With the trend ever increasing towards online spending it is estimated that only 23% of small Irish businesses are engaged in any meaningful way in eCommerce sales. For businesses employing less than ten people this percentage could be even lower. It is now believed that of online purchases made in Ireland that up to 70% of these are done in overseas markets.
There is now an urgency to ensure that businesses recognise that this is happening and that they are encouraged and supported to correctly respond to this digital reality.
In order to support this goal, the National Digital Strategy aims to get a further 2,000 businesses trading online by the end of 2015. To this end, the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources (DCENR) has launched a Trading Online Voucher Scheme and has teamed up with the Local Enterprise Offices to deliver this to Irish business.
What is the Trading Online Voucher?
The voucher is a financial incentive to small businesses to develop or enhance their ability to trade online. Under the scheme a qualifying business may apply for matched funding to a maximum value of €2,500 or 50% of eligible expenditure (exclusive of VAT), whichever is the lesser. Following approval of their application, a successful applicant can engage suppliers and upon completion of the work, submit a request for payment to the LEO in line with the terms and conditions of their voucher.
Information seminars will be available to prospective applicants to support them in their application process and it will be a condition of applying for the vouchers that applicants attend one of these seminars. At each seminar attendees will be informed of the purpose of the scheme and how best to use and get value from the application of the voucher.
The application process for the vouchers will be a competitive process.
What can the vouchers be used for?
- IT consultation
- Development or upgrade of an e-commerce website
- Implementing Online payments or booking systems
- Purchase of Internet related software
- Purchase of online advertising (this purchase cannot make up any more than 30% of approved Voucher costs and can only be drawn down in one payment phase)
- Developing an app (or multiplatform webpages)
- Development of a digital marketing strategy
- Implementing a digital marketing strategy
- Training/skills development specifically to establish and manage an on-line trading activity.
What are the things the vouchers cannot be used for?
- Development of brochure websites
- Purchase of non-internet related software
- Anything other than online trading related activity.
What else do I need to know about vouchers?
- Voucher approval must be gained prior to incurring any expense
- Own labour is not an eligible expense
- Third party costs only will be considered
- All third party/supplier invoices must contain proper business details (e.g. tax or business registration details or proof that the supplier is a registered business in the territory in which the supplier is located).
- Applications made on behalf of clients by third parties will not be accepted.
What is the voucher application and drawdown process?
- Read the terms & conditions
- If satisfied you are eligible and wish to apply register and attend an information event
- Submit completed online application form
- Evaluation of applications will be conducted by each LEO who will make recommendations for approval
- An evaluation committee will assess the applications and make recommendations for approval
- A competitive process will be put in place to assist with selection process. Selection of successful applicant will be based on the following criteria:
- Eligibility for the scheme
- Value added potential
- Export potential
- Job creation potential
- Financial Sustainability
- Record decisions and report to the Local Enterprise Office approvals committee
- As part of the application process applicants will be required to attend a training session on how to use and get the best value for money from the voucher.
- If your application is successful, a letter of offer will be sent to you for you to forward to your preferred supplier.
- The voucher is a letter of offer which is sent to the successful applicant
- Letter of offer signed, accepted and returned
- Successful applicant has six months from the date of voucher approval to complete the work as per their application.
Payment will be made directly to the successful applicant upon satisfactory receipt of the following:
- Applicant and supplier(s) sign declaration on the voucher and submit to Local Enterprise Office (LEO)
- Applicant submits
- copy of their Company Registration Office (CRO) registration
- an up to date tax clearance certificate
- the original invoice from the supplier(s), with supplier(s) CRO or Tax Registration or VAT details
(or proof supplier is a registered business in the territory in which the supplier is located) when
submitting claim for payment
- Bank statement(s) showing proof of payment from the client company to supplier(s)
- Declaration of project completion by supplier(s) - All work must be completed and paid for prior
-Completed County Council Bank Account Detail Form
-Completed County Council Supplier Request Form
Payments will only be made with relation to approved expenses which form part of this application form.
All successful applicants agree that they will allow reference be made to them in case study materials, which may be used to promote the voucher scheme more widely.
What is post-voucher reporting and how does it apply to me?
By accepting a Trading On-line Voucher, successful applicants agree to report on online trading from participation in the scheme, again in 6 months and at annual intervals up to three years thereafter. Reporting will include: jobs (new or reallocated), increased turnover, exports and/or domestic market expansion, reduced costs, expected follow on investment. This may be conducted by Local Enterprise Offices, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources or approved independent evaluators.
Suppliers will be required to report on the impact of their products and services supplied to the applicant business.
- Reporting will include how their product or service enabled trading on-line, improved business performance, reduced cost, opened markets etc.
The trading on-line voucher scheme is an initiative of the National Digital Strategy, developed and funded by the Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources on behalf of Government. It is being administered by the Local Enterprise Offices.
Applications for assistance for expenditure incurred prior to grant approval are ineligible. The Local Enterprise Office reserves the right to refuse any application and the right to terminate this grant scheme at any time without notice. The approval of applications and the payment of all monies are dependent on the availability of resources under this scheme from the Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources. Applicants are advised to check availability of resources with Local Enterprise Office prior to applying. All applicants approved must draw down in full within three months of the date of offer, or in exceptional circumstances within four months (i.e. three months plus one month extension) as may be agreed between LEO and company. Failure to draw down all or any portion may result in automatic de-committal without notice, i.e. loss of voucher. The Local Enterprise Office may liaise/consult other agencies/local development programmes in relation to this proposal while respecting project confidentiality. Any false or misleading statement or the withholding of essential information from Local Enterprise Office (as determined by Local Enterprise Office) will result in cancellation of any grant approved under this scheme.
PLEASE NOTE: The Local Enterprise Office is not responsible for any disputes between the applicant and 3rd party suppliers. Therefore we recommend that you adhere to best business practice and get three quotes as well as carry out due diligence before selecting a supplier. Disclaimer – For the avoidance of doubt it is understood and accepted that it is the applicant companies who are selecting and entering into a contract with third parties. The State and its agents (including Local Enterprise Office(s), Enterprise Ireland or any Government Department) does not accept any liability whatsoever in respect of any deficit in or consequences arising from products or services procured by or provided to companies under this scheme. In submitting your application under this scheme you are confirming that you understand and accept this disclaimer.