The Innovation Voucher Programme was developed to build links between Ireland's publicly funded Knowledge Providers (i.e. higher education institutes, public research bodies) and small and medium-sized businesses. Innovation Vouchers worth €5,000 are available to assist a company or companies to explore a business opportunity or problem with a registered knowledge provider.
Innovation is essential if you want to stay ahead in competitive and fast-changing markets. But, you might lack the time or know-how to develop the types of innovative solutions that could set your business apart. That’s where Innovation Vouchers from Enterprise Ireland come in. Each Innovation Voucher gives you €5,000 worth of time with an expert, third-level researcher to help you tease out an idea, develop a new product, or crack an important business or technical challenge.
In an independent survey of companies that participated in the Innovation Voucher Programme:
97% of respondents would be willing to recommend the Programme to other businesses.
Increase in company turnover of €11.83 per €1.00 of Enterprise Ireland investment in the Voucher Programme.
Innovation Vouchers Video - Quick Overview of the Programme
Permitted uses for a Voucher
Innovation Vouchers can be used for any kind of innovation such as:
- new product/process development;
- new business model development;
- new service delivery and customer interface;
- new service development;
- tailored training in innovation management;
- innovation/technology audit.
Vouchers can be exchanged for knowledge transfer projects from the knowledge provider.
For the purposes of this initiative, a knowledge transfer project is defined as one that transfers knowledge of a scientific, technological or innovative nature that it is new to the business. The business may then use the new knowledge to innovate a product, process or service.
Ineligible activities for a voucher project
The Innovation Voucher may not be used to cover the costs of:
- achieving compliance with statutory regulations or legislation;
- standard training courses;
- software purchases and software development;
- aid that would promote/subsidise the cost of exports;
- internships for students of knowledge institutions;
- design and production of advertising material; branding;
- sales activities;
- business plans, business strategies, economic appraisals, costs analysis, general business consultancy;
- standard website development and online optimisation;
- standard mobile applications development;
- activities such as market research and market surveys that may be readily provided by the private sector;
- calorie & nutritional analysis, recipe development etc for all Food Service Outlet menus;
- activities supported by the mainstream funding mechanisms available from other Development Agencies such as the Local Enterprise Offices;
- activities unlikely to result in commercial enterprise or business capable of generating jobs and/or exports;
- training and mentoring;
- marketing activities, digital marketing activities, marketing plans & strategies
Advice or assistance with the following areas;
- commercial law
If potential solutions to the knowledge question already exist in the marketplace, then Enterprise Ireland is likely to reject the application on the basis that the proposed activity may be undertaken by the private sector.
Am I eligible?
The Innovation Vouchers initiative is open to all small and medium-sized limited companies registered in Ireland.
Applications are not restricted to clients of Enterprise Ireland.
Small and medium-sized enterprises in the agricultural sector are excluded in line with State aid guidelines.
Companies with charitable status, commercial semi-state companies, “not for profit” organisations, trade associations, holding companies, company representation bodies such as Chambers of Commerce, Sports Bodies & Associations, Sports Clubs and other non-commercial bodies or associations are not eligible to participate in the innovation voucher initiative.
Small and medium-sized company definition (SME): For the purpose of the Innovation Voucher Initiative, a small and medium-sized enterprise is defined as a company or (if part of a group) a group of companies where the total number of full-time employees in the company (or the entire group) is less than 250 and has an annual turnover total not exceeding €50m and/or an annual Balance Sheet total not exceeding €43m. (Exclusions: small and medium-sized enterprises in the agricultural sector are excluded in line with State aid guidelines).
Eligibility Criteria and Conditions of Use
Small and medium-sized companies may make use of a maximum of four vouchers, one of which must be a 50-50 co-funded voucher.
Companies that have been approved in excess of €300,000 (includes funding under the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership programme) funding from Enterprise Ireland in the previous 5 years are not eligible to apply for a fully funded 5k Standard Innovation Voucher, but are eligible to apply for a Co-Funded Innovation Voucher provided they satisfy all other eligibility criteria.
A company may have one ‘active’ voucher at any point in time. Companies should ensure that the voucher has been redeemed by the knowledge provider before applying for a subsequent voucher.
Companies will not be eligible for further vouchers until their accounts with the knowledge providers are settled in full (including the payment of VAT).
Your voucher will also be accepted by registered knowledge providers in Northern Ireland as part of Enterprise Ireland’s arrangement with Invest Northern Ireland.
Please note that Innovation Vouchers are EXCLUSIVE OF VAT. You will be charged VAT by the knowledge provider and this cost MUST be settled separately by the company.
If you wish to apply for an Innovation Voucher, there are two options:
Available Voucher Types
Standard €5k vouchers are available to assist a company explore a business opportunity or problem with a registered knowledge provider. You can apply for one of these standard €5,000 at any time and a response may normally be expected within four weeks. You do not need to identify your knowledge provider in advance and they are valid for 12 months from the date of issue
The value of the voucher is €5,000 and the company contributes 50% of the project costs in cash. Therefore, a company may use a co-funded voucher to cover project costs up to €10,000 on a 50-50 co-funded basis. The company and the knowledge provider jointly agree on the work programme for the project in advance of submitting an application. Companies may wish to use this option when they are no longer eligible for a standard voucher (may have used the maximum of three standard vouchers). This voucher application can be submitted at any time and a response may normally be expected within four weeks.
How do I apply?
Our Online Application System for Innovation Vouchers allows you to apply for both the Standard 5K Innovation Voucher and the Co-funded Innovation Voucher at any time. All voucher applications must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System. If you are a first-time applicant, you will have to register on the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System and create your own account.
Please note that you do not have to be a client of Enterprise Ireland, nor have an Enterprise Ireland Development Adviser to apply for a voucher.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Download and read Frequently Asked Questions about our Innovation Vouchers initiative.
To access the skills and research expertise in third level institutions you need to contact one of the knowledge providers listed below who have signed up to participate in the Innovation Vouchers initiative.
Enterprise Ireland is delighted to announce that Invest Northern Ireland is now also operating the Innovation Voucher initiative in Northern Ireland. As a result, there are an additional 9 Knowledge Providers from Northern Ireland participating in the initiative, bringing the total number to 36 in Ireland
Please select a type:
Borders, Midlands and West
South and East
For further information about the Innovation Vouchers Programme, please email: Innovation Vouchers Programme Manager
If you would like to collaborate with an Irish University or Institute of Technology on a larger research project, please go to the Innovation Partnership programme.
For more information on Enterprise Ireland Research and Innovation supports, please go to our Research and Innovation section.
The Innovation Voucher Programme was a key recommendation of the Small Business Forum in their report Small Business is Big Business, published in 2006.
Legal and State Aid Basis: The Innovation Voucher Programme can be run under the powers set out in the Science and Technology Act, 1987. The State Aid basis for the Innovation Voucher Programme is the ‘de minimis rule’.