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5 of the best government schemes that can help your SME grow

Say what you will about the current UK government but they are dedicated to helping SMEs succeed. We look at some of the best government-backed schemes aimed at growing small business.

SMEs at Le Bureau co working office

Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox has described SMEs as ‘the backbone of our economy’ so it’s only right that the government has dedicated time, energy and money to helping small businesses thrive.

On first glance the range of options available can seem overwhelming, with a plethora of macro and micro funding and support schemes in action. Below, we have sought out five of the best that offer guidance and practical support for SMEs in London and the rest of the UK.

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Business Finder & Support Finder

You’ll find this handy interactive tool on the gov.uk website. Use it to search by location, sector, company size and activity, as well as for a raft of government-backed support for SMEs that includes grants, loans, mentoring and consultancy.

The wider gov.uk site is well worth exploring too, as it holds a wealth of information on everything from employment law to money and tax.

Find out more at gov.uk/business-finance-support

Growth Hubs

Led by the Local Enterprise Partnerships, Growth Hubs are a cross public-private initiative that join up national and local businesses so that SMEs can get access to the help they need.

The UK currently has 38 hubs including one in London.

Find out more at lepnetwork.net

Start Up Loans

This scheme provides free business support as well as funding, and is a good alternative for individuals looking to start a business without taking a loan from the bank.

SMEs may borrow up to £25,000 with a low fixed interest rate and a 1-5 year repayment schedule. In addition, applicants can benefit from 12 months of free mentoring, help with cash flow and business plans, templates and guides, and access to exclusive business offers.

Since its launch, Start Up Loans have helped more than 50,000 business ideas with over £350m of funding.

Find out more at startuploans.co.uk

UKEF funding

In October 2017, Liam Fox announced a partnership between UK Export Finance (UKEF), and five major high street banks that would give UK small businesses access to millions of pounds of government-backed finance.

The tie-in with Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS/NatWest and Santander is specifically aimed at SMEs that trade internationally, though businesses that supply international traders may also apply. Eligible SMEs can access the funding from their bank within seconds and it’s hoped that the scheme will encourage SMEs  to play a greater role in major export contracts.

Find out more at gov.uk

Apprentices

Hiring an apprentice from the government’s Apprentiship scheme is said to help reduce staff turnover, up-skill current workers and acquire skills tailored to your industry. Apprentices spend 80 per cent of their time on the job and the other 20 per cent training, often in conjunction with a training provider

For SMEs, the government covers 90 per cent of training and assessment costs for the duration of the apprenticeship, rising to 100 per cent if your business has less than 50 staff members and you take on an apprentice aged 16 to 18.

The government offers an additional grant of £1,000 to SMEs that take on apprentices aged 16-18 or 19-24 who have spent time in care. More support is on offer if you recruit an apprentice with additional learning needs.

Find out more at hireanapprentice.campaign.gov.uk

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