01 Nov 2017 Five tips on how to write a winning funding application

Alina Khasabova, Shell Springboard programme manager. 

Earlier this month, the Shell Springboard programme, which awards UK businesses in the low-carbon sector up to £150,000 of equity-free funding, opened for applications. Here, we offer five top tips on how to ensure your application gets noticed:

1) Leave plenty of time to prepare

There are still two weeks left to apply for the Shell Springboard programme – but remember that applications can take longer than anticipated, so make a start as soon as you can to give yourself enough time. Even if you applied before, read each question thoroughly, as we tweak some of them in line with feedback and the changing business environment. Our successful applicants find it helpful to complete a first draft, leave it overnight and then review it again the next morning. Better yet, find someone to review your answers before submitting the final application.

2) Avoid jargon

You must be able to explain your innovation in a way that is clear and easy to understand by a non-specialist audience. Judges need to understand what it is they’re looking to fund – and the best way to do this is to keep things concise and jargon-free. Reduce descriptions to the essential elements and break down explanations into short steps. Where you need to talk about something technical, offer an additional explanation in layman’s terms. Remember: not all judges will be technical experts in your area. Some will be experts in financing or entrepreneurship and will be judging your ability to ‘sell’ your product or idea.

3) Shine the light on carbon-saving potential of your invention

Shell Springboard supports technologies and services that reduce carbon emissions, so be prepared to demonstrate how your business does this. It’s always best to have evidence-based quantitative data to demonstrate existing or potential carbon saving impact. Keep in mind that this impact may either be direct (e.g. when emissions are directly avoided or reduced through the use of your product/service) or indirect (e.g. when reduction is associated with the use of your product or service – a good example of this is video-conferencing, which enables users to reduce their travel emissions).

4) Demonstrate that your idea is technically or commercially innovative

Innovation is an important criterion for the Shell Springboard programme, as we are looking for interesting ideas that can help accelerate the transition to a lower-carbon economy. But remember that innovation is not limited to a technical discovery; it could be a novel business commercialisation proposal, a new service that hasn’t been tried yet, or an unexpected tweak to an existing technology that could radically change its application and amplify its impact.

5) Be clear on the commercial viability of your business

You need to be able to explain clearly what your business model is, how it is unique and who your target audience is. You also need to show that your business plan is watertight, so it’s vital that you can point to evidence of how you have tried and tested your idea, and what you have learnt along the way. Specifically, think about your target market and describe your customers, their motivations and needs. What is your route to market, what threats do you see and how do you plan on addressing them? How do you see your competition and why is your business stronger? Who are the people in your team who will make your business journey successful?

Lastly, it’s important to address the killer question: how you will spend the money given to your business. What are you raising money to do? And why now?