Top ten tips on securing public sector funding

Kevin Lonergan of the Alba Innovation Centre gives tips on approaching grant funding applications and reveals what assistance is out there.

Securing funding is one of the biggest challenges most start-ups face. No matter which sector your start-up is in, you’re likely to spend a significant chunk of your time chasing around trying to secure the finances you need to get the max from your innovation.

Technology start-ups are no different to any other start-up in this respect, and something we hear all the time is the frustration that tech start-ups face when they’re trying to organise funding.

When you’re desperate to get your hands on cash, you could be forgiven for thinking that any funding is better than no funding at all and, generally speaking that would be about right, but smart start-up owners are clever are sniffing out the right sort of funding.

Sniffing out the right funding for your innovative technology business not only makes securing the funding easier, it also often gives you more power to your start-up elbow.

In this article, we’d like to share with you our Ten Top Tips about how to secure public sector funding for your Scottish tech start-up.

Be mindful that one size rarely fits all

In the same way that no one CV will impress a whole host of potential employers, no one funding application will appeal to every funding body. Tailoring your funding application to the public sector body you are approaching will increase your chances of success significantly.

Get a buddy on board

Working with an adviser that you get along with, who knows and understands tech start-ups and who knows the public sector funding landscape is a clever way to making sure you maximise your opportunity of getting your funding application spot-on.

Bring in the pros

Engage with accountants, Patent Attorneys and lawyers to make sure you have all your innovation detail ducks in a row.

Do your homework

Securing public sector funding is a highly competitive sport and things like having a convincing Business Plan, a robust financial model and a fully completed and targeted grant application are the things that’ll help your application stand out in a crowd.

Make sure your figures stack up

In the vast majority of cases, public sector interventions won’t provide 100% of the funds you need, so knowing and making clear how you will fill the funding gap will make your application a whole lot more credible.

It may be that you’ll top up your funding requirements with help from family or friends, or it could be that you have your own funds to hand?

Either way, making it clear where the remaining funds will come from will help your case no end.

Embrace the big picture

When you’re pitching your concept to any public sector funding agency, don’t forget that a huge part of their interest is the bigger economic picture.

If you can demonstrate that your project will have significant positive economic impact as well as ensuring that you have robust USP’s to safeguard against displacement, then you’ll truly start to stand head and shoulders above the competition.

Ensure additionality with your grant application

Always ensure that you can demonstrate that the public sector support would either enable your project to take place or that the project would happen quicker or on a larger scale.

Be patient

Securing funding is a marathon, not a sprint and being ready for the reality will help you keep going if and when the going gets tough.

Try not to forget that it can take a while to secure funding, so be ready for the long run and don’t be tempted to start your project before the grant is approved.

Stay focused

It’s important when you’re seeking public sector funding to network to a number of funding organizations to ensure you have covered all potential options.

However, it’s important not to contact too many people in the same organization or network.

The world is much smaller than we sometimes think and word tends to get about quickly that you are looking for grants.

That’s fine, but if you’re looking everywhere, you risk getting labelled a grant junkie, which isn’t a great idea.

Look to the future

While there’s little to be gained in daydreaming, it’s essential that you have a clear idea of what your business will look like post grant intervention.

There are some excellent public sector funding options for product development available for tech start-ups including:

  • Smart Feasibility and Smart R&D grants from Innovate UK & Scottish Enterprise can help innovative companies in the UK advance their innovation through R&D and feasibility mapping
  • Innovation Grants from Scottish Enterprise provide support for new innovation that generates economic growth for Scotland
  • Innovation Vouchers available via Interface and direct from Universities provide up to £5,000 of funding to help businesses develop new innovation on a single project basis
  • Innovate UK (formerly Technology Strategy Board) have a number of their own funding calls where they will provide assistance to develop new products and services within vertical markets
  • Horizon 20/20 has competitions and grant funding for start-up businesses
  • Some local Councils also provide their own public sector grant assistance programmes.  This differs by Local Authority.

Further reading on grants

Looking for finance? is working in partnership with trusted lenders to help you find the best business funding deals. Find out more here.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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