Winning Grants and Free Support for Your BusinessLooking for money for your UK-based company? In this article, Phil Mitchell provides some tips for securing business funding in the UK and explains what he calls the RAPP process.

There are many opportunities for businesses to obtain free support and winning grants, both at start-up and during growth and development. However, keeping up to date with what is available is a task in itself, with schemes appearing and disappearing on a regular basis. Competition is high and success does not come easy. However, if you follow the RAPP process when applying for grants and support, you will improve your chance of success.

 

  • 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 skillset 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, such as the government’s Growth Accelerator scheme, while 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. There are also European grants and funding support, details of which can be found at UK Trade and Investment.

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. For example, Growth Accelerator is a government-backed scheme providing mentor support, coaching and workshops for businesses looking for rapid growth. The business has to pay a contribution towards the assistance; the amount depends on the size of the business, with the government contributing to the overall cost of the support.

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.

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 think of just grants and 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 book keeping 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:

  • Innovation – there are a wide range of schemes and support to encourage research and development. The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) provides grants and support to help develop new products and services and put them in a position to be brought to market.
  • Energy and environment – there are schemes specifically for developments that will improve energy efficiency or reduce environmental impact. Natural England lists a number on their website.
  • Training – there is plenty of funding and support is 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.
  • Exports – 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 subsided advice and services to help business export their products.

Business grants are out there if you know where to look. Best of success!

Excerpted from an article written by Phil Mitchell for www.smallbusiness.co.uk