According to their website, the official opening of the Innovation Warehouse, cool new co-working space for entrepreneurs above the Smithfield Market in London, is in June. My cofounder Daniel and I were somewhat surprised and worried to find this out on our way there, twenty minutes before the start of the Grant Funding Accelerator event organised by Flagons Den. Had there been a mistake with the venue? The fact that I was to give the first presentation of the evening obviously didn’t help.
As soon as we entered the vast, well lit, uplifting space, we were reassured by the sight of rows of green bottles and stacks of Papa John’s pizza boxes – standard tech meetup setup. The room, big enough for a hundred, looked half empty at first but quickly started to fill up. I had to hurry up to finish my beer before I was due to grab the mic and face the challenge of giving an overview of the public funding available to tech companies in just 20 minutes.
The idea of holding an event specifically dedicated to TSB funding was born – and discussed – merely a month ago, by seven entrepreneurs holding six pints (and a cranberry lemonade) at the Castle in Farringdon. Most startup founders are confused about government funding for Tech, and those seven were determined to spread the knowledge of it on the tech scene. They quickly agreed the agenda (the date and venue took a few dozen emails flying back and forth). Given that Daniel was present at this initial meeting, and we are a specialist tax and grants consultancy, it was pretty difficult to get away with not doing a presentation about public funding opportunities available. This proved much less painful than it first seemed, though.
Thanks to our relationship with the Technology Strategy Board, we managed to secure the presence of Andrew Tyrer (Lead Technologist on the Digital team). Given that, it made sense for us to focus on opportunities with the TSB – plus, of course, the good old R&D tax credits (which are becoming even more lucrative this and the next financial year; check Daniel’s blog post here).
I covered Tech City Launchpad, Feasibility Studies, SBRIs, and Grants for R&D, focusing on: 1. what they are, 2. who should apply, 3. how much is available, and 4. how to apply. It was a concise, listener-friendly breakdown of what you should know as a startup owner, and apparently many people found it useful. The slides and videos will be coming up soon – I’ll post another update when they’re up.
Whether or not you can benefit from government funding largely boils down to… your attitude. I’ve met people who believed grants would never be of any use, and, unsurprisingly, they never raised a penny. On the other hand, I’ve spoken with a few grant-savvy entrepreneurs who, having spent time to understand how to work the system (or used an experienced grant writer), raised many hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions over several years), which enabled them to develop their products and bring them to market.
Both the government’s attitude to working with innovative companies, and the rather cynical mindset about grants on the tech scene, seem to be changing, lately. The former are getting much more approachable; the latter, more open-minded. As a grant writing company, it’s fun to be participating in the thinking and feedback exchange between the two. The Grant Funding Accelerator event was yet another little opportunity to enable it.
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