Support for startups: do you know about these grants and funds?

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With the British government’s announcement of the Future Fund scheme designed to help UK startups to innovate and grow, we decided it was a good opportunity to look at other schemes available to young and growing companies.

While it seems like there are loads of schemes around, many of them are designed to support very specific organisations. 

You might be ineligible for some of these funds and schemes. But the good news is that there are likely to be some sources of support or financing that do apply to your company type, size, and location. 

And remember that our listing is not exhaustive; there are other forms of support available, so continue your search while also building a ‘plan B’ that does not rely on any of these schemes. 

Before we get to the list, let’s consider a couple of key details that apply to the majority of these schemes:

Grant applications demand your time and resources

As you would expect, these funds and organisations want to allocate their resources to worthy organisations that meet their criteria. To ensure they use their money effectively, they must carefully evaluate every applicant. 

You are, of course, the applicant. So you will have to navigate the application process deftly, putting together an attractive proposal that meets all the criteria and satisfies the judges that your organisation will benefit from their support, and adhere to the principles of the fund. 

This process takes time. Not just a couple of hours, but possibly many days of your focus. For example, you might need to adapt your business slightly to qualify for support. Or you might need to gather evidence of certain qualifications. Or you might need to reach a certain stage or goal before you qualify. Or you might need to take part in workshops or a mentorship programme to qualify. 

Before you embark on this journey, satisfy yourself that you stand a good chance of being accepted (i.e. you meet all the criteria), and that the resulting support would be a meaningful addition to your startup (does the grant, loan or support provide a genuine leap forward?).

Take time to understand the application process

The better you understand the organisation offering the support, as well as their aims and how they report on their success, the better you can complete a proposal that is likely to succeed. 

If you can speak to people who have been through the process, take advantage of the opportunity and try to gather any tips to get you through the different stages.

  • What worked for them?
  • Did they encounter any surprises?
  • How would they rate the impact of the scheme?
  • How much did it help them?

Once your application is complete, make sure you get a second opinion, ideally from people in related professions, or someone with experience of the fund or support programme. 

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National support schemes

Here is a list of a selection of high-profile schemes for UK companies. 

This list is not exhaustive; there are many other schemes available, so please investigate thoroughly and speak to a business advisor before taking any action. 

Also note that not all schemes are open to all businesses; each scheme has its own criteria. 

1. Future Fund

For: The coronavirus Future Fund is designed to support innovative companies who are struggling because of coronavirus. More specifically, these loans are aimed at startups that have attracted investment, but which are pre-revenue or pre-profit. 

Offering: Loans of £125,000 to £5 million

Purpose: To support startups through the pandemic. 

Business stage: Your company must have raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from third-party investors in the last 5 years. 

Business size: Your company must not have shares traded on a regulated market, multilateral facility, or other listing venue. 

Find out more: www.gov.uk/guidance/future-fund

2. Innovate UK

For: Grant funding for all sizes of business throughout the UK.

Offering: Grants between £25,000 and £10 million.

Purpose: To support innovation and technology projects. The project is also open to projects themed around their grand challenge areas: AI and data, ageing society, clean growth, and the future of mobility.

Business stage: From startup to enterprise.

Business size: From 0 – 500+ employees.

Find out more: apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/search

3. Prince’s Trust

For: Helping young people (18-30) throughout the UK. 

Offering: Support, guidance, workshops, and mentorship to young people – as well as low-interest business start-up loans.

Purpose: To help young people access the knowledge and funding they need to get started.

Business stage: Early stage startups.

Business size: The Prince’s Trust typically works with individual founders to develop their business ideas.

Find out more: www.princes-trust.org.uk

4. Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS)

SEIS is not a startup fund or a grant. Instead, it’s a tax scheme that you can join as a startup. By joining, you can make your business more attractive to investors, because investors will get tax breaks by investing in your company. 

For: Early-stage startups and businesses that want to encourage investment. 

Offering: Tax relief for investors.

Purpose: To encourage greater investment in UK startups.

Business stage: Less than 7 years old.

Business size: Fewer than 250 employees

Find out more: www.gov.uk/guidance/venture-capital-schemes-apply-to-use-the-seed-enterprise-investment-scheme

5. Innovate2succeed

For: Practical business support for small and medium-sized businesses

Offering: Up to 9 days of specialist innovation support. 

Purpose: To help small companies use more technology, innovate, and apply for grants and innovation funds. 

Business stage: Early-stage startups and growing businesses.

Business size: 0-249 employees

Find out more: www.gov.uk/business-finance-support/innovate2succeed-uk

6. R&D Tax Credits

Research and Development tax relief is another form of indirect support for startups and companies.

For: Companies that research or develop an advance in their field. 

Offering: Corporation Tax relief of an additional 130% of qualifying costs on yearly profit. 

Purpose: To encourage and incentivise innovation and research within UK companies.

Business stage: Startups and established companies are equally eligible. 

Business size: SMEs with fewer than 500 employees. 

Find out more: www.gov.uk/guidance/corporation-tax-research-and-development-rd-relief

7. Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP)

For: Businesses interested in exporting from the UK.

Offering: Support, advice, and grants from £500 to £2500. 

Purpose: To help UK companies gain international customers by attending trade shows overseas.

Business stage: New to exporting. 

Business size: SMEs with fewer than 250 employees. 

Find out more: www.gov.uk/guidance/tradeshow-access-programme

8. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

While KTPs are partly funded by a grant, they are primarily a method for connecting your business with academic expertise that you don’t have in-house. 

For: UK businesses (any size) who need academic expertise to develop their business.

Offering: Subsidised academic expertise (SMEs pay roughly a third of the project costs)

Purpose: To help companies that need to access academic expertise

Business stage: Startup or established.

Business size: Any size.

Find out more: www.gov.uk/guidance/knowledge-transfer-partnerships-what-they-are-and-how-to-apply

Regional support schemes

The UK government site lists dozens of regional funds and assistance programmes. We’ve listed several below.

These schemes are typically organised by local business groups and are focused on addressing regional opportunities or challenges.

Remember that this list is not exhaustive, and it’s worth conducting your own online research, and also asking representatives at local business networking groups or your chamber of commerce for advice on local support schemes. 

1. Fredericks Foundation 

For: Businesses that have been turned down for mainstream loans in East Midlands, East, South East, South West, and London regions. 

Offering: Poor credit loans, startup loans and revolving loans.

Purpose: To help people start and develop sustainable businesses. 

Business stage: Startups and established companies

Business size: 0-249 employees

Find out more: www.gov.uk/business-finance-support/fredericks-foundation-loans-england

2. D2N2 Capital Growth Fund- Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire

For: SMEs in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire

Offering: Grants of between £1500 and £10,000 to cover up to 30% of eligible project costs.

Purpose: To support capital purchases such as machinery, equipment, and IT hardware. 

Business stage: Startups and established SMEs

Business size: 0 – 250 employees

Find out more: www.gov.uk/business-finance-support/d2n2-capital-growth-fund

3. Business loans, grants, and funding – Scotland

FindBusinessSupport is the Scottish government website dedicated to sharing the various schemes available. There are currently 318 sources of support listed. 

For: Businesses in Scotland

Offering: Advice, consultancy, finance, and coronavirus-specific support.

Purpose: To help businesses in Scotland access support and finance.

Business stage: Any

Business size: Any

Find out more: findbusinesssupport.gov.scot

4. AD:VENTURE – Leeds City Region

For: Business to business companies in Craven, Harrogate, Selby, York, Calderdale, Bradford, Wakefield, Kirklees, and Leeds.

Offering: Support, workshops, office space and capital grant funding.

Purpose: To support companies in the Leeds City Region.

Business stage: Individuals starting a company, and businesses in their first 3 years of starting.

Business size: Up to 249 employees

Find out more: www.gov.uk/business-finance-support/ad-venture-leeds-city-region

5. Business advice and masterclasses – East of England

For: Startups and established companies trading in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk.

Offering: Advice, workshops, loans, and innovation grant services. 

Purpose: To support business and encourage innovation in the East of England.

Business stage: Any stage

Business size: Up to 249 employees

Find out more: www.gov.uk/business-finance-support/business-advice-and-masterclasses-east-of-england

6. Business Enterprise Fund – North East England

Struggling to get financial support from banks? The Business Enterprise Fund may be able to help. 

For: SMEs in Yorkshire and the North East

Offering: £500-£150,000 for businesses that have been turned down by high street banks.

Purpose: To fund the growth of companies in the North East.

Business stage: Any stage. 

Business size: 0-249 employees

Find out more: www.gov.uk/business-finance-support/business-enterprise-fund-north-east-england

Sector-specific support schemes

If your business is operating in a challenging market, or building products that address challenges like pollution, climate change or poverty, then you may find a scheme dedicated to helping organisations like yours. 

We’ve included three examples below, but this is another field where original searches and investigations are essential. Try to make contact with your professional bodies, trade organisations, local government representatives, industry peers and trade publications so that you can discover any niche schemes. 

1. Big Issue Invest – UK 

For: Social enterprises and charities in the UK.

Offering: Loans and investments from £20,000 to £3,000,000

Purpose: To empower sustainable business solutions to deliver social change.

Business stage: Operating for at least 2 years.

Business size: Any enterprise that has the capability to repay loans and provide a return on investment.

Find out more: www.gov.uk/business-finance-support/big-issue-invest-uk

2. FEAST 2 – Food and Drink (East Midlands)

For: Food and drink manufacturers in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, and South East Midlands.

Offering: Grant funding, technical support, mentoring and workshops.

Purpose: To support food and drink companies in the East Midlands.

Business stage: Startups and established companies

Business size: 0-249 employees

Find out more: www.gov.uk/business-finance-support/feast-2

3. Funding and advice for space-based services

Okay, so this one is a little out-there, but it’s worth including in this list because it proves the point that there are hundreds of different support schemes for startups and businesses in general – even if your goal is the literal cosmos. 

For: UK businesses that are developing satellite communications, earth observation, satellite navigation and other space-based technologies. 

Offering: Funding, technical expertise, networks, and partnerships.

Purpose: To support the UK’s space industry.

Business stage: Established

Business size: 0 – 500+ employees

Find out more: www.gov.uk/business-finance-support/funding-and-advice-for-space-services-uk

How will you build your business?

Will you go it alone? Or build a coalition of advisors, peers, and investors? 

There are many different ways to approach your venture, and no single way is ‘correct’. You might need a loan to get started, or you may be able to build your first product or service single-handed. You might need a team to achieve your vision, or you might just need a little advice so you know how to begin – or how to take the next step. 

Whatever your situation, it’s usually useful to chat to the professionals, specialists, and experts around you. You can often learn more in a ten minute chat with an experienced professional than you can get from a day of searching online. 

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Photo by Anna Shhvets, published on Pexels

Valentine Hutchings

Head of Community and small business enthusiast

Tide Team

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