22 April 2024

Exploring grant funding for your marine business

By Paul Knox-Johnston Sales & Marketing Manager

If you are thinking about expanding your marine business then it would be prudent to look into any grant funding options that may be available to you. Grant funding can provide your marine business with significant cost savings on start-up and provide funding to help you grow. Unlike most other forms of finance, grants don’t need to be paid back, and they don’t accrue interest, making them an attractive form of financing. However, applying for grants can be an overwhelming and daunting process, given the vast number of grant types and providers available.

There are hundreds of government grants potentially available, alongside grants that are available for marine businesses from industry associations and organisations. Grants are available for a range of activities, including research and development, innovation, training, manufacturing, marketing, and general business activities. Wading through and applying for the number of grants available can be a complicated process with lots of processes and stages, and each grant will have its own requirements and criteria for applying.

For marine businesses that are interested in applying for a grant, it is important to act early as opportunities can be short-lived and are subject to change. Grant funding can often have a brief application window of two months or less, and are subject to changes in scope, especially when they are issued quickly around specific circumstances, such as COVID-19.

With the landscape of grant funding opportunities changing regularly, it is good practice to keep on top of these changes by regularly monitoring alerts from grant funding organisations and third parties. This proactive approach ensures that marine businesses stay informed of new opportunities as they arise.

Finding Grant Funding

Grant funding can often help a marine business save money on premises and help purchase cheaper plant or IT equipment but it can also be time-consuming and difficult to know where to begin to find the right opportunities. Key organisations that offer grant funding include the European Commission, Innovate UK, and the government’s R&D tax credits.

The UK government’s business finance finder is a great place to start searching for specific grants that suit your marine business’s needs. While there are fewer government grants available for more established marine businesses, for newer businesses there are usually grants available that generate jobs and provide help towards expanding the business. Most Government grants are direct grants, meaning money is given to a marine business to cover essentials when starting a business such as training, buying equipment or attracting new markets.

Even though the UK is no longer a member of the European Union, there are still funding options available for a range of projects and programmes. Marine businesses can typically apply for grants by submitting project ideas following a call for proposals.

Innovate UK is the UK’s national innovation agency, offering funding and support in development of new products and services, and across various research and innovation areas and programmes. Marine businesses should also check with their Local Growth Hub for grants available in their area, as these organisations provide access to free business advice, online resources, and routes to funding.

Business and industry associations are another potential source of grant funding. Some grant funds expect marine businesses to contribute up to 50% of the value of the grant funding, so it’s essential to check the grant’s requirements before applying.

Applying for a grant for your marine business

If you are a marine business owner looking for funding opportunities, it is important to assess your eligibility before investing too much time and effort into the application process. One of the first steps you should take is to reach out to the grant awards body to understand your chances of success. Secondly, it is essential to carefully review the objectives and purpose of the grant to ensure that your funding requirement aligns with its aims and goals.

To increase your chances of success, your application should reflect the grant’s objectives and focus on how your marine business will utilise the funding to grow and benefit others, rather than solely focusing on purchasing equipment. In most cases, grant applications require a solid business plan, and if your business is already established, you will need to provide documentation of your financial standing and accounts. If the grant you are applying for requires match-funding, make sure you can demonstrate that you have the necessary funds available.

Lastly, it is important to apply for funding early, as many awards schemes may have limited funds available. This will give you a better chance of success in securing funding when the scheme first launches.

Alternatives to grant funding

While grants can be an excellent funding opportunity for marine businesses, there are also alternative options to consider. Equity finance allows you to receive funding in exchange for giving up a portion of your business (think Dragon’s Den). Angel investors or business angels invest their own money in your marine business in return for a share of the business. Mainstream banks offer business loans, but this may not be a suitable option for your specific marine business. Alternatively, peer-to-peer lending provides a business loan from individuals, businesses, or other organisations.

Ultimately, it is well worth investigating if you can obtain funding help for your marine business, with the range of grant options and opportunities available, you may find a suitable source to help save costs, support operations and help grow your marine business.

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