Essential business tips to grant funding

Guest post by Innovate UK

If you own a business in the UK, a government grant could be an attractive option for you. There are more than 200 grants available to UK businesses and not all of them ask for repayments or equity stakes in return for funding. The 8th video in Innovate UK’s ‘Essential Business Tips’ series looks at how to find the right grant for your business.

Tip 1 — Research your grant options

“Be bold — There are a wide range of grants available for projects that involve significant innovation — think disruptive innovation not incremental”

- Paula Rogers-Brown, National Venturefest Network Manager

So, what kind of grants are actually available? Whether you’re a start-up or have an established business, has a list of government grants broken down by industry type.

Some funding is more specific to geographical areas of the country such as the North West of Midlands, so it is important to check local as well as regional opportunities. Some sectors offer more opportunities than others and attract more support. Manufacturing and tech, for example, offer some great opportunities whilst research and development and export projects are well funded as they support the local community to improve transport, energy and the environment.

You may be eligible for The Regional Growth Fund (RGF) programme which offers grants and/or loans to eligible businesses. It is ideal for businesses who need money to grow and create or secure jobs. The schemes are run by national or local organisations such as universities, local authorities and private companies who have been awarded money by the RGF.

Tip 2 — Make sure you are eligible

“Read the documentation fully and familiarise yourself with the scope and eligibility criteria”

- Richard Awbery — Customer Support Executive, Innovate UK

So, you’ve found the grant you want, but are you eligible for it? Most grants have conditions in their applications to attract specific projects, so make sure you check that you fit the brief before you waste time and resources applying for it. It is important to appreciate the process, in particular the time frame involved.

Some of the details you will need to give when checking your eligibility are:

· Business size and type

· Whether you have funding currently in place

· Why you want the grant (e.g. for new development)

· The industry you operate in

You may need some funds in place to qualify, as some grants may also match the amount you are willing to invest, particularly for grants of 10,000 or more.

Tip 3 — Prepare fully before applying

“Preparation at the bid stage really pays off, greatly improving the chances of success at the assessment stage and throughout the project”

- David Elson — Innovation Lead, Innovate UK

Fail to prepare and prepare to fail! Ensure you’ve done the right preparation before doing your application.

Having a solid business plan is vital before you seek any funding. You should include:

· Realistic sales predictions

· Cash flow

· Profit and Loss

When writing your business plan, follow the same procedure as you would when creating a cv for a specific job — tailor it to the specific grant you are applying for. You will also be asked to provide evidence of your financial situation if you are already trading, including bank statements.

There is a lot of competition when applying for grants, so it is important to make your application stand out from the rest. You should be prepared to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of your product or service and your market. What will success look like for your business? Describe the potential you can see in your business if you were to get funding. Be as specific as possible, it could make all the difference!

Some grants are time-limited, so don’t delay in starting your application or you might miss out on a share of the funding available.

Tip 4 — Explore possible alternatives to grants

“Look for loans that are unsecured, so there’s no need to put forward any assets or guarantors to support an application”

- David English, Chief Marketing Officer, Startup Loans Company

A grant might not be the best option for you, there are other alternatives for funding for you to explore!

‘Soft’ loans are similar to grants but tend to have more generous terms and offer lower interest rates than other lenders. They are usually government backed and offer loans of up to 25,000 with free business support and mentoring. The best part is that you usually don’t even have to start making payments until you start making a profit!

If your company is looking to export overseas, UK Export Finance offer a range of finance terms, independent business development and support with funding.

If you’re a young entrepreneur between the age of 18–30, the Princes trust Enterprise Programme could offer you the funding and support you need.

Want to find out more about all business funding opportunities? Head to the StartUp Loans website or use Gov.Uk’s finance finder. Resources, skills and business advice may also be available to you as well as support through tax schemes and other capital allowances. Finding out how other businesses approached funding can also be helpful.

You may want to check out the SME website, which has many case studies on how the right funding can kick start your company’s growth. Their website offers advice on how to manage your time and expectations in order to succeed.

For more business advice for your startup or business, subscribe to Innovate’s YouTube channel

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