Nigel Simmons

May 11, 2018

Growth through grants

Lack of adequate funding is the biggest killer of startup success – and even more lethal as companies strive to operate in increasingly competitive markets.

Yet there is an extensive range of grant funding available to businesses. Is this an opportunity for your venture?

Over recent years, the range of grants available has expanded significantly and the scope of the qualifying criteria has widened. This ensures that money reaches those businesses looking for funding opportunities, which would otherwise see projects delayed or even derailed due to a lack of financial resources.

Capital grants

The £3.2bn Regional Growth Fund (RGF) supports eligible projects and programmes that are raising private sector investment to create economic growth and sustainable employment. The grants are typically 20% to 30% of total spend and there are also interest-free loans available through the same scheme. Over £800m has been awarded to small and medium sized businesses across the country since the program began.

R&D grants

The smart scheme tackles the funding gap often experienced by many small and early stage companies with innovative ideas, high growth ambition and potential. The smart scheme helps companies assess potential markets, prove concepts and develop prototypes. By reducing financial risks, it aims to encourage SME investment, increase innovation capability, accelerate the commercialisation of new products and services and contribute to economic growth. There are three types of smart grant focusing on commercial viability, technical feasibility and prototype development, ranging in value up to £25k, £100k and £250k respectively.

Innovate UK collaborative projects

Collaborative funding projects from Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board) encourage industrial and research communities to work together on R&D projects in strategically important areas of science, engineering and technology, from which successful new products, processes and services can emerge.

Funding is typically available between £500k to £2m depending on the category of R&D activity.

A collaborative project must meet the following criteria:

  • At least two collaborators
  • A business led consortium, which may involve both business and research participants
  • Evidence of effective collaboration, value is created within the project from working together

Horizon2020 Dedicated SME Instrument (DSI)

Horizon2020 is the EU’s new programme for research and innovation. It will run from 2014 to 2020 with a budget of around £3bn.

SMEs are supported across Horizon2020 pillars or priorities through a new dedicated SME instrument.

The aim of the SME instrument is to:

  • Fill gaps in funding for early-stage, high-risk research and innovation by SMEs as well as stimulating breakthrough innovations
  • Target all types of innovative SMEs showing a strong ambition to develop, grow and internationalise
  • Provide support to all types of innovation, including non-technological, social and service innovations, given each activity has a clear European added value

The SME instrument covers all fields of science, technology and innovation, in a bottom-up approach to address societal challenge and enable industrial technology. This allows a wide variety of promising ideas, notably cross-sector and inter-disciplinary projects, to be funded.

The SME instrument provides easy access with simple rules and procedures, as well as a staged support in three phases which will cover the whole innovation cycle. The three phases can be summarised as follows:

Phase 1

The feasibility stage is used to assess the technological and commercial potential of a project. Companies use this to refine their concept and carry out risk assessment, IP regime, partner search, design study and pilot applications intention. Fixed grant of €50k.

Phase 2

A main grant is provided to undertake research and development with the emphasis on demonstration and market replication. This includes: development, prototyping, testing, piloting innovative processes, products and services, miniaturisation/design of products, planning and developing scaling-up (market segments, process etc.) and market replication. Grant of €0.5m to €2.5m.

Phase 3

The commercialisation phase will be supported indirectly through simplified access to debt and equity financial instruments, as well as various other measures, for example on IP protection.

Grants are a good way to secure the financial support you need as your venture matures.

To find out more about how we work with serious startups, have a look here. Or you can call Acconomy on 01202 678 993, or even email Nigel directly on


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