Need a grant? Here's the full list of free cash

Rhiannon Philps, personal finance expert at NerdWallet, offers this mega-list of schemes in the UK
Rhiannon Philps
A box of money wrapped in a ten pound note, with a bow on top
There's a treasure trove of free cash out there

Startups deserve a bit of love and attention. And what better way to fire up the rocket boosters of growth than an injection of free cash, aka a grant? Here's a comprehensive run-down of the schemes available to startups and small companies across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

What is a small business grant?

Small business grants and start up business grants are non-repayable sums of money that are normally given for a specific purpose or project, such as training, employment, expansion, research, property improvements, or to revitalise a local area. They can come from European, national, regional, and local sources, and are available for a range of industries.

Each small business grant comes with different guidelines and eligibility criteria, and many also have a fairly lengthy application process due to the level of competition surrounding business funding.

What small business grants are available in the UK?

The number of small business grants across the UK frequently changes, as deadlines expire and new schemes are introduced.

So it is important to bear in mind that the list below is not exhaustive. There may be other small business grants available that are specific to your locality or industry. You can check for the most up-to-date funding options at your local business hub, the government’s business funding search tool, and your dedicated industry organisations.

Architectural Heritage Fund

Sectors: Not for profit

Amount: Varies based on location and grant requested

This fund has a number of different grants available to organisations, with the aim of transforming the appearance of high streets and town centres, as well as stimulating the local economy. The exact aims and details of each grant varies between home countries. Organisations can find grants to fund feasibility work into a project and then receive further grants for developmental and larger project costs.

Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) Grants

Sectors: Registered CITB businesses

Amount: Depends on training course costs

Employers in the construction industry can apply for business funding to contribute towards the costs of training their employees. The scheme helps to make sure construction workers have the right skills and qualifications to perform their work to a high standard.

Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme

Sectors: Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

Amount: Up to £3,500

SMEs without access to gigabit-capable internet connections in rural areas can apply for a broadband voucher. SMEs in Wales may also be eligible for additional funding from the Welsh government.

Help to Grow: Digital

Sectors: SMEs

Amount: Up to £5,000

With the Help to Grow: Digital scheme, you can get a discount of up to 50% off a list of pre-approved business software, including accounting and customer relationship management programmes, worth up to a maximum of £5,000.

The UK government Help to Grow scheme offers discounted software worth up to £5k

Innovation Competitions

Sectors: Various

Amount: Various

There are numerous innovation competitions that can help businesses access funding. The link above on gov.uk is updated regularly, with new opportunities across many different sectors opening as others close, so there may be one that applies to your business.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP)

Sectors: Any (in partnership with academic/research organisation and qualified graduates)

Amount: Up to 67% of project cost (SMEs) and up to 50% (large); total costs can range between £75,000 and £90,000 per project year

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership can help your business get the specialist skills and expertise it needs to fulfil an innovative project and bring about change. The grant contributes to the costs of hiring a suitably qualified graduate, while also giving your business access to specialist resources, expert input and consultancy, and a range of support from the wider network.

Power to Change Programmes

Sectors: Community businesses, social enterprises, charities

Amount: Development grants of up to £10,000, match equity investment up to £100,000 (Booster); up to £10,000 match funding (Crowdmatch)

These programmes aim to support community enterprises that make a positive difference to the local area, both those that are starting up and those looking to grow and become more sustainable. The programmes also offer expert support and advice alongside the grant funding.

Plug-in Car and Van Grants

Sectors: Any

Amount: Up to £1,500 to cover up to 35% of purchase price

Thanks to this grant, businesses can receive a discount when buying specified models of new, low-emission vehicles. To get the benefit of this grant, businesses don’t need to apply for anything as dealers include the value of the grant in the vehicle’s price.

Research & Development (R&D) Tax Credits

Sectors: Science and technology SMEs

Amount: Various

While not technically a grant, R&D tax relief can provide free funding if your business is trying to innovate in the science and technology sector. If you are an eligible SME, you can deduct 130% of your qualifying costs from your yearly profit, on top of the usual 100% deduction, giving a 230% total If your business is loss making, you can instead claim a tax credit worth up to 14.5% of the surrenderable loss.

The National Lottery Community Fund

Sectors: Community, charity, not-for-profit, voluntary

Amount: Smaller grants between £300 and £10,000; larger funding up to £500,000

The Community Fund aims to bring a positive impact to local communities by building strong relationships, bringing people together, improving spaces in the local area, and supporting people as they reach their potential. It contains many types of funds, from smaller grants between £300 and £10,000, to larger funding up to £500,000.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Sectors: Charities, community groups, non-for-profits and relevant individuals

Amount: From £3,000 to £5 million

The Heritage Fund is designed to help heritage projects – whether they are national, regional or local – aimed at boosting the local economy, and creating better places to live, work and visit. The grants can be used for a wide range of projects including training costs, repair and maintenance, professional fees and other heritage-focused activities.

Trusthouse Charitable Foundation

Sectors: Charities, not-for-profit

Amount: £2,000 to £10,000 to cover up to 50% of costs (Small Grants Programme for SMEs with annual income under £250,000); £10,000 to £100,000 (Major Grants for businesses with turnover up to £1 million)

Organisations can receive a grant from Trusthouse to help with running costs or one-off capital costs for projects that will help solve either rural issues or urban deprivation.

UK Tradeshow Programme

Sector: Export businesses with an annual turnover between £250,000 and £5 million

Amount: £2,000 to £4,000

If you are an exporter looking to exhibit at overseas trade shows, then the UK Tradeshow Programme can help you access £2,000 or £4,000 in grants towards exhibition costs, stand costs (including design, construction and dressing), conference fees and promotional materials.

UnLtd Social Enterprise Funding

Sectors: Social businesses

Amount: £5,000 to £15,000 for social businesses running between one and four years

These awards are designed to help businesses targeting lasting social change. For businesses that have been up and running between one and four years, UnLtd offers grants of £5,000 to £15,000 in order to help you grow and expand.

What start-up business grants are available across the UK?

Although not strictly a start-up grant, per se, the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) can help you raise funds in the early stages of your business.

SEIS promotes investment into early stage companies by offering tax relief to individual investors in your company. Your start-up can raise no more than £150,000 in SEIS investment, and you will need to make sure you adhere to the scheme’s rules to ensure your investors continue to receive their tax relief.

Social entrepreneurs across the UK looking to start a business, or whose business has been up and running for less than a year, can also access between £500 and £5,000 in start-up business grants from UnLtd.

Small business and start-up grants in England

On top of the grants available across the UK, there are a range of small business grants and start up grants specifically created for England and its composite regions.

To make sure you are up to date with the various grants available in England, you can search the Local Enterprise Partnership growth hub for your region, or use the government’s nationwide business funding search tool.

Below is a selection of small business and start up grants available in England alone.

Start up business grants in England

Across the country there are a number of start up business grants to help get your idea off the ground. These include:

  • AD:VENTURE: If you are a new business-to-business (B2B) SME, or have been trading for up to 36 months, in the Leeds city region and West Yorkshire, you can access start-up grants from £1,000 to £25,000.
  • Growing Graduate Enterprise: If you are a graduate, or soon-to-be graduate, in the Greater Lincolnshire area, you can potentially access start up grants of up to £10,000.
  • Malvern Hills Enterprise Scheme: If you are a new or young business in the Malvern Hills district, in Worcestershire, there are grants of £500 to £1,000 available if you meet the scheme’s criteria.
  • NBV Business Grant: If your B2B or business-to-consumer (B2C) start up is based in Greater Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Nottingham City, Broxtowe and parts of Gedling, Rushcliffe and Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, you can access grants worth between £1,000 and £2,500 to go towards equipment and consultancy services.
  • Scarborough Business Development Grant Scheme: Start up business grants of up to £1,000 are available in the Yorkshire town of Scarborough for new businesses and those trading for less than 18 months.
  • South East Midlands Start-up Programme: If your new business is based in the South East Midlands, then you could be eligible for a matched funded start up business grant between £500 and £5,000 to go towards your development costs.
  • SSI Task Force Business Advice – Start Up Fund: If you are based in the Tees Valley, and have been affected by the closure of SSI steelworks, you could access a start up grant worth up to £10,000.

Creative and cultural grants in England

If you work in the creative and culture sectors, then these are some of the grants opportunities available to you:

  • Arts Council England Funding: There are a number of grants available for cultural organisations through Arts Council England, including National Lottery Project Grants of up to £30,000.
  • Big House Elevator Grant: If you are a business based in Derbyshire or Nottinghamshire, you can access grants of £1,050 and £2,250 to support your creative or digital projects.
  • Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund: If you are a cultural organisation based within one of the 11 Northern Local Enterprise Partnership areas, you can access funds up to £150,000, with 33% of the sum coming as a grant, and the rest as a loan. The grant portion can only be used for capital expenditure.

Business energy grants in England

The following business grants are related to energy costs and usage:

  • Business Energy Efficiency Programme (BEEP): If you are based in Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Telford & Wrekin and Shropshire, you can access grants worth up to £20,000 to cover up to 40% of the costs of making your business more energy efficient.
  • Energy Efficiency Grant: If you are based in Coventry or Warwickshire, you can get grants of up to £50,000 to cover up to 40% of the costs of making your business more energy efficient.
  • Energy for Business: In Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, your business can potentially access up to £8,000 to cover 40% of the costs of improving your energy efficiency.
  • Low Carbon Business Evolution Programme (LCBEP): In Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, you can access £2,000 to £20,000 to cover 60% of the costs of implementing energy efficiency recommendations.

Science and research grants in England

If you work in the science and research sectors, you may be able to get assistance through the following schemes:

  • Innovation Programme: If you are based in Coventry and Warwickshire, and work in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, engineering, digital technology and assistive technology, you can access grants worth up to £25,000.
  • Medilink INSTILS: In the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire regions, life sciences businesses can access Specialist Networking Grants up to £3,000, Innovation Support Grants up to £20,000, and Med Tech Trials Grants up to £50,000.
  • Medilink SoLSTICE: In the Leicester and the Leicestershire area, life sciences businesses can access Specialist Networking Grants up to £3,000, Innovation Support Grants up to £20,000, and Med Tech Trials Grants up to £50,000.

General business growth and expansion grants

There are many business grants available aimed at SMEs looking to grow and expand. These include:

  • Business Growth and Digital Growth Grants (GLLEP): In the Lincolnshire area, you can access grants worth £1,000 to £5,000 to cover 40% to 50% of costs related to creating new jobs or significantly increasing your turnover.
  • Chichester District Council Grant Programme: If you are an SME in Chichester, in West Sussex, looking to implement growth projects, improve publicly owned spaces, or projects designed to help residents most in need, you can access grants both under and over £1,000.
  • County Durham Growth Fund: SMEs based in County Durham can get grants covering 20% to 45% of eligible expenditure for projects costing at least £100,000.
  • East Sussex Invest 7 (ESI7): If your business is based in East Sussex, you can access grants from £10,000 to £25,000 with a minimum matchfunding of 60% for projects aimed at creating jobs and supporting the local economy.
  • Homeworking Support Initiative: If you are a business in Buckinghamshire looking for support in transitioning to working from home, you can access grants between £500 and £2,000.
  • Invest to Grow: If you are based in the East Midlands, and work in one of the eligible sectors (such as manufacturing, life sciences, construction, and engineering), you can access grants worth £15,000 to £250,000 for projects with a minimum cost of £50,000.
  • Manufacturing Growth Programme: If you are a SME manufacturer based in the West Midlands, Yorkshire & Humber, parts of the East Midlands, or the South East, you can access grants starting from £1,000 to go towards an ‘improvement project’.
  • New Anglia Small Grants and Growing Business Fund Scheme: There is a range of grants available in Norfolk and Suffolk, including Small Grant Scheme, Road to Net Zero Grants, and the Growth Innovation Fund, all worth from £1,000 to £25,000.
  • North-East Business Support Fund: If you are based in the County Durham, Northumberland, Tees Valley or Tyne & Wear region, you can access grants covering 35% to 40% of costs for improvement projects worth up to £8,000.
  • Oxfordshire eScalate Grant: Social good and scale-up enterprises in Oxfordshire can access grants from £1,000 to £25,000 to cover up to 50% of costs related to business growth and job creation.
  • Stoke and Staffordshire Small Business Grant Schemes: If you are based in Stoke-on-Trent or Staffordshire, you can get grants from £10,000 to £100,000 to cover 10% to 30% of the costs of expanding your premises and buying plant, machinery and equipment under the Grants for Growth scheme, or business grants from £1,500 to £10,000 for smaller growth projects.

Other forms of business financing

If you are unsuccessful in applying for a business grant, there are a few other ways you can try and secure funding.

You could go down the crowdfunding route and try to raise money directly. Or to turn to another type of peer-to-peer lending platform in the search for funds. You could even look for an angel investor to help expand your business.

Of course there are also traditional business loans and start-up loans which can help you access the funds you need to grow your organisation.

Written by
Rhiannon Philps
Written by
July 6, 2022