Grabbing green grants – sustainable help for businesses

Lawrence Jones

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Climate change is a topic that just won’t go away, with catastrophic predictions of flood, famine and pestilence made by scientists every week. Now it seems even unborn babies aren’t immune to the changes in the world’s temperature.

There’s blanket acceptance that, in limiting the damage of global warming, we need to cut carbon emissions, and businesses – as the major polluters in the world – are key to this. Thankfully, being green isn’t just good for the planet, it’s also good for business.

The good news is that there is funding out there for businesses that want to clean up their act.

Here are some ways you can get your hands on it.

Green grants

There are a number of ‘grant finder’ sites for businesses, offering access to a whole range of funding opportunities. From fitting solar panels to your roof to providing cut-price or even free insulation, there is money out there. It may not be the most exciting way to save, but every penny helps.

If you’re struggling to pay up front for carbon-reduction technology, there are ‘green loans’ to help you fund innovation, supplied by the Carbon Trust and its commercial partner Siemens.

Estimating that “20 per cent of a business’s annual energy costs are wasted through the use of energy inefficient equipment”, the Carbon Trust has put their money where their mouth is and have a pot of £550 million, which businesses of any size can borrow against.

While borrowing to save may seem counterintuitive, the Carbon Trust estimates that any savings made should cover the repayments.

If status is your thing, a new Mercedes or Audi may look good in the car park. But with the government offering 25 per cent off the cost of an electric car, doesn’t it make more sense to go green?

Innovation funding

For more technically minded innovations, funding bodies like the EPSRC, Innovate (formerly the Technology Strategy Board), the SBRI (targeted at small businesses) and many others regularly offer funding to businesses keen to develop or introduce green tech. It’s not easy, though, and you will need to have a solid business plan and a keen understanding of your market, as well as potentially needing academic support.

With such a range of options, it can be hard to narrow them down, so use the appropriately named GRANTfinder – the UK’s biggest funding aggregator – and check back regularly, as things often move quickly.

Part of the union

Membership of the EU may polarise opinion, but it does offer businesses access to huge amounts of green-funding opportunities. Unfortunately, some of these options are only available to new businesses.

If you have a great new idea, however, take a leaf out of serial entrepreneur Richard Branson’s book and create a spin-off company. Apart from the accounting benefits, it reduces risk to your core business.

In the EU, businesses can enter CleanLaunchpad – a competition to find the EU’s best “cleantech” startup, with a €10,000 prize for the winner.

The European Knowledge and Information Community offers a whole range of support packages, from funding to advice and mentorship. Grants and loans come in a variety of sizes, and businesses have access to funds of up to €25,000 for concepts, rising to hundreds of thousands for products and services that make it.

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