Ignite NI’s accelerator programmes have lost funding from Invest NI

23 Feb 2022

Image: © N ON NE ON/Stock.adobe.com

Invest NI confirmed it is unable to continue funding these accelerators due to uncertainty surrounding its budget.

Ignite NI’s accelerator and Propel pre-accelerator have lost funding from Invest NI, which is facing budget uncertainty.

With support from Invest NI, these accelerator programmes look for growing tech start-ups that can demonstrate traction and significant potential for future growth.

Future Human

Invest NI confirmed to SiliconRepublic.com yesterday (22 February) that it is unable to support the accelerators due to issues surrounding its budget.

“Whilst we await clarification on our potential 2022/23 budget allocation, we are currently unable to enter financial commitments that would involve expenditure beyond 31 March 2022,” an Invest NI spokesperson said. “The previous contract to run the Propel pre-accelerator and accelerator programmes completed in September last year.

“Given the current situation, Invest NI is not able to proceed with a new business case at this time,” they added.

Ignite NI CEO Tristan Watson said online that there will be no more Invest NI funding for the accelerators. He added that more than 100 “incredible companies” have been supported through these programmes, going on to raise “more than £50m in follow-on funding” between them.

An example is Belfast-based tech start-up Cloudsmith, which went on to raise £2.1m in seed funding shortly after completing the accelerator in 2019.

“Given the current situation it’s not a huge surprise, but we’re still sad to see the end of these fantastic programmes,” Watson said on Twitter. “I want to say a huge thank you to all the mentors, investors and especially the founders who have supported the programmes, and also to Invest NI for making it possible in the first place.”

Watson said Ignite NI will continue to support the region with other programmes it’s running with groups such as the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub, along with upcoming events planned such as an investor week.

‘We need more founders, not less’

Ignite accelerator COO Ian Browne said the funding issues have made him “sad for founders who are being let down” in Northern Ireland.

“When one piece of this ecosystem is dysfunctional, it affects everything,” Browne said on Twitter. “We need more founders, not less. We need more investment, not less.”

Browne added that in 2018 the start-up ecosystem was struggling in Northern Ireland and was the “worst performing region in the UK”. He said this was due to issues such as a poor start-up creation rate, a lack of venture funding and “lowly ambitions”.

He noted that Ignite NI’s portfolio companies have raised more than £100m in capital, with more than 90pc coming from outside Northern Ireland, and created around 300 jobs.

“We need everyone to realise that a better economic future will be provided by a small number of hugely successful local companies,” Browne added. “They all start small. Government has a moral imperative to support homegrown business creation.”

Invest NI is the economic development agency for Northern Ireland, tasked with helping new and existing local businesses compete internationally and attracting more investment into the region. The organisation has recently been facing funding issues.

Speaking at Stormont yesterday (22 February), Northern Ireland’s economy minister Gordon Lyons said he has commissioned an independent review into Invest NI, BBC reports.

“Now is the right time to take stock and ensure the organisation is primed to respond to its changing economic landscape in preparation for an economy that has the aspiration of being 10 times better,” Lyons said.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic