23/07/2014 09:31 BST | Updated 22/09/2014 06:59 BST

Free Money isn't too Good to be True

Until we were commissioned to produce a promo for the Eureka Moment, I had no idea of the scale of support available to small and medium sized businesses in the UK. The Eureka Moment is a scheme run by Shropshire Council and is open to businesses in Shropshire, Staffordshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. It offers free support and advice, but also provides grants of up to £10,000 to help businesses achieve an identified objective. This money comes with no strings attached and can be used to help pay for marketing, the design of promotional material, sales support, prototyping, research and development and many other activities that businesses are required to invest in.


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Photo: Jack Briggs

For media production companies in the region the scheme can help finance the launch of new services, the identification of sales leads, prototyping new equipment, or the development of new promotional material.

Helen Hunter-Hayes, who runs the scheme on behalf of Shropshire Council says,

"The Eureka! Moment is financed by the European Regional Development Fund and is designed to give regional businesses a real boost."

What I've found most interesting is that the scheme acts as a conduit into other programmes that are run across the region. Some, like the Business Enterprise Fund, provide support for the purchase of capital equipment. Others, like the Graduate Placement Fund, will help pay for the costs of a graduate placement. The Business Innovation Programme, run by Birmingham City Council, provides grants of up to £30,000 for businesses located in the West Midlands.

We had never even considered that our local council might be running schemes that could support our business, but delving further into the subject of business support, it's become clear that there are many such programmes across the UK, all of which are designed to foster growth and innovation. Businesses in North Yorkshire can apply for grants of up to £1 million through the Business Grant Programme. Companies in Lancashire can apply for finance of up to £1 million through Lancashire County Council's Rosebud Business Finance initiative.

There's a great deal of support available for UK businesses working in a wide variety of sectors. Next time you're considering an investment, see if there's a local scheme that offers support for what you're trying to do. If you run a production company and are looking to purchase a new camera, grip, lighting equipment, or an edit suite, see if there's a capital grant scheme running in your region. If you're considering hiring a graduate, see if there's a programme that will share some of the employment costs.

These schemes are designed to foster growth, but staying on top of them and understanding which ones your business might be eligible for can seem daunting. Which brings me back to the Eureka Moment. The Eureka Moment doesn't just offer grants; it offers free business advice, which is delivered by an academic from one of the programme's partner universities. Part of that advice will be to help identify other grant programmes that your business is eligible for and assist you with the process of making an application, helping businesses navigate the grant funding landscape and make sense of the array of opportunities out there. For that reason alone, the Eureka Moment is a good first port of call for thousands of businesses within the relevant counties.

Businesses in the rest of the country should get in touch with their county council and find out what schemes are in place to support and foster growth. There is free business support and money out there, and usually all it takes is a bit of time and paperwork to get it.