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May, 2010

There is good news at the door for small-scale businesses operating in Ireland. County & City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) are continuing to provide a range of financial supports designed to assist with the establishment and/or growth of businesses employing up to ten people.

Support comes in the form of grants including:

  • Feasibility/Innovation Grants
  • Priming Grants
  • Business Expansion Grants
  • Refundable Aid

The general conditions allowing grant support are:

  • Sector of the economy in which an enterprise is operating or intends to operate.
  • Size or proposed size of the enterprise. CEB can assist in the establishment and/or development of new and existing enterprises from individuals/sole traders, companies and community groups subject to the following eligibility criteria:
    • Enterprise must be in the commercial sphere
    • Enterprise must demonstrate a market for the product/service
    • Enterprise must have a capacity for growth and new job creation
    • Enterprise must not employ more than 10 people

* Any expenditure incurred prior to receipt by applicant of the letter of offer from the board will not be eligible for grant support.

Eligible Costs

Financial supports may cover business costs directly attributable to starting a new business or growing and developing a business, or for carrying out a Feasibility/Innovation study.

Amount of Grant Aid

Overall, the cumulative level of grants to a micro-enterprise must not exceed €150,000 over a three-year period. The payments of all grants will be subject to enterprises reaching agreed milestones as per their business plans and the Board’s Letter of Offer.

Feasibility/Innovation Grants

Feasibility/Innovation Grants are designed to assist businesses with researching market demand for a product or service and examining its sustainability. This grant includes assistance with innovation including specific consultancy requirements, hiring of experts from third level colleges, private specialists, design, patent costs, and prototype development.

The maximum Feasibility/Innovation Grant must not exceed 50% of the investment or €20,000, whichever is the lesser.

Priming Grants For Businesses Trading <18 Months

Priming Grants are business start-up grants, available to micro-enterprises within the first 18 months of start-up. Priming Grants are available for sole traders, partnerships, community groups or limited companies.

The maximum Priming Grant payable must not exceed 50% of the investment or €150,000, whichever is the lesser. Grants over €80,000 and up to €150,000 shall be the exception and shall only apply in the case of projects that clearly demonstrate a potential to graduate to Enterprise Ireland and/or to export internationally.

A maximum grant of up to €15,000 per full time job created shall apply in respect of any employment support grant aided.

Expenditure may be considered under the following headings:

  • Capital Items: These include fit out of workspace, office equipment, machinery, computer costs hardware and software, etc.
  • Salaries: For first year of employment. This is to be paid out in two instalments. Staff recruitment costs may also be considered eligible for grant aid.
  • Rental/Accommodation: For first year of project. Rental costs may be paid up-front subject to receipt by the Board of signed lease/rental agreements.
  • Utilities: This includes installation costs for telephone and broadband.
  • Marketing: This includes packaging, brochures, business cards, trade fairs, website design and development and other marketing initiatives.
  • Consultancy: This includes design fees, patent costs, architect, accountant and legal fees.
  • Business Specific Training: Refers to specialised management or key personnel training programmes that are required to ensure the growth of the business.

Business Expansion Grants For Business trading >18 Months

Business Expansion Grants are designed to assist businesses in their growth phase after the initial 18 month start-up period. Micro-enterprises that have availed of a Priming Grant are ineligible to apply for a Business Expansion Grant, except in exceptional circumstances, until 18 months after the final drawdown date of the Priming Grant.

Business Expansion Grants have similar financial terms, criteria and applications as the Priming Grants. Details can be obtained from your local City or Country Enterprise Board.

Refundable Aid

Since 2000 a proportion of the total financial supports provided by each CEB each year must be in a refundable form.  Accordingly, repayable grants , may be provided, in which case grants are issued subject to normal conditions.  Promoters are then required to make repayments in accordance with agreed schedules, usually following an initial moratorium period.

Equity Investment/Preference Shares

This scheme enables companies that are in the growth phase of their development to raise capital through the sale of redeemable preference shares. Generally repayment takes place over a period of three to five years. A dividend may be payable, a moratorium on repayments may be offered, and the promoter is required to source matching funding.

Boards are authorised to support companies through the purchase of shares, provided the normal criteria for eligibility and limits are met.  Any amounts representing dividends or other money received by the Board in respect of shares purchased, taken, or subsequently sold under this heading will be retained by the Board for local redistribution.

Credit: seamless texture graphic by Patrick Hoesly

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