Competitive Start Fund - All Sectors, with a focus on ICT - ARCHIVED

The Competitive Start Fund (CSF) aims to support early stage start-ups. This fund is open to early stage companies in manufacturing and internationally traded services.


Ian Nolan Brightflag 140px

The Competitive Start Fund enabled Ian Nolan to complete the initial builds of the Brightflag platform. CEO and founder, Ian Nolan outlines his top tips for applying for the fund. Click here to read more.

Ann Marie McSorely Veri 140px

The Competitive Start Fund was a turning point for Veri, culminating in the closing of a funding round in August 2017. Here, Veri founder and CEO, Ann Marie McSorley explains why, and how, she applied. Click here to read more.

Aisling Teillard Tandem HR Solutions

The Competitive Start Fund gave Tandem HR Solutions’ Aisling Teillard unrivalled access to the start-up eco-system and critical support to help her grow her business. Here, she describes why winning the Competitive Start Fund was crucial to Tandem HR’s next step. Click here to read more.

Dr Simon Jackson and John Murray

The Competitive Start Fund provided critical funding with which Modern Botany progressed from the prototype stage, to bringing their first product to market, says, Dr Simon Jackson, Founder. Here, he outlines the benefits to CSF, and his advice for future applicants. Click here to read more.

All applications to the fund must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System.

  • Completed application forms must be submitted through the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System by 3pm on Tuesday 6th February, 2018.
  • A Video Pitch must be submitted on the platform by 11:59pm on Tuesday 6th February, 2018. (When you commence the application form an email regarding the video pitch will be sent to you separately). A valid application must contain both a video pitch and complete application form.
Top Tips on applying for the CSF

How Enterprise Ireland's CSF helped Brightflag

The Competitive Start Fund was a turning point for Veri

The CSF propelled us from concept to reality

Overview of the Competitive Start Fund

The purpose of the Competitive Start Fund is to accelerate the growth of start-up companies that have the capability to succeed in global markets. The fund is designed to enable those companies reach key commercial and technical milestones, for example:

  • Evaluate overseas market opportunities and reach firm conclusions regarding the viability of the proposed business.
  • Build a prototype.
  • Secure a reference site.
  • Develop a market entry plan for exploiting international opportunities.
  • Secure partnership deal or strategic alliance.
  • Identify suitable channels to international markets.
  • Secure third party investment e.g. business angel, Venture Capital.


Am I eligible?

You are eligible to apply if you are an existing or potential client of Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up Department.

The Competitive Start Fund is open to:

  • Companies that are active in the relevant industrial sector(s) 
  • Individuals who, prior to Enterprise Ireland's investment, will have a headquarters registered and be based in Ireland.  All intellectual property and assets must reside in the Irish entity.

In addition, applicants must fulfil all of the following criteria:

    • Must be a manufacturing or an eligible traded services business (the eligible services as listed in the Service Industries Order 2010);
    • Must not have received equity funding of more than €100K prior to the competition closing date.  Equity includes Ordinary shares, Convertible Preference Shares, Convertible Loan Notes and Directors Loans.  Sweat equity does not apply;
    • Must be pre-trading or recently commenced trading, i.e. does not have revenues in excess of €60k in the current financial year to date or in any previous financial year;
    • If a company, it must be less than three years old [from date of registration];
    • Must be capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realising sales of €1m within 3 years.  [If a company is required to have FDA or CE approval, these targets must be achievable within three years of approval to sell];
    • Must not be engaged in gambling, "adult entertainment", tobacco or military sectors;
    • Applicants must be eligible to live and work in Ireland. If their current visa status does not allow them to run a business in Ireland they must regularise their visa situation before receiving an investment.  (Enterprise Ireland has a help-desk to advise non EU applicants on the relevant rules).
    • Must meet SME definition as defined by EU legislation

    Please note:

    • If an application is successful and is currently in receipt of an Enterprise Ireland Feasibility Grant, the full amount of the Feasibility grant must be drawn down before the Competitive Start Fund investment or, alternatively, the company/individual must forego the balance of the Feasibility Grant prior to starting the CSF.
    • If the applicant is successful and currently in receipt of a New Frontiers scholarship, or a Priming Grant from the Local Enterprise Office, the application will not receive Competitive Start investment until they have completed drawdown of the New Frontiers scholarship/priming grant or declined further payments.
    • Where an applicant is a subsidiary of a parent company, then the eligibility criteria will be applied to the parent company.
    • If the applicant was a sole trader or a partnership prior to applying to CSF as an individual or a Limited company and the undertaking is exactly the same, then the eligibility criteria will be applied to the former entity.
    • Note: Any intellectual property that is required to execute the business plan that is currently owned by the promoters must be assigned to the company prior to the CSF investment completing.


    What is the maximum funding and on what terms?

    • Applications are considered on a competitive basis.
    • The maximum support available is €50,000 for a 10% ordinary equity stake in the start-up company.
    • The investment shall be released in two equal tranches.
    • The first tranche will be released to successful applicants only when it provides confirmation of additional new* cash investment for equity of €5,000. This new investment in equity of €5,000 by the successful applicant is to occur after the relevant call close date.
    • The overall equity investment will be towards the costs associated with implementing the business plan and making progress on key technical and commercial milestones.
    • In addition to the investment of €50k, successful applicants will be eligible for a range of supports, including mentoring, and a development programme.  See details of our HPSU Start supports .

    *Capitalisation of existing loans will not qualify – we require this to be new cash into the business. 

    Legal Basis: The legal basis is Section 31 of the Industrial Development Act 1986.
    State Aid Basis: The State Aid basis is De Minimis Aid EC No 69/2001


    Eligible costs

    The overall equity investment will be towards the costs associated with developing the business plan and making progress on key technical and commercial milestones. The following activities are expected to form the basis of expenditure;

    • Salaries
    • Travel
    • Consultancy Fees
    • Other Expenditure


    How do I apply?


    Applications must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System during the call open dates.  We strongly recommend that you log in and commence your application well in advance of the call closing date.  You can commence your application and save it to revisit at a later stage.

    A sample application form from a previous call is available for download here. Please note, character counts on each field are not outlined in this sample and it is subject to change.

    To support your written online application, you will be offered the opportunity to pitch directly to the Assessment Part 1 Evaluation Panel using video interviewing technology. You will be asked to complete a 6-8 minute online video interview / pitch which will be viewed by the evaluation panel as part of the evaluation process. This video pitch is mandatory, 20% of the overall marks are allocated to this submission. For your application to be considered you must submit your written online application and video pitch. An email will be sent (to the email address used when registering for Enterprise Ireland online) inviting you to complete your online video interview after you commence your Competitive Start Fund online application. Read Video Pitch Briefing Document.

    You will be asked to address the following questions:

    • What are you going to sell? (1 minute maximum)
    • Who are you going to sell it to? (1 minute maximum)
    • Why are they going to buy it from you? (1 minute maximum)
    • How are you going to sell it to them? (1 minute maximum)
    • How are you going to make money? (1 minute maximum)
    • You will also be given 2 minutes max to add any additional comments

    Please note that an application for approval of an equity investment for companies selected under this scheme shall be subject to:

    (a) Approval from Enterprise Ireland’s Investment Committee.
    (b) The company agreeing to the Terms and Conditions set out in the Enterprise Ireland Term Sheet
    (c) The company agreeing to enter into a Share Subscription and Shareholders Agreement with Enterprise Ireland. For more information on this Equity Process, read our CSF Equity FAQs.


    How is my application evaluated?


    Assessment Part 1

    An evaluation panel comprising external consultants and Enterprise Ireland will score applications under the following criteria: 

    Evaluation Criteria


    Company and Promoter Profile


    Product/Service & Market Opportunity


    Business Proposition - delivered by Video Pitch


    Product/Service Innovation


    Ability to deliver key Commercial and Technical Milestones over the coming 12 months


    Likelihood of developing into a HPSU (company with at least 10 employees and €1 million revenue within 3 to 4 years)


    For information, download CSF Assessment 1 Scoring Guidelines {MS Word]

    All applicants will be notified by email of the result of this assessment on Wednesday 7th March, 2018.  If they are successful they will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the panel on Wednesday 21st March 2018 at Enterprise Ireland offices in Dublin.  (Assessment Part 2).


    Assessment Part 2

    The top applications will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the evaluation panel comprising external industry experts and representatives of Enterprise Ireland at the offices of Enterprise Ireland, East Point Business Park, Dublin 3 on Wednesday 21st March, 2018.

    The evaluation panel will be asked to score the applicant's performance based on the following equally weighted criteria:

    • Business Model - explain how this company will generate revenue and scale internationally.
    • Management Team - describe how the proposed management team have the necessary skills to scale this business and clearly identify gaps and proposed actions to address them.
    • Roadmap - clearly outline the steps necessary and the resources required over the next 12 months.

    The evaluation panel will select the start-ups to go forward to Enterprise Ireland’s Investment Committee for approval.

    Please note: Enterprise Ireland reserves the right to seek additional clarification from the applicant in regard to your application. 


    Closing Date for Applications


    The closing date for all applications for those active in the Manufacturing & Internationally Traded Services is Tuesday 6th February, 2018 at 3pm.


    Key contact/more information

    For more information, download Reference document [Word Format]

    + 353 1 727 2202 (9am - 5pm)

    If you are not a client of Enterprise Ireland and want to learn more about qualifying and applying for Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up supports, go to our Start a Business Section.

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