by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

Twenty-one early-stage startups begin their journey on Northern Ireland’s most competitive pre-accelerator programme. Run by Ignite NI and supported by Invest NI, the Propel Pre-Accelerator takes the most promising idea stage pre-launch companies from Northern Ireland each year.


The intensive six-month programme is designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs in the technology and knowledge economy sectors stress test their ideas and help them successfully launch a product to market.

The teams taking part in the third year of the programme come from a variety of sectors including, healthcare, agriculture, artificial intelligence, developer tools and education, and include a diverse group of founders, from seasoned university lecturers to school leavers.

Ignite NI interacted with over 400 companies during the Propel recruitment stage, demonstrating the growing number of people in Northern Ireland who are keen to found their own company and looking for support to get their business off the ground.

The companies who secured a place on the programme, each receive a £15,000 equity-free, 12 months free co-working space in one of the UK’s top co-working spaces, the Ormeau Baths, and the opportunity to meet more than 300 experienced mentors, founders and investors from across the globe.

Stephen Wightman, Director of Technology Solutions, Invest NI, said:

“The Propel Pre-Accelerator Programme helps early-stage entrepreneurs using innovative and disruptive technologies to build their business and to be able to export successfully to global markets. Our aim is to nurture the potential of local start-ups and turn them into internationally acclaimed businesses that will benefit the Northern Ireland economy.

“This year, we have 21 excellent early-stage enterprises taking part in the programme, following a competitive application process; the high standard reflects the calibre of business talent in NI. I look forward to watching their development as they benefit from the programme and it leads them to international success.”

Chris McClelland, Programme Director of Propel said:

“We’re now in our third year of Ignite NI delivering the Propel Pre-Accelerator and every year brings something different into the Ormeau Baths. This year, it’s great to see agritech, construction, and artificial intelligence and machine learning plus a big increase in applications from the universities here. We’ll hit the ground running from day one: stress-testing their assumptions; learning from customers; exposing them to real-world experienced entrepreneurs. Whatever it takes to help founders be successful.”

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The Ignite NI Propel 2020 teams pictured with (FR, L-R) Chris McClelland, programme director of Propel, Kate Nutt, operations manager at Ignite NI, Tristan Watson, CEO of Ignite NI, Propel programme manager at Invest NI, Martin Adair and Ignite NI’s entrepreneur in residence, Ian Browne.

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