Written answers

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Enterprise Ireland Funding

Photo of Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
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115. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to any issues in relation to the evaluation of applications to the Enterprise Ireland competitive start fund; if he will confirm that all applications are thoroughly evaluated before awards are granted and that all scoring and evaluation is done in an open and transparent manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17414/14]

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Minister, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Dublin North Central, Fine Gael)
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Enterprise Ireland offers a range of financial and non-financial supports to assist companies through all stages of the business development cycle. Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF) is aimed at accelerating the development of High Potential Start-Up companies (HPSUs) and creating a strong pipeline of HPSUs. Enterprise Ireland piloted the CSF in 2011 to provide early stage companies with critical funds to test the market for their products and services and progress their business plans for the global marketplace.

Calls under the CSF occur frequently and are widely publicised. There were five separate calls during 2013 and a similar number of calls are planned for this year. The CSF calls attract a very high number of applications and to date Enterprise Ireland has received 1,950 applicants and has funded 227 companies.

The CSF application process is designed to be fast and efficient to allow new start-ups to concentrate on validating their business concept and getting to market entry stage as quickly as possible. Applications for CSF funding are made through an on-line format. The on-line format also allows applicants to include additional relevant supporting information including a video pitch and relevant web-links. However, this additional information is not scored and in some cases may not be considered by the evaluators, if they feel that the body of the application provides sufficient information to make an informed judgement on the application.

The evaluation of applications involves a two-stage process with all applications thoroughly evaluated and then scored by EI Development Advisors and external assessors. The external assessors are professionals who are required to have experience of technology start-ups and also relevant sectoral expertise. The assessors are appointed on the basis of an open call for tender and the tender remains open for applications at .

Each application under the CSF is evaluated and scored on the following basis:-

Evaluation CriteriaWeighting
Company and Promoter Profile25%
Product/Service & Market Opportunity25%
Execution of the Business Plan25%
Product/Service Innovation15%
Ability to deliver key Commercial & Technica10%
Milestones over the coming 12 months-

Depending on the number of applications per call up to 30 of the highest scoring projects proceed to the second stage of evaluation which involves a live “pitch” and an interrogation by a panel that includes experienced entrepreneurs and Enterprise Ireland managers. The evaluation panel scores the applicant’s performance based on responses to the following, equally weighted, questions:-

- What specific need does your product/service address? Why would someone be "compelled" to purchase your offering?

- What is it about you and/or your management team that makes you capable of executing on this business plan?

- What would be the impact of €50K on the execution of this business plan?

Depending on the number of applications on a given call up to 15 of the highest scoring projects from this stage are each offered a €50,000 investment from Enterprise Ireland for a 10% ordinary equity shareholding in the business.

In general Enterprise Ireland does not provide applicants with details of their projects’ scores, however, applicants are provided with an indication as to a project’s comparative ranking and quartile placing. Enterprise Ireland also offers feedback to all unsuccessful applicants to ensure that they can have a clear understanding of why a project was unsuccessful and also direct applicants to other appropriate supports. These features of the process provide applicants with a level of feedback which may allow them enhance their bids in further calls under the CSF or to avail of other business supports.

Since the launch of the CSF Enterprise Ireland has received only a small number of queries from unsuccessful applicants relating to the evaluation process or its transparency. Enterprise Ireland is, of course, always available to engage with applicants under the CSF to discuss any aspect of their application.

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