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Understanding the UK Grant System

Working to encourage trade and commerce throughout the UK

Ask about how to secure your share

Here’s the background

The total value of support schemes applicable to UK businesses is estimated at some £5 billion per annum.

All publicly funded grant schemes have, as their ultimate purpose, the encouragement and development of trade and commerce. New and growing businesses create jobs and bring wealth.

There is an extensive administration framework supporting the grants system which is generally accepted by the Government to still be overly bureaucratic, cumbersome and often difficult in nature.

If you’d like to cut through the process and take advantage of our free grants search facility and free grants eligibility assessment then email us here and we will channel your enquiry to the most appropriate advisor.

Here’s the current set up

The UK grant system is administered through a system of awarding bodies.

It should be noted that there are differing administrative frameworks for grants in England, Scotland and Wales.

Virtually any publicly funded organisation is potentially a provider of assistance to enterprise.

However, by their nature, some are more directly involved than others. Awarding bodies will be of European, national, or local origin.

European funds:

The European Commission is the main source of funds provided by the European Union. It administers a wide variety of schemes through its Structural Funds and by other means. Individual Directorates (e.g. Enterprise DG, Regional Affairs, Agriculture etc, also operate specific grant schemes).

National government funds:

In the UK national government can mean the Government of the United Kingdom (e.g. Parliament at Westminster) the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly or the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont. Each of these bodies has its own grouping of departments and agencies and, to a certain extent, its own policy objectives.

At any one time the number of awarding bodies who are nationally based probably exceeds one hundred. Amongst the most important of these are:

Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

(BERR) formerly the Department of Trade & Industry

The new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS)

The new Department for Children, Schools and Families

Department of Environment, Transport & the Regions

Industrial Development Board (N.Ireland)

Scottish Executive

Welsh Development Agency

Countryside Agency

Enterprise Ireland

Industrial Research & Technology Unit, etc

Local agencies funds:

In addition to the several hundred local government authorities, any of which are potential grant providers, there are a number of locally based agencies and organisations which have been established specifically to provide support for enterprise at local level.

If you’d like to cut through the process and take advantage of our free grants search facility and free grants eligibility assessment then email us here and we will channel your enquiry to the most appropriate advisor.

Here’s the detail on eligibility

Whether or not you qualify for any particular scheme is dependent on 3 main criteria:
Business Grants Location
Business Grants Size
National Government Grants Industry


The UK is comprised of four separate home countries. Each has its own institutions or awarding bodies offering their own schemes (in addition to those offered by the UK national government and the European Commission). The first element in the location criterion is, therefore, the particular home country in which your business is based.

The second element is whether the business is based in one of the many "special areas" into which the UK is divided. Since these areas are designated by the awarding bodies themselves and are different from each other - indeed, may be drawn up for one particular scheme - it is not easy to ascertain whether or not your business is located within the required boundary. It is necessary to consult the particular awarding body or the requisite map.


Certain schemes are restricted to small or medium sized organisations (SMEs). These are companies with less than 250 employees. Other schemes go further in their defined target definitions and may restrict application to those employing 50, or 20, or 10 employees.

Industry or Sector:

The industry in which the company operates is the third eligibility factor. This may affect eligibility on an inclusive or exclusive basis. Exclusive schemes are those which apply generally across industry sectors but specifically exclude a certain industry or sector. Such schemes are not common.

More likely to occur are industry specific (or inclusive) schemes. These are schemes which are established to tackle particular problems or issues affecting an industry sector.

Although any of the above restrictions may apply it should be noted that the vast majority of schemes apply without restriction to location, size, or industry sector.

If you’d like to cut through the process and take advantage of our free grants search facility and free grants eligibility assessment then email us here and we will channel your enquiry to the most appropriate advisor.

Here’s an overview of the administrative framework

As of 28th June 2007 the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) no longer exists and has been replaced by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).

The Department brings together functions from the former Department of Trade and Industry, including responsibilities for productivity, business relations, energy, competition and consumers, with the Better Regulation Executive (BRE), previously part of the Cabinet Office.

The Department will provide support to the new Business Council for Britain. The Council, made up of senior business leaders, will assist the Government in putting in place the right strategy to promote the long-term health of the UK economy.

The Department will also work closely with the new Department for Innovation, Universities and skills (DIUS). DIUS will be responsible for driving forward the Government’s long-term vision to make Britain one of the best places in the world for science, research and innovation, and to deliver the ambition of a world class skills base.

This new Department (DIUS) brings together functions from the former Department of Trade and Industry, including responsibilities for science and innovation, with further and higher education and skills, previously part of the Department for Education and Skills.

Recent changes to Assisted Areas and regional aid granted under EU legislation.

The Government published its response to the Assisted Areas public consultation on 10 October 2006, designating a new Assisted Areas Map for the UK to run from 1st Jan 2007 to 31st Dec 2013.

The map as proposed was formally approved by the European Commission on 20th December 2006 and came into effect from the start of 2007.

Here’s some detail on grants in England

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has direct responsibility for the Regional Development Agencies (RDA’s) in England.

The primary role of the RDA’s is as strategic drivers of regional economic development in their region. The RDA’s aim to co-ordinate regional economic development and regeneration, enable the regions to improve their relative competitiveness and reduce the imbalance that exists within and between regions. Under the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998, each Agency has five statutory purposes, which are:

National Government Grants To further economic development and regeneration
National Government Grants To promote business efficiency, investment and competitiveness
National Government Grants To promote employment
National Government Grants To enhance development and application of skill relevant to employment
European Grants To contribute to sustainable development

The Small Business Service (SBS) is an agency of the Department of Trade and Industry. Their vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to start and grow a business.

The SBS manages Business Link, a network of advice centres run by local providers for small business in England.

The Business Link operator network provides information and other services to help small business and start-ups throughout England.

Here’s some detail on grants in Scotland

The Scottish Executive has overall responsibility for Scotland’s investment strategies.

As part of its aim to foster long term sustainable economic growth in Scotland the Executive has a range of initiatives to encourage business start-ups and grow existing businesses. These include financial support and advice, both directly, and via other delivery agents.

Scottish Enterprise is Scotland's main economic development agency, funded by the Scottish Executive.

Business Gateway is the administrative body for SME’s (small and medium sized enterprises) in Scotland providing support and financial assistance including grants and funding to start-up and existing businesses.

There is a wide range of financial support, grants and funding available to Scottish businesses, some of which are detailed below:

(RSA) Regional Selective Assistance
This is the main national scheme of financial assistance to industry. It provides discretionary grants to investment projects that will create and safeguard employment in the Assisted Areas – areas designated for regional aid under European Community law. It is operated by the Scottish Executive’s RSA Scotland unit. Businesses of all sizes can apply for RSA, whether they are local or foreign-owned.

Ask us about our fast track system of streamlined process for applications up to £250k and the support available for projects that are low on capital expenditure but still create worthwhile jobs.

The Executive promotes a culture of enterprise, innovation and competitiveness in Scotland. A broad range of support is available through the Executive and other business development organisations in Scotland some of which are detailed below:

There are grant schemes targeted at promoting innovation which are part funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Some of these include:

R & D programmes

Two further Scottish Executive initiatives which are aimed at encouraging greater co-operation between SME’s and the Science Base include:


Knowledge Transfer Partnerships The Scottish Executive is a key sponsor of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships. This initiative can help a business to develop and grow by accessing the wealth of knowledge and expertise in the UK's universities, colleges and research organisations.

If applicable please ask us about commercially viable projects, which do not involve high levels of innovation that may also be eligible for support.

Here’s some detail on grants in Wales

Recent changes to Assisted Areas and regional aid granted under EU legislation.

New Regional Aid Guidelines for the period 2007-2013 were adopted by the Commission last year and these Guidelines enter into force from 1 January 2007.

The guidelines form the main basis for providing State aid in support of Regional Development in Wales.

The Regional Aid Guidelines set out the level of National Regional Aid that can be awarded in assisted areas 87(3)(a) and 87(3)(c) aimed at productive investment or job creation linked to the investment. In addition to productive investment and job creation, the new guidelines also allow for the provision of incentives to support business start ups and the early stage of development of small enterprises.

Grants and financial assistance for business in Wales is controlled through the Welsh Assembly Government.

The Welsh Assembly Government has stated that it wants to ensure that good quality projects do not falter through lack of funds.

There are many funding opportunities available through the Assembly Government that can assist with a wide range of schemes and initiatives.

The following is a selection of grant based initiatives available:

RSA (Regional Selective Assistance Grants)

These are available for capital expenditure projects taking place within Wales in Tier 1 and Tier 2 Areas, and which will create and/or safeguard jobs. Grants from £50K upwards, and running into millions are possible since there is no maximum stipulated by the RSA scheme. Projects can involve start-up, expansion, modernisation or restructuring.

AIG (Assembly Investment Grant)

This is available for capital expenditure projects undertaken by small and medium companies throughout Wales. It is limited to a maximum award of £50,000, but is not job creation dependant. It is available throughout Wales and provides grants between £5,001 and £50,000. Projects can involve new start-up, expansion, modernisation or restructuring.


This provides grant funding to help businesses through the key steps of the innovation journey:

Technical and commercial feasibility - to assess the viability of turning innovative ideas into new products, processes or technologies.

Industrial research - practical research to help prove the concept.

Pre-competitive development or design and development - to develop and test a prototype or pilot scale process.

Exploitation - to assist with commercial exploitation costs if you have used one or more of the other funding mechanisms.

Property Development Grant

This is available to private sector, commercial and industrial companies for provision of new premises or extension to existing premises. Support is dependent on the size of the company and its location according to the Assisted Areas, and is provided on the basis of the deficit between the cost of the proposed works and the value of the completed works.

Key criteria:
Small to medium sized enterprises with less than 250 employees based anywhere in Wales.

Large enterprises with more than 250 employees must be based within the Assisted Areas (Tier 1 and Tier 2).

Business Premises Improvement Grant This is available to private sector enterprises in Wales for the refurbishment, extension or fitting out of the premises they occupy (commercial or industrial). Support is given as a proportion of the difference between the capital cost and the value of the project - normally up to 50% of eligible development costs.

Wondering what to do next?

Simply make contact here.

For more information on our Business Grants service email us here and we will channel your enquiry to the most appropriate advisor.

Remember there’s absolutely no cost for initial consultations and assessments. We look forward to hearing from you.

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