Innovation Vouchers - How does it work

Overview of Innovation Voucher initiative 

The Innovation Voucher initiative was developed to build links between Ireland's public knowledge providers (i.e. higher education institutes, public research bodies) and small businesses.  Innovation Vouchers worth €5,000 are available to assist a company or companies to explore a business opportunity or problem with a registered knowledge provider.

Am I eligible?

The Innovation Vouchers initiative is open to all small limited companies registered in Ireland. Applications are not restricted to clients of Enterprise Ireland.

Exclusions

Small enterprises in the agricultural sector are excluded in line with State aid guidelines.

Companies with charitable status, commercial semi-state companies, “not for profit” organisations, trade associations, company representation bodies such as Chambers of Commerce, Sports Clubs and other non-commercial bodies or associations are not eligible to participate in the innovation voucher initiative.

Small Company Definition: For the purposes of the Innovation Voucher Initiative, a Small Enterprise is defined as a company or (if part of a group) a group of companies where the total number of full-time employees in the company (or the entire group) is less than 50 and has either an annual turnover and/or an annual Balance Sheet total not exceeding €10m. (Exclusions: small enterprises in the agricultural sector are excluded in line with State aid guidelines).

Eligibility Criteria and Conditions of Use

Companies may make use of a maximum of three vouchers, one of which must be a 50-50 co-funded Fast Track voucher.

Small companies that have been approved in excess of €300,000 (includes funding under the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership programme) funding from Enterprise Ireland in the previous 5 years are not eligible to apply for a fully funded 5k Standard Innovation Voucher, but are eligible to apply for a Co-Funded Innovation Voucher provided they satisfy all other eligibility criteria.

A company may have one ‘active’ voucher at any point in time. Companies should ensure that the voucher has been redeemed by the knowledge provider before applying for a subsequent voucher.

Companies will not be eligible for further vouchers until their accounts with the knowledge providers are settled in full (including the payment of VAT).

Your voucher will also be accepted by registered knowledge providers in Northern Ireland as part of Enterprise Ireland’s arrangement with Invest Northern Ireland.

Please note that Innovation Vouchers are EXCLUSIVE OF VAT. You will be charged VAT by the knowledge provider and this cost MUST be settled separately by the company.

If you wish to apply for an Innovation Voucher, there are two options:

Option 1:   Standard Applications – see Call Schedule below

A Sample Standard voucher application form in PDF format is available for download to help you prepare for submission in advance of the next call. Please note that this is available for information purposes only and should not be used to submit your application. All standard voucher applications must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online application system in the normal fashion during one of our open calls.

Option 2:   50-50 co-funded Fast Track Applications - may be submitted anytime.

The Innovation Vouchers initiative is open to all small (limited registered) companies (less than 50 employees) in Ireland.

Your Voucher will also be accepted by registered knowledge providers in Northern Ireland as part of Enterprise Ireland’s arrangement with Invest Northern Ireland.

Available Voucher Types

  1. Standard Voucher: Standard €5k vouchers are available to assist a company explore a business opportunity or problem with a registered knowledge provider. You can only apply for one of these standard €5,000 vouchers during one of our open calls. You do not need to identify your knowledge provider in advance and they are valid for 12 months from the date of issue. Please consult our schedule of calls when submitting your application.
  2. Co-funded Fast Track Application:The value of the voucher is €5,000 and the company contributes 50% of the project costs in cash. Therefore, a company may use a Fast Track voucher to cover project costs up to €10,000 on a 50-50 co-funded basis. The company and the knowledge provider jointly agree on the work programme for the project in advance of submitting an application. Companies may wish to use this option when they are no longer eligible for a standard voucher (may have used two or more standard vouchers) or where time to market is critical and the schedule for the standard call is not suitable. This voucher can be submitted at any time and a response may be expected within two weeks.

The Innovation Voucher Initiative was a key recommendation of the Small Business Forum in their report Small Business is Big Business, published in 2006.

Permitted uses for a Voucher

Innovation Vouchers can be used for any kind of innovation such as:

  • new product / process development;
  • new business model development;
  • new service delivery and customer interface;
  • new service development;
  • tailored training in innovation management;
  • innovation / technology audit.

Vouchers can be exchanged for knowledge transfer projects from the knowledge provider.

For the purposes of this initiative, a knowledge transfer project is defined as one that transfers knowledge of a scientific, technological or innovative nature that it is new to the small enterprise. The small enterprise may then use the new knowledge to innovate a product, process or service.

Ineligible activities

The Innovation Voucher may not be used to cover the costs of:

  • achieving compliance with statutory regulations or legislation;
  • standard training courses;
  • software purchases and software development;
  • aid that would promote/subsidise the cost of exports;
  • internships for students of knowledge institutions;
  • design and production of advertising material;
  • sales activities;
  • business plans, business strategies, economic appraisals, costs analysis;
  • standard website development and online optimisation;
  • standard mobile applications development;
  • activities such as market research and market surveys that may be readily provided by the private sector;
  • activities supported by the mainstream funding mechanisms available from other Development Agencies such as the County Enterprise Boards;
  • activities unlikely to result in commercial enterprise or business capable of generating jobs and/or exports;
  • advice or assistance with the following areas; - Legal - Commercial law - Patents - Taxation
  • Training and mentoring;
  • Marketing activities, digital marketing activities, marketing plans & strategies

If potential solutions to the knowledge question already exist in the marketplace, then Enterprise Ireland is likely to reject the application on the basis that the proposed activity may be undertaken by the private sector.

How do I apply? 

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new Online Application System for Innovation Vouchers which allows you to apply for both Standard 5K Innovation Vouchers and Co-funded Fast Track Innovation Vouchers. In future, all voucher applications must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System. We will not accept voucher applications via any other method (word documents are no longer considered valid submissions).

If you are a first-time applicant, you will have to register on the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System and create your own account.

All applications for our Standard Voucher must be made during one of our open calls, and we strongly recommend that you commence your application well in advance of the call close date and time.

  • Please note that you do not have to be a client of Enterprise Ireland, nor have an Enterprise Ireland Development Adviser to apply for avoucher.

All voucher applications must be made via the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System:

APPLY NOW button

Applications submitted beyond the call close date will not be accepted.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Download and read Frequently Asked Questions about our Innovation Vouchers initiative.

Case Studies

Watch video where John D'Alton, Director of Grafico talks about how he worked with the TEC centre at Cork Institute of Technology to develop a prototype of a stock management tool for beer kegs:

View more stories about Innovation Voucher projects.

Knowledge Providers

To access the skills and research expertise in third level institutions you need to contact one of the knowledge providers listed below who have signed up to participate in the Innovation Vouchers initiative.

Enterprise Ireland is delighted to announce that Invest Northern Ireland is now also operating the Innovation Voucher initiative in Northern Ireland. As a result, there are an additional 10 Knowledge Providers from Northern Ireland participating in the initiative, bringing the total number to 38 in Ireland.

Please select a type:

Borders, Midlands and WestDublinNorthern IrelandSouth and East

 

 

 

Key contact/more information

For further information about the Innovation Vouchers initiative, please contact the Innovation Vouchers Programme Manager:

Click here to email Innovation Vouchers Programme ManagerInnovation Vouchers Programme Manager

If you would like to collaborate with an Irish University or Institute of Technology on a larger research project, go to Innovation Partnerships Initiative. For more information on Enterprise Ireland Research and Innovation supports, go to our Research and Innovation section.


Legal and State Aid Basis: The Innovation Voucher Initiative can be run under the powers set out in the Science and Technology Act, 1987. The State Aid basis for the Innovation Voucher Initiative is the ‘de minimis rule’.

 

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