What government and charity grants are available for small businesses?

start up finance

You’ve got an idea and the drive to make your seed of a business a success, but you’re lacking one vital ingredient; start up finance. Sometimes, having a solid business plan is just not enough. You need funds to make your plan a reality. There are lots of funding options available for budding entrepreneurs but few are better than a grant.

Through there are hundreds of government and charitable grants available, it isn’t always obvious where to look to find them and they can be competitively fought over. So where are the best places to find grants? And how can you make the most of the opportunities on offer? But first of all, what is a grant and what makes them such a great way to fund a start up?


Grants are awards of money or discounted rates set aside to help fund new businesses or to give existing businesses a boost. Government and charitable grants are usually designed to address a particular need or shortage in society, and are often targeted at a certain sector or group, such as those who are unemployed, or young entrepreneurs. Crucially, grants are sums of money that do not ever need to be repaid. If you are successful in receiving a one, it is one of the best ways to raise capital for your new venture. They can help you save money, lower your start up costs, and help grow your business.

So where can you look for these magical pots of money? Here are a few of the grants currently available for new business owners. Each comes with their own set of eligibility criteria and targeted groups so be sure to check the information carefully before making an application.

Prince’s Trust Grants

The Prince’s Trust has a distinguished history dating back to 1976. Set up by the Prince of Wales with the aim of providing start up finance and support to young entrepreneurs in the UK, it has been the starting point of many of the nation’s most successful business owners. Aside from the provision of grants, it also has an exclusive enterprise program which provides mentorship for young entrepreneurs.

At Prince’s, it is believed that grants are not the only solution. Entrepreneurs must have a sense of direction, and a way to implement the plans they have. However, they also recognise that without start up finance, there might not be a business at all, so their grants, which have so far helped 86,000 young people launch their venture, are available for anyone who is 18 to 30 years old and has a big idea.

You can find more information and an application form here. The grants are competitively fought over however so to stand a chance of being shortlisted and getting called in for an interview, do your research and take advantage of the pre-application help the trust provides.

There are two categories for which the grants are provided. The first category is as an individual which can see you awarded up to £1500. The second category is as a business group. You can get up to £3000 for the start of your business this way. A sum of £250 can also be awarded to individuals to assist them in measuring the market value of their products.

Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)

Just as the name implies, the SBRI initiative is directed towards small businesses and is meant to aid the research, and development of new products and services for the public sector. This initiative focuses on innovations and creative business models that can bring a difference to the things that already exist. Entirely new ideas are also welcomed.

The reward comes in the form of contracts or grants. Any business is entitled to apply for this grant, provided they are trying to solve a specific problem in the public sector or improve public services. Initially, you can be given a sum of anywhere between £50,000 to £100,000, and if your idea is promising enough, you may get up to £1,000,000 to build and finalise your project.

Innovation vouchers

These are similar to the SBRI in terms of support for innovation. But they are smaller amounts in comparison to those offered by the SBRI. The innovation voucher initiative is not like other regular grants. You do not get the grant paid to you. Rather, you get the grant in the form of experts, or professional input into your business idea. Once you have an idea or a product, the government provides you with the necessary technical human resources to help bring the product to reality. With this initiative, the government will give you up to £5,000 to be paid to consultants, experts or professionals who will help your business grow.

The innovation vouchers are a part of the Innovate UK program. The program is geared towards helping UK-businesses, entrepreneurs, and research organisations compete for government-based grants. The proceeds from the grant can then be used for research, product and service development, testing of innovation, and partnership with other established organisations.

Innovate UK under this scheme will provide you with experts from FE colleges, Technology and Research Institutes, IP advisers, advisers on design, universities, and consultancy centres. All will be product-specific and will offer you the expertise needed to bring your business to a firm start.

Regional Growth Fund (RGF)

This grant is for businesses in need of more sizeizdable grants. If you have a business that needs an investment that is just short of a million euros, then the RGF provides you with the avenue to obtain such grants. To get these grants, you do not need to go directly to the government. There are local and national organisations that have been accredited, and given specific amounts of funds to provide to the grant seekers.

To qualify for this loan, you must have a business based in England. You must also have a business and growth plan, clearly stating the way forward. You must also be able to create job opportunities, or at least protect the ones you have created.

The RGF started in 2011, and between then and now, has supported over 10,000 small and medium-sized businesses. You can find many different types of grants depending on what you are looking for. There are niche specific grants; there are grants for bad credit, grants for training, and a whole lot more. It is a great way to help new and struggling businesses find their feet.

The grants highlighted in this article are just a few of the many hundreds available. For a comprehensive list of where to find others, search the government’s online finance finder tool.