top of page

Section 1: Introduction

The Durham Business Growth Programme offers a selection of grants to eligible businesses covering both capital and revenue expenditure or a combination of both.  Sections 1 and 2 of this guidance apply to all grants offered by the Programme, while Section 3 and Section 4 set out the additional criteria and process for Revenue grants and Capital (including Hybrid) grants respectively.

Please read Section 2 if you wish to apply for any type of grant offered by the Programme and then read the relevant section for the type of grant you wish to apply for. Businesses may apply for both a Revenue grant and a Capital (including Hybrid) grant but may not apply for more than one grant of each type.

Please note that submitting a grant application does not automatically entitle your business to receive a grant.  Grant applications will be assessed to see how well they fit the priorities of the Programme and whether they offer sufficient impact and value for money.  All grants offered by the Programme are expected to generate measurable outcomes including job creation and safeguarding, productivity improvement and decarbonisation.

Revenue grants may go towards specialist, third-party consultancy and expertise that helps businesses to improve their productivity, reduce their carbon footprint or accelerate their growth. 

Revenue grants may also go towards software and small items of equipment

linked to improving productivity, reducing carbon emissions or growth where a Digital Health Check, Energy Audit or Productivity Improvement Plan has been completed.

Revenue grants of between £1,000 and £10,000 are available at a fixed intervention rate of 40%.  Please see Section 3 for further information.

Capital grants may go towards plant, machinery, equipment, premises and fit-out works that enable business growth, productivity improvements and/or decarbonisation. 

The minimum capital grant amount is £10,000 and the maximum will normally be £200,000, unless the applicant can demonstrate that the project would create exceptional impact.

Intervention rates are variable up to 40%, dependent upon the amount requested, the need for grant support and the level of impact in terms of job outcomes, productivity improvements and decarbonisation benefits.

Please see Section 4 for further information.

Hybrid grants offer a simplified route for combined capital and revenue-based projects with a total grant request of less than £50,000.  Hybrid grants are available at a fixed intervention rate of 40%.  Please see Section 4 for further information.

Durham Business Growth grants are managed by UMi.

Section 2: All types of grants

This section of the guidance applies to all grants offered by the Programme.

 

2.1 Purpose

Grants are offered by the Programme to provide financial support to businesses in County Durham to improve their productivity, reduce their carbon footprint or accelerate their growth.  Grants 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.

2.2 Essential criteria for all grants

Location:  All activity funded by a grant must take place in County Durham.  Note that your business need not be located in County Durham before you apply for a grant, but the Programme will only support activity and investment that takes place in County Durham.

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.

Finance:  Grant funding is designed to cover a certain proportion of the eligible costs of your productivity or growth 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 Programme procurement regulations.

Displacement:  The Programme is designed to accelerate economic growth in the region and therefore we cannot support any activity which may lead to the displacement of economic activity or jobs in County Durham or any neighbouring area.

Subsidy control:  Grants are usually awarded as Minimal Financial Assistance (MFA) in accordance with the Subsidy Control Act. In exceptional circumstances, we may award grants under the Subsidy Control Principles, but only when it is not permissible to use the MFA route. To receive a grant as MFA, 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 and the previous two financial years. For the purposes of the Subsidy Control Act, the date received is the date on which your business became legally entitled to receive the funding, which is usually the date of the Grant Offer Letter or other legal agreement.

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 Programme are expected to generate outcomes in County Durham and if your business is offered a grant, you must ensure that the agreed outcomes are met within the agreed timeframe.  The types of potential outcomes and their definitions are listed in the table below and the exact outcomes required for each grant will be set out in the Grant Offer Letter.

 

Outcome type

 

Jobs created

New, permanent, paid, full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs created following support. Includes part-time and full-time jobs. FTE should be based on the standard full-time hours of the business.

New means it should not have existed with that business before the intervention.

Permanent means an intended life expectancy of at least 5 years.

Excludes jobs created solely to deliver the intervention (e.g. construction).

Jobs safeguarded

A permanent and paid job that was at risk prior to support being provided, and which the support helped the business to retain.

Includes both part-time and full-time jobs. FTE should be based on the standard full-time hours of the business.

At risk means would probably be lost within 1 year.

Improved productivity

Productivity refers to the gross value added per hour worked or gross value added per worker.

Adoption of new to the firm technologies or processes

A technology or process is new to the firm if it did not use a technology or process with the same functionality before, or the technology or process is fundamentally different from those already used. This may be tangible or intangible.

Engagement in new markets

Launch of a product or service into a new domestic or overseas market or research undertaken or conferences or events attended in preparation to launch into a new market following support. New market refers to a new product market or geographic market e.g. a new region or country.

Greenhouse gas reductions

Forecast of estimated carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) reductions measured using BEIS Conversion Factors for primary energy savings.

Estimates based on the amount of CO2e forecast to be saved in the year after project completion.

Growth

Increased turnover or net increase in employment in the business following support.

2.3 Eligibility to make a grant application

To make an application for any type of grant offered by the Programme your business must meet the eligibility criteria and be properly registered on the Programme.  Your business must also have completed a business review with a Business Engagement Officer or another Business Durham, RTC or UMi Adviser before applying for a grant.

For a Revenue grant, it is sufficient to have completed a Digital Health Check or Energy Audit only and you may opt to have a business review at a later stage.

 

2.4 Eligible business sectors

The Programme takes an expansive approach to eligibility, welcoming applications from a diverse array of sectors.  This encompasses not only traditional industries but also dynamic sectors like tourism and rural businesses, recognising their vital role in regional development.  Projects in the leisure and tourism sector, however, should normally increase capacity and involve new or additional visitor accommodation. Moreover, businesses of all sizes, from nimble startups to established large enterprises, are welcome to apply for grant support.  This inclusive eligibility criteria underscores the Programme's commitment to fostering a thriving and competitive business ecosystem in County Durham.

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

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

  • 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.

2.5 Ineligible project activities and costs

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 may lead to the displacement of economic activity or jobs in County Durham 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 purchase or development of land or buildings (commercial, industrial or residential) used primarily to generate rental income. An exception would be properties which will provide additional capacity to the visitor economy

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

  • Like-for-like replacement of existing items

  • Capital assets valued at £5,000 and above 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 (except for knowledge transfer as part of consultancy, or training relating to the commissioning of new equipment etc)

  • Writing a Durham Business Growth capital grant application

  • Bank and other finance charges, and interest on debt

  • Reclaimable VAT

  • Political activities

  • Contingencies

  • Depreciation

  • Fines

  • Activities which may appear or tend to bring the Durham Business Growth Programme, it’s delivery partners or funders into disrepute

Section 3: Revenue grants

This section of the guidance applies to the Revenue grants offered by the Programme.  It sets out the additional information, criteria and process for Revenue grants and should be read in conjunction with Section 2.

 

3.1 Revenue grants – eligible activities

These grants are designed to offset the costs associated with engaging external experts who bring specialist knowledge and skills to address a variety of critical business needs. Revenue grants may also go towards software and small items of equipment linked to improving productivity, reducing carbon emissions or growth where a Digital Health Check, Energy Audit or Productivity Improvement Plan has been completed. 

Areas covered may include the following (this list may not be exhaustive):

Forecasting and business planning:  Access to expert guidance in developing accurate forecasts and robust business plans that form the foundation for sustainable growth.

Financial and operational systems consultancy:  Assistance to adopt and optimise financial systems and operational processes to enhance efficiency and maximise profitability.

Marketing, social media, video, and animation:  Support to engage experts in crafting effective marketing strategies, leveraging social media, and utilising multimedia content for brand promotion.

Human Resources:  Consultancy services in HR management, covering areas such as talent acquisition, performance management, and organizational development.

Web and app development:  Expertise in designing and developing web platforms and applications to bolster online presence and customer engagement.

New product development:  Expertise or small items of equipment to help you to design and launch new products or services or introduce new technologies and processes to your business.

Decarbonisation: Expertise or small items of equipment to help your business reduce its carbon emissions.

This comprehensive range of project support is designed to ensure that businesses have access to the necessary resources and expertise to embark on transformative initiatives that drive growth, increase productivity, and improve environmental performance.

 

3.2 Revenue grants - parameters

A total of £700,000 is available for Revenue grants.

Grants of between £1,000 and £10,000 are available at a fixed intervention rate of 40%.

Revenue grant applications must involve eligible expenditure of at least £2,500 as a minimum.

 

Revenue grants are expected to generate measurable outcomes including job creation and safeguarding, productivity improvement and decarbonisation in County Durham.  Exact outcomes for each grant will be set out in the grant offer letter.

3.3 Revenue grants - process

Application:  Please use the link provided and follow the on-screen guidance to submit your application via the UMi online portal.  Please contact us if you require help with your application.

Assessment:  Your application will be assessed by UMi and we will notify you of the outcome.  If we have any queries or require more information from you, we will contact you.

Approval:  Once your application has been approved, 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 4: Capital grants

This section of the guidance applies to the Capital and Hybrid grants offered by the Programme.  It sets out the additional information, criteria and process for Capital and Hybrid grants and should be read in conjunction with Section 2.

Hybrid grants offer a simplified route for combined capital and revenue-based projects with a grant request of less than £50,000.

 

4.1 Capital grants – eligible activities

These grants are designed to provide financial support for investments in County Durham that enable business growth, productivity improvements or decarbonisation.  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.  Acquisition of new or new to the business premises is also eligible, provided that the costs of acquiring premises do not represent the entirety of the eligible project costs.

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

Revenue costs may be included within Capital grant applications (including Hybrid). 

Revenue costs must be eligible in accordance with the criteria in Section 2 of this guidance.  Any revenue costs included within Capital grant applications for £50,000 and above must be directly related to the proposed capital expenditure (e.g., professional fees, installation costs, software licenses etc.).

For Hybrid grants, eligible expenditure can be a mixture of capital and revenue, with a £10k cap on the grant for the revenue element of the project.

 

4.2 Leases, Mortgages, Hire Purchase and Asset Finance

Capital 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 have defrayed on lease payments (exclusive of interest charges, VAT, and fees) during the term of the Grant Offer Letter.

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.

 

4.3 Capital grants - parameters

A total of £3,300,000 is available for Capital grants.

The minimum capital grant amount is £10,000 and the maximum will normally be

£200,000, unless the applicant can demonstrate that the project would create exceptional impact.

Capital grants of less than £50,000 are available at a fixed intervention rate of 40%.

Hybrid grants of between £10,000 and £49,999 are also available at a fixed intervention rate of 40%.

Capital grants of £50,000 and above are available at variable intervention rates of up to 40%, dependent on the need for grant support and the value for money in terms of job outcomes, productivity improvements and decarbonisation benefits.

Capital grant applications (including Hybrid) must involve eligible expenditure of at least £25,000 as a minimum.

Capital grants are expected to generate measurable outcomes including job creation and safeguarding, productivity improvement and decarbonisation in County Durham.  Every Capital grant is expected to generate new or safeguarded jobs and the exact outcomes for each grant will be set out in the grant offer letter.

 

4.4 Capital grants - additional criteria

In addition to the eligibility criteria for all types of grants set out in Section 2 of this guidance, the following criteria are also applicable to Capital grants (including Hybrid):

Creation or safeguarding of jobs:  Capital grant recipients are required to create at least one new job per £12,000 of the grant awarded.  Safeguarding of jobs may be acceptable as an alternative in exceptional circumstances.

 

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 County Durham 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 without grant support

  • That the investment would not go ahead within the timescale of the Programme without grant support

  • That the investment would not take place in County Durham without grant support

4.5 Capital grants - process

Application:  An UMi Adviser will arrange a meeting with you to discuss your application before sending you a link to the online 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:  An UMi Adviser 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 we have any queries or require more information from you, 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 Programme 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 meet the minimum threshold of 1 job per £12,000 of grant

Grants Assessment Panel Terms of Reference:  The Grants Assessment Panel is comprised of senior staff from the Programme’s delivery partners: Business Durham, UMi and RTC.

For applications of £50,000 and above, the Panel also includes at least one private sector member of the local business community.  The external due diligence provider is also in attendance at Panel meetings in a non-voting capacity when applications of £50,000 and above are being considered.

All information provided to the Panel is treated as confidential.  Delivery partner staff are bound by the confidentiality provisions in the agreement with Durham County Council.  Private sector members are bound by the confidentiality provisions in the letter of appointment to the Grants Assessment Panel.

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 the delivery partner’s staff or private sector member.

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

Decisions are made by consensus, with each delivery partner or private sector 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.

Approval of applications for less than £50,000:  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.

Approval of applications for £50,000 and above:  For applications of £50,000 and above, the Panel’s decision to approve the application will be subject to satisfactory due diligence by an external provider appointed by the Programme.

No grant award of £50,000 and above will be made until due diligence has been completed and a satisfactory report has been submitted to UMi and given final approval by a Director of UMi.

Due diligence will be undertaken in accordance with the scope set out in Appendix 1.

  

Grant applicants will be required to pay for due diligence and the fees will be invoiced by UMi.  Due diligence fees must be paid in full before the external provider begins the work.

Due diligence fees are as set out in the table below:

Due diligence fees are as set out in the table below:

Grant Amount                                              Due Diligence Fee excluding VAT

£50,000 - £100,000                                      £2,500

£101,000 - £200,000                                     £3,000

Over £200,000                                              £3,500

Appendix 1

External Due Diligence Scope

Following approval by the Grants Assessment Panel, every grant application for £50,000 or above will be examined in the following areas and a report prepared on the findings.

 

  • 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 Programme end date of 31 March 2025).

 

 

Deliverability of employment impacts

 

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 5 years.

  • 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.

 

 

Recommendations of conditions for inclusion within the grant agreement

 

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

 

  • The amount of grant to be offered.

  • The phasing of the grant and the capital spend and job targets which will trigger each instalment of grant.

  • Any pre-conditions which should 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.

Grants guidance.

Read on below to find out about the Durham Business Growth grants.

Section 1: Introduction
Section 2: All type of grants
Section 3: Revenue grants
Section 4: Capital grants
Appendix 1
bottom of page