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Financial Support for SMEs and Start-Ups in Ireland

Setting up a new business is an exciting but risky journey to embark upon. Success is not guaranteed, and the process is daunting. However, you’re not alone...

Barrie Dowsett

Chief Executive Officer


8 minute read

Even in a pandemic, new Irish company registrations have continued to increase, rebounding in the third quarter to a number marginally up from the year before.

Still, every business needs a financial injection to weather the first few months (or longer). Fortunately, with access to more than 170 different types of support from the Irish Government, various grants and thanks to Ireland’s strong economy and its support system for new enterprises, companies can get the backing they need to start up and develop.

The sheer amount of help available to SMEs and start-ups can be overwhelming though. Finding what support options are available to you is a task in itself; one that only adds to your heavy workload.

This is why we’ve put together a sample list of the financial support available for Irish SMEs and start-ups. By no means is this list exhaustive, but it will give you a sense of direction when applying for financial aid.

Finding the right financial support: Where to start

The Local Enterprise Office is a great place to start for anyone building a company from scratch. Covering every step of development, the Local Enterprise Office offers grants for Feasibility Studies to Business Expansion, as well as supports through Brexit and even a mentoring programme. Finding your local office is a very wise move for any enterprise with 10 or fewer employees.

Their financial support options include:

Feasibility Study Grants

Feasibility Study Grants are designed to assist the promoter with researching market demand for a product or service and examining its sustainability. It includes assistance with innovation including specific consultancy requirements, hiring of expertise from third-level colleges private specialists, design and prototype development.

Priming Grants

A Priming Grant is a business start-up grant, available to micro-enterprises within the first 18 months of start-up.

Business Expansion Grants

The Business Expansion grant is designed to assist the business in its growth phase after the initial 18-month start-up period.

Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters (TAME)

The Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters (TAME) grant enables clients to explore and develop new market opportunities. The TAME grant part-funds the costs that can be incurred investigating and researching export markets, e.g. exhibiting at Trade Fairs, preparing marketing material and developing websites specifically targeting overseas markets.

Short-Term Enterprise Allowance

The Short-Term Enterprise Allowance (STEA) offers support to individuals who have been made unemployed for any reason and wish to start their own business. With the Enterprise Support Grant (ESG), jobseekers can access support for the costs of starting their businesses. The ESG is paid to people getting the STEA on a pro-rata basis - a maximum of €1000 can be paid to people on a 9-month STEA and a maximum of €625 to people on a 6-month STEA. You must be able to make a matching contribution of between 10% and 20% to access grant support.

New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development Programme

New Frontiers is Enterprise Ireland’s national entrepreneur development programme for early-stage start-ups. It is based in 16 campus incubation centres across the country.

Microfinance Ireland

Microfinance Ireland is a not-for-profit lender, delivering government-backed loans to small businesses and sustain employment, offering amounts between €5,000 50 €25,000. Over €15.65m in loans has been approved.

Start your own Business Relief

This revenue-backed scheme offers Income Tax relief of up to €40,000 per year for those who were unemployed for at least 12 months before they started their business.

Back to Work Enterprise Allowance

The Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) scheme encourages people that are getting certain social welfare payments to become self-employed. If you take part in the BTWEA scheme you can keep a percentage of your social welfare payment for up to 2 years. This scheme now also covers those receiving the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

European Globalisation Fund

The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) was established to support workers made redundant in EU member states as a result of the adverse effects of globalisation and, latterly, the effects of the global economic and financial crisis. The fund can help workers find another job or set up their own business.


IGNITE (UCC) – Based at University College Cork, the 12-month programme is open to all recent graduates from all third-level institutions in Ireland who have the passion and ambition to work full-time on a scalable start-up idea with potential for commercial or social impact.

Finding the right financial support: Getting going

Expanding your business can be as time-consuming as setting it up, requiring cash injections to encourage innovation and growth. Luckily, there are a lot of options for companies engaging in research and development (R&D) activities.

Start-Up Relief for Entrepreneurs

Start-Up Relief for Entrepreneurs (SURE) is a tax relief that provides a refund of income tax that you paid in previous years. The SURE grant is for those people who have established a company and need funds to lift its growth. The income tax shall be reclaimed if you are an employee or an unemployed individual.

Three Year Corporate Tax Relief

If you have started a new company, you may be able to apply for tax relief for start-up companies. This tax relief, also known as Section 486C tax relief, is a reduction of your Corporation Tax (CT) for the first three years you trade.

New Agile Innovation Fund

Enterprise Ireland’s Agile Innovation Fund can give small companies from across the country rapid access to innovation funding. Offering fast-track approval and a streamlined online application process, the new Agile Innovation Fund will allow companies, including small companies, to access from 25% to 50% in support for R&D projects with a total cost of up to €300,000.

Innovation Vouchers

Innovation is the bread and butter of Enterprise Ireland. This initiative seeks to develop links between Ireland’s public Knowledge Providers and small businesses with vouchers worth €5,000 to explore business opportunities or a problem with one of these Knowledge Providers.

Employment Investment Incentive

The Employment Investment Incentive (EII) is another tax relief scheme with offers relief on up to €500,000 for investments in other trading enterprises, depending on how long shares are held.

High Potential Start-Ups

A High Potential Start-up (HPSU) can be defined as a company that is internationally focused and has the potential to employ at least 10 persons within 3 years of starting and to generate revenues of at least €1million. Enterprise Ireland will support the development of this company, including co-funded equity investment.

Future Growth Loan Scheme

SMEs or small mid-caps involved in agriculture or fishing can apply to SBCI’s Future Growth Loan Scheme (FGLS) for long-term, low-cost loans.

Private Sector Support

Halo Business Angel Network

The Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN) is an umbrella group that works to support all early-stage entrepreneurs throughout the whole of Ireland. It also acts to boost the number of angel investors that choose to invest in early-stage businesses.


The NDRC supports start-ups from the idea conception to post-accelerator support with mentorship for entrepreneurs. Their Accelerator programme offers €100k investment alongside mentorship.

Propeller Venture Accelerator programme

DCU’s Ryan Academy offers a scheme established in 2010 with €1 million worth of funding, which provides a mentor-led, three months incubation with free space and services and an additional €30,000 cash investment in each company.

Brexit Support

There’s no denying that Brexit has thrown many Irish companies a curveball, shaking up many of their processes. Anyone who is feeling confused or just wants more information should visit their Local Enterprise Office for more Brexit information, where they have compiled a guide and offer mentoring and financial aids.

Brexit Loan Scheme

This scheme is more favourable than many other loans for eligible Irish businesses, offering between €25,000 and €1.5m for up to three years in an easier-to-access format, with a maximum interest rate of 4%.

Brexit Vouchers

Intertrade Ireland offers vouchers to SMEs who trade across the border (NI/ROI), worth up to €2250.

R&D Tax Credits

By developing new products, processes or services and creating an advance in science and technology, you could be entitled to a 30% rate of Corporation Tax relief on eligible expenditure. Many businesses don’t realise that they qualify for R&D Tax Credits or that they are not claiming their full entitlement. In 2018, the Irish government supported businesses with €475m in R&D tax credit funding. Tax credits offer a cash injection to help your company continue innovating. Myriad Associates has developed a handy calculator to give you an estimate of what you could get back.

How can Myriad Associates help?

Based in both Ireland and the UK, Myriad Associates is made up of experts in all areas of R&D tax credits and innovation grants for new businesses and SMEs in Ireland. Whether you’re at the grassroots of an idea or you’re already set up and growing, why not get in touch with our friendly, professional team today on 0 1 566 2001 or use our contact page.

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Please contact us to discuss how working with Myriad Associates can maximise and secure R&D funding opportunities for your business.

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