We recently hosted a grant application writing workshop to enhance your chances of success in applying for grant funding. Aimed at startup founders and entrepreneurs, here are the hints and tips on how to make a successful grant application that we learnt.

In this blog we cover:

  • Sourcing grant funding opportunities
  • Innovate UK grant insights
  • Invest NI grant insights
  • Grant writing consultants
  • Assessing the cost opportunity of applying
  • Financial projections  

Watch the session below or scroll down for our tips on applying for grants.

How do I find grant funding to support my business?

Look for the right grants for you that are relevant for your stage and sector. Below are some resources to help you with this.

Enhance your chance of success with open grant opportunities
Join our workshop to build your grant application writing skills to secure funding on 24th January. Open grant opportunities available in Northern Ireland and nationally.
Home - Find a grant
Grants Online
Grants Online - the UK’s most comprehensive and up to date UK grant funding information service. Be the first to know about new funding opportunities, get more time to write your applications.

To find out about grants within Innovate UK, sign up to the Innovate UK newsletter and check out their website.

Innovate UK
Innovate UK is the UK’s national innovation agency. We support business-led innovation in all sectors, technologies and UK regions.

To find out about grants within Invest NI check out NI Business Info below or call the Business Support line on 0800 181 4422 to connect with someone who can help you.

My New Business | nibusinessinfo.co.uk
Starting a business in Northern Ireland? Check what you need to do and find support - structure your business, name your business, find and manage money, choose premises, hire staff, know your legal responsibilities.

Other places to search for grants include Twitter where you can follow government bodies not just in Northern Ireland but the Republic of Ireland, across UK and abroad like Intertrade Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and other global connections - our friends at Spark Canada have expertise on their local grant funding options below.

Innovation Hub - Business Incubator - Spark Centre
We Are A Business Incubator That Provides Advisory Services, Office Space & Operational Support To Small Businesses And Growing Innovation Tech Companies.

Finally, lean in to your community and network to get a feel for the opportunities available out there.

Paul Malcomson tells us more about InnovateUK

Innovate UK is the UK’s national innovation agency. We support business-led innovation in all sectors, technologies and UK regions. We help businesses grow through the development and commercialisation of new products, processes, and services, supported by an outstanding innovation ecosystem that is agile, inclusive, and easy to navigate.

When reviewing and applying for Innovate UK competitions, it's key to have expertise in the subject area, understand if there needs to be a relationship with Innovate UK or a research organisation in order to apply, review the application eligibility to ensure the competition is suitable for your type of organisation, and not an academic for example, and finally review the stage that your company is at in relation to Technology Readiness Levels (TRL).

The earlier TRL 1 - 3 are serviced by partnerships & research councils within the universities, whilst the TRL 4 - 7 are serviced with Innovate UK competitions.

The key to the applications is showing how this innovation can provide additionality to the economy from the public purse. More information on TRLs can be found below.

Eligibility of technology readiness levels (TRL)
Technology readiness levels (TRL) are a type of measurement system used to assess the maturity level of a particular technology. A technology project is evaluated against the parameters for each technology level and can then be assigned a TRL rating based on the projects progress.

Gary McCausland tells us more about Invest NI

The key is to research and talk to Invest NI (INI) about the stage your company is at and how INI can support you. When writing grant applications, ask around your network and community to see how you can learn from their experiences - feedback given to them will help you understand exactly what the grant provider is looking for and how you  and learnings from applying to grants which can enhance your application. When writing an application, it's worth sharing a draft and asking the grant provider if they can offer any feedback before submitting.

The Raise Community offers peer-to-peer and advisory support to startup founders on applying for grants, join our Slack community and subscribe to our membership to get started.

Alison McMurtrie shares her experience as a grant writing consultant

Alison helps companies and founders with creating their pitch deck and business canvas as applying for grants. As an external grant writer, its key to get to know the company, their insights, their USP and the voice of the company or founder, all of which layer into the business information to form a full application. It's very useful to have a grant writer read and understand the questions and formulate the responses - an independent review and fresh perspective helps when you're very close to the business.

It can take up to 3 or 4 days to gather information, formulate a draft application before submitting so it's important to assess the cost opportunity and weigh up the pros of getting the grant vs the time spent in applying.

It's key to understand what grant applications are looking for. A government grant may be very different to a Proof of Concept grant from Techstart which is more commercially focused.

What is InnovateUK Edge?

InnovateUKEdge is a support service for those companies who do receive funding to help with growth and scaling. The local contact here in Northern Ireland is Alayne Kinver.

Hints and Tips on Financial Projections

When applying for grants, don't be afraid to be ambitious! Think about where the company can get to with your projections and underpin these with the assumptions you're making in achieving those ambitions. Keep it simple outlining what the product or service will cost to make with overheads & resources, then where you think you can see the product or service going in the next year and over the next three years - project out the numbers showing this ambition.

Once awarded the grant, keep a track of how the money is spent for reporting purposes. It's quite common for the projections not to be met or the project not to be 100% successful and as long as you have rationale behind the outcomes, that's fine. This is all added into the report.

Make sure you are clear what the application is looking for in terms of clarifying what stage your company is at. Some eligibility criteria dictates the operational age of a company e.g. under 3 years. Understand if this relates to the date or incorporation or the date when you started trading.

Most grants are spend and claim back so make sure you have some cashflow to spend on the innovation and then use the grant to claim back. Often startups have a side hustle, or tweak/amend their early product to generate revenue which is cashflow to spend and claim back.

We hope you found this useful! A big thanks to our speakers Gary from InvestNI, Paul from InnovateUK and Alison from iDunn Consulting.

The Raise Accelerator is now open for applications. The programme supports early stage tech startups to build, commercialise, launch and raise investment. If you're interested, check it out below.

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