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List of small business grants in the UK

Find the best small business grants for your UK company, our exhaustive list includes both government and private funds for early & late-stage companies
Editorial team

/ Last updated on 9th November 2017

A piggy bank in a mild pink colour set on a brilliant white background.

Grants are money you don’t have to pay back. Grants are usually awarded to start-ups or early stage businesses for a particular project and because they meet a certain set of criteria. This might be because the business is located in a particular geographical region or operates in a particular industry, or because the entrepreneur meets certain age or circumstance criteria – the Princes Trust gives grants to long-term employed people under the age of 30, for example. The government has substantially cut the number of grants it offers in recent years but still provides grants for research and development.

Related: List of business competitions and awards in the UK

You never have to pay the money back providing you use it for the criteria specified. The organisation providing the grant will sometimes offer support in other ways too, for example through mentoring support and publicity. Being awarded a grant can be very prestigious and be seen as a real vote of confidence for your business. Grants are extremely competitive and difficult to get. It can be time-consuming applying for them, so you need to make sure you fit the criteria first.

Business Grants range from smaller sums such as the UK Government Startup grants at £2,500 to much as 6-figure grants from bodies such as the Growth Accelerator fund for high-growth (Gazelle) businesses. At the moment, there is a range of grant finance both government and private available for Entrepreneurs, Startups and SMEs.

Whether you are looking for an initial small business grant or capital investment in return for starting up in economically deprived areas, there’s a range of capital options open to you. This is a catalogue of the key sources of grant funding applicable to businesses in general. For more specific industry or geographic sources of finance, please use the link to Direct Gov to search in these areas (take a look at our sources of funding section for further funding advice and lists).

List of national small business grants

Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS)

Though not strictly a grant funding, we felt SEIS was very relevant to add to this list. SEIS is a tax relief designed to encourage investors to invest in UK companies. In essence, investors can claim eligible investment against their tax bill, significantly reducing capital risk. Many professional investors and business angels now require SEIS at Angel Stage before they even look at a company.

Funding: The relief allows investors to claim back up to 78% of their investment through tax in the first year (up to £150K, as of Jan 1st, 2014). Once companies are approved for SEIS status, there’s a process you must go through with HMRC to make a claim on behalf of your investor.

Apply: You can apply for SEIS status with HMRC here.

Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS)

EIS is a tax relief scheme investment is focused on late-stage companies. Approved startups can get their investors back a serious amount of funding in tax benefits.

Funding: Investors can claim up to 30% back in tax on investments (up to £1million, as of Jan 1st, 2014). Investors can also defer capital gains tax on such shares.

Apply: You can apply for the Enterprise Investment Scheme here. For more information on the programme, check out the EIS website.

R&D Tax Credits

The research and development tax credits scheme allows you to claim back a significant amount of your development costs back in cash each year! If you’re a startup heavily focused on development, then this scheme is well worth checking out. The paperwork itself isn’t too difficult to fill in; failing that, there are a good few agencies about who can help you with filling it out.

Funding: You can claim back up to 32% in development costs each year; this even includes staff/contractor costs.

Apply: You can find guides, more information and how to apply here.

Innovate UK Smart Grants

The Smart Grants scheme provides grants for startups with significant technological or scientific intellectual property grant funding. 3 kinds of smart grants are available:

1. Proof of Market, 60% match funds, £25,000)

2. Proof of Concept, 60% match funds, £100,000)

3. Prototype Development, 45% match funds, £250,000)

The level you apply for depends on the stage of your company, your finances and what you’re looking to develop.

Funding: £25,000-250,000

Apply: You can find out more information and apply here.

Patent Box Relief

The Patent Box scheme allows profitable startup and small companies to almost halve their corporation tax bill in some cases. You will need to have a patentable product in order to be eligible, as the grant is aimed at fostering innovative companies in the UK.

Funding: Up to 50% off your corporation tax bill. In practice, though, it’s closer to just under 40% for most.

Apply: You can find a detailed guide on Patent Box relief and information on how to apply here.

Innovation Vouchers

Innovation Vouchers provide a relatively small but useful government grant to develop an innovative idea or new product by providing you with expert know-how. Innovate UK will help you source the right expert for your business from one of the following:

  • Universities & FE Colleges
  • Technology and Research institutions
  • Consultancies and Catapult centres
  • Advisers on design
  • IP Advisers

Funding: £5,000 to pay for externally-based experts and consultants to grow your business.

Apply: You can apply and get more information on Innovate UK here.

Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is a large EU fund designed to support SME’s all across Europe. You can access funding calls through a number of UK government agencies and organisations. The funding can be used to:

  • Create something too enormous to build alone
  • Work with companies throughout a value chain
  • Create access to technology and science
  • Find and draw on skills and expertise you need
  • Investigate opportunities to test innovative ideas and solutions

Funding: Bids can range from £100K to £10 million plus. Horizon 2020 has a complex bidding process with a number of different grant calls going out at any one time, as well as various delivery agencies. The grant is focused on EU inclusion, so its likely you’ll have to bid with at least one other company.

Apply: You can find out more about Horizon 2020 and the latest grant calls here.

Apprenticeship Grant

Apprenticeship grants support work and training designed to meet the needs of employers. They take 1-4 years to complete and bring together practical training with job-based learning.

Funding: The national apprentice service may give funds for training. The quantity of funding depends on your business area, with funding for 16-18 years beginning at 100%. You may also have access to an Apprentice Grant of up to £1,500 (10 employees max) for employers taking on apprentices aged 16-24.

Apply: You can find more information and apply here.

Prince’s Trust Grants

The Prince’s trust grants have been dedicated to rendering financial assistance to young entrepreneurs since 1976. It offers an exclusive Enterprise Program that lends grants and mentors to young individuals to help them start their own business.

Funding: The individual must be 18-30 years old in order to apply for the Prince’s Trust Grants.  For individuals, the grant offered is £1,500 whereas a business group may avail a grant of up to £3,000. A test marketing grant of up to £250 is also offered to individuals, to help them evaluate the market value of their product.

Apply: In order to apply for the grant, you are required to fill the online application form.

Grant for Business Investment (GBI)

The GBI is a capital grant offered by the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). These are basically intended to help businesses expand and diversify their perspectives. It can help entrepreneurs set up a new business or fund a new project. The grants are given to high-budget projects whose outcomes can be evaluated on a long-term basis. These grants are often dedicated to funding projects that can bring prosperity to economically deprived areas. They are especially granted to offshore wind manufacturing projects.

Funding: The minimum funding offered is £10,000. The grants are available for businesses of all sizes with a different ratio of funding.

Apply: You can apply for the grant directly from the GBI website.

Heritage Lottery Fund Start-up Grants

Heritage Lottery grants are only offered to individuals running a non-profit organisation or entrepreneurs who are going to start a new business. They can also help entrepreneurs with introducing new setups for their businesses. The Heritage Lottery Fund also takes the outcomes of your business endeavours into consideration when assessing applications.

Funding: There is no amount of funding specified, but it does depend on the state of your business.

Apply: The applications remain open for the whole year so you can apply at any time. It takes 8 months to process the application. You can submit the application online.

Design Leadership Programme (Now closed)

The design leadership program offers the public sector, businesses and universities a bespoke package of support and coaching to help them use design to innovate and grow. The funding is also offered to universities and science-based startups.

Funding: The design leadership programme is a subsidised programme offering up to 10 days of design and innovation-focused mentoring over a period of 6 to 18 months. Most programmes cost between £2000 & £10,000, and if your application is accepted you will receive a subsidy, meaning you will only have to pay 50%.

Apply: The full cost of Design Leadership Programme for technology ventures ranges from £1000+VAT depending on the need and scale of business. You can contact the council at the following email address: [email protected]

List of regional small business grants

AVDC Business Grant

Aylesbury Vale-based established businesses (e.g. those trading for more than a year) can apply for grant projects that help businesses continue to improve business performance and grow.  Once the application is received, it is evaluated to see whether the company is eligible or not.

Funding: The AVDC Business Grant can award a maximum of £5,000 for existing businesses (trading for more than a year), covering up to 50% of the cost (excluding VAT). Turnover is expected to exceed 10% per year from the date the grant is awarded.

Apply: If you are eligible and would like to receive an application form, you have to email or call. Their website is under construction, for enquiries you can contact Mal Hussain at [email protected]

Aylesbury Vale Business Startup Grant

Startup businesses in Aylesbury Vale (eg. those trading for at least three months or up to a year) can apply for grants aimed at improving their business performance and growth. The maximum number of employees you should have is 30. The fund director is the Aylesbury Vale district council.

Funding: The AVDC business fund can award a maximum of £3,000 for early-stage businesses to improve business performance and growth, with AVDC paying up to two-thirds of the cost.

Apply: You can find relevant details about the application here.

Fermanagh Enterprise Limited

Support and guidance for pre-startups, startups and growing businesses in Fermanagh.  The maximum number of employees you should have is 249, and the requirement is that applicants must be based in the rural areas of Fermanagh.

Funding: It is not clear that for how long or what period the support and guidance would be provided. Interested parties should contact them through the link given below.

Apply: You can contact them from the following link to get details about application forms.

Business Growth Leeds

Business Growth Leeds offers capital and R&D grants of up to £1 million to support expansion projects that create jobs in the Leeds city region. Businesses must have capital investment and/or research and development projects that will create jobs. The eligibility criteria is to be based in or moving to Leeds city region, have been established for at least 12 months and operate from commercial premises.

Funding: You can get funding of about £10,000 to £1,0000,000 depending on the scale and requirements of your business. The aim of the program is to create jobs specifically in digital and creative industries, low carbon and environmental industries.

Apply: You can apply for the grant here.

FIFE Investment Fund

The director of this fund is Business Gateway Fife, and the grant specifically focuses on small businesses. You shouldn’t have more than 49 employees and must be based in Fife. You will be given preference if you’re working in creative, environmental industries or a B2B market.

Funding: You can receive a grant of between £5,000 and £20,000. Business Gateway Fife administers funds on behalf of the Fife council. Applications must be part of a business review and a fully-functional business plan.

Apply: You can find application details on Fife’s website.

Cumbria Business Startup Support Programme

The fund director is the Cumbria Chamber of Commerce. You should not have more than 250 employees involved in your business. There is a telephone-based application to assess your eligibility.

Funding: The business Startup Support Programme (BSUS) offers free business advice, support and training to anyone looking to start a new business or set up a social enterprise, or those in the first 3 years of trading. There’s also business support offered to women based in rural Cumbria. The business training course focuses on areas such as social media marketing and search engine optimisation.

Apply: You can apply through the Cumbria Chamber website.

Regenerous

The Regenerous startup grant is available to businesses situated in the Merseyside region. The director of the fund is Regenerus, previously known as South Sefton Development Trust. To be eligible you must be based in Merseyside.

Funding: Start up support to new businesses setting up across Merseyside. If eligible, the programme includes a combination of workshops and one-on-one support from a qualified business adviser to produce your business plan and cash flow along with a startup grant of £250.

Apply: Application details are provided on their website.

Business Development Grant Scheme

The Business Development Startup grant scheme has been established to encourage the formation of new businesses in Scarborough Borough. The director of the funds is Scarborough Borough Council.

Funding: The amount of funding available is £1-£1000. Startup grants are targeted at new startups and companies less than 18-month old. An application can be made for assistance towards the cost of necessary equipment and machinery. Any grant awarded will be 50% of expenditure within limits of the grant amount.

Apply: You can apply through the details provided on their website.

E-Business Grant (Temporarily closed)

E-Business grants are focused on helping businesses develop e-commerce services. The director of the grant is the Welsh Government. You should have less than 250 employees and must be in business for at least a year.

Funding: The maximum amount of funding provided is £10,000. Businesses must be dealing in B2B type operations. The business must be situated in the convergence area of Wales to be eligible.

Apply: You can apply for the e-business support on the Welsh Government’s business website.

NBV Grant for New Businesses

The NBV business grant is for businesses based in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Greater Lincolnshire. Your business needs to be B2B and ready to start trading. It also has to be already registered with HMRC or Companies House.

Funding: The grant amount can be anywhere from £1,000 to £2,500 depending on the project spend.

Apply: You need to start by expressing your interest on their website here.

Business Development Grant Caerphilly

This grant is aimed at businesses that are looking to grow in Caerphilly. The maximum number of employees should be 250 or less. The director of the grant is Caerphilly County Borough Council. The business must be a full-time operation and be established in Caerphilly, and at least one of the owners or the directors must be involved in the business full time.

Funding: The maximum amount of funding available is £2,000.

Apply: You can apply through the details provided on their website.

Startup Grant West Dunbartonshire

The startup grant is reserved for people looking to launch their own business. The director of the grant is West Dunbartonshire Council. The maximum number of employees you should have to be eligible is 250. A business plan, as well as proof of trading, must be provided in order to be eligible.

Funding: A grant of £500 is available to help people over 18 with costs of starting a business.

Apply: You can inquire about the grant from the details provided on the West Dunbartonshire website.

Grants for New Businesses in Orkney

Overview: The grant is available to people who are looking to start a new business in the Orkney region. The business should comprise of no more than 9 employees. The grant is managed by the Orkney Business Gateway. The grant may cover any start-up costs such as equipment, training and marketing.

Funding: The maximum amount of funding provided is £1,000. Applicants for start-up funding must be developing a new, full-time start-up business. The business must not be launched prior to application submission. The applicant must submit a business plan with 2 years cash flow projections.

Apply: For more information, you can contact the Orkney Business Gateway via their website.

Related: A guide to business angels

Leicester for Business (Temporarily closed)

Leicester for Business is for pre-startup and business support. The maximum number of employees you should have is 249, and you must have a business address in Leicester and be over the age of 19 to avail the grant.  Business support is offered to individuals thinking of becoming self-employed or start a limited company.

Funding: The maximum amount of funding you can get is up to £3,000. Start-up companies are introduced to a network of clients and exposed to workshops and seminars which can help them grow. Small businesses will be provided with a business coach for 12 months to aid in their sustainability and growth.

Apply: Application is currently closed.

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