Record sums of government money are on tap to help businesses invest, pivot and grow as the UK recovers from the coronavirus

Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are now getting their hands on much-needed funding as government initiatives are well underway to help organisations invest in their business strategy, pivot to find new opportunities and pursue growth. Workspace is on hand to help business owners, founders and directors develop financial strategies and identify funding options.

We explore potential avenues of funding, upcoming events to help guide you through the coming months, and CEO Nick Randall at start-up SeeThru Networks shares his top tip for writing a successful funding application. 

Leapfrog with a loan

Now that the UK is ‘past the peak’ of the pandemic, it is time for businesses to plan how they will bounce back. The Bounce Back Loan scheme is still open for applications, and has scored positive reviews for its straightforward, “light-touch” application process. There is no need to show forecasts for future income. SMEs can borrow up to a quarter of their turnover, capped at £50,000, and don’t have to make capital repayments within the first year. All you need is a current account, so click here to find out how to apply

Innovate UK is also extending a hand to its current cohort of award winners that have been hit hard by coronavirus. If you are an Innovate UK winner, there is still time to secure a continuity loan of between £250,000 and £1,600,000 – applications remain open until the £210 million funding pot is allocated or December 31st, whichever is earlier. Get your application in sooner rather than later. Find out more about the Innovate UK continuity loan scheme here.

Workspace has partnered with Investors in People to bring a free, one-hour webinar on 21st July that focuses on how to effectively rebuild and get back to business. Sign up for your spot today.

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Future-proof your business with the right investment to help it grow. Photo credit: Jake Davies (Unsplashed)

Go for a grant

Can you spot a new potential business opportunity? The government will pay you to pivot. Grants are up for grabs for short-term projects that address and mitigate the health, social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. This is a pretty broad call for ideas and there is no application deadline, no set budget and UK Research and Innovate (UKRI) will cover up to 80% of the cost. Explore the full list of COVID-19 research funding opportunities here.  

It’s worth getting a sense of which projects the government is backing; check out this link with a list of winners. If you already have an existing UKRI grant, you can switch it to tackle COVID-19 research priorities. Start by contacting your Monitoring Officer. Find out more information here.

COVID-19 aside, Innovate UK is always posting opportunities for funding to help pursue world-class research and innovation. This list is constantly updated, so it is worth adding an Innovate UK Funding Opportunities bookmark in your browser and brushing up on your proposal writing.

There is a definite skill in writing these sorts of proposals, says Nick Randall, CEO of start-up SeeThru Networks. When the pandemic hit, Nick didn’t hesitate to apply for the government’s Innovate UK Fast Start Competition. His company – a low code/no-code platform for building customer support apps – secured close to £50,000. 

Nick says, “This is my third one with different businesses. There are a set of formulaic responses and rules about how you put together a bid that will score well. Some of it is common sense, some parts are like an intelligence test. We scored very highly on the technical side of our bid compared to the actual content of our proposal. My advice to small businesses is get someone who understands the game.”

Now, thanks to the Innovate UK grant, Nick has five people on the payroll for another quarter to work on SeeThru Networks’ latest project and has secured three new customers. He says, “It was quick and hard-fought. The application process was pretty [mad], but it is designed to be a very lean process. The scheme was extended because it was hugely over-subscribed and Innovate UK doubled the pot very quickly. I was quite impressed.”

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CEO Nick Randall (far left) and the team at SeeThru Networks

The UKRI’s spokesperson, PJ Taylor, says, “Innovate UK has an open programme which continues and we may have some new schemes to announce soon, so watch this space.”

Edge ahead with loan-to-equity financing

Some newer, fast-growing businesses need significant investment to power ahead but, without a long-term track record, cannot tap other forms of government support, like the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. Therefore, the government launched the Future Fund to help these businesses keep scaling up.

The £500 million Future Fund is specifically for businesses facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak. Businesses can apply for convertible loans between £125,000 to £5 million but it’s worth reading the fine print to understand how convertible loans work, the requirements for matched funding, what it means for current and future shareholders and the true cost of this unique type of funding.

Learn more about the ins and outs of this scheme by joining Informed Funding for a webinar, Funding High Growth Innovation in the UK Start Up Market, on 27th July from 2:15 - 4pm. Hear advice from Chris Dines, CEO of Informed Funding

Businesses that can tap extra funding will be in a stronger position to power ahead over the coming months. Nick says, “The Innovate UK grant was a real shot in the arm. Touch wood we’re in a very strong position to come out in September with a bright future ahead of us, with new customers and a bigger team.” 

Head to Workspace’s Back to Business hub to find the help you need to manage your business through COVID-19 and beyond. Read our Q&A with the Federation of Small Businesses on forging a path through the “recovery phase” of the pandemic, how businesses can return safely to office life and more. 

Workspace customers can also benefit from a COVID-19 call back service, courtesy of our partner, Informed Funding. Book your free 30-minute call to get help with financial and funding challenges, and talk to someone that can guide you through your concerns.