COVID-19 Digital Selling Capability Grant

News article

NOTE: The COVID-19 Digital Selling Capability Grant (first call) closed to applications at 6 pm on Wednesday 7 October 2020.

The Minister for the Economy has launched a new £1 million COVID-19 Digital Selling Capability Grant (DSCG) from Invest Northern Ireland

Aimed at helping retail and wholesale businesses grow online sales, DSCG is part of a wider COVID-19 support package to help eligible businesses progress recovery plans, strengthen supply chains, develop new products and access finance.

DSCG can help any small or medium-sized Northern Ireland retailer or wholesaler prepare for growth, develop their customer base and find new markets by enhancing their digital offering, building e-commerce capability and increasing online sales.

The call for applications is open until 6pm on Wednesday 7 October 2020.

What is available?

Businesses can access a maximum grant of £20,000 to support 50% of eligible costs for projects with a minimum eligible expenditure of £10,000.

Eligible activities include consultancy services or expertise from a digital marketing or e-commerce supplier to:

  • carry out best practice research to identify relevant benchmarks
  • review current digital marketing capabilities and online sales channels
  • develop a digital marketing strategy to maximise online presence
  • develop an e-commerce strategy to drive sustainable growth in online sales
  • implement an enhanced online e-commerce system or improvements to your existing e-commerce solution for the business
  • in-house training and knowledge transfer to develop the digital marketing and e-commerce capability of the employees for the business
  • improve integration and automation with existing e-commerce systems

The following activities are not covered:

  • Upgrades to existing online channels that would happen anyway or could be considered business as usual.
  • The purchase of computer hardware and equipment, and software licences and subscriptions.
  • Pay-per-click or display advertising costs for online advertising on platforms such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, or purchasing mailing or membership lists.
  • Offline marketing costs.
  • Consultancy and/or supplier costs from related parties.


DSCG is open to all small or medium-sized retailer or wholesaler looking to grow their business online.

Who is eligible?
As a small or medium-sized retailer or wholesaler, you are eligible if:

  • Your business operation is based in Northern Ireland.
  • You are a small or medium-sized business employing 10 or more full-time equivalent staff in Northern Ireland.
  • Your business has an existing online presence such as a business website or social media channels.
  • Your business has a physical product, or a range of physical products, that can be sold online and shipped to customers.
  • In the past 12 months, or in the most recent financial year prior to 29 February 2020, more than 50% of your revenue has come from offline sales instead of online sales.
  • Your project is not receiving any other public funding such as government or European Union funding.
  • You are able to deliver your project, pay the costs in full and submit your claim to Invest NI before 26 March 2021.

If you are a business, which is part of a group structure with the same ultimate ownership, you can only submit one application across the group.

Who cannot apply?
The following businesses are not eligible to apply:

  • Businesses involved in the primary production of agricultural products, fisheries and aquaculture.
  • Businesses providing hospitality and leisure services such as hotels, pubs, cafes and restaurants.
  • Businesses involved in the provision of a service such as travel agents, mechanics and tyre fitting services, grooming and beauty services, hair salons, tattoo artists, funeral directors, medical, dental and veterinary practices, accountancy, legal and financial services and insurance broker services.
  • Franchisees of retailers for whom the franchisor provides material online support such as online marketing or e-commerce expertise.
  • Businesses involved in activities that Invest NI considers as ineligible or as involving an unacceptable reputational risk, such as gambling, adult entertainment, tobacco products and cannabis-based products, which are not, authorised as medicines.
  • Businesses that cannot demonstrate they have a viable and profitable operation.

How to apply

You will need the following information to complete the online application form:

  • Your business name.
  • Your contact name and number.
  • Your business address and postcode.
  • The date you established your business in Northern Ireland.
  • Number of people you employ in Northern Ireland.
  • The financial year-end of your business.
  • The annual turnover of your business.
  • The balance sheet total of your business.
  • Annual accounts and financial projections including offline and online sales.
  • Details of the project with costs, tasks and timelines.
  • Your company registration number (if applicable) issued by Companies House, beginning with NI followed by six numbers, for example, NI123456.

You will also need to provide supplier quotation(s) for all the project costs included in the application form.

More information

If you have any enquiries about the COVID-19 Digital Selling Capability Grant complete this enquiry form.

For general enquiries, please contact Invest NI’s Business Support Team on 0800 181 4422. Lines are open Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm.

First published 8 September 2020