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Some Alternative SME Funding Options

It always surprises me to see how little awareness there is out there concerning some fairly mainstream funding options for small businesses. Most of the people will be fairly familiar with two of the mainstream funding options, which seems to top the poll, namely the Enterprise Ireland funding ( and the Local Enterprise Offices funding ( Here I look at other attractive funding options that often get overlooked.

LEADER Funding

What’s to like? LEADER funding is European funding provided under the Rural development Programme (RDP). They generally range up to €150,000 per project/company (always bearing in mind the de minimis rule). Capital and feasibility projects can be funded up to 75% which is an incredibly advantageous rate of grant funding. In case of the promoter needing specialist training, this rate extends to up to 100% and the grants are non-repayable (T&Cs apply).

What’s the catch? You have to be a rural enterprise to apply, and have less than 10 employees. Your local LEADER company can advise you if your area qualifies as rural, broadly speaking areas outside the major cities will qualify. You have to also demonstrate a certain degree of innovation and displacement (where funding your business could displace jobs at similar companies in the area), as with all other grants, should not occur. Due to the change in the way the grants are going to be administered, it is anticipated that this funding will be accessible again from Spring 2016.

InterTrade Ireland Funding

What’s to like? There is an incredible array of immensely useful funding to be found here. For example, under the Fusion programme you can avail of funding to acquire a high calibre science, engineering or technology graduate and funds to partner with a third level institution with specific expertise. Under the Elevate programme £5,000 (€6,000) worth of consultancy time is available to you.  You choose the expert that suits your company and they will work with you to develop a winning sales plan and fast track your cross-border exporting and success.  It is 100% funded by InterTrade Ireland and the application process is very simple. Then there is the Acumen programme under which you can get funding for a Full Time Sales Person, a Part Time Sales Person or Market Research…how cool is that!?

What’s the catch? This might be fairly obvious, but I will still say it – you need to work towards engaging in trade with, or exporting to, Northern Ireland. You also need to be fairly established in the domestic market first. This is a great opportunity however to break into the UK market, via what is geographically a market that is easy to access.

Horizon 2020 SME Instrument

What’s to like? Gone are the complex requirements of forming international consortia to get a slice of the action – Horizon 2020 SME Instrument provides SMEs with an opportunity to apply for funding between €50-500k in their own right, online! The application process is fairly straightforward and succinct.

What’s the catch? This funding is only suitable for a certain profile of companies. You will want to be a fairly mature SME with a product or service that is able to impress with innovation and impact on the European scale. Also, there are themes that you have to apply under, so your field of activity has to fit the specified strands (e.g. blue growth).

New Frontiers

What’s to like? While this is a programme funded and supported by Enterprise Ireland, it is implemented and run by the Institute of Technologies (IoTs) via their incubation centres, nationwide. The programme has a solid support and training structure, coupled with – in Phase 2 of the programme – a stipend of €15,000 paid out over a period of 6 months to be utilised towards the development of a business idea.

What’s the catch? This is funding that is firmly aimed at a High Potential Start Up, meaning that you have the potential to become an export orientated business capable of creating 10 jobs within 3-4 years along with reaching a target of €1,000,000 in revenue. Also, there is a competitive application process so you will be pitted against other entrepreneurs.

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