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It’s important to remember that the funding process is competitive. Only the best bids that meet the grant programme’s objectives will be funded, so make sure you don’t fall at the first hurdle.

  1. Read the fund guidance notes fully
Any grant scheme should provide guidance notes, giving details of the eligibility criteria as well as explanations of what businesses should include in their applications. I would strongly advise you to refer to these throughout the application process and ensure you address all the points raised with high-quality, relevant information.
  1. Check for eligibility
Grant applications can be time-consuming. Check that your business and project proposal are eligible under the scheme before you start work on your detailed submission. If in doubt, contact the grant programme team who will be able to advise you.
  1. Take care with your financial projections
Incomplete or poorly prepared financial projections cast doubt and leave questions unanswered. Common errors include: failure to provide complete and integrated profit and loss accounts or balance sheets, unrealistic cash flow projections, and balance sheets that don’t actually balance!
  1. Be realistic
Financial projections should present a realistic and commercially savvy view of the business, and clear assumptions will show that your plans are grounded in commercial reality.
  1. Polish up your business plan
Sparse business plans don’t allow your proposals to shine. Include information about the background to the business, its products and processes, its management team, customers, markets and competitors, and explain the rationale for your project.
  1. Cross-reference for inconsistencies
Every application will be carefully studied by the programme management team, so it’s in your interest to do the same before you submit. Inconsistencies between the business plan, financial projections and application form are surprisingly common. For example, if you plan to create ‘X’ number of new jobs, make sure this is correctly reflected in the forecast salary costs.
  1. Don’t skip a section
Omissions from the application form may result in delay or rejection of the application. Compulsory sections are clearly marked, and these must be completed fully.
  1. Work closely with your advisers
If you are using external consultants or accountants, ensure that they are fully aware of programme requirements too. The best applications are from teams that have worked on the application together.
  1. Submit in good time
Wherever possible, submit your application well before the submission deadline. This allows some leeway to deal with any issues that may still be present, and ensures your application is not delayed.
  1. Your application = your pitch
Do remember that, to ensure fairness in this competitive process, most applications will be reviewed by an independent panel of experts who have no prior knowledge of the individual applicants or projects. So remember to include all details of your project in the application, regardless of whether you’ve spoken to the grant provider beforehand. Poorly presented, incomplete or inaccurate applications are likely to be rejected at this stage, and the business’s credibility for any future grant applications could be compromised.

By John Lewis, Plymouth University GAIN and South West Growth Fund