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United Kingdom

Access to finance

Updated 12/2013

Access to EU finance

This site will help you to apply for finance supported by the European Union. To access EU finance, click on your country to locate banks or venture capital funds that provide finance supported by the EU:

Access to EU finance

National sources of finance

There are various sources of funding, support and advice available for business owners from a variety of UK bodies. Business Link website is a good starting point for the various finance options available to businesses.

Public finance

Indirect support

As an SME, you may have viable business plans that need funding and for which a loan would be appropriate. However, you may be struggling to access the finance or working capital required because of the additional risks arising from the economic downturn.

The Enterprise Finance Guarantee helps to overcome this. The Guarantee is part of the Government's Solutions for Business portfolio and is available to businesses throughout the UK through approved lenders.

Participating lenders administer the eligibility criteria and make all commercial decisions regarding borrowing. The decision whether or not to use the Enterprise Finance Guarantee with any loan rests with the lender and follows their commercial assessment of the proposition.

Some businesses require much greater funding than that which can be provided by business angels, but do not need the levels of funding venture capitalists would consider.

Enterprise Capital Funds have been established to address a market weakness in the provision of equity finance to SMEs. Government funding is used alongside private sector funds to establish funds that operate within the 'equity gap'; targeting investments of up to £2m that have the potential to provide a good commercial return.

Direct support

The Grant for Research and Development is a business product which provides grants to help individuals and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) based in England and involved in researching and developing technologically innovative products and processes. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland run their own equivalent schemes.

Community Investment Tax Relief (CITR) aims to stimulate private investment in disadvantaged communities by providing a tax incentive to individuals and companies that invest in not-for-profit and profit-seeking enterprises in or serving those communities.

The tax incentive is targeted at investors in accredited intermediary organisations, which then invest (directly or indirectly) in enterprises in or serving disadvantaged communities. The CITR scheme aims to encourage the growth of these intermediary organisations, termed Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs), which specialise in providing funding to businesses as well as social and community enterprises within under-invested areas.

The Business Link site and affiliated sites in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are key starting points when looking for finance. Business Link's finance assessment service offers a personalised list of suitable finance options for businesses, as well as an assessment of a business's readiness to look for such finance.

The Grants and Support Directory provides access to nationally and locally available schemes from central and local government and private organisations. It also offers help with starting up or developing businesses.

Access to EU funding

The Business Link website covers access to EU funding.

Private finance

An integral component of starting a successful business is raising sufficient capital. In the private sector, there are numerous resources available:

  • personal savings or borrowings - especially if it is difficult to attract outside investment
  • if there is a strong business plan in place, then borrowing from a bank is possible. Businesses often use overdrafts for day-to-day borrowing and loans.
  • a larger business with good prospects might attract outside investors, such as "business angels", who invest in exchange for a share in the business

The National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers (NACFB) helps businesses find financial brokers through postcode matching.   

Other specialist lenders include:

Prime, for people over 50 setting up businesses

The Prince's Trust, for young people setting up in business

Co-operative & Community Finance, aimed at co-operatives, employee-owned businesses and social enterprises

Before arranging finance through a lender, a business should run a check on a potential lender's credentials at the Financial Services Authority.

Special loans are available for Muslim business owners.

Business Angels are private investors who invest in SMEs with high growth prospects. They often bring considerable business experience along with their funding.

Raising venture capital involves selling a stake in your business to an investor in return for capital. Venture capital investments are generally on a larger scale - typically over £250,000. You can find an introduction to private equity on the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA) website.

Simply Business Finance is a finance and insurance broker specialising in owner-managed businesses. It arranges the following types of loans for business: invoice finance, balance sheet funding (asset-based lending), asset finance, commercial mortgage, trade loans and personal loans.

Business support organisations can advise businesses on how to find financing.

Help & advice

Help & advice

E-mail a business organisation near you

The EU runs a network (Enterprise Europe Network) of local business organisations in most European countries that may be able to help you.

Choose your country and town and enter your enquiry below.

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