Applying for grants: Growth Programme

Rural businesses can apply for competitive grants from the Growth Programme. Find out what grants are available and what they will fund, how to apply, and what to do if an application is successful.

This guidance was withdrawn on

This page is an old page about grants which are now closed for applications.

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Applying for grants

RPA, working with local partners in Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas, will announce when applications can be made. This is called a ‘call for applications’. Once this has been done, applicants can apply for grant funding.

Find out which calls for applications are open or coming up in each area.


The call for applications will explain what the LEP’s priorities are for funding. Examples of priorities may include:

  • what sector the business is from
  • their geographic location
  • the minimum level of outputs to be achieved (for example, number of jobs created)

The call for applications may also include other priorities. Applications that meet a greater number of the LEP’s priorities are more likely to be successful.

Multiple applications and grants

Applicants can make more than one application as long as the applications are for different projects.

However, some LEP areas overlap and in these areas, applicants can make an application to more than one LEP for the same project. If more than one of their applications is endorsed and they are invited to the full application stage in more than one LEP area, the applicant will need to decide to which LEP area they want to send their full application.

Applicants can only get a grant from one LEP area for a particular project - they can’t get funding for the same project twice.

RPA may give priority to applicants who have not previously had Growth Programme funding. If this is the case, it will be made clear in the call for applications.

How much funding is available

There are different rules on how much funding is available under each grant. A grant may cover from 10% to 100% of the total eligible costs of the project, although a usual amount is 40% of the total eligible costs. The amount of a grant will depend on:

  • the type of grant
  • who is applying for the grant
  • what they are applying to fund
  • how much public funding they already have
  • the costs involved (not all the costs of a project are eligible for funding)
  • the state aid rules that apply to the type of grant

More information on grant costs can be found on the individual pages about each of the available grants. Calls for applications may specify minimum and maximum grant amounts.

When the funding can be claimed

Applicants must be able to pay for their proposed project in the short term, as grants can only be claimed in arrears.

Paying for the rest of the project

Applicants must pay for any costs not covered by the grant with private funding, such as savings or a bank loan, not other public funds. If private funding isn’t used, RPA may ask the applicant to repay any grant money already paid and may cancel any future payments.

Applicants can’t include costs for the time and services given by any of the following in their private funding:

  • themselves
  • their employees, or
  • volunteers (sometimes called contributions in-kind)

If any equipment used in the project is bought using lease purchase or hire purchase, the applicant must own the equipment outright before they can claim any grant money towards it. That means the applicant will need to have paid all of the instalments for the equipment and show that the title to the equipment has passed to them before claiming the grant.

What is ineligible for funding

The following aren’t eligible:

  • projects which are required by law or to meet a legal requirement
  • projects which the applicant can’t demonstrate a market demand for
  • proposals in sectors of the economy that have reached saturation point, leading to an oversupply, damaging productivity and displacement of similar businesses
  • support to business in difficulty within the guidelines of European State Aids for rescuing and restructuring businesses in difficulty

Costs which can’t be claimed

The cost which aren’t eligible for funding depend on the project. However, the following costs aren’t eligible for any grants:

  • the cost of getting any permissions or consents which are needed, such as planning permission
  • any costs from before the project start date shown in the applicant’s offer letter
  • financial charges, such as bank charges and interest
  • costs connected with a leasing contract, such as a lessor’s margin, interest refinancing costs, overheads and insurance charges
  • fines
  • repairs and maintenance of existing building, equipment and machinery
  • reclaimable VAT
  • any items where the applicant already has, or intends to get, EU or national funding
  • like-for-like replacement of existing items (such as buildings, equipment and machinery)
  • relocation costs – if the business needs to relocate in order to expand, it can only apply for funding for the cost of the expansion
  • standard agricultural equipment and inputs like animals and crops
  • the cost of agricultural production rights and payment entitlements
  • the applicant’s own labour
  • salaries and running costs
  • licence fees, subscriptions and service charges
  • computers, software and printers used in the general running of the business, like processing orders or accounts
  • mobile phones
  • buildings and equipment used for aquaculture, agricultural and horticultural production
  • machinery, equipment or vehicles that will not be on the asset register of the business 5 years after completion of the project
  • the cost of moveable fittings – like soft furnishings, beds, tables, chairs, cutlery and crockery, curtains, televisions and audio equipment
  • continuation funding / operation costs of existing activity
  • costs associated with the provision of housing
  • contingency costs
  • purchase of land
  • working capital
  • pension provision
  • bad debts
  • advance payments
  • insurance policy costs
  • renewable heat and energy systems covered by the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) or Feed-In Tariffs (FITs)
  • developing or setting up agricultural businesses – the Countryside Productivity Scheme has grants that may support this

This list is not exhaustive. Applicants can call the Rural Payment helpline on 3000 200 301 if they want to check if a cost is eligible.

Before applying

Register with Rural Payments

Applicants need to register for rural payments before they can apply. If they have already registered, they won’t need to do this again.

After they register, applicants will get a Single Business Identifier (SBI), which they will need for their Growth Programme application. Applicants must still register even if they already have an SBI.

Applicants needing support to register for Rural Payments can call the Rural Payments helpline on 03000 200 301.

Check the size of a business

Some grants are only available to businesses of a certain size. The size of the business depends on the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees it has, its financial performance, and if it is linked to any other business.

Businesses must meet the FTE employee limits as well as either the turnover or balance sheet totals.

What is an FTE employee?

Anyone who works a minimum of 30 hours per week counts as 1FTE employee.

A person working 30 hours a week for 3 months of the year would be 0.25FTE employee.

A person working part-time for 15 hours a week would be 0.5 FTE.

FTEs include business partners and directors. If any person, including a business partner or director, works more than 30 hours per week, they still count as 1FTE employee.

The table below shows how a business size is classed for these grants.

Number of FTE employees Annual turnover OR annual balance sheet total Company category
Fewer than 10 €2m (about £1.6 million) or less Micro
Fewer than 50 €10m (about £7.9 million) or less Small
Fewer than 250 €50 million (about £39 million) or less (annual balance sheet) OR €43 million (about £33.9 million) or less (annual balance sheet total) Medium-sized

Linked businesses

If the applicant’s business is linked to other businesses, they need to give the following information about those business too:

  • FTE employees
  • turnover, and
  • balance sheet totals

This might mean a business isn’t eligible for a grant because their overall business size is too big.

Read the guidance on linked businesses on page 5 of How to complete an outline application. More information about the rules on linked businesses can be found on the European Commission website.

How to apply

There are 2 stages to the application process - an outline application and a full application. Applications are assessed at both stages and only the highest scoring applications will be successful.

Applicants will need to fill in 2 application forms to apply for grant:

  • Stage 1: an ‘outline’ application, then if successful
  • Stage 2: a ‘full’ application

Stage 1 – the outline application

Download an outline application form.

On the form, applicants will need to give the following information:

  • the location of the proposed project
  • what the project will do and how this will be done
  • who’ll benefit from it (for example, how it will help the business to grow and create jobs, or what difference the project will make to the rural economy)
  • how it will benefit other businesses, including suppliers
  • how much it will cost
  • why a grant is needed to fund it and
  • how much funding is requested, when, and what the money will be spent on

Applicants need to provide enough information to clearly explain the project, but supporting documents are not needed at this stage.

Applicants must send the completed form to by the deadline in the call for applications. Applicants will an automated email from RPA to confirm that they’ve received the application.

Applicants must check the deadline date and time for applications. Late applications will not be accepted.

How outline applications are assessed

RPA assesses all applications, which may take up to 40 working days. Advice from the LEP area European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) sub-committees about how well the applications fit their local strategies may then take a further month.

RPA check outline applications are eligible, then score and rank them against other applications. They assess each project on:

  • how it fits with the objectives of the Growth Programme and the criteria in the relevant ‘call for applications’
  • how it fits the relevant LEP’s local strategy for the use of EAFRD funds (check the ‘call for applications’ which will explain where to find these strategies)
  • how the project will grow the business and the number of jobs it will create
  • the market need for the project and the demand that has been identified
  • value for money – how much funding the applicant is requesting compared to how much the business will grow and the number of jobs it will create
  • whether the project is deliverable; if the project is not judged to be deliverable it will be rejected at this stage
  • what environmental sustainability measures will be taken and
  • that the project has taken equality and diversity into account

Only the highest scoring applications will be successful

RPA also have to assess all applications on the extent to which they may displace the economic activity of other businesses. This means they will check to see if the proposed project will have a negative effect on the profit of any other businesses in the area.

Decisions on outline applications

If an outline application is endorsed, RPA will ask the applicant to submit a full application.


Being invited to submit a full application doesn’t mean the applicant can start a project or incur costs.

Not all outline applications will go forward to the full application stage. However, if an outline application is not endorsed, the applicant can update and submit the application again, but only in response to other calls for applications, if it meets the criteria. This will be treated as a new application and will be reassessed.

Stage 2 – the full application

Being invited to submit a full application is not a guarantee of grant funding.

If an outline application is successfulendorsed, the applicant will be sent a full application form. The form asks for more detail about the project, building on the information given at the outline stage.

At this stage applicants will be given RPA a named contact from RPA, who they can discuss the full application process with and ask any questions.

If the project has changed since the outline stage

Applicants should talk to their RPA contact if the proposal in their full application is different from their outline application. They should do this before they submit their full application.

Applicants will need to explain why they have made changes and show how these changes improve the project.

RPA will reject applications if changes made between the outline and full applications have not been properly justified.

How full applications are assessed

RPA may take up to 40 working days to assess full applications. Advice from the LEP area European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) sub-committees on how well the applications fit their local strategies may take a further month.

RPA will check if the full application is eligible. If it is, it will be scored and ranked competitively against other applications. The assessment is similar to the outline stage, but is more detailed and is based on:

  • how it fits with the objectives of the Growth Programme and the criteria in the relevant ‘call for applications’
  • how it fits the LEP area’s strategy for the use of EAFRD funds
  • how the project will grow the business and the number of jobs it’ll create
  • the market need for the project and the demand that has been identified
  • value for money – how much grant the applicant is requesting compared to how much the business will grow and the number of jobs it will create
  • whether the project is deliverable; if the project is not judged to be deliverable it will be rejected at this stage
  • what environmental sustainability measures will be taken and
  • that the project has taken equality and diversity into account

RPA will also assess full applications on how much they may displace economic activity undertaken by other businesses. All facts, assertions and evidence relating to this that are submitted as part of an application will be checked.

Evidence to send with a full application

Applicants need to send the fully completed, signed and dated application form. They also need to send the supporting evidence:

  • the appendix spreadsheet that covers costs, claims and cash flow forecasts (RPA will send this to applicants with the application form)
  • supporting documents appropriate to the project (such as market research, customer surveys, or industry reports)
  • full accounts for the applicant business
  • permissions, consents and licences
  • 3 quotes for each item to be purchased and
  • evidence that the applicant can cover all the project costs before claiming the grant (such as a bank loan, overdraft or savings).

If the proposed project involves improving existing buildings and equipment, also send photographs showing their current state.

The information and supporting evidence sent will only be used in assessing the application.

Accounts for the applicant business

The applicant must send copies of accounts for the business or organisation applying for the grant to RPA.

The accounts should cover the 3 most recent consecutive years and be a full copy of the accounts including all of the following:

  • title and introduction pages
  • profit and loss
  • balance sheets and
  • all notes to the accounts

New and start-up businesses which don’t yet have accounts covering the last 3 years will need to send at least one of the following:

  • draft accounts
  • the latest tax returns
  • management accounts or
  • an opening statement from the applicant’s accountant that includes expected income and operating expenses

Permissions, consents and licences

If a project needs specific permissions, consents and licences for the proposals to go ahead, they must be sent to the RPA. This includes:

  • planning permission – applicants should talk to their local planning department to find out if this is needed
  • consents and licences
  • any environmental consents or permits and
  • landlord’s permission, if required, or proof that the project is permitted under the terms of any tenancy agreement

If the applicant’s local authority confirms that full planning permission for a project is not needed, they should include written proof of this with the application.

Grant money is not available to cover the costs of getting any permissions or consents.

Applicants will not be offered a grant without evidence of any permissions or licences required for their project.

Proof of Tenancy

Written evidence of the tenancy agreement must also be provided, including the duration of the agreement remaining if it’s a fixed term arrangement.

For evidence of the tenancy agreement, applicants must send a copy (not original documentation) of the tenancy agreement sections that show:

  • the holding address
  • tenant
  • landlord
  • signatures and
  • for fixed term agreements, the tenancy term

The RPA may ask to see a copy of the full tenancy agreement.


Applicants need to send quotes, references to catalogue listings or formal tenders that prove that they will get the best value when buying goods and services that they intend to claim for as part of their project.

This table explains how many quotes, catalogue references and formal tenders are needed, depending on the value of an item.

Value of item or service How to show value for money
£500 or less 2 quotes or references to a catalogue listing
£501 to £1,500 3 quotes or references to catalogue listings
£1,501 to £50,000 3 quotes or formal tenders
£50,001 or more 3 formal tenders

Tenders are quotes that suppliers put together within an identified timeframe and that follow a detailed and itemised specification provided by the applicant.

Quotes or tenders must come from different suppliers that trade as standalone businesses and are not linked to each other or to the applicant’s business through shared ownership or control.

The quotes or tenders must include:

  • a detailed and itemised breakdown of costs
  • the supplier’s address, telephone number and a contact name
  • the VAT number (if the supplier is VAT registered and VAT is charged on the quote) and
  • the supplier’s company registration number (if they are a limited company)

The quotes or tenders also must be:

  • comparable with each other in terms of quality, size, quantity, units and specification for every item
  • from the last 6 months and still valid and
  • made out to the same business name and address as on the application form – any online quotes should also quote this address

If applicants don’t provide the right number of quotes or tenders, they need to demonstrate that there are no other suppliers available (domestically or globally) and that the quote or tender selected represents value for money and is fit for the purpose of the project.

Using the best value quote

RPA expects applicants to use the best value quote – that means getting the best value on the market for any project item.

RPA will check these quotes against market rates – applicants need to provide a detailed justification if they haven’t used the best value quotes.

The following are not acceptable reasons for using a more expensive quote:

  • the location of the supplier
  • the fact that the applicant has bought from a supplier before or
  • any offers the supplier makes to the applicant about future service or maintenance of equipment

References to catalogue listings

Applicants should send references to a catalogue listing as print-outs or photocopies, and they should include:

  • the date on which it was printed or copied
  • the item description and the price
  • the name of the company or catalogue and
  • the page number or webpage

Second-hand equipment

For second-hand equipment, applicants must provide a declaration from the seller that proves:

  • original proof of purchase
  • it hasn’t been bought using public funds in the last 7 years
  • it meets current relevant legislation (fro example, health and safety)
  • it has at least 5 years’ useful life remaining from the date of the final grant payment and
  • it doesn’t cost more than the market value for new equipment

If a full application is successful

If a full application is approved, RPA will send the applicant a grant funding agreement.

This will explain when work can start on the project, and any terms or conditions which must be met.

The applicant must decide if they can meet all timings, terms and conditions in the grant funding agreement.

Responding to the grant funding agreement

RPA will send two copies of the grant funding agreement. The applicant must send a signed copy of the grant funding agreement to the address in the letter within 30 working days from the date on the letter, or the grant funding agreement will expire.

The applicant should also keep a copy of the signed grant funding agreement.They should use the detail in it to help with managing the project and making grant claims.

The applicant will normally be expected to meet with RPA to go through the grant funding agreement in detail, and in particular the grant claim process.

Claiming the grant

RPA will send a claim form and instructions on how to make grant claim(s).

When submitting a grant claim form, claimants must send:

  • invoices that match the costs and suppliers stated in the grant funding agreement
  • bank statements or printouts of online bank account pages which show the date and amount of payments leaving the account of the person or entity who signed the grant funding agreement
  • photographs of the completed project, activity or equipment
  • a list of all the items (an asset register) for which a grant has been received and
  • a report explaining what has been done so far, confirming the timetable for the rest of the project and where necessary explaining any delays and how they will be overcome

The total grant amount can be claimed in up to 3 payments. If submitting multiple claims the final claim must be for at least 15% of the total grant award.

If the amount claimed exceeds the amount that is found to be eligible by more than 10%, RPA will apply a penalty to the eligible amount. This will be a reduction equal to the difference between the amount claimed and the amount found to eligible. Penalties can be applied every time a claim is submitted.

Meeting the terms of a grant funding agreement

The benfeciary must meet the terms set out in the grant funding agreement the RPA sends. This means that the applicant must:

  • follow the timescale set out in the grant funding agreement
  • follow the grant funding agreement terms and conditions for 5 years from the date of the final payment and
  • make sure they meet any minimum grant amount

If the applicant fails to meet the terms of the grant funding agreement, the RPA can apply a penalty and/or:

  • terminate the grant agreement
  • withhold future grant payments
  • deduct payment from the grant
  • withhold or offset payments under other grants or Basic Payment Scheme payments payable to the beneficiary
  • reclaim some or all of any grant already paid

Site visits and inspections

A variety of bodies are entitled to inspect projects and project documentation at any time. These include:

  • RPA
  • the National Audit Office
  • European Commission and
  • European Court of Auditors

In an inspection, they’ll check that projects meet all terms, conditions and timings from the grant funding agreement. This is a condition of any grant funding agreement.

Notice will normally be given at least 48 hours in advance of a visit.

Publicising the grant

The grant funding offer will explain how the applicant must publicise the grant (this is a requirement of EU regulations).

The beneficiary may have to:

  • mention it in any press releases or when communicating with customers, for example in newsletters and on their website (if applicable) and
  • display a poster, plaque, or billboard, including EU logos, depending on the amount of funding received and the type of investment

If the benficiary does not do this, RPA may have to apply a penalty by deducting payment from the grant, or offset it against other grants or Basic Payment Scheme payments payable to the beneficiary.

Changes during the grant period and afterwards

RPA expects the applicant to use items bought with grant money in line with the proposals set out in their application.

If during the grant period the applicant needs to change the conditions of the grant funding agreement, they must first apply to RPA. They should do this as soon as possible, to give RPA time to consider the change. The benfeciary must tell RPA about any proposed changes to the project, for example if they expect to:

  • change the use of buildings, equipment or any other assets bought with the grant
  • dispose of, or sell any of the assets or
  • close, sell or transfer the business that’s associated with the grant

This applies for the duration of the project and for 5 years after the payment of the final claim. Agreement to a change is not automatic. If the beneficiary makes a change that RPA has not agreed to, the applicant may be obliged to repay the grant, or RPA may withhold some or all of the remaining grant.

If an application is unsuccessful

If an application is unsuccessful, RPA will send the applicant a letter to explain why.

The applicant can ask RPA to review the decision if they think that:

  • the decision was based on a factual error
  • the decision was wrong in law or
  • RPA made a procedural error

The applicant needs to do this within 60 days of receiving the rejection letter.

Read RPA’s complaints and appeals procedure.

Contact RPA for general enquiries

For general enquiries about the Growth Programme, applicants should contact the Rural Payments Agency.

Telephone: 03000 200 301 (Rural Payments helpline) Email:

Published 23 March 2015