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Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Voucher initiative was introduced to enhance links between small businesses and Ireland's public knowledge providers (i.e. public research bodies, higher education institutes etc.)
Worth up to €5,000, Innovation Vouchers can be the stepping stone an innovative company needs to get its project off the ground with the support of a registered knowledge provider. In terms of voucher types, there are a couple available:
Standard €5,000 vouchers are provided to companies looking to explore a specific business opportunity or problem. It’s only possible to apply for a standard voucher during the open calls. You don’t need to have decided which knowledge provider to work with in advance of applying (that can be decided later), and vouchers are valid for twelve months from the issue date.
Again the value of these vouchers is €5,000 with the company contributing 50% of the project costs in cash. This means a company can use a 'Fast Track' voucher to meet the costs of a project on a 50-50 co-funded basis up to €10,000.
The knowledge provider and the company jointly agree on the programme of work for the project before an application is submitted. Companies often choose this option if they don’t qualify for a standard voucher (for instance if they’ve already had two or more) or if they need to expedite the project to bring a concept to market urgently.
Co-Funded Fast Track Application Vouchers can be applied for at any time with responses typically given within four weeks.
Innovation Vouchers can be used for a huge variety of innovation including (but certainly not limited to):
Once claimed, vouchers are then exchanged for knowledge transfer projects from the knowledge provider. Knowledge transfer projects themselves must, for the purposes of the scheme, transfer to a small business knowledge of an innovative technological or scientific nature. The SME then takes this knowledge and uses it to innovate a new product, service or process.
Bear in mind however that not all activities are eligible for the Innovation Voucher scheme. Find out more on the Enterprise Ireland website.
There are many benefits for small businesses deciding to boost their innovative prospects via Innovation Vouchers. For example:
Many companies, particular smaller ones, don’t automatically think of knowledge providers when it comes to their innovative efforts. The Innovation Voucher programme is an excellent chance to pair up with providers that may not have previously been considered. The ensuing collaboration may not just benefit the business itself, but the wider field in which it operates too.
Innovation Vouchers are a great way of funding the earliest stages of a project and to ascertain if a concept will actually work. Once this initial research has been conducted, a road map and plan for the project can then be made. And of course, time and money is also saved if it’s felt, on closer inspection, that the project is unlikely to be successful after all.
The Innovation Voucher programme unlocks access to a broad mix of knowledge providers across the Republic of Ireland. The voucher can be exchanged with the registered provider of your choice for knowledge, support and advice. Knowledge providers are state-funded research organisations, and include Universities, Technological Colleges, Institutes of Technology and other government-financed research organisations.
For smaller companies in particular, investing in innovation is scary. The right expertise is unlikely to be available ‘in-house’ and finding the time, resource and equipment can be substantial barriers.
Innovation Vouchers can go a long way towards covering the costs of innovative projects, giving companies more confidence to invest. Furthermore, by working with expert knowledge providers, companies will have the best possible support and expertise at their fingertips.
Prototype creation and testing is an essential part of any research and development project. Innovation Vouchers can help cover prototype costs, proving the concept behind the project. This can then encourage further funding from other sources that will take the product to market.
A maximum of three Innovation Vouchers per company can be claimed (although one of them must be a co-funded Fast Track voucher). One thing to remember though: only one voucher can be ‘active’ at once.
The Innovation Voucher programme is currently run on an open call, meaning applications can be made at any time. Once the application has been received, it will be assessed and a decision made usually within a few weeks. The voucher is then offered for use in securing the necessary expertise and advice.
It’s recommended that where possible SMEs talk to their chosen knowledge provider about their plans in advance. This then gives some clarity around project goals and timelines. However, as mentioned earlier, this isn’t essential - you can always apply first before deciding which partner to work with later.
You can apply for both the Standard and Co-funded Innovation Vouchers using the Enterprise Ireland Online Application System. If you haven’t applied before you’ll need to select the option to register.
It’s worth pointing out here that in order to qualify for a voucher, you don’t have to be a client of Enterprise Ireland, or be in contact with an Enterprise Ireland Development Adviser.
The Myriad Associates team of consists of a range of R&D experts that work tirelessly in achieving the innovation funding companies in Ireland need.