Enterprise Ireland invested more than €48m in Irish start-ups last year - the highest level of funding that the State agency has awarded to early stage companies.

The increase in funding was due to the introduction of the Covid-19 Sustaining Enterprise Fund and an increase in follow-on investments to help so-called high-potential start-ups.

Enterprise Ireland supported 125 new start-up companies in 2020, which almost matches the 127 businesses which secured investment in 2019.

80 high potential start-ups - businesses with the potential to create 10 jobs and €1m in sales within three to four years of starting up - received funding.

There were also 45 competitive start fund investments, which inject critical early-stage funding into new businesses.

The key sectors that Enterprise Ireland invested in included fintech, cybersecurity, digital health and agri-tech, with half of the start-ups based outside Dublin. 

In addition, 38 women-led start-up companies were funded.

Jenny Melia, Divisonal Manager, High Potential Start-Ups, Enterprise Ireland said the percentage of HPSUs founded by women has grown from 7% in 2011 to almost 24% in 2020.

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The Enterprise Ireland Action Plan for Women in Business was launched last year. It aims to increase the participation of women in entrepreneurship and business leadership. 

"The class of 2020 are great role models for new founders and we look forward to working closely with them to help fulfil their potential and to create strong and sustainable export businesses," Ms Melia said.

Kevin Sherry, Executive Director at Enterprise Ireland, said a strong start-up economy is absolutely vital to the future of Ireland and scaling and growing the export and start-up base is one of Enterprise Ireland's strategic priorities.

"In what has been an incredibly challenging time for all businesses, it is really important to recognise 125 of Ireland's most exciting new start-up companies with ambitious growth plans. Start-ups are a powerful driver of economic growth, new talent and innovation."

He said growth was seen in the life sciences and ICT sectors. "We are also seeing new opportunities for ambitious entrepreneurs and start-ups in the green economy as well as doing business in a post-pandemic environment."

The Enterprise Ireland Start-Up Showcase will be broadcast virtually on Wednesday, February 24, with one-to-one virtual investor meetings scheduled to take place following the event.

The virtual event will feature a keynote address from Des Traynor, CSO, Intercom and panel discussions featuring Nicky Deasy, Managing Partner, Yield Lab; Brian Shields, CEO, Neurent Medical; James Ives, CEO, XOCEAN; Helen McBreen, Investment Director, Atlantic Bridge; Conor O’Loughlin, CEO, Glofox and Alan Coleman, CEO, Sweepr.