Start-up funds and incubators in Ireland


You may have an idea for a new business or perhaps you are an established SME with an innovative project that needs funding?  Below is a list of some of the most recent high-profile funds and competitions aimed at start-ups and growing businesses in Ireland. 






NDRC was recently ranked the number one IT incubator in the world. So, you know you are in good hands should you qualify.

NDRC LaunchPad is for aspiring entrepreneurs with ideas “capable of being brought to market and achieving a commercial return”. The NDRC provides very decent pre-seed money per project to support the founders during the three month programme. Read more.


NDRC is also teamed with Microsoft Ventures to provide NDRC’s start-up firms with mentors, support and access to technical and business talent, as well as potential access to a global investor network.

Check out and


NDRC’s Female Founders startup initiative


Female Founders, a pre-accelerator for new technology start-ups with gender diversity in their founding teams is run by NDRC in partnership with AIB and Enterprise Ireland. Women with high-tech business startup ideas can apply. See more information.


NDRC VentureLab


This is for technology intensive start-ups in healthcare, e-commerce, energy efficiency, functional foods, carbon reduction and image recognition. VentureLab is an intensive development programme with each new business receiving investment of up to €100,000. NDRC VentureLab is targeted at enabling ventures that are commercialising science, tech or intellectual property with high potential for success. See more information.



Propeller Venture Accelerator programme


DCU’s Ryan Academy runs the Propeller Venture Accelerator programme for early-stage technology start-ups. This three-month, award-winning accelerator offers €30k seed funding to entrepreneurs with winning ideas: office space, over 80 mentors (technical, specialists and serial entrepreneurs) and a Demo Day pitching session with investors and business angels.
“Propeller has a proven track record in helping technology start-ups accelerate to the next phase of their evolution. We offer to our successful participants a comprehensive package of practical and financial supports and, through our extensive network of contacts in business and enterprise, access to a full suite of mentoring programmes and to further investment,” says Terence Bowden, Ryan Academy venture manager.


Female Propellers
The DCU Ryan Academy for entrepreneurs has also launched a women only accelerator programme. The Female Propeller for High Fliers is open to female founders of Irish or international start-ups less than five years old. All companies must be led by women.


Enterprise Ireland’s portfolio of top start-up funds


Enterprise Ireland falls somewhere in the middle between pre-seed and seed stage investment. It has a number of solutions aimed at people who are just starting up, (e.g. the New Frontiers programme and the Competitive Feasibility Fund), but it also supports companies at the seed stage of investment through the Competitive Start Fund and the High Potential Startup Unit (HPSU). Also worth mentioning are the Innovation Vouchers from Enterprise Ireland (worth €5,000) that are available to assist a company to explore a business opportunity or problem with higher education institutes.  Expect soul destroying bureacuracy.



Graduate Start Fund


There is also now a Competitive Start Fund for Irish graduates worth €50,000. Read more.



Google Venture’s $100m pot for start-ups


Google has announced that it has set up an arm of Google Ventures in Europe and allocated an initial fund of $100 million for local start-ups.
Google Ventures originally launched in the US in 2009 and now has over 250 companies in its portfolio, many of which – like Uber and TuneIn – have gone on to have a significant impact on the mobile sector. The firm usually invests around $300 million in new businesses annually. “Our goal is simple: we want to invest in the best ideas from the best European entrepreneurs, and help them bring those ideas to life,” says Bill Maris, managing partner at Google Ventures.



Wayra Ireland


Wayra Ireland is one of Ireland’s leading digital start-up accelerators. Based in Dublin’s Docklands, Wayra provides early stage investment to start-ups as well as a workspace. You can go here for more details and for regular updates follow @WayraIRL on Twitter. Since its launch in September 2012, Wayra Ireland has accelerated 21 companies that, to date, have raised over €6 million in funding for their businesses.



Mastercard’s e-commerce-focused accelerator


MasterCard has a new e-commerce-focused accelerator for innovative early stage European start-ups. Visit for more details.





Based in Ireland’s largest University, NovaUCD is a centre of excellence for start-ups from a variety of disciplines. Start-ups looking to enter the programme must be; less than three years old, in a knowledge intensive business and have a desire to collaborate with UCD. The state of the art complex on the Belfield campus provides office space and specialised bio incubation units. The programme provides mentoring, free legal, tax and marketing advice and helps start-ups securing funding from angels and venture capitalists. Read more.



Dogpatch Labs


Dogpatch Labs is located in the midst of Dublin’s ‘IT Mecca’ on Barrow St. The programme has three international sister offices in New York, Palo Alto California and Cambridge, Massachusetts. On top of offering desk space, bandwidth and coffee to new start-ups, the project aims to create “open source entrepreneurship”, where entrants share space, ideas, referrals, and networking contacts. There are currently more than 100 businesses based in the four locations and Dogpatch boasts more than 300 graduates.



Startupbootcamp Ireland


Startupbootcamp is the international affiliate of the American start-up incubator Techstars. IBM and Citi have partnered with Enterprise Ireland and Dublin City Council to create the program which is geared towards the application and commercialisation of specific technologies developed by the entrants.



Ignite incubator programme


Ignite is the incubator programme at University College Cork (UCC). The college does not take an equity stake in the start-ups. On completion of the program businesses get a further six months office space free-of-charge at the National Software Centre in Mahon in Cork. Entries are welcomed from graduates of any third level institution and each year ten teams are chosen for the programme. Read more.




Providing the first $75,000 investment and a three-month program to support the growth of a $10m business is not good enough anymore, thinks Seedcamp. Breakout success is all about scale and getting the $200,000, $2M, and $20M of investment that will help build a $1B business.

That’s why Seedcamp is “building an evolution of our acceleration model” fit for the next decade. It has raised a new fund, worth more than $30m, that allows it to be much more ambitious about the way it supports startups. The fund will now back companies from ‘start to scale’ allowing it to back more entrepreneurs, and at a faster pace. Here’s more information.



Tech All Stars


Tech All Stars connects twelve of the best start-ups from accelerators and web camp competitions across Europe with top EU funding sources, successful entrepreneurs and networking opportunities. Tech All Stars is sponsored by the European Commission Information Society and Media.



UCD Student Innovation Fund


Last year six early-stage start-ups by UCD students received a combined total of over €15,500 through the UCD Student Innovation Fund.
This new fund was established by the UCD Student Centre, in association with the UCD Students’ Union, to encourage entrepreneurship among UCD undergraduate and postgraduate students.



Dell’s €10 million fund for Irish tech start-ups


Dell has launched a new initiative aimed to support the start-up community in Ireland. The Dell Centre for Entrepreneurs says it will provide access to funding, mentoring and Dell’s technical help to assist Irish start-ups “grow and scale quickly”.

€10m will be made available to help support viable, tech start-ups. “We’re looking to attract start-up businesses with a technology focus,” says Aongus Hegarty, President, Dell EMEA. Read more.



The Summit’s start-up competition – PITCH


Last year start-ups could compete in PITCH – a competition held at The Web Summit sponsored by Box. The winner landed a prize to the value of €500,000 making it one of the largest prize funds for a start-up in the world.
Keep an eye out on here for details of this year’s Summit competition.



Microsoft’s Imagine Cup


This is a competition for third level students. The idea is that students will go on to develop their concepts into successful start-ups. The Imagine Cup has been running in Ireland for the past eight years and previously Irish teams have had great success on the global stage. Microsoft Imagine Cup is part sponsored by Invest Northern Ireland. Further information on the Microsoft Imagine Cup is here.


The Versari Hub


Do you have an idea or a product for the ‘learning tech’ sector? The Versari Hub is Ireland’s first dedicated facility for early-stage learning technologies companies in Dublin today.
Companies already at the Hub have raised over €8m in capital to date, employ over 100 people and are actively recruiting. Expenditure on learning technologies is projected to grow at 23% each year leading to $250bn global market by 2017 across all Education and corporate sectors. So, there’s a great opportunity for Irish companies in the sector.



The SAP Startup Focus program


The SAP Startup Focus program supports start-ups in developing new applications on SAP HANA, SAP’s real-time database platform that streamlines analytics, planning and predictive assessments to allow business to operate in real time.
The program is an accelerator for big data, predictive and real-time analytics start-ups and now has more than 1,500 start-ups with very distinct SAP HANA-based use-cases, from gaming to retail to finance to manufacturing and more.



Food Academy Start programme


It’s not all just about tech firms in Ireland. Other sectors are now being targeted by enterprise offices and private firms. For example, food business start-ups as can apply to the Food Academy Start programme, a collaborative initiative between the Local Enterprise Offices, Bord Bia and SuperValu.



Music start-ups backed by Guinness


Guinness has launched a new music programme called Guinness Amplify. Guinness Amplify offers 60 days of free studio time will be to qualifying musicians. Places at the workshops will be offered to musicians on a first come, first served basis and those interested should go here for further details.



OPTIMISE e-commerce fund


Fifteen companies can each win prizes of 10 days of professional consultancy, training and development, from a total fund of €150,000. OPTIMISE Awards give small business owners the e-tools and know-how to ‘optimise’ their existing website and grow their business online. For further details about the OPTIMISE Fund and how to apply, go here.



Origin8 from NCAD


A new on-campus centre for commercialisation and innovation at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD). Origin8 aims to allow industry partners to access the very best and latest in design research. At the same time, it allows on-campus designers and researchers to get access to successful companies that need good designers.



Opel’s Springboard Graduate Programme


Opel Ireland and its parent company General Motors (GM) has announced a partnership with the HEA’s (Higher Education Authority) Springboard programme, introducing new Graduate Programmes in University of Limerick and NUI Galway which will run from 2014 up to 2018. All Springboard courses are available for review here.



Compass Group Ireland and The Idea Works


Compass Group Ireland has launched The Idea Works, a new initiative which encourages SMEs in the food service, hospitality and facilities management industry to come forward with cutting-edge products, solutions and applications. Companies across Ireland can submit their concepts via a dedicated website. Go here for more information.





The tech start-up programme DealStart set up by it@cork European Tech Cluster, helps start-up businesses to grow faster, smarter and more profitably by matching them with a large company mentor in the area of procurement and business development. Interested parties should visit and complete the application form online.



Start-up competitions in Ireland


There are many competitions, grants and award programmes for a variety of start-up sector. You don’t have to be in the tech area to enter these. Good ideas, businesses that have the potential to build and sell products and scale are welcome.

Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur Competition
 is open to all sectors. The competition takes place at County level initially, with a prize fund of €50,000 available to the winners of three separate categories. Are you 30 or under with a business idea or an existing business? If so, the Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) Competition could be for you.



The Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards


The Irish Times InterTradeIreland Innovation Awards has been showcasing new, Irish product and service innovations – from drug delivery systems and state of the art network switching, to anti-allergy pillows and leading technologies for cleaning and disinfection.
The prizes involved aren’t enormous, but the kudos is good. Check it out.





You could have a great product that has global potential. If so, you may need to approach venture capitalists for money, lots of money. For a full list of all the VCs operating in Ireland go to The IVCA’s site.

The IVCA represents venture capital in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Its full members are venture capital firms which provide equity funding to growing unquoted companies. More information here.



The Top 10 crowdfunding sites in the world


From Kickstarter to Indiegogo, crowdfunding may also help you raise some seed capital to get your product or service to market. Here are the top 10 platforms worldwide. With low deposit rates for would be investors and conventional finance opportunities being slim for start-up businesses, crowdfunding has emerged as a popular alternative form of finance and the market for 2013 is estimated to have been in the region of €1 billion in the EU.
Ireland does not, however, have a regulatory framework governing crowdfunding, which puts the country at a disadvantage in terms of encouraging new start-ups in the space and protecting investors.



Chasing the ‘big money’


Once you ‘graduate’ from your accelerator fund, you then need to scale, perhaps raise more money, and go to market. For this you need to dream big, so, here are: ‘The Top 100 Venture Capital Firms in the US’.



Irish Universities and Institutes of Technology with business and start-up programmes

Business development programs are available and the Universities and Institutes of Technology below:
• National College of Ireland (NCI)
• Invent Centre DCU, Dublin City University
• M50 Enterprise – Tallaght IT and Blanchardstown IT
• South East Enterprise Platform Program – Waterford IT
• NUIG Business Innovation Centre, NUI Galway
• Innovation Centre, NUI Maynooth (Centre is under construction)
• gatewayUCC, University College Cork
• Tyndall Incubation Centre, Tyndall National Institute Cork (Centre under construction)
• Trinity Technology and Enterprise Campus, Trinity College Dublin
• Nexus Innovation Centre, University of Limerick
• Midlands Innovation & Research Centre (MIRC), Athlone Institute of Technology
• Learning & Innovation Centre (LINC) Blanchardstown Institute of Technology
• Enterprise & Research Incubation Campus, Carlow Institute of Technology
• Rubicon Centre, Cork Institute of Technology
• DIT Incubation Centre
• Regional Development Centre (RDC), Dundalk Institute of Technology
• Innovation in Business Centre (IIBC), Galway, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
• Innovation in Business Centre (IIBC), Castlebar, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
• The Media Cube, Institute of Art, Design and Technology Dun Laoghaire
• CoLab, Letterkenny Institute of Technology (Under Construction)
• Enterprise Acceleration Centre, Limerick Institute of Technology
• NCI Business Incubation Centre, National College of Ireland
• ITSBIC, Institute of Technology Sligo
• Synergy Centre, Institute of Technology Tallaght
• Tom Creen Business Centre, Institute of Technology Tralee
• Arclabs Research and Innovation Centre, Waterford Institute of Technology



In conclusion, there is plenty of support available to Irish companies that show high potential. A recent IVCA VenturePulse survey shows that Irish companies raised €400.8m from investors in 2014. This compares with funds of €284.9m raised from investors in 2013 and to €269m in 2012, an increase of 49 percent in the two year period.