Bexley Innovation and Growth Grant

Small to medium-sized businesses located in the London Borough of Bexley have the opportunity to apply for an Innovation and Growth Grant of between £5,000 and £25,000 (non-repayable).

The grant can fund the cost of new technology, equipment, professional, legal, financial advice, research and development, specialist training and marketing. In addition, the grant offers to help businesses adapt their premises, grow or diversify and get back on track after COVID-19.

The grant is made possible through the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG), funded by the Central Government to support businesses to survive and recover from the impact of the pandemic. Approximately £370,000 of ARG funding has been made available.

Grant scheme objectives

This grant scheme aims to help Bexley businesses meet the following:

  • business growth
  • diversification
  • increase efficiency
  • reduce environmental impacts / improve the environment

Eligible costs

The grant scheme will fund the following:

  • equipment that will help businesses diversify, increase turnover, reduce environmental impacts (e.g. carbon reduction, improve energy efficiency, reduce waste), improve services or products, increase capacity or boost business productivity
  • technology or digital marketing tools, for example, a website or online shop, new software or technology
  • research, feasibility or analysis that supports further development of the business including prototype development
  • specialist professional advice or training to help businesses to implement adaptations and changes to promote growth; this includes (but is not limited to) human resources, legal, financial, IT and digital matters
  • premises adaptation costs (internal only - and nothing requiring planning permission)

Grants cannot be used for cash flow related expenditure, general running costs including rent or rates, paying off existing debts or to support salaries.

Eligibility criteria

Your business may be eligible to apply for an Innovation and Growth Grant if it meets the criteria set out below. In order to be considered your business must:

  • be located within the London Borough of Bexley and have been operating before 1 February 2020
  • be a commercial business - not a charity or public sector organisation
  • currently employ fewer than 50 employees
  • be officially registered - e.g. Ltd Company, CIC, LLP, VAT registered, registered self-employed - and with a business bank account
  • have a minimum of £50k turnover in the last full trading year – or in the last full year before the Covid-19 pandemic
  • be independent and not part of a large national company (you might have other businesses in Bexley or other local towns, but you must not be part of a national franchise or chain)
  • be committed to continuing trading in the Bexley borough for at least three years. We would expect to see evidence of this commitment (e.g. a copy of your business lease, if applicable)
  • have experienced at least a 10% loss of turnover due to Covid (even if you have since recouped this loss)

You will not be eligible for this grant if your business:

  • is in administration, receivership or subject to a winding-up order
  • has breached COVID-19 regulations and as a result, received a prohibition notice
  • will have received more than the allowable threshold of State Subsidy (funding or aid from government bodies) during the current financial year and the two previous financial years - inclusive of the value of the Bexley Innovation and Growth Grant applied for. At the time of writing the State Subsidy threshold is approximately £337,000 over the current and previous two financial years. If you suspect an application to the BIGG could take you over this limit, you may still be eligible under certain conditions, but please contact us for more information before applying. Email BIGG@bexley.gov.uk

Match funding

In addition to meeting the above eligibility criteria, you must also be willing and able to provide a minimum of 10% match funding in cash towards the project you want us to help fund through this grant. Please note, the grant scheme will only fund up to 90% of the cost of the project.

For example, if your project has a total cost of £10,000, we expect you to put at least £1,000 towards this.

Application procedure

To apply for a Bexley Innovation and Growth Grant (BIGG), please complete the BIGG application form to demonstrate how the funding will improve the health of your business in the long term and meet at least two of the objectives set out above.

Completing the form will require you to develop a compelling and evidenced proposal for us to consider. You are advised to prepare this before starting the form. Further guidance on the information we would expect you to submit is provided on the form.

Submit the completed form, including all requested supporting evidence, by 5pm on Monday 24 January 2022.

Applicants must have provided all required supporting evidence by the deadline, or their application will be automatically rejected.

We reserve the right to close the application form early if the available funding looks likely to be exhausted.

Apply now

What happens after you have submitted your application?

A panel led by the Bexley Business and Employment team will assess your completed BIGG Application Form within 20 working days of the closing date and score it against a set of transparent criteria. The scoring criteria are set out below.

Completing the application and providing supporting evidence does not guarantee any award of funding.

Applicants scoring 60 points or more will be shortlisted, but awards are conditional on sufficient funds being available. Once the overall grant funding has reached its limits, we won't be able to issue further grants. We will rank all eligible applications by score and then by date and time submitted prior to the grant being withdrawn, so the higher you score and the earlier you get your application in, the more likely your proposal will be successful.

We reserve the right to award less money than requested in your application.

Payment terms

If your application meets the minimum score threshold for shortlisting, we will write asking you to provide additional information or documentary evidence to verify your application. Your grant application is conditional on these requests being complied with promptly. Once these are received, subject to sufficient funds being available, you will be issued with a conditional offer of grant funding and a grant agreement containing our terms and conditions.

If you wish to receive a copy of the full terms and conditions in advance of applying, please contact us.

The match funding payment requirement will be agreed with the applicant and built into the grant agreement’s terms and conditions.

If you accept our terms and conditions and provide all required additional information and evidence, the grant will be awarded, and payment processes and procedures will be agreed with the applicant before the work begins. We will pay the grant into your official business bank account as quickly as possible.

Please note that because this is a grant it will not include VAT. You will remain responsible for paying and reclaiming any VAT due on purchases related to this scheme.

You will be required to spend the grant in accordance with the terms and conditions within 26 weeks after the grant has been paid into your account (or by 30 September 2022, whichever is soonest). You will also be required to submit all receipts for the relevant expenditure to the Council for inspection. The receipts should include the whole cost of the project including the 10% match funding (e.g if your grant is worth £9,000, we would expect to see an invoice/receipt with a value of £10,000 as evidence).

London Borough of Bexley will be responsible for monitoring the effectiveness of this fund and they will require you to participate in the grant evaluation. We reserve the right to audit grants post-award, including requesting additional documentary or photographic evidence and in-person inspections.

Grant scheme scoring criteria

1. How does the project meet the scheme objectives?

The applicant has demonstrated that their project will contribute to one or more of the BIGG objectives:

  1. Business growth - increased turnover and/or employment, increased market share
  2. Business diversification - entry into new markets and/or attracting new customers
  3. Increased efficiency - reduced costs, increased profitability, increased productivity
  4. Reducing environmental impacts - becoming a greener business or helping others to become greener
Score Scoring criteria
0 - 3 The applicant has demonstrated how the intervention will meet at least one objective (if no objectives are met, score 0)
4 - 6 The applicant has demonstrated how the intervention will clearly meet at least two of the objectives
7 - 10 The applicant has demonstrated how the intervention will clearly meet three or more of the objectives

2. Business rationale

The business has identified sound rationale for needing a grant; they have demonstrated:

  1. Market research
  2. Competition awareness
  3. Marketing and promotions strategy
  4. Accurate customer profiling
  5. Financial forecasting
Score Scoring criteria
0 - 3 Demonstrated few, if any, of the five key aspects
4 - 6 Demonstrated elements of more than three aspects
7 - 10 Clearly demonstrated all aspects

3. Adaption to market changes

The applicant has demonstrated that the funding will help the business adapt to meet the needs and lifestyles of the modern customer and post COVID-19 market conditions.

  1. The use of social or web media to attract or sell to new target markets
  2. The use of promotional material to reach new markets
  3. Introducing faster, better quality or more convenient services to beat the competition, e.g. delivery service, next day service etc
  4. Diversifying or introducing new products to meet need
Score Scoring criteria
0 - 3 At least one adaptation (if no adaptations score 0)
4 - 6 Two adaptations
7 - 10 More than two adaptations

4. Greener business

The applicant has demonstrated that the funding will reduce their climate impact (i.e. reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and make the business more environmentally friendly. For example:

  1. Reduced energy consumption
  2. Reduced noise pollution
  3. Adoption of renewable energy options
  4. Contribution towards green transportation
  5. Sell ‘green’ product lines or services
  6. Reducing or reusing waste or adopting recycling initiatives
Score Scoring criteria
0 - 3 Score 1 - 3 if one feature (if no features score 0)
4 - 6 Two features
7 - 10 Three or more features

5. Quality and range of goods and service

The applicant has demonstrated that the funding will enable the business to provide higher quality products or services, or an expanded range of goods and services.

The improved or new products/services might be healthier, safer, tastier, more durable, faster, more bespoke, more streamlined etc.

Score Scoring criteria
0 - 3 At least one quality improvement or additional product lines
4 - 6 Two to three quality improvements or additional product lines
7 - 10 Over three quality improvements or additional product lines

6. Capacity of applicant

The applicant has demonstrated that they have the ability and resources to deliver the changes funded by the grant. They demonstrate this through:

  1. Clear understanding of the outputs required and how these relate to their business
  2. A track record of delivering continuous improvements to their business operation
  3. Evidence of sound financial management, including responsible use of previous government support received
  4. Clear description of how and why they wish to use a grant to build business resilience and growth
Score Scoring criteria
0 - 3 Have demonstrated at least one aspect listed above
4 - 6 Have demonstrated at least two aspects listed above
7 - 10 Have demonstrated at least three or more aspects listed above

7. Feasibility, deliverability and value for money

The applicant has demonstrated that:

  1. The works required could be carried out on time and on budget
  2. Risks to delivery within timescale and budget have been identified along with mitigating measures
  3. The applicant's plans match the project expectations and required outputs
  4. They have obtained three written quotations for each item or service to be purchased
Score Scoring criteria
0 - 3 0 = No evidence provided on Feasibility, Deliverability and VFM
1 - 3 = Minimal evidence provided
4 - 6 Moderate evidence provided
7 - 10 Full and detailed evidence provided

8. Positive impact on Bexley local economy

The applicant has demonstrated that the following benefits could feasibly be derived from the investment - providing projected figures for:

  1. New jobs created
  2. Jobs safeguarded
  3. Upskilling local people (staff or customers) - people trained in new skills
  4. Apprenticeships or placements offered
  5. Use of local suppliers for goods or services purchased
Score Scoring criteria
0 - 3 Little or no evidence of positive impact on local economy
4 - 6 Some evidence of positive impacts - encompassing one or two of these outputs
7 - 10 Strong evidence of positive impacts - encompassing three or more of these outputs

9. Commitment to the local area

Applicant has demonstrated a commitment to Bexley. Evidence includes (but is not limited to):

  1. Holds a lease exceeding three years
  2. Is prepared to invest personal money in the business
  3. Has invested capital in the business in the recent past
  4. Prepared to contribute, or has contributed to business/community networking including mentoring early-stage business owners
  5. Uses local supplier within two miles
  6. Any other evidence of commitment to locality
Score Scoring criteria
0 - 3 One or fewer elements
4 - 6 Two elements
7 - 10 Three or more elements

10. Added value

Applicant could not fund the business intervention without the grant funding support. The intervention is essential to the success of the business.

Score Scoring criteria
0 - 3 Applicant has resources and the intervention is not essential to the success of the business
4 - 6 Applicant may have resources and the intervention is important to the success of the business
7 - 10 Applicant would not otherwise be able to fund the intervention and the intervention is essential to the health of the business

Frequently Asked Questions

Which period should the figures demonstrating loss of income be from?

You can choose the 12 month period that is relevant to your business - as long as it falls within the period where COVID-19 has been impacting the economy (i.e. from March 2020 until now) to calculate your losses.

In addition to the specific sample months we have requested, you can include the figures for the relevant months that illustrate your significant loss of income in the comment box which asks for a description of how your business has been impacted by COVID-19. This additional information will be considered.

Can the BIGG scheme help with taking on new premises?

You will see from the guidance that “Grants cannot be used for cash flow related expenditure, general running costs including rent or rates, paying off existing debts or to support salaries.” This means that you could not bid for this funding to help with ongoing premises costs. However, it is possible for the grant to be used for internal premises adaptation, so if your lease arrangements were such that you could pay for initial premises refurbishment or adaptation costs in lieu of rent for a certain period, this funding could potentially be used to help you take on new premises.

Can BIGG be used to pay for improvement/investment that has already been made by the business prior to the announcement of the scheme?

Unfortunately, you would only be able to use the BIGG funding for future planned investments and improvements. We would not be able to fund any purchases or expenses that have been incurred prior to the application closing date which is 24 January 2022. Any relevant purchases made after this date (i.e., from 25 January) but before any grant offer is formalised through a grant agreement, may be included, but would entirely be at the risk of the applicant.

Can a franchisee for national businesses apply for BIGG?

The guidance for the scheme states that applicants must ‘be independent and not part of a large national company (you might have other businesses in Bexley or other local towns, but you must not be part of a national franchise or chain)’. Therefore, if your business is part of the national franchise then you would not be eligible, unfortunately.

Could we fund professional educational courses that would run beyond the deadline of 30 September (or 6 months from date of grant agreement)?

If what you are purchasing is an educational course with a number of modules that take place over a period longer than 6 months this would be acceptable as long as the course (or any constituent modules of the course) had been started before the agreed deadline, and we would expect to see evidence of this.

If more than one asset was included in a proposal, and these are not closely related, and the rationale for one of the assets is weaker, would the whole application be marked down?

We would consider all assets that you intend to purchase with the grant in the context of your overall plan for improvement to the business. Even if they are not closely related, there should be a business rationale for including them in your bid - and this rationale needs to be clearly set out. Please provide as much information on why each of these assets will improve your business, bearing in mind the 10 scoring criteria we have provided in detail at the bottom of the guidance page. If you feel that the case for one of the assets is not proven and may weaken your overall bid, you may want to consider focussing your application on just the stronger ones.

Can the BIGG form be saved partway through?

Unfortunately, there is no facility for the form to be saved partway through. You do have to do it all in one sitting. It is advisable to gather all the information required in advance and to draft the narrative sections of your bid on a separate document (e.g. in MS Word) so that there is no risk of losing your text if anything goes wrong or if you have to abort.