With hundreds of grants available to help small businesses and start-ups, it is worth being in the know when it comes to funding sources.
Having the ability to access financial support could help your company to grow and thrive. But what exactly are your options when it comes to business grants? Are any of these schemes available to you, and if so, how can you apply for them? Keep reading for answers to these crucial questions.
There are more than 200 government grant schemes on offer for small businesses across the UK, with many being administered at a local level. They cover a range of different types of awards, from helping you to fund the purchase of new equipment to saving you money on your premises or business rates.
Most grants are designed to help start-ups get off the ground. This is because of the potential for new businesses to generate jobs and provide an economic boost to local areas and the economy more generally. However, there is also financial assistance available to more established companies.
You will find a comprehensive list of financial support options on the government website, and you can hone your search according to your region, business stage, industry and number of employees. To highlight the types of options that may be available to you, here are some examples of funding sources:
Innovate UK: A government-funded non-departmental public body, Innovate UK supports businesses to develop new ideas and to commercialise new technologies. Since being established in 2007, it has provided billions in funding to thousands of businesses across the country. You can find out about its live funding competitions here.
Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs): Partnerships between local authorities and businesses, LEPs provide business support, guidance and funding. There are 38 LEPs across England. So far, they have helped to deliver more than £7 billion of private sector funding to over 190,000 businesses. Discover more on the LEP website.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund: Offering National Lottery funding to heritage projects that connect people and communities to the heritage of the UK, this scheme offers grants ranging from £3,000 to millions of pounds. The money can be used for anything from new staff appointments and training placements to digital investments and professional fees. Click here for more information about the funding opportunities available in your area.
Coronavirus pandemic funding: Although much of the financial support provided by the government to help businesses through the coronavirus pandemic has now been withdrawn, there are still a small number of schemes in operation. The British Business Bank website has further details.
Although there are many different grants available, actually succeeding in securing funding for your small business may prove to be a challenge. There are often very specific criteria that your organisation must meet in order to be eligible for funding, and the application process can be complex. Before you start an application, pay close attention to the criteria and general terms of the schemes to see if it’s suitable for your company. Also, talk to the awarding body to establish your chances of success prior to committing significant time and resources to your application.
If you decide to proceed with a grant application, there are a number of things that you can do to maximise your chances of success. For example, study the objectives of the grant carefully and make sure your application focuses on these goals. It’s important to make sure you have a very strong, professional business plan in place too, and if possible, apply early. You have a better chance when schemes first launch as there is often a finite sum of money available to invest.
When it comes to writing a grant proposal, there are certain things you should and shouldn’t do. For example, be specific about what you plan to do with the money and make sure you write in straightforward English, avoiding any unnecessary jargon. Also, clearly set out how your business meets the criteria for qualifying for the funding and set out exactly how you will use the money and how it will help you to succeed. Establish specific goals that this success can be measured against.
Also, demonstrate that your organisation is capable of delivering your objectives and providing a return on investment when it comes to the grant money.
If you lack confidence or experience when it comes to writing funding applications, you might want to use a specialist third-party for this task.
It’s not always possible to access business grants, but there may be alternative sources of finance available that can help your organisation. For example, equity finance may be another option if you can’t secure a grant. This involves selling a share of your company in return for finance.
Alternatively, you might be able to use a soft loan, which refers to a loan with a lower rate of interest and more generous terms than usual. For example, the government-backed Start Up Loans scheme provides funding of up to £25,000 with a fixed interest rate of six per cent per year and repayment terms of one to five years. The scheme also includes a year of free mentoring.
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