Business grants, grant funding & business support
Let’s start with some horrible truths:
Truth 1: A business that depends longterm on grants is not a strong business! It becomes inherently weak and inefficient because it is constantly chasing handouts instead of forming a strong profitable foundation!
Truth 2: Almost all grants that are currently available are connected to job creation or job preservation. There are no grants (that we know of) simply handed out because you want to set up your own business. Grant providers also seek businesses that sell to other businesses (B2B) rather than selling to consumers (B2C).
Top tip: If you are setting up in business then stop looking for grants and start ‘raising finance‘! If you are looking at raising finance then start with a killer business plan (with clear and accurate financial projections) and then talk to your bank. After that, take a look at the Business Enterprise Fund, The Startup Loans Service and the British Business Bank. If you exhaust all these options then consider also talking directly to corporate finance brokers but your business plan really must be exceptional for them to pay attention!
Truth 3: Frequently, the time it will take to form fill and ‘jump through the grant hoops’ is worth more than the grant itself so stop messing about and focus on building a strong business! Blunt, but true!
Accepting these truths, let’s talk about Grants
Since the Yorkshire Powerhouse project is focused squarely on the Yorkshire SME sector, our advice relates to that sector only. What do we mean by an SME? Simply a business with less than 250 staff and sales of less than Euros 50m.
The first thing to say about the business support landscape is that it’s important to recognise the complexity of this area and understand that it is verging on the impossible to understand and track every single business support or grant programme. Some are Government-funded, some are EU-funded. Some are national, some regional, others local. Some relate to specific themes or sectors. Some are delivered by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), some by universities and colleges, and others by the private sectors. It’s a nightmare!
Business support can take a variety of forms and in addition to business grants it can involve free or subsidised advice, mentoring, consultancy, training, courses, business incubators, loans, finance, apprentices, research, business rates subsidies, tax breaks, and lots more. Some support will be 100% funded i.e. free to the user, whereas most will require a contribution from the business.
The best way to think of this area is that it’s like ‘shifting sands’ since what you see today is maybe ‘gone tomorrow’ due to changes in Government policy or funding running out, with other programmes maybe commencing with very little publicity. However, it is definitely worthwhile persevering because the benefits to a business can be very significant, and in some cases the difference between profit and loss, or success and failure.
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Have you ever asked yourself why your business has never benefited from a grant whereas your competitor has? To state the bleeding obvious and to quote an old saying, ‘you have to be in to win it’, or in other words you need to be taking action to apply for grants since the grants will not come to you on a plate.
Where to start when looking for Business Grants and Support
The obvious place to start will usually be your local LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership). In Yorkshire, we have several LEPs and in some places, they overlap but take a look at the following websites:
- Leeds City Region (roughly Leeds, Kirklees, Calderdale, Bradford and Wakefield) LEP – http://www.the-lep.com/
- York, North Yorkshire and East Riding –https://www.businessinspiredgrowth.com/
- South Yorkshire – https://sheffieldcityregion.org.uk/business/
- Humberside – https://www.humberlep.org/
- Regional LEP Coverage Map – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/local-enterprise-partnerships-map
Additionally, a regional summary of all available grant schemes is managed at:
If the LEP website does not provide advice on business support and grants then search for the local Growth Hub instead such as the one in Sheffield – https://www.scrgrowthhub.co.uk/
These days most business support funding has been devolved to the LEPs but there are still some national/regional programmes and if you are interested in exporting, manufacturing or innovation then you might find the following links to be useful:
- Manufacturing – http://www.the-lep.com/for-business/business-growth/manufacturing-growth-programme/
- Exports – https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-international-trade/about-our-services#helping-businesses-sell-overseas
- Innovation – https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/innovate-uk
Keeping yourself informed about changes to grant funding and support is important so make sure that you subscribe to LEP newsletters and follow relevant organisations on LinkedIn etc. Some of the grant providers can be quite poor at communicating their offer so look into attending LEP events and trying to build a relationship with your local advisor. Consider arranging a meeting with the advisor to understand their programmes and how they might apply to you, and letting them see your business in action always helps their understanding of your needs and potential.
Time spent looking into business grants and support can be a great investment or a complete waste. Partner with an expert who can help guide your business based on their experience and skill.
Blunt advice from Yorkshire Powerhouse on business grants
Now you’ve read our article on business grants and support – have you any more questions?
Here at Yorkshire Powerhouse, we’re happy to help as much as possible – is there anything else we can do to help you, do you have any further questions or can we help introduce you to an expert – please let us know:
When applying for grants, you really need to ask yourself the question ‘will it be worth my time and effort' as outcomes are never guaranteed Read >