Proof Of Concept – Frequently Asked Questions

On a competitive basis this fund seeks to support entrepreneurs with grants directed towards exploring the viability and commercial potential of an innovative concept.

The grant funding comes in the form of a “Concept” grant (of up to £10k) or a “Concept Plus” Grant (of up to £25k).

Yes, up to the limits discussed above. Please note however that grants are paid in arrears, therefore successful applicants will be reimbursed for appropriate expenditure upon submission of proof that the money has been spent in accordance with the Application Form and Letter of Offer.

Criteria to apply for both grants –

  • You must be a Sole Trader, Partnership or Limited Company to apply for a Proof of Concept Grant. Applications from Community Interest Companies and Social Enterprises will not be considered.
  • You (i.e. Sole Trader, Partnership, Limited Company) must have an innovative/novel concept to prove.
  • You must be based in Northern Ireland.
  • If you are applying for some of the grant to cover the employment costs of people promoting the project, then the application must be made by a Limited Company.
  • If you are applying as a Company, the Company must be registered in Northern Ireland.
  • For independent third party costs, at application stage you must identify your proposed supplier and provide an official quotation from them. If the supplier cost is more than £3k in total then an additional quote from another supplier for the same work must be provided.
  • Applications without quotes will not be considered, nor will applications where additional quotes are required but not provided.
  • Up to 30% of the Grant is available to cover the employment costs of the people promoting the project with a set daily rate of £200. For such costs to be approved, your application must clearly detail what work will be done during the PoC project under these costs and what the output will be. Please note that Administration Time, Project Management Time and similar Overhead activities will not be eligible activities to be covered within employment costs.
  • Applicants can only apply up to 2 times for a grant irrespective of the entity applying or the concept applied for.

Additional Criteria for Concept Plus grants:

  • Eligible applicants should ideally be teams

Desirable Criteria for Concept Plus grants:

  • Your application will have a balanced expenditure between technology/product development and market facing activities.
  • Your proposal will have greater emphasis on steps towards commercial exploitation

Concept Grants are awarded on a quarterly basis. Concept Plus Grants are awarded bi-annually.

To apply for a grant you will be required to complete the online application form. Please visit our Application Portal to access and view the application form (click here). You must complete the form and submit it via the portal.

In addition to the application form and supporting quotes from suppliers, techstart NI may request further information or documentation before a decision on your application is reached.

All of the above are eligible, however if you are applying for the part of the grant to cover employment costs then you can only apply as a Limited Company.

It is vital to note that if you are successful the grant will be awarded to the entity that applied for the grant. This will be the entity that will have to incur the costs as the grant is paid in arrears to the applicant.

The application process for the Concept Grant differs to that of the Concept Plus Grant.

Concept Grant Application Process –

  • Application submitted by Closing Date (quarterly)
  • All eligible applicants will be invited to a short Pitch and Q&A session with techstart NI on a selected date
  • Applications will be reviewed and scored by techstart NI
  • Decisions made by techstart NI

Concept Plus Grant Application Process –

  • Application submitted by Closing Date (bi-annually)
  • All eligible applicants will be invited to a short Pitch and Q&A session with techstart NI on a selected date
  • Application will be reviewed & scored by techstart NI
  • Following the reviews of the applications, a selected number of applicants will be invited to present to the Fund’s external Assessment Panel (AP) on a selected date
  • The selected applicants will present to the AP followed by a Q&A session
  • The AP will provide feedback to techstart NI on each proposal that was presented.
  • Final decisions will be made by techstart NI
Yes – however if you are applying for employment costs to be covered within the grant please note the following –

  • The application must be made by a Limited Company, and not a Sole Trader or Partnership
  • You must clearly detail within the application form what work will be done during the PoC project under employment costs and what the output will be
  • Administration Time, Project Management time and similar activities will not be an eligible employment cost activity
  • There will be a cap on the amount of grant that can cover employment costs, which will be 30%
  • There will be a set daily rate of £200
  • To drawdown the grant related to the employment costs the beneficiary will be able to claim up to 50% of the employment costs amount once they have reached half-way through the project and the remaining 50% of the employment costs will only be released at the end of the PoC project, once an end of PoC project meeting has taken place and techstart NI are satisfied with the output
  • To drawdown the grant for employment costs the beneficiary will submit self-certified timesheets
For both types of grant, eligible activities for support include but are not limited to:

  • Concept/Prototype Development
  • Customer/Partner Development
  • Market Engagement Activities
  • Business Development
  • Domain Expert Consultancy & Mentoring
  • Assessment of uniqueness & novelty of IP
  • Employment costs where a clear output will be delivered. For more information on employment costs being an eligible activity please see question 11.
For both types of grant non-eligible activities include but are not limited to:

    • Marketing and costs of selling
    • Costs incurred before the award of the grant and outside of the agreed project timeframe
    • Costs of legal incorporation
    • VAT – if you are VAT registered
    • Costs not directly connected with the project
    • Tablets, laptops or similar equipment
    • Trading stock
    • Administration Time, Project Management time and similar Overhead activities will not be eligible employment cost activities. For more information related to employment costs being an eligible activity please see question 4.
    • Subsistence (including food, taxis, mileage)

If your application is successful you will be notified via email and invited to a ‘briefing session’ to explain the process thereafter. techstart NI will finalise an agreed plan of expenditure with you and clarify the claims process with you in advance of a Letter of Offer being issued.

Grant payments will be made in arrears on submission of a project report and evidence of expenditure, relative to the agreed project plan of expenditure. This includes invoices & receipts from your suppliers and a copy of the applicant’s bank statement showing relevant payments. An ‘End of PoC Project’ meeting is required to take place before the final installment of the grant is released.

If you have been awarded a portion of the grant for employment costs then you will be required to submit self-certified timesheets with a daily rate of £200. You can claim up to 50% of the employment costs amount at the halfway point of the project but the remaining 50% of the employment costs will only be released at the end of the PoC project once an End of PoC project meeting has taken place, and that techstart NI are satisfied with the output.

Further information on the claims process will be provided if your application is successful.

It is expected that submitted applications will be well thought through and considered. Activities and suppliers will be specified in detail at this stage, so it is considered unlikely that future changes will be necessary. In the unlikely event that a change is required, such proposed changes to the Project plan must be provided in writing and approved by Pentech Ventures LLP in ADVANCE of the changes taking place, otherwise this will result in the grant becoming ineligible for payment

Feedback can be requested, and will be given at a face to face meeting with the PoC Manager.

Yes. Applicants can only apply up to 2 times for a grant irrespective of the entity applying or the concept applied for.

techstartNI is committed to following policies which protect your privacy. The information you provide shall be used exclusively for the purposes of evaluation. All data received shall be subject to the applicable personal data protection regulations. Please note, however, that there may be instances when the PoC Fund is subject to FOI requests directed through Invest NI and there may be instances where information relating to the PoC fund and its applicants may be released.

The Assessment Panel comprises seasoned entrepreneurs and business professionals. Each member of the Assessment Panel has signed a Non Disclosure Agreement with Pentech Ventures LLP regarding their participation on the Assessment Panel.

Subject to meeting the relevant eligibility criteria, applicants may apply for a Concept Plus grant after having had a Concept grant for the same concept. Applicants cannot apply for or avail of both grants at the same time.

If your business is less than five years old (for unincorporated entities this is measured from the date revenues started and for limited companies from the date of incorporation) and has less than 50 employees then the grant will be awarded under Start-up Aid, otherwise it will be awarded DeMinimis Aid.

Proceed to Application Portal

If you have any queries or questions at this stage please don’t hesitate to contact us at poc@techstartni.com