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LIT Enterprise Ladder - An Overview

LIT is focused on providing Active Leadership in Enterprise Development, Knowledge Transfer and Regional Soci-Economic Development. Through its Enterprise Ladder Strategy, LIT has developed 6 Enterprise/Incubation/Acceleration Centres to foster enterprise development with a further 1 centre planned in the next 12 months. In addition, through its Active Leadership Group, research partnerships and strategic partnerships, LIT engages and supports established businesses and business owners throughout the region in a variety of ways including Innovation Vouchers, Innovation Partnerships, Collaborative Research & Development Projects, Training, Mentoring, Consultancy and many other supports.

LIT has developed a number of innovative enterprise programmes to support start-up and growing businesses in the region. Through these programmes and incubation services, LIT has supported the creation of over 150 innovative businesses and helped create over 600 jobs in the last seven years (2007-2014).

Each Centre offers fully serviced office and research environments which help to stimulate business success and also house a number of support programmes to help entrepreneurs to investigate the commercial feasibility of their business idea, start their business and grow their business by getting to the heart of the challenges they are facing and working with them through a series of workshops, mentorship, coaching and more. Whether it’s testing an idea, develop a growth strategy for the future, helping to build a case for investment and finding new sources of finance, turning innovative ideas into profit or providing training to develop a confident leadership team, the LIT enterprise ladder works alongside the entrepreneurs and their teams to identify the critical steps needed to take to start and grow their business. 

As part of our enterprise ladder programmes we create bespoke packages of support in order to help each start-up company supported to become a viable, profitable and thriving businesses. Each centre has evolved its own blend of support to suit the companies it works with and the local sector strengths, but examples of support provided include:

Matching Each Venture With Mentors

Each LIT Enterprise Ladder Centre is staffed with experienced people who are totally dedicated to helping companies to start-up and grow. Whilst they provide day-to-day support, research has shown that the most successful entrepreneurs had someone to coach and advise them when they started out, so each start-up is also carefully matched with a team of mentors who can provide specialisms and expertise – be it marketing, legal, IP or financial advice – whatever is required. LIT Enterprise Ladder mentors are generally people who have started their own businesses and raised finance, so are highly experienced adding a huge amount on value.

Business Review Panels

The purpose of business review panels is to help keep companies on track and provide some strategic advice. Most ventures at an LIT Enterprise Ladder Centre go through a business review every 2 months. The review panel is made up of experienced business people, LIT staff and often Enterprise Ireland, a representative from the Business Angel Network or a bank or VC firm and the Chamber of Commerce. Companies present their business plan along with a progress update and some key issues they would like the panel to help with.

The panel, which is carefully selected to match the businesses requirements, will give input to the plan, provide strategic guidance, as well as answer particular questions. Most of the ventures have found this fresh pair of eyes means the experienced panel members can point out weaknesses before they become a concern. This all helps them to swiftly progress their business.

The review is also a key part in ensuring continued support in any of the centres. The panel is in place to feedback to the programme manager on the benefits LIT can bring to the venture and this will help them to decide whether the company should continue in the centre.

International Market Access

LIT has developed strategic relationships with funding organisations and also working alongside organisatins like Enterprise Ireland have been able to facilitate access and introductins to the investors in the US and in Europe. Through its chamber of commerce connections have established themselves as a European Enterprise Network (EEN) contact in the region. Through the EU Horizon 2020 and FP7 LIT has linked with Universities, Institutions, Incubators and Accelerators across the EU and used those networks to help support growing companies. The link to John Hartnett and the ITLG has created very important links to Silicon Valley for the start-ups we work with.

R & D Support

LIT acts as a connector between corporate companies, the start-ups it supports and the research base it represents in order to facilitate knowledge transfer and the flow of ideas and innovation. An example of this is the work that LIT based ACORN research centre has been doing with industry and you’ll find that case study later in this document.


Importantly LIT has established 2 seed funds to support the entrepreneurs we work with – The Enterprise Ladder Fund and the Ryan Entrepreneurship Fund. Both outlined below.

Enterprise Ladder Fund (ELF)

Enterprise Ladder Fund (ELF) offers seed funding to early-stage and developmental businesses. The ELF is primarily targeted at start-up businesses served by LIT that have participated in one of the Enterprise Ladder incubation programmes like New Frontiers (Enterprise Ireland’s national entrepreneur development programme housed at the Hartnett Centre), LEAP (Limerick Enterprise Acceleration Platform) or TESS (Tipperary Enterprise Start-up Support). The ELF was instigated by the LIT Thought Leadership and Advisory Group in 2012 as part of its ongoing endeavours to support entrepreneurship and stimulate job creation in the region.

Announcing the fund in 2012, Finance Minister Mr Michael Noonan TD said: “I want to congratulate LIT on developing this fund, which is further evidence of initiatives by Dr Hinfelaar and her team here at LIT aide at supporting start-up businesses in the downturn. Start-up companies are key to our ongoing economic recovery and the ELF will provide critical support for qualifying companies at LIT and wider regin as they seek to get their businesses up and running.”

Dr Maria Hinfelaar, President of LIT said “We are delighted to be announcing our Enterprise Ladder Fund, which is all about supporting entrepreneurship and stimulating job creation. Accessing early stage funding is a significant challenge for start-up companies and the ELF will bridge that gap for many start-ups at our centres in this region. The fund would not be possible without the support of our donors and I am sure I can speak for all the companies that will qualify for the funding that LIT is hugely grateful to those who have already donated money to the fund, and others who will follow, for their support.

“The Government, through initiatives like the Employment and Investment Incentive (EII) and the Seed Capital Scheme (SCS), has been proactive in addressing capital funding issues for start-ups but we cannot just leave it to Government to come up with the answers. The Enterprise Ladder Fund is LIT’s response to the funding challenge for small, start-up businesses in a diversity of sectors and we look forward to supporting many of them long into the future with this initiative.”

Founding donors include Analog Devices, Grant Thornton, Holmes O’Malley Sexton, BDO, Limerick Chamber of Commerce, Ryan Group Holdings, and The JP McManus Foundation.

The Ryan Entrepreneurship Fund

The Ryan Entrepreneurship Fund is a seed investment fund launched in 2014 for start-up companies on LIT’s Tipperary campuses has been established in honour of the late Dr Tony Ryan. The Ryan Entrepreneurship Fund will provide support to start-up enterprises based in the county and will primarily be directed towards companies participating in one of the enabling programmes, courses or modules on LIT’s Enterprise Ladder.  The founder donors are the One Foundation, Pat McGrath of PM Group, Clancy Construction and the Thurles Chamber of Commerce. The aim of the fund is to invest in start-up businesses to help sustain them through the development stage and stimulate job creation in the county. Successful applicants will receive up to €25,000 each in funding for their companies.

“We are delighted to launch this fund, primarily as it will support Tipperary based businesses on our Enterprise Ladder programmes at a vital and often challenging stage of their operations,” said LIT president Dr Maria Hinfelaar. “We are also particularly pleased that the family of the late Dr Ryan has agreed to the name of the fund in his memory.

“It is only right that a fund that supports innovation would be launched in his home town of Thurles in Co Tipperary. This is a historic location in cultural terms thanks to it being the birthplace of the GAA but very much historical in a business sense also as it gave not just Tipperary but Ireland one of its most dynamic and inspirational business leaders.

“We hope that the companies that benefit and prosper through the support of this fund will take inspiration from the fearless innovation shown by Dr Ryan throughout his career.”









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