Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or health & safety advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.
Grants for small businesses are a little leg up to help you get off the ground, expand or keep going if you hit a short-term hurdle. If you’re an entrepreneur with big ideas, this kind of support for small businesses can be just what you need. Here’s our guide to some of the financial help available to start-up and small to medium sized businesses in Ireland.
What is a business grant?
A business grant is a type of funding for small businesses that some companies are eligible to apply for to assist with running the business. Unlike a loan, a grant doesn’t need to be paid back. They’re usually awarded by government organisations, charitable bodies and specialist grant funding institutions.
There is often a lot of competition to secure grants, and you may have to fill out detailed applications to be considered.
How do you get a business grant?
You’ll need to do your research to find out what grants are available to you and check the eligibility criteria closely. The next step is usually completing an application with the provider. It’s common for the eligibility criteria to be very specific, so it’s worth doing your research before beginning an application.
Bodies that award grants to small businesses in Ireland include:
- Department of Business, Innovation and Skills
- The Technology Strategy Board
- Department for Education
- Department of Transport
- Department for Communities and Local Government
- Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
- Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment – Northern Ireland
- Enterprise Ireland
In some cases, if information is withheld or inaccurate in an application (particularly if it’s seen as having been done dishonestly), you could be fined. Partly for these reasons, many organisations choose to hire a grant funding specialist to help with grant applications.
Business grants for small businesses in Ireland
There are a number of different grants for small businesses available in Ireland. Below we’ve outlined some of the best grants available to small businesses in Ireland currently.
HPSU Feasibility Study Grant
The HPSU Feasibility Study Grant is a grant for small businesses, available from Enterprise Ireland. It assists early-stage companies and entrepreneurs to explore the viability of a new business with an export focus. Activities covered by the grant include research into the market, creating a business plan, technical research and prototyping.
To be eligible for this grant, organisations must:
- Be export orientated
- Have a grounding in an innovative technology or service
- Be expected to achieve significant growth in 3 years, which is classified as sales of €1m per year and the employment of at least ten people
- Run by an experienced team, with a mix of technical and commercial skills.
Innovation vouchers worth €5,000 help SMEs explore business options with specified ‘knowledge providers’ from a registered list. The scheme has been proven to increase company turnover by €11.83 for every €1.00 invested by the Enterprise Ireland investment Voucher Programme.
There are a number of exclusions to the programme, including agriculture businesses, as well as companies:
- with charitable status or those that are ‘not for profit’
- trade associations
- holding companies
- representation bodies such as Chambers of Commerce
- sports bodies and associations.
Competitive Start Fund
The Competitive Start Fund offers grants up to €50,000 for start-ups with the potential to reach global markets. The grant also has specialist support for female entrepreneurs.
To obtain the grant, start-ups need to submit a video pitch alongside a written proposal.
New Frontiers funding and support is available to businesses in the early stages of setting up.
While the scheme is open to a range of businesses, individuals that possess strong technical skills, have a proven management team and a clean track record are in a favorable position to win the grant.
Small Business Grants for COVID-19
During the past year, the circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have caused challenging circumstances for many businesses. A number of grants for small businesses have been made available to support through these times, including:
Digitalisation Voucher – Available to manufacturing firms and those in internationally traded service sectors.
The voucher is worth up to €9,000. It can pay for technical help or advice from approved providers to allow adoption of digital tools and techniques.
Enterprise Support Grant - A grant of up to €1000 to support sole traders who received Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).
Starting a small business can be an exciting yet challenging time, especially when trying to get all your financial ducks in a row. Grant funding is an excellent resource in your small business toolbox and can support getting your new venture off the ground. They sit alongside other helpful financial management tools like being able to take online payments and make your business accessible to customers online.