Business Loans & Funding

How to get research grants or funding

Updated: 18 August 2020

Are you looking to launch a new product? Or conduct some innovative research? If so, there is a range of research funding available to help. Small business grants are provided by the UK government and other private bodies. You often have to meet certain criteria but it can be a great opportunity to access funding or other services. Here’s a quick overview of some of the main funding grants you could benefit from.

R&D Tax Relief

Research and Development (R&D) tax relief allows  you to claim back a significant amount of your development costs each year. A range of different sectors can claim, and it can be used to cover a project’s employee costs, software costs, consumable items or subcontractor costs. You can even claim if the project was unsuccessful.


  • Projects must be looking to advance science or technology
  • Projects must aim to create an advance in the overall field, not just for your business
  • You must have less than 500 staff
  • Your turnover must be under €100 million

If you are successful in your application then you can claim up to 32% in development costs each year.

For more information check out

Innovate UK

Do you want to develop an innovative service, process or product? If you do, then you could be eligible for grants from £250,000 up to £10 million. Innovate UK run a variety of grant funding competitions that can help you develop your amazing idea and make it into a success.

They also have innovation loans available for SMEs. If you have a late stage innovation project, you could borrow up to £1 million.


  • Must be UK-based business
  • Size of business: All sizes (start ups, new companies or large multinationals)
  • Other requirements will apply (depending on the competition you enter)

More information at

Innovate UK Smart grants:

Innovate UK Smart grants support the best, game-changing disruptive ideas that have the potential to make changes on an international scale. They can enable you to take amazing ideas forward, quickly. You can get funding of up to 60% of your project costs but will have to cover the remainder yourself. You could get a grant ranging from  £25,000 to £250,000.


  • Ideally be a completely new product, service or process
  • Ideally align with governments Modern Industry Requirements  
  • Must be UK-based
  • Not limited to a particular industry
  • The idea/product must have a strong potential for commercialisation in the UK or overseas

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Knowledge transfer partnerships:

A different way to further your R&D is through a KTP. KTPs have been helping SMEs over the past 40 years by linking them with expertise.

You would be linked  with a research organisation and a university graduate to work on a specific project. By bringing new skills into your business, you can improve performance and become more competitive and productive.


  • UK based business, any size (can be NTP)
  • Project must aim to create an advance in the overall field, not just for your business
  • Must be a participating university in your local area
  • Duration is 12-36 months

Find your local KTP here

SBRI: the Small Business Research Initiative

A SBRI provides contracts and funding for businesses to carry out research or the development of a new product. Mostly, the programme aims to fund innovative ideas that can enhance public services. The initial funding available is between £50,000 to £100,000 with a further £1,000,000 to develop your project or idea further.


  • Any business is eligible to apply
  • Ideally the aim of the project should be to improve public services in the UK, e.g. health, defence, security, transport, energy and environment

For more information please take a look at:

Feasibility studies

Do you have a new business idea and want to see if it works? Regardless of what stage you are at in the development process you could qualify for a 70% grant to cover your project costs. You can get up to £400,000. You will need to fund the remaining costs yourself.


  • Research based business or organisation
  • Based in the UK
  • Must be business focused and meet the theme of the grant
  • Must be able to showcase your final project at a national collaboration event
  • Projects can be collaborative or just your business working alone

For more information please take a look at:

Regional grants

Whether it’s your local council, trade body or private trust, there are regional grants available for research funding across the UK. Try searching online for what’s on offer in your area, or speak to your local council for more information.

Matched funding

Depending on the grant you go for, some won’t cover the full cost of the project. You may need to provide some of the funding yourself. If you’re claiming R&D tax credits, you’ll need to pay for the project up front and claim it back later.

Research finance

If you need finance to help fund your research, a Funding Circle loan could help. You could borrow up to £500,000 for research and development or a wide variety of other purposes. There are no fees for full early repayment too, so you can pay off your loan early at any time if you get additional funding.  

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