Innovation grant mentoring project

We're running a free innovation mentoring and bid writing project to help smaller businesses secure the funding they need to develop their project ideas.

Innovation funding helps companies develop new products or markets. Securing funding takes time and resources and it can be harder for smaller businesses who haven't been through the process.

Submitting a good application increases your changes of getting your funding.

The project helps small to medium business owners or managers, including micro business owners and sole traders, who are based in Norfolk or Suffolk.

How it works

We explore your business aims and ambitions so we can match you with mentors and/or bid writing coaches.

Mentors help you to develop your innovation ideas so you reach a stage where your project is well-designed enough to apply for funding.

Our expert project partners provide support in two ways. They may offer existing, tailored programmes just right for you. The Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult provide specialist sector advice. If academic expertise is needed to develop your project, a Knowledge Transfer Partnership might support you alongside our project’s own coaching programme.

Our partners will also alert this project to funding opportunities as they become available. Mentors and bid writing coaches help identify an appropriate grant stream for you and then coach your business in the art of bid writing, helping you develop your funding application.

There are different mentoring options depending on your needs.

For businesses who’ve never applied before, a mentor might walk you through every step of the way.

For businesses who’ve applied before but have been unsuccessful, you might only need to attend a workshop.

Or you might work with a mentor with specific industry advice who will help to steer you in the right direction.

Workshops by mentors and bid writing coaches will be available to any Norfolk or Suffolk business. Access to the bespoke mentoring and coaching element of the programme will be reviewed by a business panel.

Every idea is treated in strict confidence. Applicants, mentors and coaches all signing non disclosure agreements (NDA’s) at the start of the project.

What’s the catch?

You will need to put the time and effort in. Your mentor and bid writing coach offer advice and support, but they won’t do your product research or application for you.

We might also ask you to do a bit of promo work for the project once you’ve taken part. When our project helps you win your funding, we’ll want to shout about it.

Register your interest

Frequently asked questions

The project is run by Norfolk County Council, Suffolk County Council and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Our expert project steering group includes representatives from:

  • The Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor
  • Enterprise Europe Network
  • Hethel Innovation
  • Knowledge Transfer Network UK
  • New Anglia LEP
  • New Anglia Growth Hub
  • Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult
  • University of East Anglia
  • University of Suffolk

Statistically, Norfolk and Suffolk businesses receive significantly less funding for innovation projects than companies based in the rest of the East of England. Yet millions of pounds worth of innovation grants are available.

For example, businesses in the East of England have been awarded £638m of Innovate UK funding in the last 15 years. But of this total, Norfolk and Suffolk businesses have only received £45.9m, which equates to just 7.2%.

These figures have led Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils to join forces with the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to devise a new, free grant mentoring programme that helps local businesses to:

  • Better understand innovation opportunities
  • Write better, stronger bid applications
  • Access a significantly higher percentage of the available funding

As part of the project, we have received funding to pay for professional mentors from a wide range of industries and sectors. Together they have huge amounts of expertise in writing grant applications and teaching business owners how to develop the skills needed. They’re friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, business people. Many continue to run their own businesses.

Completing grant forms is a specialist skill. It’s not always obvious how to write a strong application or which funding stream to aim for. And if you’ve been unsuccessful, sometimes it’s hard to understand the feedback explaining why.

This project will give you bespoke, flexible, tailored support to re-work your application or start from scratch. Project mentors will also help you work out who the best grant giving body is for your project.

The council, its partners and contractors will respect any rights asserted by the author/creator of work in respect of their work. We'll use non disclosure agreements (NDAs) to protect both business beneficiaries and the project’s mentors, bid writing coaches and project partners. We will ask all parties to sign an NDA before bespoke mentoring or bid writing starts.

Read the Innovation Grant Mentoring privacy notice for information about how we will use your personal information.

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