Competition offering €27,000 to boost early-stage start-ups

18th March, 2021 : Ireland

Press Releases

February 2021
The Ireland Funds launches its tenth annual Business Plan Competition, in partnership with St Patrick’s Mental Health Services

The Ireland Funds has launched its annual Business Plan Competition 2021, offering €27,000 to kick-start four smart, new business ideas. The competition will include a special category for mental health innovation, in partnership with St Patrick’s Mental Health Services.

The competition is a leading third-level start-up competition on the island of Ireland with participation from 39 universities, colleges, research centres, and institutes of technology to date. Now in its tenth year, it seeks to nurture creativity and hone entrepreneurial skills among early-stage entrepreneurs, and is open for entries until 16 March, 2021. University and third-level students and researchers, as well as recent graduates (2 years or less) across the island of Ireland, are invited to submit proposals that are at pre-investment stage.

Ten applicants will be shortlisted and invited to participate in virtual pre-acceleration workshops in April, May, and June to bring their business ideas from concept to pitch, as well as receiving mentoring and feedback throughout the process. There will be a final pitching event online in June and three prizes will be awarded. The winner will have the opportunity to receive 1-1 mentoring from San Francisco-based tech-entrepreneur and Business Plan Competition Founder, Bill McKiernan, as well as securing a €15,000 cash prize. Second place will receive a €7,000 cash prize and third place will receive €2,000.

Over the last four years, The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition finalists have collectively gone on to raise €8.1m+ in follow-on funding.

In 2020, Signal Optimiser, led by Queen’s University Belfast student Lewis Twaddle Loane, won the top prize of €15,000 for their product, a plug-and-play device, connecting seamlessly with any musical instrument to continuously deliver 100% of the sound. Described as “a game changer” by the world’s official number one music retailer, their innovative solution incorporates new technology to eliminate signal loss and transform the quality of music.

Founder of Signal Optimiser, Lewis Twaddle Loane said: “The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition provided an invaluable opportunity to sharpen our business model and focus on adding value to our target market.”

The Business Plan Competition founder Bill McKiernan, President at WSM Capital, LLC, founder of CyberSource Corporation and Board Director of The Ireland Funds America said: “I proposed the idea of a Business Plan Competition to The Ireland Funds in 2010 during the depths of the Irish recession. The economic climate in Ireland was pretty bleak at the time and it was clear that the biggest contribution The Ireland Funds could make to Ireland was to help create jobs. Young people in Ireland should be encouraged to take risks. They need to be more comfortable with failure and the lessons learned from it. The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition hopes to do that.”

Caitriona Fottrell, President & CEO, The Ireland Funds said: “For ten years, The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition has been providing an educational experience and laying the foundations for entrepreneurial spirit across the island of Ireland. We are so proud of the impact that this programme is having on early-stage and student entrepreneurs. I’d encourage any team with a smart, new idea, even if it’s not yet fully developed, to enter the competition where we can hopefully see it come to fruition.”

Since 2019, The Ireland Funds has partnered with St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS) to award a prize to kick-start a mental health focussed business plan. The partnership continues this year with a €3,000 prize fund for the best mental health solution that addresses a COVID-related challenge, for example, new and novel ideas for service delivery models, or tools to promote self-care. This prize is in addition to the €24,000 prize money, and entries to this category are also eligible to win first, second or third runner up prizes in the overall competition.

Orla Gogarty, Director of Digital Health at SPMHS said: “We are delighted to partner once again with The Ireland Funds for its annual Business Plan Competition. The mental health of our nation and the services which support it are being greatly challenged due to the pandemic. This competition offers a unique opportunity to incentivise young entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions that will transform the future of mental healthcare in Ireland.”

Apply online: Here

Connect online: #IrelandFundsBPC


About The Ireland Funds
The Ireland Funds’ mission is to harness the power of a global philanthropic network of friends of Ireland to promote and support peace, culture, education and community development across the island of Ireland and among Irish communities around the world. Visit:

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (“SPMHS”) is a leading independent, not-for-profit mental health service provider. SPMHS works to provide the highest quality mental healthcare, to promote mental wellbeing and mental health awareness, and to advocate for the rights of those experiencing mental health difficulties. This is achieved through a human rights-based approach, through the enhancement of evidence-based knowledge and by striving to be at the cutting-edge of new initiatives and advances in the field. Visit:

Contact: Hannah Brogan, Communications Executive