Where can you find small business grants?

Startups look at the three main sources of business startup grants

It is just not possible to say exactly how many business grants schemes there are out there. There are often over 3,000 grant schemes running for UK businesses at any given time, not including those offered by local authorities, so it’s unsurprising that start-ups can often find navigating business grants a complicated process.

Fortunately small business grants are easier to find then you think and generally fit into one of three categories; government grants, European grants and local grants.


Action point: Need a loan to start a business of your own? See how we can help here and here

Government business grants

See also Grants for starting a business: What small business grants are available?

Government grants for small businesses are available from the UK government, the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies. Each grant provider has its own departments and agencies which offer funding based on specific criteria and objectives. There are over 100 government bodies but the key organisations are:

For UK businesses, you can find a comprehensive list of grants available using the government’s ‘business finance support finder’ tool which allows you to select specific funding options and search for grants by your business location, size, and type of business activity.

The Welsh government offers a guide to financial help and grants for businesses on its site, found here, with Business Wales and Wales Economic Growth Fund two of its main support services for entrepreneurs looking to raise funding.

For Irish businesses, there is a range of grant support available which can be found here and you can search for grants by your stage of business development.

European business grants

The European Union is a huge source of funds for businesses of all sizes, and grants are usually distributed through the European Commission. This body administers a number of schemes through structural funds; made up of the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund.

There are also specific grant schemes, such as grants for businesses involved in education, enterprise, and media, to name a few.

Local business grants

In addition to a myriad of local government authorities, which are also potential sources of funding, there are a number of locally based agencies and organisations, such as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) which have been established specifically to support and encourage enterprise at local level. There are currently 39 LEPs across England including Liverpool, London, Sheffield, and Cumbria.

The government-backed £3.2bn Regional Growth Fund is another key source of grants funding; it supports projects and programmes that are already in the process of raising private investment which look to support England’s economic growth and employment. The Fund has recently opened its sixth tranche of funding with £200m available to eligible businesses, click here to find out more.

Grant eligibility

Each grant scheme has its own set of criteria to determine whether a firm or project is worthy of its money. There is no business or industry sector which is excluded from applying for funding assistance, The vast majority of schemes apply without major restrictions but on those that do eligibility tends to fall into three main categories – location, size and industry.

Location

The UK is actually divided up into four separate countries and in addition to those schemes offered by the UK national government and those from Europe, each of these four areas has awarding bodies and donates funds to businesses based within their borders. On top of this there are a number of ‘special areas’ across the UK which are specified by the awarding bodies themselves and can be drawn up just for one particular scheme. This just adds to the confusion and can make it pretty difficult to determine whether or not your business is located within the required boundary, so the only way is to contact the awarding body to find out.

Certain areas in the UK also qualify for funding because they satisfy criteria for special assistance drawn up by the European Commission on National Regional aid which breaks down Europe into tiers 1, 2 and 3.

To complicate things even further the government and the EU has also designated areas for schemes called European Structural Funds know as Objective 1,2 and 3. Objective 1 is for all intents and purposes the same as tier 1, but, though there are overlapping parts, 2 and 3 are different And finally (hang in there) in addition to these there are Rural Development Areas – parts of rural England which are suffering and where regeneration is focused. The funds are administered by some 31 separate RDAs.

Size

Certain grant schemes are restricted to small and medium sized enterprises which employ less than 250 staff. There are other grants schemes which have stricter criteria and only deal with firms that have say 50, 20 or fewer then 10 employees.

Industry

The third main eligibility category is the type of industry your company is involved in. Though there are a few grant schemes which specifically exclude certain sectors or industries, generally funds tend to be more industry specific and established to tackle particular problems or issues affecting a particular type of business, such as grants for those starting a childcare business, or businesses looking to improve the UK’s supply chain.

For more information about small business grants, visit our dedicated grants channel here.

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