Applicant Eligibility

Businesses wishing to access the Digital Transformation Flexible Fund must be:

  • Based in Northern Ireland and operate within 1 of the 11 local Council areas;
  • A Small or Micro business (Micro business: 1-9 FTEs. Small business: 10-49 FTEs – Full Time Equivalent);
  • VAT registered;
  • Actively trading for a minimum of 12 months;
  • Have a Digital Transformation Plan or equivalent;
  • Centred on one or more of the six advanced digital technologies; and
  • Have not received State Aid/Subsidy (funding from any national or local public sector scheme) in excess of €300,000 over the previous three financial years (De Minimis aid).

The Programme is open to all sectors with the exception of primary agriculture, forestry and fisheries*.

*Since 2021, significant work has been undertaken to consider the need for Digital Transformation within small and micro-businesses. As part of the mapping exercise, the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) considered provision for financial support to stimulate digital innovation within primary agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Various opportunities to support these sectors were identified, including the Farm Business Improvement Scheme and The Maritime Fisheries Fund NI, for example, whilst others were being considered subject to changes to legislation being granted. This informed the decision to exclude these three areas from the DTFF fund.

Project Eligibility Criteria

DTFF will enable the purchasing of capital equipment and/or resources for ‘off the shelf’ software solutions and/or bespoke system development, based on the following advanced digital technologies/tools:

  1. Smart technologies/smart environments, the Internet of Things (IoT) and simulaton;
  2. Process automation via robotics/cobotics, additive manufacturing;
  3. Big-data and analytics;
  4. Immersive technologies (AR/VR/MR/Haptics);
  5. Artificial intelligence and machine learning; and
  6. Horizontal and vertical system integration, distributed ledger systems/blockchain technologies.

DTFF will not cover the digitalisation of existing business systems i.e. the development of ecommerce and business websites, purchasing of laptops and printers etc. or fund on-going revenue costs of leasing software or ongoing maintenance/update costs. For more information refer to the Applicant Guidance Section.

In order to claim from DTFF, successful applicants must complete an Innovate NI Innovation Assessment in order to draw down funding. This can be found here: Innovation Assessment | Innovate NI

Ineligible Expenditure

DTFF will not facilitate capital investment in the following which could be viewed more as ‘digitisation of existing operations’, rather than digital innovation / transformation:

  • Website and e-commerce development,
  • Social media strategies,
  • Mobile marketing, paid advertising, blogging and content creation,
  • Search engine optimisation,
  • Purchase of IT equipment,
  • Customer relationship management and,
  • Non-industrial 3-D printing.

This list is not exhaustive and the DTFF Operations Team have the discretion to omit costs if deemed ineligible and/or not within the scope of the project.

If you are unsure whether your project is eligible or ineligible, you can contact a member of the DTFF Operations Team at [email protected].