A panel of business funding experts shared their advice with Future 50 members at an event in Norwich on Wednesday, July 6.

Held at the Norwich office of Future 50 partner Birketts, the event covered the main types of growth finance available to SMEs in the region.

“There are generally four sources of funding,” said panellist Emma Douglas-Beet, scale-up director for Exemplas and Innovate UK EDGE, which supports innovative companies that have secured funding through Innovate UK.

“The first one is grants, your early-stage funding that generally is backed by the government. Then you've got equity, traditional lending and actual sales in your company.”

Emma added that businesses should consider every type of funding – rather than putting all of their eggs in one basket.

“When you're looking at all these sources of funding, you need to look at a blended funding approach,” she said. “It's not about using anything in isolation; it's trying to use all of them intelligently.”

The chance of securing a grant is “on average between 2pc and 40pc”, Emma explained. She advised businesses to get the right support to help them write their grant applications – and to take an academic approach.

“It is a dark art, but it's like an examination paper,” Emma said. “The type of people that assess these grants want to give you the money. Answer the question in a way that they want it answered, and you will be much more likely to get the grant.”

Sean Cannon, high growth specialist at New Anglia Growth Hub, said: “The grant funding landscape is always shifting depending on who's in government and what their priorities are.

“Often the government will say it’s got £1.8 million of grant funding to get out in Norfolk and Suffolk in two months – or it goes back to the Treasury. Our job is to make sure we find the businesses to get it out to.”

Sean runs a government-funded project within New Anglia Growth Hub called Scale-Up New Anglia, which supports businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk that are either “in the process of scaling up rapidly, or have the ambition to scale up rapidly.”

“We would deem that to be growing at around 20pc a year for three consecutive years,” he explained.

Sam Palmer, tax consultant and innovation tax specialist at Lovewell Blake, offered his advice on R&D tax credits – which offer a benefit of up to 33% of the cost of qualifying projects completed by an SME.

He said eligible businesses can typically expect to receive funding through the scheme within eight weeks.

“It can be a really swift process as long as you follow the steps properly from the beginning and produce a robust technical report that explains your project and how it meets the criteria.”

Hannah Smith, investment director and MD at Anglia Capital Group, a network of local angel investors, said it’s critical that businesses instil confidence in investors that they will deliver a healthy return for their investment – while also thinking ahead to future milestones and potential further funding rounds.

She also said that 90pc of angel investors cite people as the “deal breaker” when it comes to making a decision on whether to invest – adding that it has to be the right fit for both parties.

“Investors have got to like you because they're invested in your business for at least three years,” said Hannah. “But it also goes the other way – you've got to like them!”