12 months of Grant Funding
2016/17 will go down as a confusing year in the world of Grant Funding. Looking back at the last 12 months, starting with the Brexit vote in June 2016 and ending with the current general election vote in June 2017, it is no wonder that there has been an impact on funding. As I write this, the only consistency in grant funding has come from the EU Horizon 2020 funding opportunities that has published funding deadlines two years in advance and stuck to them. In contrast, Innovate UK have only just published their flagship Open Call deadline (sometime after the expected date) due to uncertainty caused by the snap UK general election.
In the aftermath of the Brexit vote in June 2016 there followed a period of purdah for many European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) including the Local Action Group (LAG) funds and European Regional Development Funds (ERDF).
The Autumn Statement delayed decisions by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) regarding their decision on allocating funding through Growth Deals. Even after the statement from Mr Hammond, the LEPs seemed confused about timeframes and the final commitment of funding that made an already elongated application process almost impossible. It is no wonder then that businesses do not see Growth Deals as a legitimate funding option – it moves at snail pace that would have appalled even the likes of the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) back in Tony Blair’s era.
Now we have had the general election in the UK – the country that is trying desperately to appear “strong and stable” has now added further confusion to the international image. Innovate UK is the main body for delivering Research & Development grant funding for businesses in the UK with a budget of nearly £500m in 2016/17 and rising to £2bn in 2021. The funding programme Innovate published should be able to run will offer significant opportunity to UK businesses, even in a situation where UK companies are not eligible for H2020 funding.
Businesses taking risks, innovating, self-funding, boot-strapping -need some anchors. In the year 2016/17, which incidentally has been our most successful in terms of grant funding raised for our clients, the UK government has consistently managed to change the goal posts, the deadlines and the decision timeframes for grant funding. The grant funding, particularly in the R&D space, is designed to accelerate and scale the growth of innovation-led businesses. At Granted we would request more consistency for 2017/18 to maximise the added value from this investment in our entrepreneurs.