You may have a great concept for a product or service offering, but one of the most important aspects of starting and operating a successful business is ensuring that you actually have the funds to put these ideas into action. This can be especially relevant for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), whole smaller size and lower annual turnover than larger, more established organisations mean they’re more likely to be lacking in the resources they need to get themselves off the ground.
Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are defined in the UK as businesses that meet at least two of the following criteria; they have a turnover that’s less than £25m, they employ less than 250 people, and finally, they have gross assets of less than £12.5m. According to statistics from the UK parliament,
SMEs account for 99% of all businesses, and there were a total of 5.7 million in the UK last year.
Fortunately, for medium-sized businesses, there are plenty of advice and funding opportunities to be found across the UK. These can be provided by the likes of government grants, as well as UK-wide and regional funders/business organisations, such as Business West.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the following resources are a great place to start when finding funding opportunities for medium-sized businesses in Britain…
There are a number of government grants available for both small and medium-sized businesses, and these are specific to various parts of the UK. Provided where your business is located, these are either offered by the UK Government, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly or the Northern Ireland Assembly. However, as each business grant has its own application process and criteria to meet, it can be a long and challenging process to secure them.
Government grants can help your business in a number of ways. These include cutting the cost of your premises, improving your broadband connection, or providing access to cheaper IT equipment. For a full list of business funding opportunities, check out the government’s business finance support finder and the Small Business website for advice on securing government grants.
The Business Growth Fund
Founded in 2011, The Business Growth Fund (BGF) is now the most active investment company in the UK and Ireland. Established by Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), and Standard Chartered banks in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, it provides support to small and medium sized early-stage businesses, growth-stage businesses, and listed businesses.
BGF has 10 offices throughout the UK, with locations including London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Reading, and Bristol. BFG typically makes initial business investments ranging from £2m to £10m, and has invested in more than 200 small and medium-sized businesses at various stages of their lifecycle. Visit the Business Growth Fund website for more information.
Regional Growth Funds Programmes
Available solely to businesses in England, Regional Growth Funds Programmes can provide support to those that are looking for funding of less than £1m. As GOV.UK explains, Regional Growth Funds (RGF) consists of a number of schemes run by national or local organisations that have been awarded money from RGF. This is then used to offer grants and loans to local businesses.
Although every RGF programme will have its own criteria, your business needs to be based in England, you must want to strengthen and grow your business and create jobs, and you must be unable to find funding elsewhere (amongst other criteria). For the full criteria and more information on current ‘live’ programmes, check out the government’s Regional Growth Funds programmes guide.
Other regional and country specific funders
Funding for SMEs can also be provided by the following regional and country specific funders:
Business West (West of England)
Business West is a not-for-profit company that provides a range of services to help small and medium-sized businesses flourish in the West of England. Companies can join their local Chamber of Commerce to receive support in Bristol, Bath, Wiltshire and Gloucester, though Business West also offers business advice, one-on-one support, and access to start up loans, coaching grants, research and development funding, and other funding opportunities through their partners.
“In the last 5 years we have given advice to over 2,000 entrepreneurs, helped to established over 800 businesses, created 594 jobs and facilitated over 450 start-up loans worth in excess of £4m.
““The South West is home to some of the UK’s most innovative start-up companies and it’s a great place to do business and we are proud to help make this happen.”
The Wales Business Fund is available for businesses that have less than 250 employees and are already based in Wales (or are willing to relocate to Wales), and is part-funded by the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund), through the Welsh Government. Although businesses will usually be required to match their Wales Business Fund investment with other funds, they support start-ups and established SMEs by providing business loans and equity packages from £50,000 up to £2 million.