The Ambition to Grow programme looks for Northern Ireland’s most innovative and ambitious businesses to take part in a competition to receive up to £45,000 in funding. Successful applicants will also become part of Invest Northern Ireland’s client portfolio.

Designed specifically to help micro, small and medium local enterprises, the competition will support businesses to create great jobs and sell innovative products or services outside Northern Ireland.

Eligible businesses must:

  • have the ambition to grow
  • be ambitious, innovative businesses with the ambition to grow sales.
  • have a product or service with a strong USP to take to markets outside Northern Ireland
  • be a start-up or an established company that has not worked with Invest NI before
  • need government support to create great jobs and to sell innovative products or services outside Northern Ireland

Financial support

Funding will be awarded to applicants on a competitive basis. Applications will be assessed and scored, with the highest scoring companies in each region awarded funding following a successful validation interview.

A maximum of £45,000 is available for each successful application as follows:

  • up to £30,000 towards new employment within the business. This can be a £5,000 grant per new position (minimum of 3 new full time equivalent roles) or can be targeted towards 1 or 2 new management positions within the business (minimum salary of £30,000 with up to £15,000 grant per new role at a support rate of up to 40% of 12 months’ salary costs).
  • up to £10,000 towards business development activities at a support rate of up to 50% of eligible costs which can include expenditure on market, product, or skills development.
  • £5,000 on the completion of an Export Health Check, Development of an Export Marketing Plan, and completion of an Innovate NI Self-Assessment.

Financial support payments are not up-front and are dependent on the execution of specific activities as outlined in any offer of support such as job creation or exporting.

Drop-In Clinics

Invest NI’s Regional Offices will be hosting several Drop-In Clinics throughout Northern Ireland that will highlight the Programme along with additional support available from the organisation.

These drop-in clinics are an opportunity for businesses, or those planning to start a business, to come along and find out what support is available to help with your business journey. You do not need to apply for the Ambition to Grow programme to attend these Clinics.  

Your local Invest NI team will be in attendance as well as Invest NI specialists covering areas such as Energy, Innovation, Finance and Market Research.  

    These clinics will be held at:

    • Ballymena (ECOS Centre) – Tuesday 23 May 10:00-12:00
    • Belfast (Invest NI HQ) – Tuesday 23 May 13:30-15:30
    • Newry (Regional Office, Drumalane Mill) – Wednesday 24 May 10:00-12:00
    • Omagh (Western Regional Office, Omagh, Kevlin Avenue) – Friday 26 May 10:00-12:00
    • Derry (Whittaker Suite, Guildhall) – Tuesday 30 May 10:00-12:00
    • Bangor, (Signal Centre) - Tuesday 30 May 10:00-12:00
    • Lisburn (Lagan Valley Island) - Thursday 1 June 15:00-16:00
    • Newtownabbey (Theatre at the Mill, Mossley Mill) – Friday 2 June 08:00-10:00

    How to apply

    Only businesses which are not Invest NI client businesses are eligible to take part in Ambition to Grow.

    The application call for Ambition to Grow is now open, and will close Friday 16 June, 15:00.

    Further information can be found in our Ambition to Grow | Guidance Notes and Ambition to Grow | FAQs.

    The following businesses are not eligible to apply:

    • Businesses already in receipt of or intending to gain other government support for the project.
    • Businesses that have an outstanding liability to Invest NI brought about through grant clawback proceedings. If a satisfactory repayment plan is in place, the business may apply for consideration.
    • Businesses or any member of Senior Management within the business that are subject to a current bankruptcy order, Individual Voluntary Arrangement, Company Voluntary Arrangement, County Court Judgement, or Company Director Disqualification.
    • Businesses involved in agricultural production, fisheries, and aquaculture (production and processing), steel, coal, shipbuilding, synthetic fibres, transport and its infrastructure, energy (its generation, distribution and infrastructure) wholesale, retail (including on-line) & distribution.
    • Applications which include or relate to activities that Invest Northern Ireland considers as ineligible or as involving an unacceptable reputational risk, such as gambling, tobacco products and drug-based products, which are not authorised as medicines.

    Is your business eligible?

    Answer the following questions to find out if you can apply.

    Q1 - Is your business currently based in Northern Ireland?
    Q2 -Does your business employ less than 250 full-time staff or full-time equivalent (FTE)?
    Q3 - Does your business provide a value added commercial product and/or service?
    Q4 - Ambition to Grow is aimed at businesses that are not currently engaging with Invest Northern Ireland.

    Has your business received an offer or payment of grant support from Invest NI within the last 5 years? This excludes COVID-19 emergency funds, Economic Recovery Innovation Grant (ERIG), Innovation Vouchers or Access to Finance funding e.g. Techstart NI Proof of Concept grants.

    Q5 - Are any of the following the main activity of your business?
    • Agricultural Production
    • Fisheries & Aquaculture Sectors (Production and Processing)
    • Steel
    • Coal
    • Shipbuilding
    • Synthetic Fibres
    • Transport and its infrastructure
    • Energy generation, distribution & its infrastructure
    • Infrastructure
    • Wholesale
    • Retail (including online)
    • Distribution
    Q6 - Does your business have either annual turnover less than £1m or have annual sales to customers outside Northern Ireland of less than £300k?
    Q7 - Can your business commit to creating a minimum of 3 new additional employment positions over the next 1-2 years, or if fewer than 3 positions at least 1 new management position paying a minimum salary of £30,000?
    Q8 - Does your business intend to increase sales from customers outside Northern Ireland over the next 1-2 years?
    Q9 - Is your business or any Director involved in a current bankruptcy/insolvency order, current IVA/CVA/CCJ or a current Company Director Disqualification?
    • IVA - Individual Voluntary Arrangement
    • CVA - Company Voluntary Arrangement
    • CCJ - County Court Judgment
    Q10 - Do you accept the completion of Invest NI Customer Due Diligence checks on the business, including a credit check?

    Based on your answers your business is eligible to apply for Ambition to Grow.

    Please click on the below link to start your online application. If you do not already have an account on Invest NI’s customer portal you will be asked to complete that registration process before you can complete the Ambition to Grow application form.

    Apply now

    The online application process should take approximately two hours to complete if you have the relevant information available. You can save your application and return to it at any time, prior to the closing date of 15:00 Friday 16th June 2023.

    Sorry, from your answers your business does not meet the eligibility criteria for Ambition to Grow.

    There is a wide range of support available to help grow your business in the form of advice, guidance and funding.

    Please visit our website for further details on available support or Contact Us via –