How to find and apply for small business grants

Grants can be a great way to fund your business as they don’t have to be paid back and you don’t have to give away any equity. However, finding and applying for grants can be a complex process.

Finding and applying for grants

When to apply for a grant

Grants are available at various points in the growth of a small business. They range from funding at the idea stage to large scale research and development (R&D) projects. They can be used for general reasons such as getting a new business off the ground, or for specific activities such as implementing new technology.

Working out why you want the grant is the first step towards getting one. Think about all the finance options open to you and decide if getting a grant is the right one for your business.

How to find grants
There are many sources you can use to find small business grants. They are often provided by public sector or charitable organisations but some private sector, for profit groups offer them too. Grant awarding bodies are often looking to support specific sectors or business activities.

The UK government has an online database of funding sources including grants. Similar services are also provided by the Scottish government, Welsh government and Northern Ireland Executive.

There are other government funded organisations across the UK that can signpost you to relevant grants:

For research and development (R&D), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), of which Innovate UK is part, is the national funding agency investing in science and research. It offers grants for a wide range of projects. If you’re investing in R&D, you may also be eligible for tax relief.

Social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations can access grants from groups including UnLtd, the National Lottery Community Fund and Social Investment Business.

Understanding the eligibility criteria for accessing a grant is key to a successful application. So read all documents and instructions thoroughly. Make sure your business is eligible or you’ll waste your time on applying for a grant that you’re never going to receive.
Grant deadlines are strict so don’t leave it until the last minute. When applying online, many organisations allow you to save your application details as you go. Try to find grants as far in advance of the deadline as possible. Dedicate an hour or so each week to work on your application.
Answer all the questions in the way you are asked to. Stick to word limits and be succinct. Explain any acronyms or technical terms as the person reading your application may not be an expert.
Many grant applications require details such as a cash flow forecast, profit and loss report and a budget for the project, but don’t include information that isn’t requested.
Don’t be disheartened if your application isn’t successful. Take note of any feedback and use it to refine your application for future grants.

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