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Eligibility Guide.

Section 1: Introduction

The Business Growth Fund is funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority, Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council and Sunderland City Council through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) is a central pillar of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025.  The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills.

 

For more information on UKSPF visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-shared-prosperity-fund-prospectus

 

The Business Growth Fund is managed by UMi Commercial Limited (‘UMi’) in partnership with UNW LLP (‘UNW’) and offers grants to eligible businesses to support capital expenditure and its objectives are to:

  • Secure investment into the area that will stimulate business growth and create new employment opportunities.

 

  • Overcome barriers to make job creation projects viable, providing financial assistance to enable business growth and / or improvement projects to go ahead.

 

  • Reduce financial risk for beneficiary businesses in making capital investments.

 

  • Improve productivity and introduce new technologies and processes, resulting in increased profitability, wage growth, and employment growth.

Grants will only be offered to businesses where they can contribute to the objectives listed above and will not be offered for any other purpose.  We encourage you to contact us to discuss your project idea and proposed activities and costs at the earliest opportunity to ensure that they are aligned with the objectives of the Fund.

Grants may support capital expenditure on plant, machinery, equipment, premises and fit-out works that enable business growth, and productivity improvements.

Grants of between £20,000 and £300,000 are available at variable intervention rates of up to 30%, dependent upon the amount requested, the need for grant support and the level of impact in terms of job outcomes and productivity improvements.

Grant applications must involve eligible capital expenditure of at least £66,666 as a minimum.

Please note that submitting a grant application does not automatically entitle your business to receive a grant.  Grant applications are assessed on a first-come-first-served basis and grants will be offered only while there are funds available in the relevant local authority area.  The funding allocations for each area are as follows:

North of Tyne Combined Authority comprising Newcastle, North Tyneside, and Northumberland: £2,028,934.

Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council: £624,912.

Sunderland City Council: £825,371.

Grant applications will be assessed to see how well they fit the priorities of the Fund and whether they offer sufficient impact and value for money.  All grants offered by the Fund are expected to generate measurable outcomes including job creation and safeguarding, productivity improvements and the adoption of new technologies and processes.

Section 2: Essential criteria

Location:  All activity to be supported by this Fund must take place in the North of Tyne area (comprising the local authority areas of Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland) or in the local authority areas of Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council or Sunderland City Council.  This area is referred to as ‘the area’ in this guidance.  Note that your business need not already be located in the area before you apply for a grant, but the Fund will only support activity and investment that takes place within the area.

Business size and sector:  Grants will only be awarded to businesses with no more than 250 employees in the area and which operate in an eligible business sector (see Section 3.1 for details).

New activity:  Grant funding is designed to enable new activities and projects to be undertaken and cannot support ongoing or ‘business as usual’ activities.  We cannot support any activity which has already started or to which a legal or financial commitment has been made (see Sections 3.2 and 3.3 for details).

Eligible expenditure:  We can only support capital expenditure which is eligible for this Fund (see Sections 3.2 and 3.3 for details).

Finance:  Grant funding is designed to cover a certain proportion of the eligible costs of your project.  You must be able to finance the balance of the project cost and cash-flow the entire cost, as all grants are paid in arrears. 

Payment may be made in instalments based on eligible expenditure incurred and performance milestones achieved.

Timescale:  You must be able to complete the project activity, pay your suppliers and claim the grant within the agreed timeframe.

Procurement:  All suppliers must be procured in accordance with the Fund’s procurement regulations.

Displacement:  The Fund is designed to accelerate economic growth in the region and therefore we may not be able to support activities which could lead to the displacement of economic activity or jobs in the area or any neighbouring area.

Subsidy control:  All grants from this Fund are Minimal Financial Assistance (MFA) given in accordance with the Subsidy Control Act.  Your business must be able to receive the amount requested without breaching the threshold of £315,000 for MFA and comparable subsidies (including De Minimis Aid) received in the current financial year (i.e. from 1 April) and the previous two financial years.  For the purposes of the Subsidy Control Act, the date received is the date of the Grant Offer Letter.

Anti-Money Laundering and terrorist financing checks:  All grant applicants must pass UMi’s Know Your Customer (KYC) checks and risk assessments.

Outcomes:  All grants offered by the Fund are required to generate outcomes within the area, and if your business is offered a grant, you must ensure that the required outcomes are achieved by the specified date.  The Grant Offer Letter will set out the exact outcomes for each grant together with the dates by which they must be achieved, and the associated evidence required.

 

 The required outcomes for all grants awarded from this Fund and their definitions are listed in the table below.

 

Retention of assets:  Capital assets acquired with grant support must remain in the ownership of the grant recipient and must continue in use within the business in the area for a minimum of 5 years.

Environmental performance of assets:  The environmental performance of assets acquired with grant support must meet or exceed current standards and perform to a higher standard than any assets being replaced.

Additionality:  The amount of grant applied for must be the minimum necessary for the investment to go ahead.  Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have exhausted all alternative sources of funding or that there is a credible reason why external funding cannot be used instead of a grant.

Grants may only be awarded where there is credible, verifiable evidence of one or more of the following:

  • That the investment would not go ahead without grant support.

  • That the investment would not go ahead at the scale proposed or within the timescale of the Fund without grant support.

  • That the investment would not take place in the area without grant support.

Section 3: Eligibility

3.1 Business size and sector

The Fund takes an expansive approach to eligibility, welcoming applications from a diverse range of sectors.  This encompasses not only traditional industries but also dynamic sectors, tourism and rural businesses, recognising their vital role in regional development. 

Trading status and age of business:  Businesses must already be trading to apply for grant support; pre-trading businesses are not eligible.  Businesses that have been trading for less than 24 months at the time of application must be able to demonstrate that they are a viable trading business via management accounts.

Business size and ownership:  Grant applicants must either be small or medium enterprises (SMEs) or must meet the non-SME definition below.

SME definition:  To be classed as an SME, your business must meet at least 2 of the following conditions:

  • Annual turnover must be no more than £36 million

  • Balance sheet total (i.e. total assets) must be no more than £18 million

  • Number of full-time equivalent employees (working 30 hours or more per week) must be no more than 250.

Non-SME definition:  Businesses that are part of a group, or subsidiaries of large companies or part of any other structure of common ownership or common control are also eligible provided that they operate independently and employ no more than 250 full-time equivalent employees (working 30 hours or more per week) in the area.

Business sector:  Businesses in all sectors are eligible to apply for grant support from the Fund except the following:

  • Agriculture (note that only primary agriculture is ineligible and farm diversification projects that do not involve agricultural production may be supported)

  • Fishery and aquaculture

  • Banking, including credit institutions

  • Insurance

  • Public sector and quasi-public sector organisations

  • Organisations whose principal purpose is to provide any of the following:

    • local social welfare and community services e.g. hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, fire stations, sports clubs and societies, parks, public libraries

    • housing rental

    • public services or activities to supplement public services e.g. social housing, school age education.

 

3.2 Eligible activities and expenditure

These grants are designed to provide financial support for capital investments in the area that enable business growth and productivity improvements.  Eligible expenditure may include all the following (this list may not be exhaustive):

Plant, machinery, and equipment:  Investments in specialised equipment and machinery to increase production capacity and maximise operational efficiency.

Premises:  Support for improvements, expansions, or renovations of physical facilities to accommodate business growth and operational needs.

Fit-out works:  Funding for customising and outfitting spaces to meet specific industry requirements, creating functional and productive environments.

 

3.3 Ineligible activities and expenditure

The following activities and costs are not eligible for grant support (this list may not be exhaustive):

  • Any activity which has started or cost which has been incurred before the project start date shown in the grant funding agreement

  • Any activity which is certain to lead to the displacement of economic activity or jobs in the area or any neighbouring area.

  • Costs for which other public funding has been received or awarded.

  • Relocation costs (note that if a business needs to relocate to expand, costs in connection with the expansion may be considered).

  • Costs associated with the provision of housing.

  • Costs associated with land or buildings acquired solely as an investment or to be used solely to generate rental income.

  • Repairs and maintenance of existing buildings, equipment, or machinery.

  • Like-for-like replacement of existing items.

  • Capital assets with an expected life of less than 5 years, or which are expected to remain in the ownership of the grant recipient for less than 5 years.

  • Motor vehicles for the transportation of goods or passengers.

  • Business running costs and overheads including wages, business rates, utilities, insurance, recurring license fees, subscriptions, and service charges.

  • Routine activities including those fulfilling a statutory or regulatory requirement (e.g. preparation of financial accounts, audit fees, routine HR services etc).

  • Materials and consumables.

  • Training.

  • Bank and other finance charges and interest on debt.

  • Reclaimable VAT.

  • Political activities.

  • Contingencies.

  • Depreciation.

  • Fines.

 

3.4 Leases, Mortgages, Hire Purchase and Asset Finance

Grants may go towards the acquisition of premises under a lease or with a mortgage, or the acquisition of other assets on Hire Purchase (HP) or with asset finance.  Costs for premises must not represent the entirety of the eligible project costs.

The following conditions apply to premises leases:

  • We must be provided with a signed copy of the agreement before making any grant payments

  • Premises lease agreements must have a minimum term of 5 years

  • Lease costs may be capitalised over the full term of the lease (subject to a maximum of 5 years) and the full lease cost (exclusive of interest charges, VAT, and fees) may be treated as eligible costs

  • Grant recipients are not permitted to claim more in grant payments than they defray on lease payments (exclusive of interest charges, VAT, and fees) during the term of the Grant Offer Letter.  In all cases, defrayal must take place before 31 March 2025.

The following conditions apply to mortgages, HP and asset finance:

  • We must be provided with a signed copy of the agreement before making any grant payments

  • Ownership of the premises or other asset must pass to the grant recipient upon completion of the agreement

  • Costs may be capitalised over the full term of the agreement and the full cost of the asset (exclusive of interest charges, VAT, and fees) may be treated as an eligible cost

  • Grant recipients are not permitted to claim more in grant payments than they have defrayed towards the eligible cost of the asset (exclusive of interest charges, VAT, and fees) during the term of the Grant Offer Letter.  In all cases, defrayal must take place before 31 March 2025.

Section 4: Grant application and award process

Stage 1: Registration and expression of interest:  Grant applicants must first register at https://www.businessgrowth.fund/ and complete the online expression of interest.  UMi will assess your expression of interest and confirm if you are eligible to proceed to the next stage.

Stage 2: Adviser meeting: An UMi Adviser will arrange a meeting with you to discuss your application before sending you a link to complete a stage 2 application.  Your application must be submitted via the UMi online portal, and we will be happy to provide any extra guidance you may need to help with your application.  If you choose to use a professional adviser to assist you, we will liaise with them if you authorise us to.

Grants Assessment Panel:  UMi and UNW staff will assess your application to ensure that it is complete and meets the Gateway Criteria before submitting it to the Grants Assessment Panel for a decision if applicable.  We will advise you if your application will be assessed by the Panel or not.  Applications not assessed by the Panel will be assessed by UMi and UNW.

If we have any queries or require more information from you at any stage, we will contact you.

Grants Assessment Panel Gateway Criteria:

  • The application must be complete, and all required supporting information and documentation provided.

  • The business must be able to finance and deliver the project within the Fund timeframe if awarded the grant.

  • A credible explanation must be provided of why the grant is needed in accordance with the additionality criteria set out above.

  • A credible explanation must be provided of how the amount requested has been calculated and why it is the minimum necessary for the investment to go ahead.

  • The business must be viable and continue to be viable if the project goes ahead with grant support.

  • The business must be able to generate and sustain the outcomes set out in the application.

  • The number of job outcomes set out in the application must be commensurate with the size of the grant request.

Grants Assessment Panel Terms of Reference:  The Panel is comprised of senior staff from the North of Tyne

 

Combined Authority, Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council and Sunderland City Council, UMi and UNW.

All information provided to the Panel is treated as confidential and all Panel members are bound by contractual confidentiality provisions.

Panel members are required to declare conflicts of interest (including actual, potential, or perceived conflicts) before considering any application in which they consider themselves conflicted.  Conflicted Panel members will exclude themselves from voting and will be substituted with a non-conflicted member of staff.

The Panel meets regularly, and meetings may be convened in person or via video conference.

Decisions are made by consensus, with each member having one vote.  The Panel may approve or reject applications and may defer any application if it considers that there is insufficient information on which to base a decision.  Deferred applications may be considered at a future Panel meeting.

Applications rejected by the Panel may be re-submitted for further consideration only if the project has changed fundamentally or there is new information which materially alters what was available to the Panel when the application was first considered.

KYC, Fraud and Anti-Money Laundering, Due Dilligence checks will be completed prior to assessment panel.  Once your application has been approved by the Grants Assessment Panel, we will send you a grant offer letter via our electronic signature platform.  You should not engage suppliers or start any project activities or incur any costs until you have signed the grant offer letter.

Section 5: Grant application assessment scope

Every grant application will be examined in the following areas to enable a decision to be made on whether to award a grant.

 

  • Additionality/need for grant

  • Viability and finance

  • Management capability, financial controls and project deliverability

  • Deliverability of employment impacts

  • Parent company financial standing (if applicable)

  • Recommendations of conditions for inclusion within the grant agreement.

 

 Additionality/need for grant

 

Support will only be given for projects that will not be pursued in the absence of a grant i.e. the grant must lead to additional economic activity.

 

  • Assessment of the applicant’s additionality argument, including what would happen in the absence of grant funding.

  • Critical examination of the information provided by the applicant to verify the need for grant assistance, taking into account any other finance to be used.

  • Confirmation of the minimum amount of grant funding required to allow the project to proceed.

 

Viability and finance

 

  • High-level analysis of the financial performance and balance sheet position of the applicant with reference to the last year’s financial statements and the latest management accounts, with comparison to budget (if applicable).

  • Review of the forecast profit and loss and cash flow presented with the application and assessment of the reasonableness of the assumptions, achievability of the project objectives, and any material risks to the overall delivery of the project.

  • Examination of the status of the finance arrangements for the project including as appropriate contributions from the company, parent, third party equity, bank finance etc., identifying the current status, key risks/sensitivity analyses and the contingency planning in this regard.

 

Management capability, financial controls and project deliverability

 

  • Review of the project management team and their experience of implementing similar projects in the past and identify any gaps or weaknesses.

  • High-level review of the financial controls and comment on whether these are appropriate for the size of the company/group.

  • Assessment of any significant changes since the application stage, why the changes have occurred and assessment of any associated impact on the project’s eligibility and deliverability including, but not limited to, the impact on timing of capital expenditure and job creation (having due regard for the Fund end date of 31 March 2025).

Deliverability of employment outcomes

 

High-level analysis and examination of the following.

 

  • Whether the anticipated total employment at the end of the project is consistent with the financial projections and is based upon reasonable assumptions.

  • By reference to management representations, company documents and financial forecasts, confirmation that the recipient intends to maintain the project jobs for a minimum of 12 months.

  • By reference to management representations and a review of previous grants, confirmation that the project is separate and distinct from any other grants still in conditions and confirm the number of jobs still in conditions under previous grants.

  • Whether there is a risk of displacement of jobs from other employers in the region as a result of the project.

  • For safeguarded jobs, whether there are credible explanations of why the jobs are at risk and how the project will safeguard them.

 

Parent company financial standing – if applicable

 

High-level review and examination of the following in respect of the parent company, where applicable.

 

  • Its ability to meet the contractual obligations of the grant applicant and its capacity to meet any cost overruns to support the grant applicant in general and specifically, to complete the project.

  • Its financial position and key ratios using as appropriate available public information and management information.

  • Its ability to provide a guarantee.

 

Conditions for inclusion within the grant agreement

 

Conditions which may be included in the grant agreement and/or to be considered further during the monitoring of the project, including the following.

 

  • Restrictions on the amount of grant to be offered.

  • Milestones for payment of the grant (e.g. capital spend and job targets which will trigger each instalment of grant).

  • Pre-conditions which must be met before payment of grant.

  • Any areas where the project will need to be closely monitored or any subsequent action required after the grant has been paid.

 

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0191 716 1007   

businessgrowthfund@weareumi.co.uk

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