Small business grants are available from both government-sponsored funds and also private organisations such as charities and Regional Development Agencies. They are typically for small amounts but offer very attractive repayment terms – in many cases the grant is a gift that doesn’t need to be repaid.
What are small business grants?
Small business grants provide lump sums to start-ups and SMEs on attractive repayment terms. In many cases grants are akin to gifts and do not need to be repaid, making them extremely competitive. Grants generally provide quite low sums of money and are designed to finance a specific project or encourage growth in a particular industry or geographic region. This eligibility criteria means it’s hard for some businesses to access grants. However, there are a significant range of grants available from central Government, local government and non-governmental organisations such as charities.
Eligibility for grants
Government grants are in almost all cases awarded for a specific idea or project and not for general business financing. Many also require you to match the funds awarded out of your own pocket; as such as they are meant as helping hands rather than full-blown investments. Funds are available by geographic location, industry, type of goal and also for training and environmental projects. If you’re a larger business or operate in a particularly wealthy area you’ll typically find it difficult to get a grant – most are awarded to small and medium sized businesses. The eligibility criteria for grants awarded by entities other than the Government is often equally as strict, as these grants frequently come from charities operating in a particular niche.
What grants are available?
Between the Government, European Union and other organisations there are a wide range of grants available. One of the most well-known is the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) scheme which supports projects that encourage the development of private sector growth. The Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) and the Enterprise NI Loan Fund (ENILF) in Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively are very popular. Talk to a local business adviser or log onto your local Business Link site for more information on what’s available in your area as a lot depends on your personal situation.
Is there funding for environmental projects?
Several schemes exist that prioritise or focus directly on environmental projects; there are likely to be more available in future as the low-carbon economy becomes more prominent. Please read our full guide to green funding, which provides details of support available at local and national levels. The European Union also provides assistance to businesses looking to expand their green credentials; take a look at the Access2finance website for more information.
Are there grants available for training?
The Government provides a range of help with training including access to skills brokers and subsidised courses. This is all provided through the Train to Gain programme; one of the most attractive offerings is the ability to offset training courses against tax liabilities although the eligibility criteria is strict. A skills broker, who can be supplied by Train to Gain, can assess your business and let you know what options you have available. The degree of help available depends on a range of factors including how many staff you have the seniority of the employees that require training.
Are there grants available for research and development?
Research and development funding is available but generally focused on innovation; it’s unlikely you’ll receive R&D to improve an existing service or product. The European Commission, under Framework Programme 7, offer a 50 billion Euro fund to fund collaborative research and development. The programme will continue to run until early 2014 and the grants available can be used to fund a diverse range of innovation leaps, such as training pan-European researchers and developing research infrastructure. Funding is also available through the EU in the form of R&D tax relief, but it’s only available for companies that pay corporation tax. The Technology Strategy Board, a UK institution, offers advice and funding for technology-driven research.