The Government funding safety brief

With so many UK Government and EU funding and grant options available to give your company a bit of a boost, it is crucial to know what you’re getting into and how to make most of them. Here’s our guide for evaluating public sector funding options and key questions to consider before beginning the proposal writing process.

Know your goals

What are the biggest obstacles you currently have that prevent you from going ahead? How would you use the funding to grow your business if it came without any strings attached? Be specific, be detailed, be realistic – that’s your starting point. Identify gaps in your current technology, process or team that need filling. It’s alright if they do not align with ’cure cancer and end world hunger’ just yet – that is the next step. First you need to know what outcome would make it all worthwhile for you and your business.

Know their goals

The Government do not care about your specific problem, they’ve got their own. And yes, most likely it is to support the economic growth, reduce public sector costs or deal with the inevitable aging of the population. The good thing is – every problem is an opportunity, and your company might as well be the solution. Try to distance yourself from the business owner position for a moment and take a look at the bigger picture – can you provide a piece of the puzzle to help solve any of these global challenges? Sometimes it might prove difficult to find the greater good or universal purpose – friends, family and discussions with the team or customers can help you discover another perspective.

Know the purpose

There are hundreds of funding programmes available from the Government with different goals and activities. Some of them have big budgets, some have small. Some offer funding, some expertise. Some are happy for you to report back revenue growth, others want to reduce the carbon footprint on a global scale. Use the goals identified in previous steps to narrow down to funding measures best suited for your needs. Finding the synergy is tricky and may need some creative thinking or adapting to fit the mould.

Know the strings attached

There are no free lunches when it comes to Government funding. Make sure you’ve had a hard look at your business and answer these three questions before going ahead:

  • Can your cash flow take the heat? Not all funding programmes provide pre-financing and you may be required to pay the bill before filing for the reimbursement. Depending on the programme, reporting and approvals may take months before you get your money back and things often move slower than anticipated resulting in inevitable project delays. Review your financial plan to ensure there is enough flexibility.
  • Do you have enough resources? Dealing with the government reports and processes is not for the weak of heart. You will need a well set up expense and activity tracking, and a project manager who keeps an eye on three big D-s: deliverables, deadlines and damage (cost of running the project, that is). Make sure you have enough man-power at hand to support the project team when necessary.
  • Is the risk acceptable? Once you’ve made a promise to the Government, you are going to be held accountable for it. Although rare, there are cases when non-delivery has resulted in companies having to pay back the funding received. If circumstances change and proposed activities are not relevant anymore, can you afford to keep them going, or lose the funding?

Government funding is a great way to multiply your budget dedicated to R&D, export or innovation, but with the own contribution (you need to pay for part of the budget), resources and risks involved, make sure the proposal adds value to your business. As with any outside funding, you also need to be aware of the investor expectations and manage them properly. Start off with answering the questions above and you’ve done your homework to prepare a competitive proposal for the funding as well as a successful implementation of the project.

For upcoming UK and H2020 public funding calls and opportunities, we highly recommend the Knowledge Transfer Network’s monthly Digital Business Briefing available here.

P.S. If you ever get stuck, please do get in touch and we can help you untangle your technology innovation grant proposal.