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What Is The Competitive Start Fund?

The Competitive Start Fund was set up by the Irish government as a way of helping to speed up the growth of start-up companies. It is particularly aimed at those demonstrating good capacity to compete successfully in global markets. Here we take a look

Barrie Dowsett

Chief Executive Officer


5 minute read

The Competitive Start Fund was set up by the Irish government as a way of helping to speed up the growth of start-up companies. It is particularly aimed at those demonstrating good capacity to compete successfully in global markets. Essentially, the fund is about enabling these companies to reach important commercial and technical milestones.

The fund works in the same way as a competition, where competitors must put forward the best application possible to have a good chance of winning the money. Companies looking to apply should bear the following in mind and ideally demonstrate each one clearly. They should:

    • Be able to show that a product or service they are creating has reached MVP stage, and that the product is at least live in beta form.

  • Show that the product or service has been tried and/or tested on real customers to receive demonstrable validation. This can be achieved by either voluntary or paid trials.
  • Be able to put forward a full, well-articulated proposition that addresses a clear gap in the market. It should be backed up with market research conducted with either potential customers or existing ones.
  • Be able to evidence its innovation work, as well as export potential and employment capacity. It must be demonstrated that there’s a market opportunity for the product or service in question. There should also be very apparent knowledge of the competitive landscape.
  • Have a clearly defined execution plan that identifies suitable ways of accessing international markets.

Once an application is submitted it will be thoroughly assessed. An important thing to remember here is that that the more the applicant has demonstrated how their product or service will generate sustainable revenues, the stronger their application will be. Applications from projects which are currently only at ideas, concept or design stage may need to progress to a further development stage before an application to the fund can be made.

All applications made to the Competitive Start Fund should be completed using the Enterprise Ireland website when dates are open. Currently all dates - set during 2019 - have passed. However, it’s worth referring back regularly in 2020 to see when new call dates are released.

What other government-backed financial help is available to growing Irish companies?

There are a couple of key government incentives on offer to Irish companies looking to grow and innovate. The main ones are R&D Tax Credits and R&D Grants.

R&D Tax Credits

The research and development (R&D) Tax Credits incentive was put in place to help Irish businesses with the cost of growing and innovating. It’s a very popular scheme administered by the Revenue, offering up to 25% of eligible R&D expenditure back as a reduction in a company’s Corporation Tax.

Many companies don’t even know they’re eligible, or - for a number of reasons - they’re not claiming their maximum entitlement.

Which companies can qualify?

Any Irish company in any sector or industry may qualify for R&D Tax Credits. The major point here is that is that development activities need to have been undertaken that seek to achieve an advancement in science and/or technology. The work must also include a level of uncertainty, which would be easily solved by a professional working in the field. Basically, if your company is taking a risk by improving, innovating or developing a service, product or process, then it will very likely be eligible for R&D Tax Credits.

The application process itself for R&D tax relief is very precise and not particularly straightforward. Applicants will need to produce a supporting narrative, not only explaining the work but demonstrating why they believe tax relief should be applied. There’s also strict criteria around what can be claimed and what can’t, and much of it is tricky to navigate. This is why it’s so important to use the services of R&D tax relief professionals such as ourselves.

Find out more on our R&D Tax Credits page.

R&D Grants

R&D grants can offer a lifeline when it comes to a company financing its innovative projects. However, making an application for R&D grant funding is notoriously time consuming and difficult.

A top notch R&D grant application will successfully describe the technological, commercial and financial benefits of the R&D work in a compelling, detailed but concise manner. It’s a highly competitive arena and only applications of the very highest quality will stand any chance of success.

Like R&D Tax Credits, R&D activities that may qualify for a grant must look to resolve a scientific or technical uncertainty by undertaking innovative or risky research and development. As a tip, we’ve found that R&D grants are often awarded for activities deemed too risky for investment from the private sector. Proposed R&D projects and expenses should also be realistic and make clear commercial sense. They should also have the aim of creating new or exploiting significant market growth.

What R&D Grants are available?

Any organisation that’s based in Ireland can make an application for innovation grants from Enterprise Ireland, in addition to any other grants offered by the EU. The main sources of R&D grant funding are Horizon 2020 and EUREKA Eurostars.

What are they?

Horizon 2020 is a European programme that’s set to run for 7 years, between 2014 and the end of 2020. From 2021 it will become Horizon Europe. The aim of the scheme is to offer world-class science, removing barriers to innovation, and help the private and public sectors work more closely together on innovative projects. You can find out more on our Horizon 2020 SME Instrument and Horizon 2020 Main Scheme pages.

EUREKA Eurostars is a European scheme designed to help innovative SMEs take part in collaborative research with other organisations in Europe and beyond. Please feel free to find out more on our EUREKA Eurostars page.

Get expert help with your R&D tax affairs claim today

Myriad Associates is proud of our outstanding track record in successful R&D grants and tax relief claims. Thanks to nearly two decades of experience across both the Irish Republic and the UK, we can work alongside you to give your application the very best chance of success.

Talk to us today on + 353 1 566 2001, or feel free to leave us a message and we’ll call you back.

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