How to find a grant
Many small business owners overlook the option of grants to fund
projects, even though they provide non-repayable cash sums of
thousands of pounds. They have a reputation for being bureaucratic,
time-consuming and fiercely competitive. And some are - but there
are plenty out there that are easier to obtain. You just need to
know where to look.
What you can get a grant for
- Grants normally only apply to a specific project
or aspect of your business rather than its overall
- The most common types of grant are for research
and development (R&D), training employees, securing and
creating jobs, innovation, conservation, or creating new green
technology or reducing carbon emissions. There are, though, many
other opportunities outside those categories. There are 6,000
grants available to UK businesses.
- Assess your needs before you start searching. Make
an exacting assessment of how much money you need and precisely
what for. It's much easier to find a grant for the area you need
help in than changing your plans to suit a scheme you've just
Where to find a grant
- Consult your local Business Link advisor.
- Use online grant search databases. In the UK every
database is powered by one of two parent search databases -
GRANTfinder or j4b.
- Smarta's own grant search tool is powered by j4b
- you can search it here for free (click on the link -
it opens in a new window).
- GRANTfinder operates for small businesses through GRANTnet. (It also powers the
Business Link grant search tool.)
- You can search the j4b database at j4bgrants as well as here on
- All will provide a list of up to about 20 results.
- It's unlikely you'll be eligible for all the schemes listed as
your results. You need to look at the full criteria (which can be
dozens of pages long), but you need to either pay or go elsewhere
to access them.
- At this point it's best to go to your Business Link advisor,
your local council, your RDA or search online for help.
Alternatively, you can use a consultant (see below).
- Get in touch with the provider of schemes directly to ask about
What else you need to know when considering a grant
- Grants usually specify that work on a project can't be
- Confirmation that you've won any grant in the tens of thousands
of pounds upwards is likely to take at least a month after
submitting your application, and often up to four or five months.
Check the wait time with the provider and determine whether
your project can be postponed this long.
- The smaller a grant is, the quicker it will be.
- You need to be able to afford the grant. You
almost always need to match grant funding- you provide
generally around 50% of the total project cost and the grant makes
up the other half. (In the public and community sectors you can
sometimes match funds in kind, with labour.)
- Going for a smaller grant can help ease this financial
- You only get paid the grant after work has been
completed so you also need to have enough in the bank to
cover all costs until then.
- Find out when the grant money would actually be paid.
Sometimes it's up to a year between winning a grant
and receiving the money.
Using a grant consultant
- Using a grant consultant can save you time in your
search and application and really up your chances of winning a
- They can also help advise you on how to
financially plan for a grant.
- Consultants are unlikely to get involved for a grant
worth less than about £20,000.
- They normally take about 10% commission, so you
need to be sure you can afford that.
- Find out more about using grant consultants in our guide How to
win a business grant.
What other free support is available?
Check out subsidies, where organisations offer reduced prices on
certain products or services, or offer them for free. A free or
subsidised consultancy is the same thing, but with consultancy work
- the organisation pays a professional consultant for you.
Organisations and awarding bodies may offer free or discounted
access to resources, useful R&D and manufacturing projects. The
Ministry of Defence provides this for certain project.
Best practise and technology transfer can also help. This is
where more experiences companies pass down their insights to more
fledgling businesses. There are now a fair number or organisations
offering this. Try Investors in People or ISO 9000 for best
practise initiatives. The government offers technology
Consult advisors at your local enterprise hub if you have one
Direct grant: cash awards you don't have to pay
back (although you usually have to match part or all funding).
Repayable grant: funding you need to pay back out
of future revenues. It differs from a loan because anything you owe
is written off if your project fails or you don't make enough
Soft loan: you do have to pay this back but repayment
conditions are much easier-going (softer) than for a commercial
loan. E.g. the interest rate is less, there's no interest, the
repayment period is longer.
Packaged assistance: you get different types of
support, with the overall package designed specifically to meet
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