A guide to funding for creative businesses

20th May 2024

In summer 2021 we ran an event discussing funding for creative businesses with the south west team at Innovate UK EDGE and a group of Bristol Creative Industries members.

During the discussion, attendees said it would be useful if we could provide regular updates on the finance schemes that are available for creative companies in the south west and beyond. This guide is our response.

The guide is one of Bristol Creative Industries’ most popular ever blog posts. We keep it updated with the latest funding schemes for creative businesses so check it regularly. We also include the post in our monthy email newsletter, BCI Bulletin. To sign up, go here.   

Latest funding for creative businesses:

West of England Combined Authority creative freelancer grants

Creative freelancers in Bath, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire can apply for grants of up to £2,000 to deliver specific activity that will enable them to develop their product, service or creative practice. Examples include:

  • Research and development of creative ideas
  • Professional development (activities that build, maintain or enhance your knowledge and skills)
  • Creation of new work
  • Collaboration with new partners
  • Training and showcasing opportunities with tangible outcomes.
  • Delivering events, festivals, community engagement activities
  • Building and growing partnerships that will aid or develop your work

The deadline for applications is 12pm on 21 June.

More details.

West of England Combined Authority Business Innovation Fund

This scheme provides grant funding to help businesses progress research and development activity leading to the creation of novel/new products, processes and/or services.

You can apply for a grant of between £15,000 and £25,000 to cover up to 45% of project costs. You must fund the remaining 55%.

Applying businesses and the project location must be based in the council areas of Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol, or South Gloucestershire.

The deadline to apply for the fifth round of funding is 12pm on 20 June 2024.

More details.

£200m South West Investment Fund

The British Business Bank, the government-owned business development bank, has launched the £200m South West Investment Fund (SWIF) “to help address market failures by increasing the supply and diversity of early-stage finance for UK smaller businesses, providing funds to firms that might otherwise not receive investment”.

Aimed at businesses in Bristol, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire, the fund provides:

SWIF is managed by four fund managers:

  • SWIG Finance for the £25,000 to £100,000 loans for the whole South West.
  • FW Capital and Maven for the debt (£100,000 to £2m) and equity (up to £5m) funds for the north of the region.
  • The FSE Group for the debt and equity for the south of the region.

The region is split as follows:

North of the region:

  • Bristol
  • Gloucestershire
  • North and North East Somerset
  • Wiltshire

South of the region:

  • Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly
  • Devon
  • Dorset
  • Somerset (excluded North and North East Somerset)

The funding is split as follows:

  • £11m: Smaller loans for south of the region
  • £9m: Smaller loans for north of the region
  • £23m: Debt for south of the region
  • £19m: Debt for north of the region
  • £46m: Equity for south of the region
  • £38m: Equity for north of the region
  • £54m: Investor reserve

Businesses can apply for funding directly to the relevant fund managers here.

Bristol Council vacant commercial property grant scheme

Bristol Council is offering grants of between £2,500 and £10,000 to organisations taking on a new city centre or local high street commercial property.

The funding is open to businesses, charities, CICs, sole traders and arts and culture groups for both long term and temporary/meanwhile use.

Organisations must employ fewer than 50 people, have a turnover of £10.2m or less, and a balance sheet showing £5.1m or less.

Funding can be used for structural works to a property or equipment to be used in the property (capital expenditure). The funding needs to be matched by 20%.

Applications are open until 11.59pm on Monday 30 September 2024.

Successful applicants must start trading from the funded property by Friday 31 January 2025.

More details.

Create Growth Programme

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport’s Create Growth Programme provides grant funding and business support to micro, small and medium sized businesses in the creative industries with innovative ideas.

To apply, businesses need to be based in one of these 12 English regions:

  • Greater Manchester
  • Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire
  • North East of England
  • West of England and Cornwall
  • South East Coast
  • Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Greater Lincolnshire
  • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire
  • Hull and East Yorkshire
  • West Midlands
  • West Yorkshire
  • Devon
  • Hertfordshire

There is a total of £3m in grants available in the latest round of funding. Individual businesses can apply for grants of between £10,000 and £30,000.

Applications close at 11am on 19 June.

More details.

Innovate UK Smart Grants

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £25m for “game-changing and commercially viable R&D innovations that can significantly impact the UK economy”.

Applications for the latest round of funding close at 11am on 24 July.

More details.

Innovate UK innovation loans

UK registered businesses can apply for loans for innovative projects with strong commercial potential to significantly improve the UK economy.

You can apply for a loan of between £100,000 and £2m to fund your project’s eligible costs.

Applications for the latest round of funding close at 11am on 26 June

Another round of funding will open on 27 June and close on 21 August

More details.

Creative UK Creative Growth Finance II

This £35m Creative UK and Triodos Bank investment fund provides loans of £100,000 to £1m.

Finance is directed to post-revenue creative businesses presenting promising growth potential and who:

  • bring change, disruption and new IP to the creative industries
  • harness creativity with technologies and supporting businesses
  • are talent led

More details here.

UK Games Fund Content Fund

Grants of £50,000 – £150,000 are available for UK registered small and medium sized enterprises with PAYE employees engaged in games development work in the UK.

More details.

UK Games Fund Prototype Fund

Established UK-based companies with a game development project at an early stage in the pipeline can apply for grants of up to £30,000.

More details.

Supporting Grassroots Music Fund

Applications are open for this government fund which supports rehearsal and recording studios, promoters, festivals, and venues for live and electronic music performance.

Grants of £1,000 and £40,000 are available for projects up to three years in length. The fund runs until March 2025.

More details here.

Developing your Creative Practice

This fund from Arts Council England supports individual cultural and creative practitioners in England thinking of taking their practice to the next stage through things such as: research, time to create new work, travel, training, developing ideas, networking or mentoring.

Grants of up to £12,000 are available.

The rounds of funding are as follows:

Round 21

Opens for applications: 12pm on 25 July 2024
Closes for applications: 12pm on 22 August 2024
Decisions announced: 7 November 2024

Round 22

Opens for applications: 12pm on 14 November 2024
Closes for applications: 12pm on 12 December 2024
Decisions announced: 6 March 2025

More details here.

]Travelwest sustainable travel grants

Travelwest provides match-funded grants for initiatives that improve sustainable travel provision in a business.

The aim is to provide financial support and incentives to employers to enable them to encourage sustainable modes of commuting or in-work travel (including site visits and meetings) amongst their staff.

The grants can be used for the implementation of physical measures, promotional events or any other measure that will encourage mode change amongst staff.

Grants are currently availables for businesses in Bristol and North Somerset.

More details.

BridgeAI funding and support programme

Innovate UK’s £100m BridgeAI programme aims “to help businesses in high growth potential sectors such as creative industries, agriculture, construction, and transport to harness the power of AI and unlock their full potential”.

The programme offers funding and support to help innovators assess and implement trusted AI solutions, connect with AI experts, and elevate their AI leadership skills.

More details.

Paul Hamlyn Foundation Arts Fund

This fund supports organisations who work at the intersection of art and social change. It offers grants between £90,000 and £300,000 over three years.

The fund is open for applications from 4 April until 31 May and from 14 August until 14 October.

More details here.

Arts & Culture Impact Fund

This new £23m social impact investment fund is for socially driven arts, culture and heritage organisations registered and operating in the UK. It offers loans between £150,000 and £1m repayable until May 2030.

More details here.

The Elephant Trust

The Elephant Trust says its mission is to “make it possible for artists and those presenting their work to undertake and complete projects when frustrated by lack of funds. It is committed to helping artists and art institutions/galleries that depart from the routine and signal new, distinct and imaginative sets of possibilities.”

Grants of up to £5,000 are available.

More details here.

Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants

Grants of up to £100,000 are available for arts, libraries and museums projects.

The grants support a broad range of creative and cultural projects that benefit people living in England. Projects can range from directly creating and delivering creative and cultural activity to projects which have a longer term positive impact, such as organisational development, research and development, and sector support and development.

More details here.

Start Up Loans

A Start Up Loan is a government-backed unsecured personal loan for individuals looking to start or grow a business in the UK. Successful applicants also receive 12 months of free mentoring and exclusive business offers.

All owners or partners in a business can individually apply for up to £25,000 each, with a maximum of £100,000 per business.

The loans have a fixed interest rate of 6% p.a. and a one to five year repayment term. Entrepreneurs starting a business or running one that has been trading for up to three years can apply. Businesses trading for between three and five years can apply for a second loan.

More details here.

UnLtd funding for social entrepreneurs

If you’re running a creative social enterprise you may be able to access funding from UnLtd.

Finance of up to £5,000 is available for starting a social enterprise and up to £15,000 for growing a social enterprise.

Successful applicants also get up to 12 tailored business support plus access to access to expert mentors and workshops.

More details here.

Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme

Businesses can apply for up to £3,500 to cover the costs of installing gigabit broadband.

Check if the scheme is available in your area here.

Know of more funding and support for creative businesses?

If you know of another scheme that we haven’t listed and you’d like to share it with other creative businesses, email Dan to let us know.


About Bristol Creative Industries

Bristol Creative Industries is the membership network that supports the region's creative sector to learn, grow and connect, driven by the common belief that we can achieve more collectively than alone. 

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