The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition offering €27,000 to boost early-stage technology startups

The Ireland Funds launches its annual Business Plan Competition, in partnership with NDRC and St Patrick’s Mental Health Services.

Today, (7 February 2020) The Ireland Funds, in partnership with NDRC and St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS), launched its annual Business Plan Competition 2020, offering €27,000 to kick-start four new technology business ideas. NDRC builds and invests in very young digital companies, or startups.

Over the last three years, The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition finalists have collectively gone on to raise €5.66m in follow-on funding.

Lily Devices, led by NUI Galway student Aaron Hannon, won the top prize of €15,000 in 2019 for their product that aims to prevent hair loss during chemotherapy using a unique headband device which offers patients a comfortable, dignified and portable treatment device for the prevention of hair loss during chemotherapy.

Co-Founder of Lily Devices Aaron Hannon said: ‘The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition has been a fantastic opportunity for us to build our customer discovery skills and truly understand the problem we are working on. Over the course of the programme, we radically redefined our strategy for market access having understood our customers in a whole new light. We now feel that, having been through The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition process, we are in a much stronger position to accelerate our technical development and deliver maximum patient impact when we get to market.’

The Business Plan Competition founder Bill McKiernan, President at WSM Capital, LLC, founder of CyberSource 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.”

Helen Fullen, Pre-Acceleration Programme lead at NDRC, said: ‘The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition is a wonderful exemplar of the value and impact of pre-acceleration support on early-stage ventures. From the content and peer-learning to the opportunity to engage with world-class mentors, it is a unique and, for many, a transformational experience’

The competition, which seeks to nurture creativity and hone entrepreneurial skills among early-stage technology entrepreneurs, is open for entries until 11 March 2020. 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 technology proposals that are at pre-investment stage.

Ten business ideas will then be shortlisted and will be invited to participate in four pre-acceleration workshops, bringing their business ideas from concept to pitch as well as receiving mentoring and feedback throughout the process. There will be a final pitching event in June and three prizes will be awarded. The winner will have the opportunity to pitch for a place on one of NDRC’s investment programmes 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.

In 2019, The Ireland Funds 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 a technology idea that focuses on mental health. The prize will be awarded in addition to the €24,000 prize money for first, second and third runner up. Entries with a mental health focus are also eligible to win first, second or third runner up prizes.

Orla Gogarty, Director of Digital Health at SPMHS said: “St Patrick’s Mental Health Services is delighted to partner with The Ireland Funds and NDRC for the Business Plan Competition. Innovating new ways to support self-management of recovery has always been a key aim of St Patrick’s work and we look forward to working together in the coming years to develop and grow Tech for Good initiatives that positively impact mental health.”

Apply online: Here

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. For further information visit:

About NDRC

NDRC sources and builds digital startups to invest in and work with, providing them with an integrated offering of knowledge, experience, expertise and a modest amount of capital to enable them to become investor-ready faster, more successfully and more efficiently than otherwise.


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: