When start-ups need a cash injection, they often look towards potential investors or loans. However, if you need cash for your business, you might not need to give away equity or get into debt.
In fact, there are many UK-wide business grants designed to help small businesses get a foothold in their industry.
Understanding small business grants
When trying to get your business off the ground, an injection of funds can be the difference between moving it onto the next level and plateauing in place. Thankfully, there are opportunities out there for small businesses. This article looks at some of those opportunities, specifically for companies based in England.
Before you proceed, you should probably understand the nature of small business grants. They are sums of money provided to start-ups, usually for a specific purpose. The good news is that they don’t have to be paid back.
These grants usually come from a local, regional, or European source. When applying for these grants, your business has to fit the given eligibility criteria. The grants themselves come with guidelines of what the money can be spent on, with varying levels of competition for each grant.
While both a grant and a loan can have lengthy application processes, they differ significantly in practice. The most obvious difference is that a loan is paid back over a period of time, whereas a grant is a cash injection that does not have to be repaid. Similarly, loans usually come with interest on the repayments, which is not an issue with grants. However, you should note that some grants have conditions that need to be met; otherwise, the money has to be paid back.
5 Tips For Applying for Start-up Grants
Before applying for grants, you should understand that no uniform approach will suit all grant applications. Each one has its own process. Of course, certain steps will make every application easier. However, the following steps shouldn’t be substituted for a quality, customised application for each individual grant.
Tip 1 – Research is your friend.
You will come across grants that are looking for different types of applicants. If you can research this, check out businesses that have got that grant in the past, and work this information into your application, then that will work in your favour.
Tip 2 – Get in there early.
Let’s be honest – running a start-up is hectic! Thus, the more you put something on the long finger, the less likely you will ever get around to it. Next thing you know, you’ve missed the application date, and you have missed out on some free money. When it comes to grant applications, get in there early and apply as soon as the process opens.
Tip 3 – Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.
That brings us to our next piece of business; if you are applying for several grants and loans at the same time, then you should be keeping an eye on deadlines. Whatever working calendar you use, they should all be put in there, and then you will get reminders as the different deadlines approach.
Tip 4 – Be clear and concise.
Those providing the grant will go through many applications, so the last thing they want to see is technical speak that they don’t understand. Marketing speak, which sounds good, but means very little, is also a no-go. Leave your ‘blue sky thinking’ at the door and be honest, clear and concise.
Tip 5 – Details are important.
A detailed picture of why your business is the best option for the grant is always a good idea. So, include details of where you came from, where you are now and where you are going. Be realistic too, as exaggeration will stick out badly on the page.
10 UK-wide Grants That Could Help Your Organisation
It’s important to realise that below isn’t an exhaustive list. However, it will get you started on your research for grants in your industry.
For more information, it’s worth checking out the government’s business funding research site. It details new and upcoming grants and will give you even more information about what’s possible down the line for your firm.
This is a grant designed for boosting and redesigning town centres. Different grants are available depending on the location and stage of development of a project. The grants are for non-profits and organisations in partnership with non-profit organisations.
This grant can assist you with the cost of training your employees. It is designed for companies in the construction industry, and there are differing amounts, depending on the course chosen. You have to be a registered CITB business to apply for this grant.
If you are a small business in a rural area without access to gigabit broadband, this could be the grant for you. It offers up to £3,500 to help with your connectivity issues.
This is another grant for SMEs, this time providing up to £5,000 as part of a discount towards pre-approved business software.
The Knowledge Transfer Partnership can help companies of almost any size hire suitably trained and educated graduates. It does this by contributing up to 67% of the cost, ranging up to £90,000 per year.
The Power to Change Programmes offer grants of up to £40,000 for community businesses, charities, and social enterprises who are looking to make a positive change in their local communities. They also offer expert advice to these organisations.
With the current fuel price, Plug-in Grants are a great option for businesses who want to move low-emission vehicles. And the good news for these grants is that businesses don’t need to be the ones to apply, as dealers include the value of the grant in the vehicles’ prices.
Trusthouse offers grants that help with capital costs for projects and can be useful for SMEs working to solve issues within rural areas.
Did you know that you can receive up to £4,000 to help exhibit your business at overseas tradeshows? This is an ideal grant for companies focusing on exportation and who want help getting a foothold in different markets.
If you run a social business, you should definitely look into UnLtd Social Enterprise Funding. It provides up to £18,000 for businesses focusing on social betterment.
11. Bonus – Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS)
We don’t include this one as a grant because it is a scheme for start-ups to offer tax relief for their investors. It’s a useful way to encourage people to invest in start-ups at an early stage and can help businesses raise funds at a vital stage of their development.
20 Local Grants for Start-ups in England
We’ve touched on UK-wide grants, but there are several grants that are more specific to England and the territories within the country.
Here is just a small selection…
Tgrant is for businesses still in their infancy and located in the West Yorkshire and Leeds City region. It can provide you with £1,000 to £25,000 to help you with your growth.
As the name suggests, this is one for start-ups in the Hertfordshire region who need a little boost to get going. The grant could give you up to £3,000 in valuable funds for your company.
Mansfield-based businesses benefit from this grant, which is worth up to £2,500 for successful applicants.
Another Yorkshire-based one, this time, designed to help businesses in the first year and a half of their development. There is up to £1,000 available here.
Businesses in the South East Midlands benefit from this start-up grant, which offers anything between £500 to £3,000 for successful applicants.
This specifically targets businesses in Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Telford & Wrekin and Shropshire. It is a grant of up to £20,000 to cover up to 40% of the costs of making a business more energy efficient.
This grant is similar to the one above, allowing for up to £10,000 for companies in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and Leicestershire to become more sustainable.
8. Low Carbon Business Evolution Programme (LCBEP) With this grant, business owners in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire can access £2,000 to £20,000 to cover 60% of the costs of implementing energy efficiency recommendations.
If you are part of an SME in the Tees Valley, don’t worry, you’re not being left out. You can claim a large portion of your capital costs for projects that result in you reducing your carbon footprint.
The locality of Chichester in West Sussex has this magnificent grant that encourages the improvement of publicly owned spaces. Grants are up to £1,000 and make a huge difference to local residents and the organisations who take on the work.
If you are in Durham and fit the criteria, this grant can help you fund up to 45 per cent of certain costs for projects worth at least £100,000.
Calling Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, and Nottinghamshire residents who are looking to launch their SME. Here is a grant that will fund up to £10,000 of an eligible project and could help your business grow to the next level.
13. The Growth Fund
Designed for businesses in the Northeast, this is a fund that can help with a capital investment that costs over £67,000.
14. Invest to Grow
The Invest to Grow grant is for companies in the East Midlands that are in specific sectors. It is designed to help them pursue projects that will help them reach the next stage of their development.
This works quite simply – if your business is in Lincolnshire and will create new jobs, you can get a grant of up to £1,000.
This one has a wide net, with SMEs in the West Midlands, Yorkshire & Humber, and parts of the East Midlands and Southeast encouraged to apply for grants of up to £1,000 for an ‘improvement project’.
Another North-East option here, with grants for improvement projects up to £8,000.
We are spoiling all of you Nort-East business owners with this one aimed at businesses in the Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland areas. If you fit that criteria, you can apply for a grant totalling 30% of a planned capital investment worth at least £67,000.
We will bring it back South for this one, with social good and scale-up enterprises in Oxfordshire encouraged to apply for this grant, ranging from £1,000 to £25,000.
Do you have a business in the Leicester and Leicestershire Local Enterprise Partnership area? If so, you could get a grant worth 30% of capital costs up to £80,000.
The above lists grants available throughout the UK or just within England. However, locality-specific grants are also available in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.