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Business grants: a free help for start-ups

In the UK, there are literally hundreds of millions of pounds in government-backed grants and assistance available to businesses. The problem, however, is where to find the right grant for you. This helpful guide includes tips and advice on the best places to start looking for available funds so your new business can get off to the best possible start.

Trade Support Finder

Most business grants come from the government, Business Link, local authorities, Regional Development Agencies (RDA), the European Union, or occasionally a charity. The quickest and easiest way to find out which of your funds may be available to you is to use the Business Support Finder grant database. This free online service is easy to use: enter your business location, business sector and your support needs, and moments later a list will appear showing links to all the relevant financing opportunities you may be eligible for.

Regional Development Agencies

The Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) are one of the main sources of grants for new businesses in the UK. Although their investment funds have shrunk somewhat in recent years, England’s nine GDRs, for example, still have accumulated funds of £1.76bn (2010-2011). Here are links to the UK RDAs: England’s nine RDAs; North Ireland; Wales (see also European Funding Office for Wales); and Scottish Enterprise (see also Highlands and Islands Enterprise). Incidentally, the local business associations will replace the RDAs in March 2012.

Innovation, Research and Development

There are many grants available for start-ups in the fields of innovation, research and development. Follow the relevant regional link for more information: England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Other potential funding sources include: R&D tax credits; the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI); Innovation Vouchers; European R&D grants; and EUREKA, a pan-European funding initiative.

Business Investment Grant (GBI)

If you need a substantial grant to help with the cost of expensive assets such as business premises, staff, equipment or machinery, consider applying for a Business Investment Grant (GBI). To find out if your company is eligible, go to the Business Link site where you will find full information, tips on how to apply and contact details. Note that the initiative is known as the Enterprise NI Loan Fund (ENILF) in Northern Ireland and Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) in Scotland.

More financing opportunities

Other business grant and assistance schemes include: Enterprise Financial Guarantee Scheme (EFG); Enterprise Capital Funds (ECF); European Small Business Portal; European Investment Fund; Capital for Companies; and The Prince’s Trust (for young entrepreneurs).

The resources listed above are just the tip of the iceberg, and there are many more grant schemes and financial assistance available to UK businesses (over 6,000 according to the grants database, Grantfinder). With that in mind, it’s time to start looking. Remember, the money is intended to encourage entrepreneurship and stimulate business success in the UK, so if your start-up meets the criteria, you could be in line for a substantial cash prize.

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