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Funding for Northern Ireland Micro-businesses to Develop E-commerce Capabilities

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Funding for Northern Ireland Micro-businesses to Develop E-commerce Capabilities

Grants are available to micro-sized retail businesses in Northern Ireland to help them develop their sales online, particularly as the economy recovers from the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.

Maximum value: Businesses can access a maximum grant of £5,000 to support 80% of eligible costs. Projects must have a minimum of £1,250 of eligible expenditure.

Objectives of Fund

The funding is designed to help micro-sized retailers based in Northern Ireland that are seeking to prepare for growth, develop their customer base and find new markets by enhancing their digital offering, building e-commerce capability and increasing online sales.

Who Can Apply

Applications will be accepted from any micro-sized retailer in Northern Ireland that has been trading for at least two years and employs less than 10 full-time equivalent staff.

To be eligible, the business must:

  • Have its operations based in Northern Ireland.
  • Have a physical, retail premises in Northern Ireland (eg high street shop, sales/trade counter, etc).
  • Where the business is not exclusively retail then more than 50% of turnover must come from the retail part of the business (ie it is not primarily a manufacturer or producer, etc).
  • Be a business with an existing online presence such as a basic business website, online marketplace or social media channels.
  • Be a business with a physical product, or a range of physical products, that can be sold online and shipped to customers.
  • Not be receiving any other public funding such as government or European Union funding.
  • Be able to complete the e-commerce project, pay the supplier and make a claim within six months.

If the business is part of a group structure with the same ultimate ownership, only one application may be submitted from across the group.


The following are not eligible for funding:

  • Businesses that cannot demonstrate they have a viable and profitable operation.
  • Businesses involved in the primary production of agricultural products, fisheries and aquaculture.
  • Businesses providing hospitality and leisure services such as hotels, pubs, cafes and restaurants.
  • Businesses primarily involved in the provision of a service such as travel agents, mechanics and tyre fitting services, grooming and beauty services, hair salons, tattoo artists, funeral directors, medical, dental and veterinary practices, accountancy, legal and financial services and insurance broker services.
  • Franchisees of retailers for whom the franchisor provides material online support such as online marketing or e-commerce expertise.
  • Businesses involved in activities that Invest Northern Ireland considers as ineligible or as involving an unacceptable reputational risk, such as gambling, adult entertainment, tobacco products and cannabis-based products, which are not authorised as medicines.

The following costs and activities are ineligible:

  • Upgrades to existing online channels that would happen anyway or could be considered business as usual.
  • The purchase of computer hardware and equipment, and software licences and subscriptions.
  • Pay-per-click or display advertising costs for online advertising on platforms such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, or purchasing mailing or membership lists.
  • Offline marketing costs.
  • External training course fees.
  • Any costs from related parties.
  • In-house costs such as wages/salaries.
  • VAT.

Eligible Expenditure

The funding is intended to support activities including using the services of a supplier providing expertise to:

  • Review current digital marketing capabilities and online sales channels.
  • Develop a digital marketing/e-commerce strategy to drive sustainable growth in online sales.
  • Implement an enhanced online e-commerce system or improvements to an existing e-commerce solution for the business.
  • In-house training and knowledge transfer to develop the digital marketing and e-commerce capability of the employees of the business.
  • Improve integration and automation with existing e-commerce systems.

How To Apply

Applications will be accepted until the available budget is fully allocated, or on the closing date of 12 March 2021 (18:00 GMT), whichever comes first.

The first step of the application process is to complete the eligibility checker at the Invest Northern Ireland website. Eligible applicants are then able to complete the online application form.

Guidance notes and full details of the application process are available from the Invest Northern Ireland website.

Lottery Funded
NIEA DoE N&M DC Biodiversity

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