Over 1,500 new jobs to be created over three years by 105 Enterprise Ireland supported High Potential Start-Ups

10th February 2016

Investor Day

Pictured L-R, Julie Sinnamon, CEO Enterprise Ireland; Hilary Foley, Nua Naturals Galway; David Carey, Nutroplenish Kildare; Terence O' Rourke, Chairman Enterprise Ireland.

Investment of €31m in Start-Ups by Enterprise Ireland in 2015 

Start-Up Investor Day brings together 300+ Start Ups, investors and entrepreneurs 

Access to talent the biggest challenge to growth


Over 1,500 jobs will be created over the next three years by 105 High Potential Start-Up (HPSUs) companies supported by Enterprise Ireland in 2015. 

HPSUs are start-up businesses with the potential to develop an innovative product or service for sale on international markets and the potential to create 10 jobs and €1m in sales within 3 to 4 years of starting up. 

New research, presented at the annual Enterprise Ireland Start-Up Investor Day, indicated that 9 out of 10 ten start-ups surveyed by Amárach Research on behalf of Enterprise Ireland plan to increase staff in 2016.  6 in 10 expect substantial growth this year with the main export markets being the UK, Europe and USA. 

Enterprise Ireland’s Kevin Sherry, Director of Global Business Development said 2015 saw an increased level of support for HPSUs.  “Last year was a record year for Enterprise Ireland supported new start-up companies with the highest number of funding approvals with a total direct Enterprise Ireland investment commitment of €31m in start-ups.  A key role of Enterprise Ireland is to support entrepreneurs to start new enterprises, to develop innovative products and services and to scale their businesses on international markets”. 

Highlights of 2015 included record numbers for the agency: 

  • 105 new High Potential Start-Up businesses. 
  • In addition, 112 new early stage businesses were supported under the Enterprise Ireland Competitive Start Fund in 2015 (81 in 2014) which injects critical early stage funding into new businesses. 
  • 61 new female-led start-ups supported - up from 43 in 2014.  This reflected the expansion of Enterprise Ireland’s support for female entrepreneurs which included the development of a dedicated competitive start fund to encourage more females to start businesses. 
  •   11 spin-out companies from higher education institutions were supported in 2015.  These businesses are built on publicly-funded research to become new HPSUs. 
  •   15 new start-ups established by entrepreneurs from overseas, involving a range of sectors and with founders who have moved to Ireland to establish their businesses from Singapore, India, Switzerland and Germany.

Speaking at the Investor Day, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD said: “At the heart of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs is creating a powerful engine of Irish enterprise that will accelerate jobs growth in towns and villages right across the country.  The companies supported by Enterprise Ireland under its High Potential Start-Ups programme and Competitive Start Funds are key to our plans. I am delighted that there is a strong regional representation with 47% of the high potential start-ups being from outside Dublin. Furthermore I am encouraged to see more young entrepreneurs– over 10% of the founders of the Class of 2015 are under 30. All of the start-ups involved today are the new ambitious promoters that will go on to become part of the growing number of internationally trading Irish companies that each year are increasing Irish exports and creating new Irish jobs –  some I am confident will ultimately develop into the large employer Irish multinationals of the future. I wish all the Start-ups here today the very best for the future.”

Enterprise Ireland’s Kevin Sherry said that the research survey on HPSUs carried out by Amárach reflects a positive outlook with more than half of HPSUs benefiting directly from Ireland’s economic performance. “2015 was a record year for Enterprise Ireland in terms of supporting start-ups. The outlook is positive but some challenges remain. According to the research of start-ups, the main barrier to growth is access to talent (for 55% of HPSUs), followed by competitive pressures and regulation/compliance requirements.  8 in 10 HPSUs see growth coming from new clients, while three quarters expect to grow by launching new products.”

While 1 in 5 respondents to the research were female, almost half (47%) felt that it was getting easier for women to start and grow a business – with the balance seeing no change. 

“Up to 2011, female-led enterprises accounted for just 7% of new start-ups.  Participation by female entrepreneurs in our High Potential Start-Up programme increased to 22% in 2015, surpassing our target of 18%.  This is a positive trend and we need to continue to encourage more female entrepreneurs to start and scale new businesses. 

“Our ambition is that in the coming years there will be no need for tailored supports and initiatives for Irish female entrepreneurs because Irish business women will no longer be under-represented in the businesses and boardrooms of Ireland.  However, until we reach that point, we will be continuing our drive to increase their participation levels”, concluded Kevin Sherry.  

View the video of the event here 



Regional Distribution HPSU & Competitive Start Fund (CSF) Companies 2015







Mid East (Kildare, Meath, Wicklow)



South & South East (Cork, Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford, Wexford, Tipperary South)



Border (Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan, Sligo)



West (Galway, Mayo, Roscommon)



Mid-West (Clare, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary North)



Midlands (Laois, Longford, Offaly, Westmeath)










Download High Potential Prospects - An Amárach Survey of HPSUs for Enterprise Ireland (Feb 2016) 


Notes to Editors 

Enterprise Ireland supports for Start Ups 

Enterprise Ireland has a comprehensive range of supports for high impact start-ups.  Each year we provide early stage advice and direction to over 1,000 entrepreneurs and start-ups and provide some level of early stage funding to over 450 start-up businesses.  Enterprise Ireland supports for Early Stage Businesses include the following; 

Innovation Vouchers

Innovation Vouchers, worth €5,000, are available to assist early stage companies to work with a registered college or knowledge provider in Ireland and Northern Ireland to explore a business opportunity or solve a technical problem. 

Enterprise START

This is support for early stage entrepreneurs to enable them to validate their business proposition.  Enterprise START workshops help founders to understand and evaluate the entrepreneurship process and what it involves.  

New Frontiers

Each year New Frontiers supports approximately 150 entrepreneurs in the establishment of their new businesses creating an estimated 300 jobs.  

Competitive Start Fund

Enterprise Ireland introduced the Competitive Start Fund in direct response to client needs.  Very early stage companies can face difficulties in raising external financing at this vital stage in the start-up and market launch process.  This competitive fund is aimed at bridging that gap and is focused on providing start-ups with critical early stage funding to explore and determine the market fit of their business and progress to product launch.  Under the terms of the Competitive Start Fund, start-ups receive an equity investment of up to €50,000 for a 10% ordinary equity stake in the company. 

High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) Seed investment

The Innovative HPSU Fund supports start-up and development costs of High Potential Start-Up companies.  The Innovative HPSU Fund allows Enterprise Ireland to offer equity investment to HPSU clients, on a co-funded basis.  This investment goes towards the achievement of an overall business plan, rather than funding towards discrete elements of a business plan, such as R&D or employment creation.  The funding of a business plan in this way is similar to a venture capital (VC) approach. 

The average investment by Enterprise Ireland in each of these companies was over €200k – with at least a similar amount from the private sector.  The level of EI investment is dictated by the company’s need for money and the potential benefit to the taxpayer in terms of long term jobs and exports. 


The projected job figures for the high potential start-up companies have been validated as part of the due diligence approach in considering investment in the high potential start-up companies by Enterprise Ireland.

More information can be found at HPSU Investor Day Class of 2015.



Conor O'Donovan

Head of Marketing & Communications

Enterprise Ireland

Conor O'Donovan

+353 1 727 2912

+353 87 967 1342