Innovate UK video series: Essential Business Advice for Government Grant Funding

Written by Innovate UK for Aston University

Funding a startup or SME can be tricky. Investment isn’t your only option. Have you considered a government grant? There are over 200 available to UK businesses. These tend to be an attractive option – often they won’t require repayment or the loss of equity. If you’re looking to take this route, Innovate UK is on hand to help. Here’s Innovate UK’s essential advice for startup grant funding.

#1: Research Your Options

“Be bold – there are a wide range of grants available for projects that involve significant innovation. Think disruptive innovation, not incremental” – Paula Rogers-Brown, National Venturefest Network Manager.

Researching your options is the best place to start. offer a comprehensive list of government grants available to UK companies. From startup to established business, you’ll find suitable funding opportunities.

Pay attention to local and regional opportunities. Sometimes funding will be available to companies within specific geographical areas.

Naturally, some industries will attract more support than others – manufacturing and tech businesses tend to get the most financial assistance. Research and development work is also well funded.

 #2: Ensure You Are Eligible

“Read the documentation fully and familiarise yourself with the scope and eligibility criteria” – Richard Awbery, Customer Support Executive at Innovate UK.

So, you’ve found the grant you’d like to go for – now it’s time to check whether you’re actually eligible. Grants are usually highly selective in their criteria. This is done to ensure they only attract specific types of projects. Before you waste time applying, be sure your business qualifies.

 To do this, you’ll need to supply accurate details on your startup/SME. This may include:

  • Company size
  • Type of business
  • Current funding
  • Reason for wanting the grant
  • Industry you operate in


Some grants will require match funding – before applying, ensure you can commit to this.

#3: Prepare Fully Before Applying

“Preparation at the bid stage really pays off, greatly improving the chances of success at the assessment stage and throughout the project” – David Elson, Innovation Lead at Innovate UK.

Make your application count – do the necessary preparation.

To achieve any form of funding, you’ll need a solid and professional business plan in place. This should involve precise and realistic projections, cash flow, profit and loss forecasts. Your business plan should be tailored to your grant application in the same way you’d alter your CV for a job application.

Be prepared to offer evidence of your financial situation – this may include presenting bank statements.

#4: Explore Your Alternatives

“Look for loans that are unsecured, so there’s no need to put forward any assets or guarantors to support an application” – David English, Chief Marketing Officer at Startup Loans Company.

A grant may not be for you. There are plenty of similar alternatives which may be more attractive or suitable.

Soft loans are one option. These are loans with lower interest rates, more generous lending terms and are usually government backed. Usually, these only need to be repaid when you’re earning a profit.

If you’re interested in more business advice like this, subscribe to Innovate UK’s YouTube channel. 

Additionally you can follow @InnovateUK on Twitter here.

Aston University has a strong track record of working with Innovate UK, the UK's innovation agency, on a wide range of projects. For more information, please email