Ireland: Overview of funding mechanisms for research and development (R&D)

Funding mechanisms for companies for research and development (R&D) in Ireland

Funding mechanisms for companies for research and development (R&D) in Ireland

There are a variety of funding mechanisms for companies for research and development (R&D) in Ireland. 

  • Larger foreign direct investment (FDI) companies can access feasibility studies and potential research, development, and innovation (RD&I) funding from the Industrial Development Agency. Levels of funding for feasibility studies are typically in the region of 50%, while the RD&I funding level varies and is dependent on the type of company, location, and level of innovation. 
  • Higher grant rates can be achieved for collaborative projects between companies and research teams in higher education such as innovation partnerships or innovation vouchers. In addition, the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund is a national €500 million fund for the collaborative development of disruptive technologies in information and communications technology, health and wellbeing, food, energy, climate action and sustainability, manufacturing and materials and business services and processes.
  • Micro-enterprises can benefit from feasibility studies or the agile innovation fund from the local enterprise offices. 
  • Small-to-medium enterprises with export potential can also access the agile innovation fund or the research and development fund from Enterprise Ireland.

EU funding mechanisms

The main EU funding mechanism is “Horizon Europe,” which has a budget of €95 billion for basic and applied research projects. Pillar II targets research specifically for global challenges and European industrial competitiveness, and Pillar III promotes cooperation between academia and industry through partnerships and training programmes.

Within the funding ecosystem, R&D grants can be combined with the R&D tax credits (with some restrictions) to significantly reduce the cost of research and development. The R&D tax credit is 25% credit on qualifying expenditure such as staffing costs, direct R&D costs, and plant and machinery and buildings. If the research and development is successful and results in a computer programme or a patented invention that generates profit, then the knowledge development box can be used to reduce corporation tax from the qualifying profits from 12.5% to 6.25%.

Other funding measures

Enterprise Ireland has IP strategy supports for companies to develop a strategy to manage and exploit IP coming from an RD&I project. This includes “IP Start Grant” for obtaining external expert IP advisory and support services to address immediate IP issues, or the “IP Plus Grant” that helps companies to obtain external expert IP advisory support services and to build the in-company IP capability including implementing a detailed IP strategy.

At the EU level, the “LIFE programme” is targeted at projects that develop and demonstrate innovative techniques and approaches related to environmental and climate action (e.g., work that contributes to the shift to an energy-efficient, renewable energy-based, and climate-resilient economy or seeks to halt and reverse biodiversity loss).

Benefits of Irish-EU funding vs. self-funding R&D

The benefits of Irish-EU funding for research and development include allowing companies to take on more challenging research that they would not typically support, particularly related to projects lower down the technology-readiness level scale, or “blue-sky ideas.” Funding also enables companies to execute research and development faster by investing more money in resources.

In rapidly changing industries, the speed of innovation can be critical to the long-term viability of the venture. Finally, collaborative research projects can enable access to the academic infrastructure and skills, nurturing future experts in a company’s specific industry.

Potential downsides

In reality, grant funding comes with a number of trade-offs. Most R&D grant funding is prospective, technically prescriptive, and competitive. In rapidly changing industries, the prospective and technically prescriptive nature of the grants can often be a challenge to fully complete due to commercial pressures or technological advances. The competitive nature of the funds often means that inexperienced applicants find the process daunting and ultimately unsuccessful. In addition, if successful, there is an administrative overhead for companies. Applications need to be prepared, collaborations formed, and drawdown completed.

Read an August 2022 report prepared by the KPMG member firm in Ireland


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