The best locations to access business grants for start-ups and small businesses in the UK

When it comes to launching a business, savvy entrepreneurs know that choosing the perfect location can have a huge impact on a company’s chance of success. 

But new research by The UK Domain, the online business resource, discovered that setting up your company in the right town or city could also mean the difference between securing thousands of pounds in local authority grants – or nothing at all.

The study reveals which of the UK’s Metropolitan Districts and London boroughs offer the most generous grants for UK start-ups and small businesses. The data show that there’s a huge variation from council to council.

Of the 33 UK Metropolitan Districts that responded, just over half (54%) give out grants for small businesses or start-ups – with the other 46% either not offering anything at all, or directing businesses to alternative sources of funding.

Yorkshire has some of the best opportunities for small businesses

Some of the best opportunities for start-ups or small businesses in the UK can be found in Yorkshire boroughs:

  • Bradford City Council has a number of different financial schemes available for small businesses and has awarded £11.75m in grants since 2012.
  • Doncaster Borough Council offers businesses grants to create new jobs in the area and to improve shop fronts in the town centre. Since 2014, it has awarded over £1.8m of grants to businesses of all sizes. 
  • Wakefield City Council can award grants of up to £10,000 for renovation of empty shop units.

But not all boroughs are equal

But not all borough councils in the region offer the same funding.

  • Barnsley Borough Council doesn’t offer grants to small businesses or startups – though has some funding available to help companies in certain towns in the area.
  • Calderdale Borough Council does not have funding available for small businesses or start-ups, but has helped enterprises secure emergency funding for flood recovery resilience.

And although it might appear that some councils do not offer any funding to small businesses or start-ups, they often form part of larger investment schemes across a broader area.

This is true of two of Yorkshire’s biggest cities – Leeds and Sheffield – which both have City Region Business Investment Fund available to small businesses instead.

What about the rest of the UK?

Elsewhere across the UK, some councils offer incentives to companies that are willing to relocate or invest in green energy measures:

  • Sunderland City Council has awarded almost £5m worth of grants to businesses in the last five years for everything from premises and equipment to marketing and business development – and even a grant of up to £250,000 for businesses that relocate to the city.
  • Coventry City Council has given out almost £6m of grants since 2016 to help companies with growth and expansion, reducing carbon emissions and developing innovative services and technologies.

There’s a big variation on how businesses can attract grants

In North West England, there’s a huge variation on how businesses can attract grants

Councils in Bolton, Bury, Wigan, Wirral, Oldham, Rochdale, Tameside, Traffordand Knowsley all offer grants for different purposes including funding apprenticeships and youth employment, flood resilience measures and the development of empty shops.

Combined authorities, such as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authoritycover larger areas but offer more opportunities for grants and funding to small businesses than individual councils.

What small business grants are available in London?

The disparity in availability of small business grants is no more evident than when looking at the capital. Of the 30 London boroughs who replied to The UK Domain’s Freedom of Information requests, only seven of these (23%) offer grants to small businesses.

  • In North London, Camden Borough Council and Islington Borough Council offer grants to help businesses reduce emissions.
  • Ealing and Haringey councils offer grants for external regeneration.
  • In central London, Southwark council offers early stage grants to entrepreneurs, whilst Westminster offers funding towards broadband connection.
  • Merton council can offer discounted rates to local businesses.

If your business or start-up is looking to attract funding, it’s essential that you get the right support to know what is available to you.

Natalie Wood, from The UK Domain, said: “Our research shows that there’s a lot on offer to start-ups or small businesses if you know where to look – but navigating it can be so complex that some businesses could be missing out. At The UK Domain, we offer free advice and resources to help small businesses and start-ups so that you can really make the most out of what’s available.”