Minister announces new £5m programme for entrepreneurs and high growth start-ups

Date published: 20 March 2024

Economy Minister Conor Murphy today announced a new programme of support to help early-stage, technology-based, start-up businesses and entrepreneurs become global businesses of the future.

Pictured are (L-R) Kieran Donoghue, CEO, Invest Northern Ireland, Conor Murphy, Minister for the Economy, Claire Halliday, Ormeau Baths and Consortium Manager and Steve Baker, Minister of State for Northern Ireland.
£5million Founder Labs accelerator programme

The Minister was joined by Steve Baker, Minister of State for Northern Ireland, and Kieran Donoghue, CEO, Invest Northern Ireland, at the launch event.

Speaking at the launch event, Minister Murphy said:

“This new support programme is committing up to £5million to support a total of 40 businesses over the next four years. It will play a key role in helping them to improve their market fit, grow to scale, succeed in global markets and ultimately attract future investment for rapid growth.

“In line with my Economic Vision the consortium brings real strength to this programme by fostering the opportunity for regional and all-Island partnership and learning. I firmly believe that by working in partnership, Founder Labs can help boost productivity in our economy by supporting high growth starts ups to scale and grow.”

Founder Labs will be delivered by Ormeau Baths in Belfast in partnership with Dogpatch Labs in Dublin, The AMP in Derry and Queen’s University Belfast. It is targeted at tech start-ups and will provide support for high growth Innovation Driven Enterprises [3]. These types of businesses invest in R&D to bring new and innovative technology-based products and services to market and are focused on selling internationally.

Minister Baker said: 

“The UK Government is committed to supporting Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurs of the future, ensuring a pipeline of innovative businesses to provide more employment opportunities for all.

“I’m delighted that 40 businesses will be supported over the next four years as a result of the £5million being provided by the UK Government’s New Deal for Northern Ireland funding and Invest NI; ensuring they have the knowledge and skills to grow and prosper, and attract investment into Northern Ireland.

“I’m confident that the local firms involved in the consortium will make the most of the opportunities on offer, benefitting the wider Northern Ireland economy.”

Kieran Donoghue, CEO, Invest NI, said:

“Technology-based companies are crucial to our economy. They grow our R&D base and have high-growth potential which can lead to above average salaries and enhanced living standards for all. We are delighted to have such a strong team on board to deliver the programme and have no doubt the companies accepted on to the programme will gain a lot from the experience.”

As Co-Founder and Manager of Ormeau Baths, the consortium and programme delivery lead partner, Claire Halliday said:

“I am passionate about supporting tech-based start-ups and really excited to help deliver this programme. I know from personal experience just what an impact this type of support can have on a business.

“We will run four intense six-month programmes over the next four years, with 10 start-ups in each. Those on the programmes will benefit from learning events with industry experts, mentoring by individuals with specific experience in starting and scaling a business and access to grant and investment funding.

“Participants also have access to shared-working space at Ormeau Baths in Belfast and at The AMP in Ebrington Square, Derry~Londonderry and in Dogpatch Labs in Dublin. We will also visit international markets to explore opportunities to collaborate globally and scale internationally.”

Founder Labs is open for applications. For full details and how to apply visit FounderLabs - Invest NI website.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Photo caption – Pictured are (L-R) Kieran Donoghue, CEO, Invest Northern Ireland, Conor Murphy, Minister for the Economy, Claire Halliday, Ormeau Baths and Steve Baker, Minister of State for Northern Ireland.
  2. The UK Government has provided up to £2.6m towards the costs of running Founder Labs via New Deal Entrepreneurship Funding, part of a £40million package announced in the Spring Budget 2023.  Invest NI has allocated a further £2.7m.  Part of the UK Government New Deal funding NIO Entrepreneurship Fund was used for the development and delivery of the NI Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP). The Northern Ireland REAP group is led by Invest NI and Department for the Economy and is made up of stakeholders from government, education/research, business, risk capital and entrepreneurs.  The NI REAP group participated in a two-year programme delivered by the MIT Sloan School of Management and developed a strategy with the goal of strengthening the Innovation Driven Enterprise (IDE) ecosystem by generating more and better IDEs with global market potential.  Invest NI’s new Accelerator programme is one of the entrepreneurship initiatives identified from the REAP strategy. Up to £2.6m of the £10m NIO funding package has been made available to fund the Accelerator programme until March 2025.
  3. Innovation Driven Enterprises are high growth, technology driven companies, ranging from start-ups to large scale tech and mature businesses. They generate larger scale, high-value job creation and revenues, making up a significant proportion of R&D investment and exports.
  4. More info on Ormeau Baths is available at Ormeau Baths website.
  5. More info on AMP Ebrington is available at AMP Incubator website.
  6. More info on Dogpatch Labs is available at Dogpatch Labs website.
  7. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at
  8. To keep up to date with news from the Department you can follow us on the following social media channels:

9. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.


Share this page

Back to top