What are some of the best business grants?
This blog post highlights some of the best grants available for small business owners who are looking for additional funds to help their business grow.
Table of contents
- What is a business grant
- Who is UK Innovate?
- The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme
- UK Trade Show Programme
- LSE Generate
- ECIB Engineering Training Grants
- Grants for certain demographics
- Local-based grants
- UK innovation grants
- NHS Future Hospitals Initiative
- ESA Business Applications’ Call for Proposals
- DASA Open Call for Innovation
- Top tips for applying for a business grant
Are you a small business owner or aspiring entrepreneur needing some additional income f to help kick-start your company? Business grants are key for establishing a startup and ensuring its success. You will be given the necessary funds from the UK government to help your small business grow and develop, but you need to ensure you select the right grant that is best suited for your company.
What is a business grant?
What is the meaning of a grant? A government grant is, simply put, a sum of money that is awarded to a business from either national or local government. Government funding is usually given by the UK government to help assist a startup in its development, and the money does not need to be paid back.
Depending on your background, the scale and size of your business and circumstances, there are many on offer, but the UK government will always be able to offer grants for any startup who is looking to take one step further into the industry.
So you are probably wondering how to apply for government funding, and how you would find the most suitable grant for your business. This blog post will give you information on some of the best business grants available for any new startup. There are always a multitude of government programmes on hand for a new business, so we hope that this gives you inspiration to find the right grant.
Remember that the UK government is always looking to offer grants for any small business - they want to help you, after all. But if you have still not found what you are looking for, you can search for business grants for startups on the UK government’s website.
Who is UK Innovate?
Innovate UK is the country’s biggest innovation agency for businesses. As a part of the UK Research and Innovation, they support business-led innovation across all sectors, helping companies to grow through the development of new products and services. According to the company’s website, they use three methods to help another business (“inspire, involve and invest”) access the necessary expertise and equipment they need while also offering grants and loans to fund innovation work. Innovate UK’s work is overseen by a council, which meets six times a year. You can find out more about Innovate UK by visiting their website.
The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme
This is one of the best business grants for younger people who are looking to open a business of their own, or access training courses.
The Trust currently offers development awards of between £175-250 for UK residents aged 16-30 looking for funds to help with training. They must also be studying less than 14 hours a week or not in compulsory education, and they should be unemployed or working less than 16 hours a week.
These grants can help support transport for a new job until your first payslip, and give you any tools or equipment needed. It will also support accredited course fees up to Level 3, equivalent to further education. Click here for more information and to apply.
UK Trade Show Programme
Any business currently exporting or considering exporting in the future can apply for support at a UK Trade Show Programme to exhibit or attend approved overseas trade shows and conferences. They will also receive government grants to cover the costs of exhibition spaces and conference fees.
To be eligible, your business must be exhibiting for the first time or wishing to do so in the future, turning over £250,000-5 million annually, not having committed to the event before applying for support, and actively looking for new export opportunities. This does include if your business has exported before but wishes to grow exports in new markets. Click here for more information and to apply.
Emerging Technologies Competition
Every year, the Royal Society of Chemistry helps support entrepreneurs “who are developing ground-breaking, chemistry-led innovations”. Those from an early-stage startup, spin-outs and academic entrepreneurs involved in technology, energy, environment and health are eligible to enter. This is a perfect business grant for a startup.
After submitting an application, a panel of judges will review all applicants and provide feedback. Twenty-four finalists, all of whom are a business, will be announced in June 2023. They will be entitled to publicity and support from competition partners and the judges. Eligible UK-incorporated businesses will also receive an invitation for additional support, while university finalists will have free attendance on a special edition of Spin Up Science’s Pioneer Program.
The in-person pitch final, featuring the business finalists, will take place in London on 11 July 2023. The judges will select four winners, with one per category (technology, energy, environment and health), each receiving a cash prize of £25,000 and continued publicity and exposure. Click here for more information and to apply.
The LSE (London School of Economics) Generate funding competition takes place twice a year, during the Michaelmas and Lent terms. Current and former students of LSE, both UK and international-based, can apply.
You will need to have either a business team available and in negotiations with your first customers, or identified an opportunity and are in the process of developing your market understanding and initial term.
Startups who have yet to win can reapply, but LSE will look for evidence that your idea has developed since your last application. Click here for more information and to apply.
ECIB Engineering Training Grants
Engineering training grants are funded by the industrial training levy and are used to meet the needs of employers and the wider industry. The ECITB helps pay grants for training providers who provide the necessary training and qualifications the industry desires. They also offer assistance to employers to subsidise training costs for their workforce.
Eligible employers can access a range of engineering training grants to support the training they require while hoping to improve skill levels across the industry.
These government grants are available for a range of training activities, including new entrant training for apprenticeships and graduate development, as well as craft/technician skills and safety training. They are perfect grants for any startup business in the UK looking to get into the engineering industry.
All in-scope engineering construction companies are eligible for support, whether they pay the training levy or not. Smaller companies may be exempt from levy payments but are eligible to receive training grants. Click here for more information and to apply.
Grants for certain demographics
Grants are available for specific demographics. The Cartier Women’s Initiative is a UK government grant best suited for females. Be The Boss is available for unemployed entrepreneurs who previously served in the armed forces.
There are also grants on offer for people of colour, including The Black Business Network, offering up to £50,000 for Black business owners, and the UK Community Foundation’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Infrastructure Fund, offering up to £1 million.
Depending on where you live, you could be entitled to grants from a local-based body. For example, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are voluntary partnerships between local authorities and regional businesses, with funds delegated from the central government. At the same time, other options are available in some regions of the UK.
Click here for a map of England detailing the different grants available in each county/region, with links to all of the relevant bodies’ official websites. Business grants are also available in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland also having a separate website.
Innovate UK Smart Grant
This grant takes place between six and 18 months, offering businesses between £100,000-500,000. To be eligible, you must have a business proposal with plans to achieve a return on investment, growth and market share. You can be involved in any technology area, and applications can be applied to any part of the economy, including net zero and the arts. Click here for more information and to apply.
NHS Future Hospitals Initiative
Up to between 50-80 per cent of project funding is available with this grant, which is looking for solutions exploiting space technologies to benefit the NHS ecosystem. The closing date for applications is 30 June 2023. Click here for more information and to apply.
ESA Business Applications’ Call for Proposals
This grant oversees the progression of a new technology that utilises satellite navigation and telecommunication, as well as other space technologies. It offers up to £500,000 and lasts between 6-24 months. You have plenty of time to apply, as the application process does not close until the end of December 2025. Click here for more information and to apply.
DASA Open Call for Innovation
The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is looking for any business who have innovative ideas to improve the defence and security of the UK. They offer between £100,000-350,000, and the project must be completed by March 2024. Click here for more information and to apply.
Top tips for applying for a business grant
When you apply for government funding, remember to put a lot of thought and research into a grant and decide if it’s right for your business. Also, pay close attention to a business grant’s objectives, and be patient, as some applications can take several weeks to process.
- Apply ASAP: as soon as a grant you are interested in opens up, you should ideally apply for it there and then. You don’t want to leave any potential application to the last minute, as the applications could close before you had the chance to submit yours. Make sure you’re keeping an eye on the relevant body’s website so you know when the grant will become available.
- Make a personal contact at the awarding body: it’s always good to get to know someone at the body, so if you have any issues with your application, you will be able to contact them, and they can advise you best.
- Consider appointing a grant consultant: they can help you to track down the business support grant best suited to you. This could save you hours of research, and they will also have a better chance of communicating with the organisation and keeping track of your application. However, only some bodies will accept grant applications if submitted through consultancies, so make sure you research if the body you are applying for accepts them.
- Pay close attention to the grant’s objectives: for example, if an awarding body wants to fund innovative solutions to the technological skills gap in the UK, highlight and emphasise how your business is doing this.
- Be honest: no one likes a liar, especially not on a grant application. Getting a grant for a business should involve being honest 100 per cent of the way. However, if you feel you need to bend the facts about your business to fit a grant’s criteria, then it is probably not for you.
We hope the information above has helped you learn more about business grants and enabled you to select the appropriate government support when starting up your company. Remember that grants are not the only way to gain additional funding for a company. You could also take out a business loan or raise money through the Seed Enterprise Investment Fund (SEIS) or Enterprise Investment Fund (EIS). We have written blog posts on all three of these options.