Irish start-ups benefit from a number of government financial and technical supports. One notable example is the services offered by Ireland's 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), which provide one-to-one support for fledgling companies in various areas.
Set up by the Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation in 2014, LEOs have supported small businesses to achieve growth, fostering Ireland's position as a hotbed for entrepreneurial activity and innovation.
Devised as a "first stop shop" for those looking to start a business or for small businesses looking for support, the LEOs are now a significant source of job creation.
The initiative's success was showcased during Local Enterprise Week 2020, held March 2-6, 2020.
Local Enterprise Week 2020
More than 300 events were organised by the 31 LEOs, with sessions focusing on everything from how to start a business in Ireland and financial planning, to how business leaders can make their business more sustainable and how to pitch for funding and sales. Other events covered sustainability and the green economy, preparing for Brexit, and how small businesses can market themselves both online and offline.
At Local Enterprise Week, it was reported that, during 2019, small businesses supported by LEOs added a net 3,149 employees to their workforces last year. There was a 6.4% increase in training, and a 10.5% increase in mentoring offered by LEOs across the country.
Supports and Tax Relief Available
Over the past five years, more than €81.5m in grants have been approved for businesses supported by the LEO initiative, and there are other financial supports available too.
New start-up companies in Ireland are entitled to corporate tax relief during their first three years of trading, applicable to both profits and capital gains, depending on how much corporate tax would normally be due. Full relief is available when the corporate tax due is €40,000 or less in a tax year, and partial relief is available if the corporate tax due is between €40,000 and €60,000.
Another tax incentive is the Start-up Relief for Entrepreneurs (SURE), which provides an income tax refund that can be claimed if you are starting a new business and you are an employee, an unemployed person, or a person that has been recently made redundant.
Irish small businesses and sole traders can access support from the Social Enterprise Development Fund, which provides cash grants to businesses that "find and back social enterprises that add to the social and economic fabric of their community by way of social impact." In 2020, the Fund will support up to 16 social enterprises with cash grants of between €10,000 and €50,000 and a place on LEO's accelerator programme.
In addition, SMEs and start-ups that are limited companies can apply to Enterprise Ireland for Innovation Vouchers worth up to €5,000, which can be used to purchase academic support when exploring a new business idea, and can access financial assistance of up to €2,500 towards growing their online presence from the OPTIMISE Programme.
The Irish Government is trying to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among young people also. The Student Enterprise Programme, an annual competition that involves students devising a business plan for an idea and then pitching their plan, involved over 26,000 students from 512 secondary schools across the country in 2018.
Uniquely, Ireland also offers considerable opportunities for start-ups to access finance. Through the Credit Guarantee Scheme, viable start-ups can access loans from three accredited lenders (Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland, and Ulster Bank Ireland) that are 80% guaranteed by the State, to ensure that small businesses with promise can access the funding they need to thrive.
The Irish Government has pledged to continue and increase its support for Irish businesses. As the Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen, puts it: "Small businesses are at the very core of our national economy and we want to ensure that those people who have the ambition to create a small business are given every support to help them succeed."
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