Enterprise Allowance

gives support to people who have lost their job and want to start their own business. The Short-Term Enterprise Allowance is paid instead of your Jobseeker’s Benefit for a maximum of 1 year. More details are available on the Citizens Information Website.

#.2 Local Enterprise Office

Your local Enterprise Office (LEO) supports manufacturing and internationally traded service micro-enterprises (employing less than 10 people) in every county in Ireland. Full details of these Financial Supports is available on the National LEO website:

  • Priming Grant - business within first 18 months in business ... 50% of the investment or €80,000 whichever is the lesser. Grants over €80,000 and up to €150,000 shall only apply in the case of projects that clearly demonstrate a potential to graduate to Enterprise Ireland and/or to export internationally. Subject to the 50% limit, a maximum grant of €15,000 per full time job created shall apply in respect of any employment support granted.
  • Business Expansion Grant - business trading at least 18 months ... same thresholds as per priming grant. The cumulative level of grants to a micro enterprise must not exceed €150,000 over a three year period.
  • Feasibility ... maximum Feasibility / Innovation Grant payable in the S&E Region shall be 50% of the investment or €20,000 whichever is the lesser. (60% applies in BMW Region).
You will need to contact y0ur LEO (formerly known as Enterprise Boards) - list of contacts available here - to confirm application deadlines and any other conditions that may apply. For instance some LEOs require that 'to be eligible for a Feasibility/Innovation Grant, you must have applied to Enterprise Ireland for an Innovation Voucher. A letter or email from Enterprise Ireland indicating refusal of Innovation Voucher is required with the application'. 

All about Innovation Vouchers (must be a company to apply) from Innovation Vouchers from Enterprise Ireland

The LEOs are keen to emphasise that they provide services to businesses who may not qualify for financial supports. The soft supports provided by Enterprise Boards include: Networking; and training to include Start Your Own Business, Finance, and Marketing. A keynote initiative in this regard is IBYE - a national competition for young entrepreneurs (under 35).

If you are looking for premises for your startup, a Community Enterprise Centre could be a good option - full nationwide list here. Most centres offer a range of services beyond shared facilities.

#.3 Local Development Companies

It is worth contacting your local Local Development Company (LDC) to see what support they can offer - a list in Excel can be downloaded from the Pobal website.

Here is the current picture in brief...

According to the Irish Local Development Network, the representative body for Local Development Companies, LDCs focus on addressing inequality and social exclusion and promoting local economic development. All of their 48 members deliver the Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (SICAP) and in rural contexts, the LEADER Rural Development Programme.

The LEADER 2014-2020 will deliver €250 million in funding to rural Ireland. This well written official factsheet (pdf) explains that how this funding will be administered is currently being determined by an independent evaluation committee under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The Galway Rural Development Company Ltd website provides an interesting historical overview of its Rural Development Programme 2007 – 2014 which incorporated LEADER funding. The supports available via that programme were:

  • Capital and other projects to include tourist accommodation - funding of up to 75% is available for eligible projects, with a maximum of up to €150,000.
  • Analysis and development projects may receive 75% with a maximum grant of €30,000.
  • Training – 100%
The above is historical information. Contact your LDC to see what supports apply!

#.4 Enterprise Ireland

Is the premier Enterprise Support agency in Ireland. However, their services are primarily available only to clients. They are focused (rightly so) on assisting startup businesses and promoters with international growth potential - startups that EI invest in are referred to as HPSUs (High Potential Start Up).

This page on the Enterprise Ireland website outlines the process followed when they meet a potential new client. The first step is to meet with a Startup Advisor in their offices for a introductory meeting. Enterprise Ireland have developed a suite of Startup Development programmes.

New Frontiers is worth a special mention if you have a startup project with growth potential. New Frontiers programmes are delivered by the Institutes of Technology Campus Incubation Centres.  Key contacts are listed on the New Frontiers website which also contains a superb blog with articles for startups.

#.5 Mentoring

is provided by both Enterprise Ireland and the Enterprise Boards. It is also available via Small Business Advice.ie while Bizmentors based in Galway (expanding in 2017 to Mayo and Roscommon) is another great mentoring initiative for small business.


For up to listing (and weekly email) of business networking events check out your local Startup Digest in Galway, Dublin and Cork.


To conclude:

Small Business Can author, Helena Deane wrote a wonderful post outlining the ten commandments of grant applications. I would add that you will need to take time to find out what grant schemes you may be eligible for and the criteria that apply. There is no such thing as free money and your application will require anywhere from a few hours to several days or even weeks for the bigger schemes.



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