Recently, there have been two government initiatives which have the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of people who live in the country. The first is the push to roll out broadband internet into rural areas and the second is the Growth Programme which will provide grants for rural start-ups and businesses. The fund for the scheme is currently set at £35M but this could increase to £50M if there is enough demand.
The Growth Programme already has a proven track record
The 2014-20 Rural Development Programme for England set the foundations for the RDPE Growth Programme, which was first introduced in 2017. Since then, it has granted £99M to 546 local businesses across England and led to the creation of 3,771 new jobs in rural areas. This year, the minimum grant has been reduced from £35,000 to £20,000 to make it easier for smaller businesses to access funding.
Funds from the Growth Programme can be used in one of three ways
The basic aim of the Growth Programme is to create jobs in rural areas and to bring more money into the rural economy. Grants can be used for one of three purposes
- Business development
- Food processing
- Rural tourism infrastructure
The scheme is now accepting applications and the closing date for Expressions of Interest is midnight on 16 February 2020. Here are some guidelines for applying.
Do your reading before you apply
The government has published plenty of information on the scheme. This should tell you everything to know to determine whether or not you have a reasonable chance of being accepted and if so how much you could expect to receive. It also tells you the exact process for applying.
Keep the aim of the scheme front and centre in your application
The goal of the Growth Programme is to stimulate rural economies. You, therefore, need to be able to demonstrate how your project will contribute to that goal.
Be specific about what, exactly, you expect to achieve and how you expect to achieve it
If you’ve ever watched Dragons’ Den (or Shark Tank), you’ll have had plenty of opportunities to witness how much the investors hate it when entrepreneurs give vague pitches and/or are unable to answer basic questions. If you’ve never seen the show, then there’s a YouTube channel where you can get an idea of how it works.
The key point to take away is that your “pitch” has to tell the government, not just how much money you want, but how, exactly, you intend to use it and what benefits it will bring them, or, in other words, how it will further their goal of stimulating rural economies. If at all possible, show how these benefits will extend into the long term. For example, if you want money to employ someone for a specific length of time, explain how you think you will be able to keep employing them after the grant has run out (or show some other way the grant will “keep on giving”).
Provide as much hard proof as possible
As an absolute minimum, you should be able to provide hard proof that the money you’ve requested will cover the costs for which it is intended. For example, if you want to purchase machinery, you should be able to find out the sale price of the machinery. Ideally, however, you’ll want to provide some kind of evidence that your project can achieve the desired results.
For example, if your aim is to encourage tourism, you could look for examples of similar projects in other areas and the results they have achieved. Remember to acknowledge any differences and advise on how you plan to deal with them.