Where can you find small business grants?
We examine the primary sources of grant funding and some of the main schemes they offer, and explain how you can browse the grants that each provide and find the right scheme for you
Updated November 2018
Learn more about small business grants with our key guides:
- 01 | What grants are available to small businesses?
- 02 | Where can you find small business grants?
- 03 | How to get a business grant
At any given time, there are thousands of grant schemes in action across the UK – which is why it'd be impossible for us to direct you to each and every one.
However, by examining the key sources of grant funding and showing you how to find their directories and lists of funding schemes, we hope to provide a launchpad from which you can browse and find the right scheme for you, from the most reputable sources.
Read on to learn more about them…
What organisations provide small business grants?
The three main sources of grants for start-ups and small businesses are:
- The UK government
- The European Union
- Your local authority
Grant schemes are also run by organisations such as universities, charities, corporates and more.
Government grants for small businesses
Government grants for small businesses are available from the UK government, the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies. All publicly-funded schemes aim to encourage growth, bring wealth and create jobs.
To help achieve this, the government makes available a portion of taxpayers’ money to fund businesses in the form of these grant schemes, of which there are hundreds on offer through a variety of organisations and agencies, which offer funding vased on specific criteria and objectives.
The main government organisations which offer grants to small businesses are:
- Department of Business, Innovation and Skills
- The Technology Strategy Board
- Department for Education
- Department of Transport
- Department for Communities and Local Government
- Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
- Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment – Northern Ireland
- Business Scotland
- Welsh Government
- Enterprise Ireland
European Union grants for small businesses
Through the European Commission, the EU offers a range of grants, such as the famous Horizon 2020, to UK start-ups and small businesses.
With Brexit impending, questions remain as to whether or not UK businesses should keep applying for EU grants.
But, generally speaking, most schemes will continue to accept applications from, and distribute funding to, UK businesses until the country has officially left the EU – though the European Commission has warned that funding to UK enterprises could cease sooner.
The European Commission administers a number of schemes through structural funds made up of:
- The European Regional Development Fund
- European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF)
- The European Social Fund (ESF)
The EU also runs grant schemes specific to particular sectors, such as grants for businesses involved in education or media – to name just two.
Local authority business grants
Local authorities, agencies and organisations can also offer capital to your start-up as they aim to support and encourage enterprise in their local areas.
Set up by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in 2011, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are a prime example of this in action: they’re voluntary partnerships between local authorities and the businesses in their region, with funds delegated from central government.
There are currently 38 LEPs at work across England with the goal of fuelling growth and enterprise at a local level, including in Liverpool, London, Sheffield, and Cumbria.
Similarly, the government-backed £3.2bn Regional Growth Fund is another key source of grant funding, supporting projects and programmes from businesses who are already in the process of raising private investment.
In 2014, the fund opened its sixth tranche of funding with £200m made available to eligible businesses.
An example of this is Catalyst for Growth, which has direct grants of £5,000 to £500,000 available for chemical start-ups launching in the North West of England.
Region-specific business grants
If you’re operating a business in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you might want to narrow down your search to grants offered specifically to businesses in those countries.
Business grants in Scotland
Depending on where in Scotland you’re based, you may be able to apply for grants offered by Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, local council and more.
Business grants in Wales
From the tourism investment support scheme, which supports tourism businesses, to the Ultrafast Connectivity Voucher Scheme, which aims to improve business’ broadband connections, there are a range of grants available to Welsh businesses.
The Welsh government offers a guide to financial help and grants on its site, with Business Wales and Wales Economic Growth Fund two of its main support services for entrepreneurs looking to raise funding.
Business grants in Northern Ireland
There are a variety of grants on offer to Northern Irish businesses, including NISPO II’s Proof of Concept grant for pre-launch start-ups, and Invest NI grants for slightly older companies – which range from the Propel Programme to the R&D grant.
Once you've found the right grant for you and your business or start-up concept, it's time to pull together a convincing and air tight application that will stand up throughout the rigorous and competitive application process.
For insightful tips on how to do this, read our guide to applying for a business grant by following the ‘Next' button.