When we think about business, it’s often the major multinationals that spring to mind – Apple, Microsoft, Shell or Tesco, to name but a few.
But it’s actually SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) which are the lifeblood of the British economy. The most recent estimate is that SMEs – defined as any business with 0-249 employees – in fact make up 99.9% of all UK enterprises.
It’s little wonder that the Government is keen to support SMEs, therefore, but if you are an SME owner or proprietor, how much do you know about the support which they’ve made available to you to help your company grow?
Government financial support for SMEs is both wide-ranging and varied. Here are just a few – and details of how to access them.
Visit the Apprenticeship website for information on how you can provide work-based training programmes for your employees. Businesses benefit from financial support from the Government in training the apprentice, along with a reduced hourly rate of pay requirement for the employed apprentice.
Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme
This is all about helping viable SMEs overcome some of the barriers which they might face getting access to a commercial loan from a bank.
Under the EFG, the Government steps in to guarantee 75% of a commercial loan. This makes it easier for an SME to secure a loan as the lender only has to guarantee the remaining 25%.
SMEs can take out loans of between £1000 and £1 million and it must be repaid over a minimum of three months, up to a maximum period of 10 years.
Eligibility criteria includes having a viable business plan and an annual turnover of £41m or less.
The EFG can be used for new loans, refinancing existing loans, converting all or part of an overdraft or for providing a guarantee on invoice finance facilities (maximum three year loans for this.)
Visit bis.gov.uk for more information
Enterprise Capital Funds
SMEs with real growth potential but facing a struggle to gain investment from venture capitalism can tap into Enterprise Capital Funds.
Bridging the gap, the Government provides venture capital funds to help improve productivity of such businesses.
Nine ECFs have been launched since 2006 and SMEs can apply to the fund managers of these to see if they are eligible for access to any cash. They are geared towards helping hi-tech companies but others can apply.
For a full list of the current ECFs or to find out how to apply for ECF money visit the website.
The Welsh Government offers a suite of innovative financial support schemes for SMEs. Its flagship SME financial support options are packaged under the £40m Wales SME Fund. Equity, loans and finance between £500,000 and £2 million is available. Finance Wales manages the fund. Visit their website.
Jobs Growth Wales is a scheme whereby the Welsh Government will reimburse the cost of taking on an employee for the first 6 months when certain criteria are met.
Other schemes include:
Wales SME Recycling Support – offers support of up to £50,000 for SMEs in Wales to become more sustainable. More information at http://www.wrap.org.uk/node/6603
Wood Energy Business Scheme – provides capital grants to SMEs to support the development of the renewable wood heat market in Wales. It’s run by the Forestry Commission Wales http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-8JNQQR
Support for SMEs in Scotland is provided through Scottish Enterprise. It offers access to funding, particular for innovation and high technology, as well as general business advice for SMEs. Grants include:
SMART: SCOTLAND, which supports technical and commercial feasibility studies; R&D grants; R&D tax credits and the Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7).
The Scottish Investment Bank provides equity funding for early or mid-stage SMEs. The suite of equity funding packages includes the Scottish Seed Fund, which provides funding of between £20,000 and £250,000 for start-ups with new markets or new products.
How e-ccountant can help
Many forms of finance require the business to provide financial information, both historical and future forecasts, and business plans. e-ccountant can assist SME businesses with the preparation of such documents in a timely manner. Contact us on 0800 0029543.