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An introduction to business grants

October 8, 2011

With about 850 business grants available in the UK, either from national organisations or via the European Union’s various forms of business support, and a further 3,000 or more local authority grants, enterprise funding sources, economic development providers and other regional bodies, companies have plenty of choice when it comes to seeking business grants.

However, the amount of money available depends on what you need it for – so you should determine whether your project fits into any of the categories below.

Capital Grants for investment purposes

If you obtain capital grants for investment purposes, you will usually either be protecting existing jobs, or creating new ones.

You can expect to receive 5-25% of the total cost of your project, or equivalent to between £2,500 and £7,000 for each new job that it creates.

Training grants

If you need funding for the design and delivery of a training course of some kind, then training grants may be able to help.

They can cover up to 80% of the total cost of training if you arrange a ‘soft loan’, while in some instances – particularly involving engineering disciplines – special further grants of 20-50% of the cost may be available.

Research and development funding

Grants to assist with research and development costs can cover 30-50% of the total outlay, including overheads, consumables, capital expenditure, consultancy fees, protection of intellectual property rights and salaries.

You may be able to access funding for feasibility studies of innovative technologies, at up to 75% of the total cost or a maximum of £45,000.

Feasibility grants are available to SMEs with fewer than 50 employees, to cover costs of at least £30,000, and for projects lasting between six and 18 months.

You may also have the opportunity of arranging a grant for larger, longer development projects that take a new product to the prototype stage, if it offers a significant advance in technological terms.

Grants for development projects cover 30% of the costs – a limit that will include any funding granted to the feasibility testing of the same project – at a minimum of £60,000, for firms with fewer than 250 employees, and on projects of 6-36 months in duration.

Infrastructure investment

In certain sectors that have recently seen a period of decline, grants may be available for infrastructure investments – these include, but are not limited to, industries like fishing, textiles and defence.

Export costs

If you are setting up an export business, export grants can cover the costs or provide joint venture support for 50% of your feasibility costs and 20-50% of total joint venture setup costs.

Grants for advisory services

Obtain specialist information and consultancy services at a reduced rate, or for free, using grants for advisory services that are essential to your business.

They will typically cover up to 50% of the cost, but in some instances access to information held in databases can be gained for a nominal fee, or at no cost whatsoever.

Other grants

There are miscellaneous other grants for all sorts of businesses, from museums’ operating costs to companies that work with or cater for the disabled, freight projects by sea and by rail, development in rural areas and craft-based companies.

You will typically only be able to access enough funding to cover a percentage of the costs, whatever project you are working on – and eligibility may be determined based on whether you can demonstrate that you have the remaining percentage of the funds available to you from elsewhere.