Grant funding can be nigh-on impossible to find in today’s business climate, but automation solutions company OAL Group managed to achieve grants of £6,700 and £60,000 from the Greater Cambridge/Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Agri-Tech programme, which represents 50 per cent of OAL’s project costs. Here, we ask about how he got hold of the funding.
How did you find out about the grants?
As a company we work very hard to obtain grants in order to further our research and development (R&D) into new technologies within the food industry.
We have a wealth of internal knowledge of grant funding through various members of staff.
We also use internet research to determine what grants are available and viable for us to obtain as well as potential partners who could work with in a research collaboration funded by grants.
How do you apply? What does the process entail?
Our applications are made directly to the appropriate grant authorities which are responsible for the running of the particular grant applied for.
In all cases the operation involves a preliminary expression of interest which, if successful, would be followed by a full application process.
This process requires a lot of comprehensive detail covering project descriptions and objectives, extensive market and competitive analysis, full costings, project planning, dissemination and exploitation plans and social, economic and environmental benefits.
In addition, there needs to be a risk analysis, in-depth information provided about partners and what they would contribute to the project and partner collaboration agreements if partners are involved, eg industrial and academic.
These applications are constructed by a designated member of the team who has a lot of experience in grants, and are then passed on to the relevant team associated with the grant to ensure all content is accurate and relevant.
Why do you think your pitch for the funding was well received?
As a company, we thoroughly researched the scope of the funding programmes that we had identified as being appropriate for our projects.
We ensured that our applications met as many of their criteria as possible. We believed that our projects were innovative and had the potential to radically change the food industry for the better while maintaining the right balance between risk and reward.
How did you use the money? How instrumental has it been to your development as a company?
We have received grant funding for four projects in the R&D of new technology for the food industry. The overall cost of the projects total just over £2 million with two of the projects receiving 60 per cent funding and the other two on a match-funded basis.
The money received through grants is currently being used specifically for the R&D of steam infusion for food manufacturing, the integration of this process with rapid cryogenic cooling, and the development of an automated processing robotic ingredient loading system also known as APRIL.
The funding has been incredibly instrumental to our development in establishing a leading position in the food manufacturing industry.
The industry had previously relied on low-cost labour with high manual process inputs resulting in ever increasing production costs, high levels of waste and low-quality product.
With the help of grant funding, the company has been able to introduce revolutionary new technology to market and help bring/continue to bring a positive disruptive change to food manufacturing.
Had you raised any money in the past, will you aim to do so again in the near future, and are there other grants you will pursue?
Apart from the Business Growth Service’s Growth Accelerator programme we have not applied for any grant funding previously. The company will pursue further grant support as appropriate in order to accelerate the achievement business’s innovation and growth strategy.
What’s next for the business?
With the help of further funding, we have big plans for the future with the introduction of our automated processing robotics ingredient loading system (APRIL) to market which is set to not only launch the company to a new level but also give the industry a fully automated solution for typical manufacturing issues.