Enterprise Ireland invested €48m in start-ups during a difficult 2020

23 Feb 2021

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The agency supported 125 new start-ups throughout the year with half of these being outside of Dublin and 38 led by women.

Enterprise Ireland invested €48m in start-ups in 2020 with 125 new companies funded amid the disorder of the coronavirus pandemic.

The total number of new companies supported by Enterprise Ireland is down slightly from 127 in 2019.

About half of these companies are outside of Dublin while 38 are led by women, as part of the agency’s Action Plan for Women in Business, which was launched last year to boost female-led businesses.

According to Enterprise Ireland, the main areas for investment in 2020 were fintech, cybersecurity, digital health and agritech.

The funds were invested through the State agency’s two main programmes: High Potential Start-ups, which are companies with the potential for €1m in sales in three to five years, and the Competitive Start Fund, which is for very early stage companies that are just getting started.

Kevin Sherry, executive director of Enterprise Ireland, said a strong start-up economy is “absolutely vital” to Ireland’s economic future.

“Now, more than ever, we need to be innovative and carve out more niches in international markets where business can thrive. Despite the impact of Covid-19, 2020 was another successful year for Irish start-ups, with growth noted in the life sciences and ICT sectors,” he said.

While Enterprise Ireland continues to invest in start-ups during the turmoil of the pandemic, many young companies are facing a potential drought in early stage funding from other sources.

The latest figures from the Irish Venture Capital Association show that there was a steep decline of 32pc in early stage start-up funding deals last year.

Start-ups and organisations such as Scale Ireland have urged the government to reform schemes like the Employment Investment Incentive scheme to introduce more attractive tax break incentives for investors in early stage start-ups.

Enterprise Ireland recently launched its latest iteration of the Competitive Start Fund, which has €1m to invest in new companies that need their first leg up.

“I have nothing but admiration for the many entrepreneurs across the country who have been brave enough to start up new businesses during the pandemic,” said Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

“It’s been an incredibly difficult year. I have seen countless examples all across the country of business owners overcoming adversity and demonstrating the kind of ingenuity, adaptability and resilience that entrepreneurs are known for.”

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin