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Whether you are a start up trying to find your feet, or an established business looking to expand, you may need a bit of help when it comes to funding.
Across Northern Ireland there are several grants available to assist you in realising your business potential.
Read on to find out more about start up business grants in Northern Ireland, and what kind of funding is on offer for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs.)
What is a business grant?
A business grant is normally a non-repayable sum of money given to a business in order for that organisation to complete a project or activity. Grants can sometimes, however, be partially or conditionally repayable, so it is important to understand the details of the scheme before applying.
As well as funding specific to Northern Ireland, there are a wealth of small business grants available across the UK as a whole. You may also be able to find funding for certain demographics, such as business grants for women.
Start up business grants in Northern Ireland
If you are looking to form a new business in Northern Ireland, then you may be eligible for a start up business grant.
Below are some examples of the Northern Ireland start up business grants currently available.
From Student to First sale (FS2FS)
Eligible regions: Northern Ireland
Amount: £15,000 salary subsidy
Details: If you have graduated within the past six months, you may be able to apply for the From Student to First sale scheme, which provides a £15,000 salary subsidy to encourage graduates from the education sector into self-employment. To be eligible, you will need to meet the Invest NI new business criteria, which includes the ability to reach a turnover of £250,000 a year within five years, with at least 25% of those sales outside Northern Ireland.
Start Up Accelerator
Eligible regions: Derry City and Strabane District Council area
Sectors: Start ups
Amount: Up to £1,000
Details: If you are over the age of 16, not in full-time education, have completed the Go For It Programme and are working more than 16 hours a week in your start up business, you could potentially access a £1,000 grant to explore your business idea in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area. The scheme also comes with one-to-one mentoring, workshops and an entrepreneurs forum.
Start Up Seed Fund
Eligible regions: Greater Ballymena area
Sectors: Start ups
Details: If you are based in the greater Ballymena area, working a minimum of 16 hours a week at your business, and have completed the Go For It Programme, you may be able to apply for £500 in seed funding for your business.
Small business grants in Northern Ireland
If you are looking to grow or expand your organisation, there are a number of small business grants on offer in Northern Ireland. For an exhaustive list of options, you can use the Northern Ireland business support finder.
Below is a selection of business grants that are currently available.
Sectors: Manufacturing or tradeable service small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)
Amount: Up to £17,250/€21,562 to cover a full-time sales person’s salary in first year, or up to £9,200/€11,500 to cover the costs of a part-time sales person
Details: InterTradeIreland runs the Acumen programme, which aims to help businesses increase their cross-border sales by branching into new markets. The programme will support some of the costs of employing a professional salesperson who can help your business penetrate new markets and create an increased yet sustainable source of income.
Details: InterTradeIreland’s Elevate Programme is designed to fund consultancy time for businesses looking to identify cross-border markets and customers. The applicant chooses the sales advisers that suit its business needs, from a panel of experts.
Get into R&D
Amount: Up to £50,000
Details: Businesses can receive this research and development (R&D) funding to translate an idea for a new product or process into reality. For example, it can contribute to the costs of investigating and researching an idea, creating and testing a prototype, experimenting, and developing and improving the result.
Sectors: Manufacturing or tradable services
Amount: £39,000/€47,400 for 12 month projects, £56,000/€67,900 for 18 month projects
Details: If you are an eligible manufacturing or tradeable services company, Innovation Boost can provide you with the funding to hire a science, engineering or technology graduate to help support your business with specific expertise. The 12 month projects typically focus on process improvement, while the 18 month projects are new product or services development.
Techstart Proof of Concept Grant & Concept Plus Fund
Amount: Up to £10,000 (for Concept Grant); up to £35,000 (for Concept Plus Grant)
Details: Your business can use funding from these grants to explore the commercial viability and potential of a new and innovative product or concept. Some of the activities that the grant can fund include: prototyping, market research, testing, assessment, and employment costs, among other related measures.
Skills Advancement Grant
Sectors: Manufacturing or internationally tradable services (Invest NI customers)
Amount: £1,000 to £15,000 to cover 50% of eligible costs
Details: You can use funding from this grant to pay for external training, travel, and accommodation costs. This can help create a more skilled workforce and can bring multiple benefits to the business. The grant does not cover any mandatory training.
Regional small business grants in Northern Ireland
The following are small business grants only available in certain areas of Northern Ireland:
Vacant to Vibrant Capital Grant Scheme
Eligible regions: Belfast city centre
Amount: £2,500 to £25,000
Details: Businesses looking to renovate or repurpose a vacant space in Belfast City centre boundary can apply for a grant to help with the costs. This could be setting up a pop-up shop, taking up a vacant retail unit, or improving the facade.
What other business funding is available?
If you are unable to secure a business grant, and still need funding, then you could consider applying for a business loan.
It is best to thoroughly compare the various business loans on offer, and ensure that you get one that is suitable for your individual needs.
Alternatively, there are other forms of business finance, such as angel investors, crowdfunding, invoice finance and asset finance.
» MORE: Sources of business finance
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