22 March 2023 | Published by Bryony Pearce
Every penny counts for small businesses. Whether it’s your store that needs a revamp, a project in the pipeline, or, let’s face it, you just need a helping hand, a cash injection can be a vital source of funding for many start-ups or SMEs in the UK.
But applying and successfully securing them can sometimes feel like an uphill challenge.
At takepayments, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll break down some of the best government grants that are available for your business. We’ll include who’s eligible for what, the key features of each grant, and how you can go about applying.
But first, it’s worth understanding that grants aren’t the only financial boost available for small businesses. Let’s look at how they differ from business loans and which type is better for you.
When you take out a loan, you borrow money with a pre-agreed interest rate that you eventually have to repay. With a grant, you don’t have to pay the money you receive back or any additional interest fees.
Business loans are usually offered by high street banks and other private lenders who will set an interest rate as a fee for lending you money.
On the other hand, there are a number of grants awarded by the government or charitable organisations to support start-up and small businesses. The sum of money given by these grants doesn’t need to be repaid, but sometimes there may be certain restrictions on who can apply for them or stipulations for what a business can do with the money.
For example, the Eureka Eurostars grant is only available to companies that operate in research and development, while the AD:VENTURE grant is only eligible to businesses in selected Yorkshire cities.
There are hundreds of grants available for businesses to help them invest in new equipment, training, and expansion. However, it’s worth noting that not all grants are in the form of a lump sum of money.
Here’s a quick breakdown of different types of business grants:
If your business is in the pre-start, start-up, or SME phase and operates within Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds, Selby, Wakefield, or York, you may be eligible for an AD:VENTURE grant.
As well as finance and funding, the scheme offers mentoring, intensive support and specialist advice, as well as young enterprise support.
Where to apply: Find out how much you could receive and register your interest in the AD:VENTURE grant here.
If your business is based in Cheshire or Warrington, the Accelerate Growth Hub offers extensive support for those looking to set up their own company or grow an existing one. They provide various business and skills support packages to help upskill or reskill a business’s current workforce.
Where to apply: Learn about the courses currently on offer and how to apply for the Accelerate Growth Hub here.
This one’s a bit more niche, but if your business is in the research and development space, Eureka Eurostars is the largest international funding programme on offer.
The grants and support on offer as part of the programme help businesses take ideas and turn them into commercially viable products. You’ll get access to public funding, expert support, and heaps of networking opportunities.
Where to apply: There are various application deadlines throughout the year, learn more and apply for Eureka Eurostars here.
This government-backed scheme is designed for small businesses based in rural locations that need to bring their IT infrastructure up to speed.
If your business is based rurally, and you’re struggling with sub-par broadband, there’s £210 million on offer to help. You could bag up to £4,500 in funding to help cover the costs of installing gigabit broadband which is likely to work wonders for the smooth running of your business.
Where to apply: Head to the Gigabit broadband voucher website to find out if you’re eligible for the scheme.
This scheme is only available to businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk.
The scheme offers grants between £1,000 and £25,000 to help businesses grow, covering up to 40% of total project costs, depending on factors such as the number of employees and the area a business is located in.
Grants under the scheme are awarded on a discretionary basis and are subject to eligibility checks and approval.
Where to apply: Contact the New Anglia Growth Hub to discuss your plans further.
This fund provides over £500 million of investment to help small and medium businesses in the North of England expand.
The NPIF is delivered by the British Business Bank and offers three main types of funding: microfinance loans up to £100,000, larger loans up to £750,000, and equity injections up to £2,000,000.
Where to apply: Head over to the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund website to learn more.
The Prince’s Trust works with 18-30-year-olds to help them develop their own business.
The programme has supported over 90,000 young entrepreneurs to date, helping them transform ideas into reality, with training, mentoring, and funding resources on offer.
The Enterprise programme is split into four parts; info session, workshop, build your business, and launch. While there’s no ‘grant’ on offer with the programme per se, you can get help securing funding and even apply for additional start-up financial support.
Where to apply: You can learn more and get the ball rolling at The Prince's Trust website here.
Whether you want to grow a business idea from scratch or grow your existing business, Social Entrepreneurs Awards could help with funding – providing your business solves a social issue or makes a social impact.
The scheme aims to improve on the imbalance of equity in business funding and provide resources to marginalised groups in society. There’s up to £8,000 for start-ups and £18,000 in funding on offer for those looking to expand their business.
Where to apply: Find out more about eligibility criteria and what’s on offer at the UnLtd website.
Bringing on an apprentice can offer heaps of business benefits like upskilling your workforce and growing your business steadily. The government will also provide funding and financial help to boot.
There are incentive payments up for grabs of up to £1,000 plus if your business qualifies, you’ll get 95% of training costs, up to the maximum funding amount, covered too.
You can find out more with our guide to taking on an apprentice here.
Where to apply: Visit the relevant government portal to learn more about employing an apprentice in:
This one’s a government funding competition that gives UK businesses the chance to bag a share of the programme’s £25 million prize pot.
Applications can come from businesses operating within any area of technology, but the focus is on innovative and game-changing concepts that will disrupt the status quo and ‘significantly’ impact the economy.
Where to apply: This competition runs each year with different opening and closing dates. Find out about the latest round of applications for this competition by searching for “Innovate UK Smart grants” here.
The government offers a number of research and development tax relief options that incentivise R&D investment by reducing the costs of innovation. The R&D Tax Relief scheme allows SMEs working in sectors that are dependent on R&D to apply for a reduction in research and development expenses. This covers materials, staffing, and clinical trial costs. Businesses that make a loss, or whose projects are unsuccessful, can also apply for tax credits.
As of the 2023 Spring Budget, the amount of claimable tax credit has been increased.
From 1st April 2023 onwards, SMEs that make a loss and spend at least 40% of their total expenditure on qualifying research and development are eligible to claim an enhanced R&D tax credit of 27%, or £27 for every £100 spent.
The scheme is also being expanded to offer tax relief for R&D using modern computational activities, including datasets and cloud computing costs.
Where to apply: Learn more about different types of R&D tax reliefs on the gov.uk site here.
SEIS is one of the more well-known schemes out there, designed to help businesses raise funds when they start out trading by offering tax relief to investors.
Via SEIS there’s the potential to secure up to £150,000 through investments, but there are multiple rules you must adhere to - failure to do so will result in the withdrawal or withholding of tax reliefs from your investors.
For more established businesses looking to grow, there’s a parallel scheme called the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) which operates in the same format but allows businesses to raise up to £5 million annually.
How to apply: There’s a fair bit to get your head around but it could pay off big time down the road. Learn about the ins and outs of SEIS including how to apply here and EIS here.
If your business operates outside of England, there are resources available to help you find small business grants based on your location.
The Scottish government’s funding advice page offers a handy search tool for finding business grants. Government and local council schemes include:
The Business Wales website has a finance locator tool that lets businesses find grants that they could be eligible to apply for.
It also has a handy resource for small businesses that gives them advice on how to find the right grant and tips for applying.
To find out what grants are available to businesses in Northern Ireland, head to the NI Business Info website. There, you can learn more about what government support is available, including grants and Innovation Vouchers. These vouchers are worth up to £5,000 and allow businesses to access skills and expert resources from registered knowledge providers.
Most government-run small businesses grants can usually be applied for via the gov.uk website on the respective grant webpage. Search through the full list of government grants available for businesses here.
For non-government-run grants, the application process may vary and they will often have different criteria as many are specialist in a specific sector or location.
To give you the best chance of successfully securing funding, here are our top tips for applying for a small business or start-up grant:
With so many grants available, businesses should thoroughly read the grant information and take the time to understand what’s on offer. Many grants have specific aims or regulations for who can apply — like hiring from a local area or supporting a particular industry — which is vital to know early on. After all, you don’t want to waste time researching and applying for a grant that you’re not eligible for.
Having a clear understanding of what the grant wants to achieve means that you can find one that’s as closely aligned with your business objectives as possible.
Sometimes, you might want to know more about a specific grant before applying, and the information may not be readily available. Knowing all the ins and outs can help you strengthen your application, so consider contacting the grant provider with questions or anything you want to learn more about.
Not only will this give you a better idea of the grant, but starting to build a relationship with the provider can help your chances for when you apply as it shows that you’re actively interested.
Some grant providers may expect applicants to provide a professional business plan; if not, including one as an extra part of your application can help increase your chances of securing funding.
If you’re a start-up business, presenting your long-term goals will show that you’re invested in getting your business off the ground. On the other hand, if you’re an SME looking to expand, providers may be interested to see examples of your trading history and current business status to help them decide who to give funding to.
When creating your business plan, it would also be beneficial to include how you’ll use the grant funding if you successfully secure it. This forward planning shows providers how you’ll be planning to grow or start your business.
For grants aimed at specific sectors or projects, aligning how you plan to spend your funding with the grant's key goals can also help boost your chances of success.
Depending on the grant, some may provide a set amount and others will offer to match the amount you’re willing to invest. For the latter, you should double-check your business’s current funds to know that you can match the amount you’re requesting.
Applying as early as possible is the best way to improve your chances of getting funding. Ideally, you should apply once the grant or scheme first opens as you’ll have higher odds of your application being received.
Some grants may stop accepting applications if they receive too many, and others may split out the funding to different businesses instead of all going to one recipient. In this case, there could be more funding at the start before it has been given out.
Be aware that local authorities develop new business support grants and schemes regularly, and what’s on offer can change from month to month.
Keep your finger on the pulse and check in with your local council to find out if there are any upcoming schemes your small business may be eligible for.
Often budgets only allow for business support on a first-come, first-served basis, so don’t miss out on a potential cash injection for your SME.
If you’re a start-up or SME looking for a card payment system to help make your business run more smoothly, get in touch with us here at takepayments to discuss your options.