Startup & small business grants simplified

Business grants remain a crucial source of government funding for many UK businesses. It’s often essential in getting a new capital development off the ground, or for exploring new and innovative models to solve some of society’s toughest social problems.

Business grants
Innovation grants

Looking for innovation grants?

Innovation funds are grant funding programmes that offer financial backing to organisations and groups that are looking to research and develop a process, product or service, test innovative ideas and/or collaborate with other organisations. Is your business eligible?

How Swoop can help

Step number 1

Head to the  ‘grant funding’ section of your Swoop account after entering your company information.

Step number 1
Identify grants
Match you with a grant writer
Step number 2

See your matches

View all available grants that may be right for you, saving you hours of research time.

Match you with a grant writer
Step number 3

Apply

We then send you directly from our grant finder through to the application page for the relevant grant provider.

Step number 3
Prepare application
Continued support
Step number 4

Continually review your matches

Currently we have over 400 grants on the platform and we continue to update the tool as new grants come to the market. We recommend reviewing your grant matches at least quarterly to ensure you are up to date with the options available to you.

Continued support

Tips for applying​

Timing. Ensure you are applying at an appropriate stage and have a clear opportunity to take advantage of. New funds open all around the year, so make sure to check Swoop’s grant finder on a regular basis for new grants you may be eligible for.

Define the opportunity and make sure you are eligible and fit the scope for the specific grant. It is easy to spend time applying for grants which are not suitable for your business.

Have a defined project and outline and highlight the impact it’ll have to align with the scope. Make your application worthy of receiving funding by ensuring you have done all the necessary preparation.

Outline the costs involved in the project and ensure you justify why they are needed and how much is needed to cover these costs.

Share your objectives clearly. Make sure you are clear what success looks like as a result of taking on a small business grant. How will you know when you’ve got there? What economic and social impact will your project have?

Outline a timeline and projections of progress expected to be achieved as these will be monitored closely if you are successful and mentioned within the scope.

Andrea Reynolds, Swoop’s CEO & Co-Founder
Andrea Reynolds
Swoop’s CEO & Co-Founder

A word from Andrea

"There’s a wide range of grants available across several sectors including manufacturing, tech, transport, energy, information and communication technologies, security, climate, aerospace, food, health, environment, and many more. Finding the one that best fits your business needs is key.

If you successfully obtain a grant, you may also want to consider grant advance funding, which is a type of loan that allows you to receive the grant value sooner, and simply pay off the balance of your loan when you receive the grant funding."

Rachel Wait

Page written by Rachel Wait. Last reviewed on November 28, 2023. Next review due April 6, 2024.

What is a business grant?

A business grant is a sum of money awarded to a business to help it grow and develop – the money could be invested in training, equipment or reaching new markets, for example. Business grants are usually awarded by the government or other companies and, unlike a business loan, business grants do not need to be repaid.

What grants are available for startups and small businesses in the UK?

There are hundreds of business grants available in the UK, with many aimed at specific industries, community groups or types of business. If you’re a startup or small business you’ll be able to choose from the following:

Innovation grants: these are provided by a variety of funding bodied such as Innovate UK to support innovative ideas and business growth, including those from the UK’s world-class research base.

The National Lottery Heritage Fundprovides grants to sustain and transform the UK’s heritage. This can include investment in museums, parks, historic places and cultural traditions.

R&D tax creditsthese are cash payments from the government to encourage companies to carry out research and development projects that relate to science or technology.

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs)there are 38 LEPs across England. These are voluntary partnerships between local authorities and businesses that provide business funding, support and guidance in their local areas.

New Enterprise Allowance: provides funding and support to those looking to start or develop a business. You need to be aged 18 or over and either you or your partner must receive Universal Credit, Job Seeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance, or you must get Income Support and be a lone parent, sick or disabled.

The Prince’s Trustsupports young people aged 18 to 30 who want to start and run their own business. As well as providing funding and resources, the Trust also provides training and mentoring.

Where can I find small business grants in the UK?

There’s a range of funding and grant options available for small businesses, depending on where you live in the UK.

Small business grants in England. There are 38 regional Growth Hubs to be found on the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) Network website and these can provide funding and advice to help boost your business in your local economy.

Small business grants in Scotland. Depending on where you live in Scotland, you may be able to apply for a business grant from Scottish Enterprise, or you could be eligible for a grant from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise or local councils. Take a look at the Scottish Government’s funding advice page for more information.

Small business grants in Wales. The finance locator on the Business Wales website can help you look for grants your business may be able to apply for and it also provides information on the application process. You may be able to get funding from the Welsh government, the UK government, local authorities and charitable organisations.

Small business grants in Northern Ireland. If your business is based in Northern Ireland, nibusinessinfo.co.uk provides a number of resources to help you understand your grant options. This includes government support, as well as innovation, and research and development grants including Invest NI Innovation Vouchers, which provide access to a public sector knowledge provider e.g. University, College or Institute of Technology to work with you on an innovation project.

Swoop’s grant calendar. Overwhelmed by the UK business grants landscape? Try Swoop’s grants calendar and filter for grants by date, industry, country, or county.

How do I write a business grant proposal?

When writing a business grant proposal, it’s worth keeping the following points in mind:

  • Write in plain English and avoid jargon
  • Be specific about what you plan to do
  • Show how your business meets the grant qualifying criteria
  • Be clear what success looks like as a result of taking on a grant
  • Create specific aims and well-defined criteria to quantify success
  • Provide evidence that your team is capable of delivering the work, as well as a return on the grant funder’s investment
  • Make your budget as specific as possible

Writing a successful grant application is no easy task and it’s well worth your while engaging the services of a professional grant writer. Speak to our grant experts who can help maximise your chances of receiving a grant. 

How do I apply for a small business grant?

Swoop has a list of accessible grants you can apply for, whether you’re an established business or a startup. You can view the many options available to you by registering with Swoop. There’s a wide range of grants available across several sectors including grants for manufacturing, tech businesses, transport, energy, information and communication technologies, security, climate, aerospace, food, health, environment, and more. 

Alternatives to grant funding

If you’re not sure whether grant funding is right for you and your business, there are alternatives to consider, including business loans and equity finance.

With a business loan, you simply borrow a lump sum of money and then repay this sum with added interest. You can typically borrow up to 25% of your annual turnover or £10,000 to £50 million. Lenders include high-street banks, challenger banks, online lenders and small local specialists.

Equity finance, on the other hand, is a way of raising fresh capital by selling shares of your company in return for a share of the profits, usually a share in the ownership (equity) of the business and/or a share in the running of the business. It can be a good option for new or small businesses finding it hard to get a loan.

Frequently asked questions​

Written by

Rachel Wait

Rachel has been writing about finance and consumer affairs for over a decade, helping people to get to grips with their finances and cut through the jargon. She's written for a range of websites and national newspapers including MoneySuperMarket, Money to the Masses, Forbes UK, and Mail on Sunday. Rachel has covered almost every financial topic, from car insurance and credit cards, to business bank accounts and mortgages.

To read our editorial policy, please click here.

No, you won’t need to repay the amount awarded through a business grant, nor will you need to pay interest on it.

Yes you can. Although many grants are geared towards businesses that have been trading for one to two years or those that are more established, there are a number of grants specifically tailored towards businesses yet to start trading.

A Smart Grant is Innovative UK’s ‘Open grant funding’ programme which seeks ‘the best game-changing and commercially viable innovative or disruptive ideas’ from almost any industry. All proposals must be business focused. The competition usually runs three to four times a year and project costs range from £25,000 to £2 million.

In the March 2021 Budget, a £5 billion Restart Grant fund was unveiled to offer up to £6,000 per premises for non-essential retail businesses and up to £18,000 per premises for hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses.

The scheme aims to give businesses the financial certainty required to plan ahead and relaunch trading in coming months. Support is likely to be provided until 21 June 2021, when it’s hoped that all coronavirus restrictions will be lifted.

Match funding for grants means that in order to receive a particular business grant, you will need to put up some of your own funds. Grant organisations might request match funding to give them the reassurance that you are serious about the project being invested in and that you are able to raise adequate funds to support it.

Grant advance funding refers to a financial arrangement where companies that participate in government grant programs can access a portion of their future grant capital in advance. In other words, it’s a loan to get cracking on your grant-funded project.

It allows businesses to receive a portion of the grant funds before completing the milestones or project requirements outlined in the grant agreement. It helps companies maintain cash flow, meet financial obligations, and progress with their projects without waiting for the complete disbursement of the grant funds.

Yes – because you won’t be expected to repay grant money (as you would with a loan), bad credit shouldn’t be a problem.

However, it’s important to thoroughly check the general terms and criteria – such as business size, grant purpose, location and industry type – before you apply to make sure you qualify.

To make your application worthy of receiving funding, it’s important to do all the necessary preparation. As part of this, you’ll need a solid and realistic business plan with sales projections, cash flow and loss forecasts. Your business plan should be tailored for the grant you’re applying for and, if you are already trading, you’ll need to provide bank statements as evidence of your finances.

Always prepare your application as early as you can to ensure you don’t miss the deadline. It’s worth getting a second opinion from a mentor, senior colleague or expert and be sure to proofread and spell check your application before submitting it.

Innovation funds are grant funding programmes that offer financial backing to organisations and groups that are looking to research and develop a process, product or service, test innovative ideas and/or collaborate with other organisations. If your business has a focus on innovation or you are trying to bring a new product to the market, innovation grants could be a good option to explore.

Yes, you can claim both. In fact, if you receive a grant, it’s likely that at least some of your development work will qualify for R&D tax credits. However, being awarded a grant will have an impact on your R&D tax credit claim, so it’s important to plan carefully and seek expert advice before proceeding.

Cash grants are usually taxable because they are classed as a form of income. This means that once you have subtracted the relevant allowances and expenses, the sum left over will be liable to tax.

The government will generally only allocate funding to businesses that meet specific requirements, such as; location, business size, and trading duration.

For more information on how grant funding is allocated, click here.

Given the higher likelihood of male-owned businesses receiving funding, organisations are increasingly focusing on funding women in business to provide them with more opportunities for success.

Register today to explore your options

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