But first, let’s be clear on the difference between loans and grants.
If you take out a small business loan, you’ll be required to repay the money, usually with interest. A grant is a lump sum you don’t have to pay back. But small business grants sometimes come with conditions attached.
You may be expected to match the grant money. For example, if you’re offered a £20,000 grant, you’ll need to have £20,000 of your own to invest in your company. Or the amount you’re awarded may be based on how much you’ve raised from other sources, like crowdfunding platforms.
The application process varies between awarding bodies. And, unfortunately, there’s no guarantee your business will be given a grant, even if you meet all the criteria. To give yourself the best chance, it’s worth taking time over your application. Approach it like a new business pitch.
Here are a few tips to help:
You’ll find some grants are based on location, while others are tailored to certain types of businesses or those facing specific challenges. Are you self-employed? A start-up? A community-led business? Are you going through a particularly difficult period? Are you looking to take on an apprentice? Where is your business? There’s help available both from the government and other organisations.
Training and start-up grants
Prince’s Trust development programme
The Prince’s Trust works with 18 to 30-year-olds living in the UK. It provides development awards of between £175-250 to help younger people kickstart their business or get training.
Apply if you’re:
Grants can cover:
You won’t get a grant to cover your living expenses (rent, bills), business start-up costs, items already paid for or gap year projects.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund
Heritage can be anything you value from the past and want to pass on to future generations. The National Lottery’s Heritage Fund provides grants from £3,000 up to millions of pounds. Your heritage project could include:
To find out more, including what you can and can’t spend grant money visit the Heritage Fund’s website.
Help starting a business if you’re unemployed
You can get government help to start a business if you’re currently unemployed. If you claim Universal Credit, you may qualify for a 12-month ‘start-up period’ if go self-employed.
During this start-up period, no matter how much you earn:
Ask your current work coach if you’re eligible. For more information, read claiming Universal Credit when you’re self-employed.
Need an apprentice? First, read the government’s help page on how to go about employing an apprentice.
You can get financial support from the government:
If your annual pay bill is less than 3 million, you won’t pay the apprenticeship levy. And as long as your apprentice started on or after 1 April 2019, you’ll get 5% towards training and assessment costs. You can find out more about employing apprentices using the government’s employer enquiry form.
Innovate UK smart grants
If your business’s focus is innovation or you’re trying to bring a new product to the market, apply for an innovation grant. Innovate UK supports business-led innovation in any industry, for tech or innovation-based projects. The UK’s flagship grant programme, the Innovate UK Smart Grant awards £125 million to British businesses every year.
Any UK-registered SME can apply. Grants are available for tech-based projects lasting 6 – 18 months. Theoretically, you could get up to £2 million. But that amount is more likely to be awarded to multiple firms collaborating on a project.
Research and development R&D tax relief
You can claim corporation tax relief if your company takes part in a research and development project. Your business will be eligible if you have less than 500 employees and a turnover of less than £100 million euros.
If you’ve got angel investors or venture capital funding, you’ll need to provide details and may not qualify. You’ll also have to declare any partner firms or companies you’re connected to.
If you’ve made a loss on an R&D project, you’re entitled to claim tax relief as a tax credit of 14.5%. For more information, head to the gov.uk website’s R&D relief page.
There are lots of small business grants available to help with specific challenges or specialisms. We’ve listed a few here. Follow the links for more information on each one.
SMEs can claim £3,500 towards the cost of installing fast broadband. Use the postcode checker on the website to see if you’re eligible.
The seed enterprise investment scheme (SEIS) is to help start-ups (social enterprises or companies) raise money. You’ll get a maximum of £150,000 in the three years leading up to the investment date. You need to meet the conditions so investors can claim tax relief on their shares. The money must be spent within three years of the share issue.
Like the SEIS, but for established businesses.
For UK businesses currently exporting or thinking about doing so. You can apply for support to exhibit at or attend overseas trade shows. You may also receive grants to cover some of your costs. If your application is successful you’ll receive training too. Apply at least six weeks before the event and make sure you read the conditions.
Some types of low-emission cars qualify for a government grant of £1,500. You don’t need to apply for one. The dealer includes it as a discount on the purchase price.
There are currently 258 different grants available. From organic land management to ancient woodland restoration.
If your goal is solving a social issue, this one’s for you. Apply for up to £15,000 to help. Support includes 1-1 coaching, training, mentoring and access to networks.
A grant of £10,000 for female-led engineering enterprises launched in 2022. Apply if you’re female, run a company with fewer than 10 employees and you’re in the engineering business.
Free advice to help you find the right technology for your business and staff. As well as getting tailored information, you could earn discounts of up to £5,000 on software.
Grants for academics and researchers. See what’s currently available on the British Council’s website.
Small business grants England
To find out what support is available in your area, try the LEP Network website. It lists the 38 regional growth hubs where you’ll find national and local support for your business.
Small business grants Northern Ireland
Is your business already up and running? You can get financial support from the established SMEs funding section of Enterprise Ireland. There’s also funding available for start-ups with high potential. See if you qualify by visiting the High-Potential Start-Up Funding page.
Small business grants Scotland
Based in Scotland? Try the Scottish Enterprise website for financial, as well as non-financial support. You’ll find Smart Scotland grants for research and development, low carbon and clean energy funds and more. You can also search for business support services in Scotland on the gov.scot website.
Small business grants Wales
Use the Welsh government’s finance locator to find and apply for grants online. There are currently 1051 funds available, in the form of grants, loans and other sources of funding.
Alison Wild BCom (Hons), MAAT, MATT, Taxation Technician is a highly respected industry professional who has been working with and advising SMEs in areas including tax, pensions, insurance and marketing for over 25 years. She is a member of the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and Association of Tax Technicians (ATT) and also has 20 years' experience as a residential landlord.
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Date: November 23, 2022
Category: Small Business