An innovation with the potential to change the lives of countless small merchants has won the Irish Times Innovation Award for IT & Fintech.

The announcement was made during an awards ceremony which was streamed live from Dublin.

The idea was the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Noel and Valerie Moran, who set up their FinTech company eCOMM Merchant Solutions in 2014 and which operates out of offices in Ireland, the UK and Lithuania.

“As entrepreneurs ourselves, we were keenly aware of the delays faced by smaller businesses in getting access to the funds they receive via cashless payments – as much as three days for many,” said Noel Moran.

“In a world that is becoming increasingly cashless, this can be a big source of stress – leaving some merchants without their working capital and so unable to trade.”

With eCOMM’s ‘Instant Payments’ service, the merchant receives a card terminal, a business current account and a prepaid corporate Mastercard.

When a cashless payment is made and approved, those funds are available to the merchant to spend, instantly, via his or her prepaid corporate Mastercard.

According to Noel Moran, this typically takes a matter of seconds. The merchant receives a rebate of real money for everything spent via their eCOMM card.

For instance, if a taxi driver were to drop off a customer and receive payment, he or she could immediately fill the car with fuel using the funds from the fare.

Likewise, a takeaway food business, which does its main trading on Saturdays and Sundays, can go to the perishable stock supplier every day rather than wait until Thursday to do it all in one go.

Valerie Moran added: “This is very much in line with our ethos of combining the latest technology with financial services, to deliver a better way of doing things.”

eCOMM Merchant Solutions enables its B2B customers to accept Mastercard, Visa and American Express payments. It offers merchants: Point of Sale (POS) terminals, eCommerce and mail order/telephone order services. The company is a payment gateway, acquirer, underwriter and processor all-in-one.

Its Instant Payments service is currently available in Ireland, the UK, Greece and Cyprus, with plans in place to begin operations in Poland, Austria, Italy, Norway and beyond.