WEAF’s “Navigating the Grants Maze” workshop was a huge success, with over 40 attendees finding out the various channels to finance, from grants, through to banks through to investors. And at the same time there were really useful sessions on how to boost human resources in the most cost- effective way.
Jane Christopherson, Financial Controller at Bath-based RPI, picks up the HR aspect: “It was a great event and I learned a lot. For me it was mostly about information gathering, and I gathered a lot. Because of this event we will now definitely look for a graduate engineer intern for our robotics project, and we will also be looking to expand our apprenticeship scheme.”
These supported schemes to boost HR are particularly important for RPI, as it needs highly skilled engineers to enable it to continue producing precision positioning devices for high accuracy rotary and angular inspection systems.
Delegates to the seminar learned about support for apprentices, leadership coaching and graduate internships. Take apprenticeships. They are not about making the tea. They are about securing fresh talent for your business that you can train to be full team members. They range in educational attainment from basic GCSEs through to degree and masters programmes. And training costs can be 100% funded. What’s not to like?!
However, the main focus of the day was undoubtedly funding, and for one Financial Director the benefits were clear.
Douglas Johnstone of Newton Abbott- based Rockwood Composites said: “This was an extremely valuable day. As an FD I’m very well informed on what’s out there. However today I found out about two other potential channels for funding, which I’m now pursuing. There’s cash to be had for innovative businesses – the trick is to find it and this event has achieved that … for those that attended.”
The funding point was amplified by Chris Mahn, Managing Director of Nicofe Materials, who diarised meetings with four potential funders on the day. Chris said: “As a newly named and branded company, we have many of the challenges faced by start-ups, including funding.
“This workshop contained many extremely helpful and informative sessions. I had a few questions at the start of the day, and now I have the answers to those and many more I wasn’t expecting – we have already booked meetings and visits with four potential funders.”
A wide range of funding opportunities was described in several of the sessions. This included:
- A straight-forward bank loan – well straight-forward is certainly the way to access these funds, with event sponsor Lloyds about to announce an eye watering amount specifically for small businesses – watch the media for the announcement.
- Grants – for manufacturers for a wide range of functions, from relocation through to leadership coaching through to … almost anything as long as you’re growing, especially if you’re exporting or thinking about it.
- Investment – from a company that doesn’t want to take control of your business, but does want to support you in huge growth.
For the Technical Director and founder of Loop Technology, Alun Reece, finding out about the broad array of funding possibilities was a key benefit of attending the workshop. He commented: “Any growing business has a number of challenges, and one of those is funding. I learned a lot about the opportunities that are available, and importantly who are the best people to contact.
“It was interesting to see the broad range of possibilities, from grants to loans to VC investment; it was all there. Now I can make an informed decision on which is best for Loop.”
And the range, and speed, of presentations, all around 10 minutes in duration, was welcomed by Mark Summers, the Managing Director of Avon Valley Precision Engineering: “What was really good about this workshop was the variety of topics and that they were delivered rapid-fire. The speakers highlighted a wide range of funding and skills opportunities, and I picked up several new possibilities which I’ll be following up. Definitely the best use of half a day in a very long time.”
So there’s a lot of support for these events from WEAF members. Let’s give the last word to Adrian Harding, WEAF’s business development lead: “The resounding message from WEAF members is that if you can get out of the office or factory for half a day, there are huge benefits to be had, some of which will be unexpected. I’d like to thank all the contributors and members who made this into a fantastic day.”