My Department has been continually supporting and encouraging start-up enterprises and entrepreneurs developing new products through the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) and Enterprise Ireland (EI) with both agencies contributing to the economic success of the country. They are central to the continued growth of small and medium business and the success of future start up enterprises and entrepreneurs.
The LEOs, located in the Local Authorities nationwide provide a ‘first-stop-shop’ for advice, guidance, financial assistance and other supports for entrepreneurs intending to start or grow a business.
The LEOs can offer direct grant aid to microenterprises (10 employees or fewer) in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors which, over time, have the potential to develop into strong export entities. Subject to certain eligibility criteria, the LEOs can provide financial assistance within three main categories: Feasibility Grants (investigating the potential of a business idea); Priming Grants (to part-fund a start-up); and Business Development Grants for existing businesses that want to expand. (It should be noted that the LEOs do not provide direct grant-aid to areas such as retail, personal services, local professional services, construction/local building services, as it may give rise to the displacement of existing businesses). In addition, there is a Technical Assistance Grant available for eligible micro-exporter applicants who are seeking to explore alternative markets for their product or service.
Anyone with a viable business proposal can also use the LEO to make an application to MicroFinance Ireland, which offers support in the form of loans of up to €25,000 to start-ups with viable business propositions that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by the banks. The LEOs can work with these clients on their applications to Microfinance Ireland (MFI) for small business loans of between €2,000 and €25,000 (unsecured). Loans for commercially viable proposals can be used to help fund start-up costs, working capital or business expansion.
Furthermore, The Agile Innovation Fund has been developed by Enterprise Ireland to support product, service and process innovation to build competitive advantage. The key benefit of this support is that it allows for a simple application process and delivers a faster response time from application to approval. The new Agile Innovation Fund is also open to eligible Local Enterprise Office clients and it allows companies to access up to 50% in support towards innovation projects with a total cost of up to €300,000.
Additionally, Enterprise Ireland actively works with High Potential Start-Ups, companies with the potential to develop an innovative product or service for sale in international markets and the potential to create 10 jobs and €1m in sales within 3 to 4 years of starting up.
The LEOs and Enterprise Ireland are an outstanding resource available to businesses and their variety of clients in such a diversity of sectors is a demonstration of the expertise available through these Agencies. Businesses that work closely with benefit significantly from the supports, mentoring and training they provide. My Department will ensure that the Enterprise Agencies continue to get the resources they need to allow start-up entrepreneurs develop and explore new products and ideas.