Competitive Start Fund - All Sectors

The Competitive Start Fund (CSF) aims to support early stage start-ups. This fund is open to early stage companies in the Manufacturing & Internationally Traded Services sectors, including the following subsectors Agtech, Cleantech, Consumer Products, e-Health, Enterprise Software, Fintech, Food, Games, Industrial Products, Lifesciences, Manufacturing, Medical Technologies & Devices, Mobile, Renewables, SAAS / Digital Technologies, Engineering / Electronics, Deeptech, Internet of Things (IOT), Artificial Reality (AR) / Virtual Reality (VR), Data Intelligence, Quantum Computing, Green Technologies / *Climate Change Solutions

*solutions to address challenges and opportunities regarding Climate Action with an emphasis on decarbonisation (i.e. supporting transition to low carbon) including but not exclusive to Renewables, Carbon capture technology, Innovations in buildings and transport applications and Sustainable materials.

To Apply

This call for applications opens on Tuesday 4th May 2021 and will be open for a 3 week period, and will close on Tuesday 25th May 2021 at 3pm.

Completed application forms must be submitted through the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System by the deadline.

Also, as part of the application process, a Video Pitch must be submitted on the platform (when you commence the application form, an email regarding the video pitch will be sent to you separately).

A valid application must have both a video pitch and completed application form.


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 capacity and ambition to succeed in global markets. The fund is designed to enable those companies to reach key technical and commercial milestones. Applications are considered on a competitive basis. Funding is provided to companies who rank highest in a two-phase evaluation process. The maximum level of support per successful application is €50,000, for 10% in ordinary shares in the start-up company, to be released in 2 equal tranches of €25k (5% in ordinary shares for each tranche).

Applicants to the fund should ideally be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Be able to clearly demonstrate that product or service has reached Minimal Viable Product (MVP) stage, and that the product is, at a minimum, live in beta.
  • That the product or service has demonstrable customer validation ideally with (trial and/or paying) customers.
  • A fully articulated proposition addressing a clear gap in the market with market research conducted with customers/potential customers.
  • Evidence of innovation, export potential and employment capacity. Clear export market opportunity for the proposed product or service. Clear knowledge of the competitive landscape.
  • Clear execution plan outlined, identifying suitable channels to international markets.

Assessments are undertaken on the applications submitted, it is important to note that the greater the progress the applicant has undertaken towards generating sustainable revenues the stronger the application.

If successful in progressing to pitch, the applicant may be required to supply contacts of (trial and/or paying) customers prior to any Enterprise Ireland investment completing as part of our due diligence process.


Previous CSF Winners:

Aisling Kirwan Positive Carbon

This year, Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF) is encouraging applications from eligible companies that address the challenges and opportunities relating to climate change. “It’s really exciting to see more environmentally focused businesses coming through,” says Aisling Kirwan, co-founder and Director of Operations at Positive Carbon, a recent recipient of funding through the CSF. Read more about Positive Carbon.

Deirdre Lyons Examfly

Turning a good idea into a viable business takes time, hard work and support – this is what Deirdre Lyons, founder and CEO, Examfly discovered on her two-year journey with online teaching tool start-up, Examfly. As one of the recent recipients of Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF), Examfly has grown from a good idea into a promising business with big ambitions. Read more about Examfly.

Ciaran Brennan LiveCosts

With the help of Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF), Ciaran and Niall Brennan developed their cost-tracking software into a real solution for small and medium-sized businesses in the sector. Read more about LiveCosts

Padraig Neylon AddJust

AddJust is a contract and financial management platform for the construction industry. The company received support from Enterprise Ireland's Competitive Start Fund. Click here to see CEO Pádraig Neylon discuss how the CSF supported their growth.

Martin OConnell Nasal Medical

Getting Competitive Start Fund approval validated Nasal Medical’s efforts to develop a drug-free solution for allergy relief and gave them confidence to grow. Read the full interview with founder, Martin O’Connell.

Sharon Keegan Peachylean

Peachylean is an award-winning shapewear and activewear business with sales worldwide. Here, CEO Sharon Keegan discusses her start-up journey with support from the Competitive Start Fund. Read more.


The TeachKloud Early Learning Management System is a SaaS solution which enables educators to streamline their business, comply with regulations and communicate with parents. CEO Wendy Oke outlines how the CSF allowed TeachKloud to upgrade our product, hire key personnel and raise further funding. Read more.


Am I eligible?

The Competitive Start Fund is open to:

  • Companies that are active in the relevant industrial sector(s)
  • You are eligible to apply as an ‘Individual’ if an establishment/company is not yet registered for the proposed eligible company activity. If application is successful in the CSF call the investee company must be registered in Ireland and the individual/founder must be based in Ireland.

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

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

  • Must be a manufacturing or an eligible internationally traded services business (the eligible services as listed in the Service Industries Order 2010);
  • Prior to the competition closing date must not have received equity funding of more than €150K. Equity includes Ordinary shares, Convertible Preference Shares, Convertible Loan Notes and Directors Loans. Sweat equity does not apply;
  • Prior to the competition closing date must be pre-trading or recently commenced trading and does not have revenues in excess of €100k in the current financial year to date or in any previous financial year;
  • If the enterprise is an existing company, the company must be less than 3 years old (from date of incorporation in Ireland) at call close date;
  • Must be capable of creating 10 jobs in Ireland and realising sales of €1m within 3 years;
  • Must not be engaged in activities that are excluded under Enterprise Ireland policy including gambling, adult entertainment, tobacco or military sectors.

The following criteria will be applied as part of the additional due diligence process for those applicants / companies progressing to the pitch stage of the competition:

  • Have sufficient de minimis funding available in line with EU rules governing ‘single undertakings’ and company group structures;
  • The applicant/applicant company must not have previously performed the proposed business activity or a similar business activity in a separate business which was majority owned by the applicant/applicant company/the applicant company’s majority shareholder(s); Unless the applicant/applicant company can clearly demonstrate that the business activity previously performed was limited to innovative research and/or was merely preparatory/pre revenue in nature;
  • The undertakings must be a small enterprise as defined at
  • 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).

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 receipt of the CSF investment.
  • 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/applicant entity will not receive Competitive Start investment until they have completed drawdown of the New Frontiers scholarship/priming grant or declined further payments.
  • The Company must be registered and based in Ireland with the majority of the management team based in Ireland.
  • Any company who previously received CSF investment previously is not eligible for additional funding.

Note: Any intellectual property and assets that are required to execute the business plan that are currently owned by the promoters must be assigned to the investee Irish company prior to the CSF investment completing.


Application Support

Application Support Workshops will be held online by Business Innovation Centres (BIC) nationwide. Workshops are held via Zoom and are free to attend. Spaces are limited, workshops are interactive and participation is welcomed from entrepreneurs and early stage companies. Workshops are also open to internationally based entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Ireland.

Prior registration is required.

Dublin BIC10th May, 20212pm-4pmThis workshop is now full.
Dublin BIC19th May, 20212pm-4pmRegister here
West BIC6th May, 202111am-1pmRegister here
South East BIC11th May, 20219:30am-11:30amRegister here
Cork BIC13th May 202110am-12 noonRegister here

Your Local Business Innovation Centre (BIC) in addition to application support workshops can offer assistance with preparing your CSF application.

Contact your Local BIC for more information:


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. 

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

  • In addition to €50,000 equity investment, successful applicants can avail of a range of Start–up support from Enterprise Ireland including 10 mentoring sessions with a mentor from the Enterprise Ireland panel of mentors. 

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 1407/2013


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.

Apply here

Download sample application form from a previous call. Please note, character counts on each field are not outlined in this sample and is subject to change.

To support your written online application, you are asked to address a number of questions 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 pitch 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 & Conditions set out in the Enterprise Ireland Term Sheet (PDF)
  • (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 (PDF).


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 years)


For information, download CSF Assessment 1 Scoring Guidelines (word format).

All applicants will be notified by email of the result of the first round of the competition in June 2021. Those shortlisted to progress to the second round will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the panel (Assessment Part 2) in June/July 2021.

Assessment Part 2

The highest scoring applications will be invited to present a short investment pitch to the evaluation panel comprising external industry experts and representatives of Enterprise Ireland.

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

This call for applications will close on Tuesday 25th May, 2021 at 3pm.


Key contact/more information

+ 353 1 727 2202 (9am - 5pm)

We are operating remotely, send an email to or alternatively leave a voice message and we will return your call.

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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