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On a competitive basis this fund seeks to support entrepreneurs with grants directed towards exploring the viability and commercial potential of an innovative concept.

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How to Apply

Concept Grant Fund supports entrepreneurs at the earliest stage to get their business ideas off the ground.

Concept Grant

Funding: up to £10k

Closing: 5pm Wednesday 9th January 2019

All eligible applicants will be invited to a Pitch Session. The Pitch Sessions will take place in January 2019 - Final Dates TBC

Decisions on your application will be made by February 2019

Concept Plus Grant

Funding: up to £25k

Closing: 5pm Tuesday 5th February 2019

All eligible applicants will be invited to a Pitch Session with techstart NI. The Pitch Sessions will take place in February 2019 - Final Dates TBC.

A shortlist of applicants will then be selected to present to the Fund’s Assessment Panel. This presentation will take place in March 2019 - Final Date TBC.

Decisions on your application will then be made.

Frequently Asked Questions

On a competitive basis this fund seeks to support entrepreneurs with grants directed towards exploring the viability and commercial potential of a novel and innovative concept.

The grant funding comes in the form of a “Concept” grant (of up to £10k) or a “Concept Plus” Grant (of up to £25k).

Yes, up to the limits discussed above. Please note however that grants are paid in arrears, therefore successful applicants will be reimbursed for appropriate expenditure upon submission of proof that the money has been spent in accordance with the Application Form and Letter of Offer.

Criteria to apply for both grants -

  • You must be a Sole Trader, Partnership or Limited Company to apply for a Proof of Concept Grant. Applications from Community Interest Companies and Social Enterprises will not be considered.
  • You (i.e. Sole Trader, Partnership, Limited Company) must have an innovative/novel concept to prove.
  • Applicants must be resident in Northern Ireland. If you are applying as a Company, the Company must be registered in Northern Ireland.
  • If you are applying for some of the grant to cover the employment costs of people promoting the project, then the application must be made by a Limited Company.
  • For independent third-party costs, at application stage you must identify your proposed supplier. If your proposed supplier has provided you with an official quotation you should append to your application form.
  • Successful applicants will be required to provide official quotations from the proposed Suppliers in advance of a Letter of Offer being issued.
  • Up to 30% of the Grant awarded is available to cover the employment costs of the people promoting the project with a set daily rate of £200. For such costs to be approved, your application must clearly detail what work will be done during the PoC project under these costs and what the output will be. Please note that Administration Time, Project Management Time and similar Overhead activities will not be eligible activities to be covered within employment costs.
  • Applicants can have no more than two successful applications or two unsuccessful applications, irrespective of the entity applying or the concept applied for.

Desirable Criteria for Concept Plus grants:

  • Applicants should ideally be teams
  • Your approach to the concept will have a balance between technology/product development and market facing activities
  • The stage of development of the concept will have greater emphasis on steps towards commercial exploitation/engagement with potential customers

Concept Grants are awarded on a quarterly basis. Concept Plus Grants are awarded every four months.

All closing dates are advertised on the Techstart NI website and on our social media profiles. Please be aware that all applications must be submitted by the 5pm deadline on each closing date otherwise it will not be considered until the next call for applications.

To apply for a grant, you will be required to complete the online application form. Please visit our Application Portal to access and view the application form (click here). You must complete the form and submit it via the portal.

In addition to the application form and supporting quotes from suppliers, Techstart NI may request further information or documentation before a decision on your application is reached.

All of the above are eligible, however if you are applying for part of the grant to cover employment costs then you can only apply as a Limited Company.

It is vital to note that if you are successful the grant will be awarded to the entity that applied for the grant. This will be the entity that will have to incur the costs as the grant is paid in arrears to the applicant.

The application process for the Concept Grant differs to that of the Concept Plus Grant.

Concept Grant Application Process -

  • Application submitted by Closing Date (quarterly)
  • All eligible applicants will be invited to a short Pitch and Q&A session with Techstart NI on a selected date
  • Applications will be reviewed and scored by Techstart NI
  • Decisions made by Techstart NI

Concept Plus Grant Application Process -

  • Application submitted by Closing Date (four monthly)
  • All eligible applicants will be invited to a short Pitch and Q&A session with Techstart NI on a selected date
  • Application will be reviewed & scored by Techstart NI
  • Following the reviews of the applications, a selected number of applicants will be invited to present to the Fund's external Assessment Panel (AP) on a selected date
  • The selected applicants will present to the AP followed by a Q&A session
  • The AP will provide feedback to Techstart NI on each proposal that was presented.
  • Final decisions will be made by Techstart NI

Yes - however if you are applying for employment costs to be covered within the grant please note the following -

  • The application must be made by a Limited Company, and not a Sole Trader or Partnership
  • You must clearly detail within the application form what work will be done during the PoC project under employment costs and what the output will be
  • Administration Time, Project Management time and similar activities will not be an eligible employment cost activity
  • There will be a cap on the amount of grant that can cover employment costs, which will be 30%
  • There will be a set daily rate of £200
  • To drawdown the grant related to the employment costs the beneficiary will be able to claim up to 50% of the employment costs amount once they have reached half-way through the project and the remaining 50% of the employment costs will only be released at the end of the PoC project, once an end of PoC project meeting has taken place and Techstart NI are satisfied with the output
  • To drawdown the grant for employment costs the beneficiary will submit self-certified timesheets

For both types of grant, eligible activities for support include but are not limited to:

  • Concept/Prototype Development
  • Further Market Research – i.e. Activities around further understanding and sizing of the addressable market, such as Focus Groups, Domain Expert Consultancy and/or Attendance to relevant Trade Shows.
  • Market Validation – i.e. Costs associated with testing the concept with potential customers and end-users.
  • Market Testing Activities – i.e. Expenditure incurred in testing the best way to take the product to market.
  • Assessment of uniqueness of IP
  • Employment costs where a clear output will be delivered. For more information on employment costs being an eligible activity please see question 11.

For both types of grant non-eligible activities include but are not limited to:

  • Costs of Company Registration
  • IP Protection costs including trademarks
  • Product Development activities beyond the core product
  • Marketing and costs of selling
  • Costs incurred before the award of the grant and outside of the agreed project timeframe
  • Costs of legal incorporation
  • VAT - if you are VAT registered
  • Costs not directly connected with the project
  • Tablets, laptops or similar equipment
  • Trading stock
  • Administration Time, Project Management time and similar Overhead activities will not be eligible employment cost activities. For more information related to employment costs being an eligible activity please see question 4.
  • Subsistence (including food, taxis, mileage)

Applicants can appoint an independent third-party supplier who they deem to be most suited to undertake the proposed work provided they are completely independent of the applicant/entity applying for the grant e.g. Have no direct relationship or directorship in the company.

If your application is successful you will be notified via email and invited to a ‘briefing session’ to explain the process thereafter. Techstart NI will finalise an agreed plan of expenditure with you and clarify the claims process with you in advance of a Letter of Offer being issued.

Grant payments will be made in arrears on submission of a project report and evidence of expenditure, relative to the agreed project plan of expenditure. This includes invoices & receipts from your suppliers and a copy of the applicant's bank statement showing relevant payments. An ‘End of PoC Project’ meeting is required to take place before the final instalment of the grant is released.

If you have been awarded a portion of the grant for employment costs then you will be required to submit self-certified timesheets with a daily rate of £200. You can claim up to 50% of the employment costs amount at the halfway point of the project but the remaining 50% of the employment costs will only be released at the end of the PoC project once an End of PoC project meeting has taken place, and that Techstart NI are satisfied with the output.

Further information on the claims process will be provided if your application is successful.

It is expected that submitted applications will be well thought through and considered. Activities and suppliers will be specified in detail at this stage, so it is considered unlikely that future changes will be necessary. In the unlikely event that a change is required, such proposed changes to the Project plan must be provided in writing and approved by Techstart NI in ADVANCE of the changes taking place, otherwise this will result in the grant becoming ineligible for payment.

Face to face or telephone feedback will be provided if requested.

Yes. Applicants can have no more than two successful applications or two unsuccessful applications, irrespective of the entity applying or the concept applied for.

Subject to meeting the relevant eligibility criteria, applicants may apply for a Concept Plus grant after having had a Concept grant for the same concept. Applicants cannot apply for or avail of both grants at the same time.

The Assessment Panel comprises seasoned entrepreneurs and business professionals. Each member of the Assessment Panel has signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement with Techstart NI regarding their participation on the Assessment Panel.

If your business is less than five years old (for unincorporated entities this is measured from the date revenues started and for limited companies from the date of incorporation) and has less than 50 employees then the grant will be awarded under Start-up Aid, otherwise it will be awarded DeMinimis Aid.

Techstart NI is committed to protecting your privacy and respecting your confidentiality. The information you provide shall be used exclusively for the purposes of administration and evaluation in connection with our PoC programmes and may also be shared with Invest Northern Ireland. That personal information is typically name, address, contact details and other basic information which is necessary for us to deal with your application. All data received shall be subject to the GDPR and other applicable personal data protection regulations. Please note, however, that as public funds are the source of the PoC grants, we may be required to share relevant information which is the subject of a Freedom of Information request.

Any details that you give to us will be added to our database. We take all appropriate measures to protect your personal information; however, as any transfer of data over the internet is not completely secure we cannot guarantee the security of data transmitted to us over the internet.

If you would like to be on our mailing list (and specifically opt in to that when you complete your application), we will send you mailings which you have requested or we feel may interest you and/or are relevant to your business or activity. Such mailings may include details of our offerings and services (including, for example our investment activities and our PoC programmes), newsletters, updates and invitations to our various training seminars and other events.

When requested to do so, we will delete personal information from current operational systems where it is no longer required. We may need to continue to hold some details about you after your relationship with us has ended, for example for legal and regulatory reasons.

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