Grants- before you start

May 29th, 2012 by Enterprise as a Life


Even experts can find it difficult to keep track of the hundreds of different grant schemes which keep appearing and disappearing.

This briefing will give you a good idea of whether your start-up business is likely to be eligible for a grant – and whether such a grant is worth the effort involved in applying.


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1. Before You Start

Do not waste time trying to get a grant unless you are prepared to overcome four potential obstacles.

1.1  In most cases you must be ready to put up some of your own money.

  • It is rare for a grant to finance 100 per cent of the costs of any project.
  • Grants typically cover 15 to 60 per cent of the total finance required for a project.

1.2  Grants are usually only available for specified projects.

For example, the development of a new product or process, job creation or training programmes.

  • The gradual, organic process of company development does not normally qualify, although there may be support for small and medium-sized enterprises that will accelerate job creation or investment.

1.3  You must have a plan.

You may have already written a business plan which you used for another purpose, such as raising finance from the bank.

  • The business plan will need altering to place the emphasis on the specific project involved.

1.4  Grant schemes are typically aimed at projects that are not already underway, and usually impose restrictions.

  • The project must help towards achieving the objectives or strategic aims of the grant provider – usually a department or agency of local, national or European government.
  • In most cases, you must be able to demonstrate that the project would not take place and achieve the same benefits without the grant.

2. What Grants Are Available?

Most national and local grants focus on particular business activities or purposes. These themes are:

2.1 Investment – there are regional grants that support growth through capital investment and job creation.

  • The location of your business may increase your chances of successfully applying for a grant. You may be eligible for special grants and support if you are starting a business in an economically disadvantaged area, especially if it is one with high unemployment.These areas include those in general industrial decline, those where major traditional industries such as steel and coal have collapsed, and some rural areas and inner-city areas.
  • Local support (for example, subsidised rent and rates) is often available to encourage small businesses to start up in particular areas.

2.2 Innovation – there is a wide range of grant schemes that encourage research and development (R&D) activities.

  • A comprehensive range of funding is available through Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) programmes. These can offer support, from investigating an idea through to proof of concept and development.Visit
  • R&D grants that focus on specific industries are periodically launched (eg the Carbon Trust, DEFRA and WRAP have all launched such grants).

2.3 Energy and the environment – these schemes recognise the additional cost for businesses that adopt or engage in investments that improve energy efficiency and reduce environmental impact.

  • R&D programmes are available to companies working on developing energy and environmental products.
  • Grant schemes may be available for new buildings or for refurbishing existing buildings that aim to improve energy use.

2.4 Training.

  • Assistance to develop the skills and capability of staff is provided through apprenticeships. The National Apprenticeship Service (08000 150 600 or gives advice to employers on how to start an apprenticeship scheme in their business.
  • You may also qualify for a grant of £1,000 towards recruitment costs and a further £1,500 towards training if you take on a long-term unemployed person.

2.5 Exports – support is often available to businesses looking to export goods they manufacture.

3. Identifying Possible Grants

There are many different grant schemes in existence. You need to identify the few grants your business or project could be eligible for.

3.1  Contact your local business support organisation

Some providers also have access to a European Information Centre and other grants databases which will identify appropriate European, national, government and charitable grant schemes.

Basic information is usually free.

  • Ask for a list of grant schemes (including contact details) for which your project might qualify.
  • A business adviser will probably be available to help you narrow down the range of schemes.

3.2  Try other sources of free or subsidised information.

3.3  Get in touch with the administrators of any grant schemes which seem to fit your situation.

These might include:

  • The European Commission. Avoid calling the commission’s main switchboard. Instead, send an email or phone the section which deals with the scheme you are interested in).
  • Government departments, such as BIS .
  • Local councils or regional development agencies.

3.4  Ask the administrator some basic questions.

  • Is the scheme still open, are funds still available and will funds be available by the time your application has been processed?
  • When are grants handed out? Some schemes only pay out money to successful applicants once a year.
  • What does the scheme aim to achieve? It will help to know what sort of projects have been funded in the past.
  • How long is the application process, and what does it involve?