Small Business Grants & Start Up Business Grants in Northern Ireland - UPDATED

If you are looking to start, grow or expand your business, you may need some financial assistance. Small business grants and start up business grants in Northern Ireland can do just that. Find out what kind of help is available below.

Rhiannon Philps, Connor Campbell Last updated on 25 November 2022.
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Small Business Grants & Start Up Business Grants in Northern Ireland - UPDATED

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 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

Sectors: Graduates


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 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


Amount: £500

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.

Acumen Funding

Sectors: Manufacturing or tradeable service small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)


Amount: Up to £15,000/€18,750 to cover up to 50% of a sales person’s salary in first year, or up to £8,000/€10,000 to cover up to 50% of costs of 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.

Elevate Programme

Sector: Micro-enterprises


Amount: £5,000/€5,750

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 Advisors that suits its business needs, from a panel of experts.

Get into R&D

Sectors: SMEs


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.

Techstart Proof of Concept Grant & Concept Plus Fund

Sectors: SMEs


Amount: Up to £10,000 (for Concept Grant); up to £35,000 (for Concept Plus Grant)

Details: Your business can use funding from these grant 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

Sectors: All


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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About the authors:

Rhiannon is a financial writer for NerdWallet, with a particular interest in personal finance and insurance guides for consumers. Read more

Connor is a writer and spokesperson for NerdWallet. Previously at Spreadex, his market commentary has been quoted in the likes of the BBC, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Reuters and The Independent. Read more

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