How a small business received grant help

Alan White, development director at Aberdeen-based mobile learning company Skills@Work, explains how his small business applied for and received grants.

What were the grants you received and how did you find out about them?

We have received two grant and two funded consultancies.

The grants were:

  • Approximately £25,000 for research and development from Scottish Enterprise in respect of a mobile learning programme on the UK Anti Bribery Act
  • Approximately £1,000 towards travel and accommodation costs in respect of overseas research trips to France, Angola and Ghana, and a Scottish Development International funded participation in the EDUCA education fair in Luanda.

The consultancies were:

  • A four-day marketing audit and report
  • A four-day export preparedness audit and report

We found out about the support from Kevin Lonergan, our account manager at [Scottish Enterprise project] Alba Innovation Centre.

What did you do to apply? What did the entire process involve? Was it demanding?

Kevin helped us to find the right contacts within Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International.

Thereafter it was a straightforward process of completing and submitting the grant application forms.

In respect of the consultancies we also had to submit an up-to-date version of our business plan – not too onerous since we had a version that was pretty much up to date already.

So all in all not too demanding, and well supported by Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International staff.

What were the conditions of the grant? Anything you could/couldn’t spend it on?

The R&D grant was specific to the Bribery Act project and could only be spent on activity, including project management, associated with that.

The travel grant only covers 30 per cent of pre-approved travel and accommodation costs. We found Scottish Development International to be helpful when we wanted to change a couple of the destinations – just so long as we kept within the agreed amount.

The consultants received their fees directly from Scottish Enterprise; we received no direct funding for these.

What did you spend it on?

The R&D grant was spent on 50 per cent of internal and external costs associated with concept development, design, programming, writing and project management for the mobile learning programme.

How has it helped the company?

In respect of R&D it got a product to market much sooner than we could have otherwise achieved and has led us to develop other programmes (Anti Money Laundering, Duty of Care and Ethics) in our Compliance@Work suite of products, all of which has led to enhanced cross-selling opportunities and successes in taking our other Management@Work programmes to market in the UK and in Angola and now hopefully Ghana.

What advice would you give other companies with regards to applying for grants?

Make sure that you are talking to the right people – for us that was the advisors at Alba Innovation Centre, where we had excellent support. Also, in association with Alba Innovation Centre, we were able to ensure we were speaking to the right people at Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International.

Anything to add about the process that would be interesting to small business owners?

The process really was very straightforward and while an element of financial support is always welcome in a small business, we got really good value from the consultancies too in steering a course for growing Skills@Work – a course that we are managing to pretty much stay exactly on track with.

Further reading on grants

Ben Lobel

Delphine Hintz

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

Related Topics

Business Grants