For last weeks Lunch&Learn we were joined by Richard from Grant Tree. Richard has spent nearly 20 years leveraging government funding to support business growth and R&D. His work has not only helped private businesses, charities and public institutions to secure funding but has seen him fund businesses he has co-founded. This experience has led to a deep insight into the application processes for UK and EU funding, and also how to deliver grant-funded projects both when they are going well and not so well!
He came in to give us his top tips for securing grant funding:
1. Grants are given to projects, not companies.
Grant funding bodies are looking for defined start and end points to a project, clear deliverables, costs and milestones. You must acknowledge what is happening before and what is intended for the project and where the project fits into the bigger picture of your company and timeline. Funding bodies want to see that once the funding runs out, that you are going to be sustainable. It’s absolutely fine if the project is a small part of development and service or all of it.
2. You must be addressing a €/£/$1bn global market
You need to be addressing a global market, but you don’t need to start addressing it in the home of the grant, you can start elsewhere. Grant Funding bodies do recognise that there is future opportunity to bring economic benefits back to the UK if innovation starts elsewhere.
3. Show clear impact, both internal and external
The internal impact is how you will build the team, knowledge etc.. Even if you are bringing previously subcontracted employees back in, showing that you are contributing to job growth is key. The external impact should be easy to identify. That’s the social and economic benefits. The key here is being very clear on what you will measure and how will you measure it.
4. Must be for future work
From the start of the grant funding application to the project starting, allow for 6 months. Don’t rely on the project starting sooner than that.
5. You will require match funding
Almost all grants, apart from a few charities, require match funding, which could be 30-75%. This can come from anywhere. Different bodies have different diligence regarding this match funding, e.g. Innovate the UK require just a letter of intent from an investor but H2020 will need much more in-depth due diligence and evidence.
6. Be open to collaboration
ALWAYS think about collaboration with other organisations/businesses. Very few grants will allow you to enter as a single company. You can collaborate with academic institutions, NHS trusts, charities, social enterprises, industry bodies, membership bodies, and it’s about hustle to get those partnerships.
7. Be specific
Really look at the scope documents. Pick out a couple of elements that you are sure to hit and explain why. Successful companies can accurately describe the impact they are going to have. e.g. in histopathology recruitment hasn’t kept up with retiring, therefore shortfall = x. This innovation solves the problem in this exact way. Then drive into the minutiae of the work required.
8. Be realistic about your costs
Don’t apply for the maximum amount of funding, that’s fatal. Assume the assessors have in-depth domain and business knowledge and will pick holes in your plan. DON’T underestimate or overestimate costs.
Ideally, you could use a grant to turn an existing relationship into something more substantial but pick your collaborators carefully. E.g. If you’re looking to work with local authorities, it’s complicated. They can’t claim for work they were already going to do.
10. Answer the Questions
There are no marks for repetition, so really look at all of your answers and turn it into a narrative.
11. Reference everything
Treat it as an academic exercise, any figures etc. reference in-line or move all of your references to an appendix
12. Utilise your track records
If you don’t have a track record as a company, bring in the track records of the individuals in the team/advisory board etc.
Notes on types of competitions
⁃ There are open competitions every couple of months
⁃ Anyone can apply from any sector
⁃ Annual / Bi-Annual (depending on early/late stage)
⁃ Biomedical, Digital Health Technology, Medicine Discovery
⁃ Different rules and processes
Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Competitions
⁃ Irregularly themed - Medicine Manufacturing, Healthy Ageing, Precision Medicine
⁃ These are new, still developing and keep an eye out for opportunities to help shape these
⁃ Irregular based on NHS challenges
⁃ Worth repeatedly looking at the website
⁃ Not a grant, 100% funded contract to do a piece of work
⁃ Phase 1 = £50k-100k technical feasibility study
⁃ Phase 2 = some of these are given 1m to finish the project
⁃ Scopes are very narrow, specific pieces of innovation
⁃ Regularly launched
⁃ Can be great ways of getting quick funding
March open competition
- Don’t have to collaborate
- £19m total
- Very competitive
- 2 questions, 800words each: who are you and what do you want to do
⁃ 1 application form for SMEs and 1 for NHS organisations
⁃ Collaboration between the two categories will then be facilitated
⁃ £50k for solidifying the idea, business model, strategy etc.
⁃ Only 12 British companies applied for phase 2 - everyone’s too scared. You will be assessed without prejudice!
£50k - £1.5m / 6 – 30 Months / Solo or Collaborative / Deadline: 9 May
2 phase / £30k / 6 Months / Solo / Deadline: 9 May
£500k - £1.5m / 18 Months / Collaborative / Deadline: 27 March
2 phase / £150k / 6 Months / Solo / Deadline: 25 April
£300k - £1m / 30 Months / Collaborative / Deadline 18 April
£50k - £250k / 9 Months / Solo or Collaborative / Deadline 21 March
£50k - £2.5m / 6 – 24 months / Solo or Collaborative / Deadline 28 March
££25k - £1m / 6 – 36 Months / Solo or Collaborative / Deadline 9 May
GrantTree offer Consultative work to help startups and SMEs position their project for specific grants, consortium building / strategic partnerships, building a project and resource plan and developing routes to market and competitor analysis. They also offer grant-writing services and post-success support.