Grant funding provides an option for startups to develop specific elements of their business. This provides a route for businesses that can’t secure debt finance and don’t want to take on equity investment.
There are hundreds of different types of UK and EU grants available and navigating what’s on offer – as well as their respective qualifying conditions – can be a minefield.
It’s worth identifying the types of grants most relevant to your business and consider how you stand the best chance of being able to access them.
Tip 1: It’s never too early to start looking at grant funding
David Cleverly, finance advisory expert at Propel by Deloitte, advised startups to plan early.
“The key to obtaining grant funding is to plan early, well before the costs you are looking to fund have been incurred. Grants are typically only offered as an incentive to invest or create jobs that otherwise would not happen,” says Cleverly.
Speaking at The Pitch Live 2018, expert panellists Tarryn Gorre, Matt Dyson, and Mehjabeen Patrick discussed routes and opportunities within the grant and public funding sphere.
Tarryn Gorre, CEO & co-founder of Kafoodle, an award-winning end-to-end food management system, recommends starting by thinking about which area of their business the funding would be most valuable.
“In my opinion, a business can apply for a grant at any stage of its lifecycle. There are a variety of grants available, those that support ideas, R&D, prototyping and commercialisation. It is up to you as a business to decide what you want the money for and how you want to make the best use of it.”
Matt Dyson, co-founder and CEO of Rockit, an innovative portable baby rocker, utilised an Innovate UK innovation voucher with a value of £5,000 to get expert help and support towards IP advice.
“With the initial IP registered early on we were able to go public with our design and this is when we started entering and winning awards,” said Matt.
Mehjabeen Patrick, CFO of creative industries funding body Creative England, said the process can feel laborious but it’s worth it to access the specialised support and network that this type of finance can bring.
“We work with a diverse range of businesses at different stages of their lifecycle. They can be at startup, pre-startup or even maybe those going into post-seed rounds of funding. They often come into the process thinking they can pitch and then instantly secure funding – but they need to be prepared for the process to be much more involved.
“We need to make sure the audit trail is thorough enough to satisfy each stream of funding criteria we deliver. We often need a couple of rounds of pitches to assess elements such as perceived risk or opportunity for job creation, and then once finance is offered we need to keep regular checks on businesses to support them in staying on track,” explained Mehjabeen.
Tip 2: Make sure your business has the capacity to carry out the grant deliverables
Grants are normally allocated on the premise of carrying out specific activities and often require an arduous paper trail.
While on The Pitch panel, Tarryn mentioned how the amount of supporting work and resource needed to complete deliverables should not be underestimated.
“Although grants are hugely beneficial they do involve quite a bit of work, so I would urge business owners to make sure that they have enough resources to carry out the project.”
It is common for startups to have to adopt new financial procedures and systems.
Tip 3: Do your research
There are so many types of grants available (eg. local councils, national organisations and European) that it pays to do your research to try and identify the right type of grant and funding provider for your organisation.
There are a number of sites you can access to help kick-start your research. Detailed below is a snapshot of online resources. If you require support on applying or further clarification, please get in touch with us via this quick form.
- Gov.uk – Finance and support for your business (advice and signposting)
- Start Up Loans (advice, finance and grants)
- Innovate UK (advice, finance and grants)
- SmallBusiness.co.uk (advice and signposting)
Tip 4: Don’t be afraid to ask for help
With so many types of grants available you can save yourself time and energy by getting in touch with an expert who has the knowledge on where to best to focus your efforts.
This can include help around: grant strategy and gaining a clear understanding of the merits of different grant funding routes; project positioning and what grant providers are looking for; or even help filling out your grant application and advising on the terms and conditions.