Potential clients sometimes ask if we would be interested in taking a stake in a new venture and in providing our design services for free or at a reduced rate. Whilst we may be tempted to consider such an approach if we stumble across the next global killer gadget, that hasn’t happened quite yet! We therefore encourage would-be start-ups and entrepreneurs to check out the wide range of external funding opportunities that are available.

These extend from the more traditional sources such as banks and angel investors (including friends and family) through venture capital and private equity to the flourishing trend in crowdsourcing (e.g. Kickstarter, CrowdCube) and peer-to-peer lending (e.g. Funding Circle).

In the UK, significant public funding is on offer to commercial enterprises, channelled through a number of non-governmental bodies. A large focus for financial support to technology businesses comes from Innovate UK (formerly Technology Strategy Board), which operates a number of competitive funding schemes. Most often, these initiatives provide access to risk capital without requiring any equity ownership to be relinquished, although some level of match funding from the company or other private-sector source is usually involved.

By contrast, venture-capital routes to funding will usually require the private equity provider to be given a minority stake in the business, in return for an injection of cash to support business growth. Venture capital opportunities include some sizeable funds based wholly or in part on European Union (EU) or European Investment Bank (EIB) development capital. These schemes tend to operate on a regional basis in England and Wales. One scheme that claims to operate across many regions is Enterprise Ventures.

SMEs or entrepreneurs based in the following three regions will find useful information for funding opportunities and Innovative Product Development at the following websites.

Wales: Business Wales and Finance Wales

North West England: North West Fund

North East England: North Star Ventures