April is generally the start of the financial year for most things, including business grants, as new rounds of funding become available. With the costs of running a business continually increasing, some free money would be great, but as ever with grants it is meeting the qualifying conditions and filing a successful application in time.
One of the main challenges is keeping up to date with what is available with competitions appearing and disappearing on a regular basis. Competition is high and success does not come easy. The government is trialling an online tool to give users easier access to information about grants and how to access funding schemes - FULL DETAILS CAN BE FOUND ON THIS LINK.
If you follow the RAPP process when applying for grants and support, you will improve your chance of success, however getting an expert in grant applications will not be a wasted cost.
The RAPP process:
Research– find out what grants and support are available.
Applicant suitability – when you identify an opportunity, ensure you meet the criteria or conditions required for the funding before spending time on an application.
Preparation – take time to prepare and tailor the application to meet the specific criteria and conditions. Alternatively, P can stand for a professional who has the skill set and knowledge of the type of grant you are seeking.
Patience– take time completing your application (but without missing deadlines) and be patient waiting for the result!
Financial support in the form of grants can be found at three levels. National grants primarily focus on growth and capital investment. Regional grants come from a local board specifically set up to help a region that has government and local authority support.
Local grants may be available from a local council, for example subsidised rents for new start-up businesses or funding to help tidy up a high street retail unit.
Where you live or trade may significantly increase your chances of success of getting funding, particularly if your business is in an area defined as economically disadvantaged. It is not unknown for businesses to set up in or move to an area where regional or local assistance is more readily available.
When looking for or considering grant options, four points generally apply.
- Nothing is free, typically you must be prepared to put in some of your own funds. It is extremely rare for a grant to finance the total cost of, say, a start-up or project, unless it is for a very small amount. Many grants require match funding i.e., you need to match the funding from the grant provider.
A grant does mean that you are not giving up part of the ownership of your business, as you would if you were seeking equity funding or repaying the money and interest as you would on bank borrowing.
- Grants are generally available for a specific project, for example development of a new product or job creation. Therefore, your application needs to meet the criteria for which the grant or support is being provided. Grants are not generally available for just starting a business.
- The grant scheme provider will have objectives, strategies or aims which the funding supports, for example helping with youth employment. Understand what the objectives or aims are when completing the application.
- You must have a business plan that explains what you require the funding for and which is tailored to the grant provider’s specific criteria and conditions.
A blanket application or plan is not going to work. On most occasions, your business plan will have to be entered into the provider’s prescribed application form.
Do not just think of grants and support as financial support. Other types of free support can come in many guises. For example, when opening your business bank account you may be offered free bookkeeping software, and many local councils and chambers of commerce offer free training seminars on topics such as social media.
The type of product or service for which you are seeking funding supporting has a major impact on your chances of success. Key areas for which grants, and support are readily found are:
There are a wide range of schemes and support to encourage research and development, Innovate UK provides grants and support to help develop new products and services and put them in a position to be brought to market.
Funding is available to help UK businesses become greener as part of the government’s commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050, with grants awarded to businesses investing in green technologies to increase energy efficiency or reduce carbon emissions. More details can be found here.
There is plenty of funding and support available to develop skills, including those of the business owner, as well as support for new employees where the business will be providing training and development.
For example, the National Apprenticeship Service provides advice and support on starting a subsidised apprenticeship. Alternatively, it could mean taking on an intern from the local university for the summer with the university providing match funding to pay the student’s salary.
Politicians’ emphasis on exports driving the economic recovery have led to considerable support and assistance for businesses looking to export the goods they manufacture. UK Trade & Investment provide funding and subsidised advice and services to help business export their products.
In addition to using the Government’s grant website search tool link above, a recent local grant opportunity we have become aware of is:
- Businesses from across the West of England are invited to pitch innovative projects for a share of £2million funding, which will advance technologies and improve audience experience in the crea-tive sector.
- Businesses and social enterprises that incorporated after April 2020 are invited to apply for grants of up to £1,000 from Forest of Dean District Council. The next round of applications for start-up grants closes on June 30, 2022. With subsequent rounds throughout the year closing August 31, October 31, December 30 and February 28. Grant funding is offered on a match funding basis, so to apply for the full £1,000 grant award a business will need to be investing at least £1,000 of their own funding to qualify.
Business grants are notoriously hard to come by, but there is assistance out there if you know where to look. Hopefully you will be one of the successful ones. Good luck!