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SME restart and recovery grants

Delivered by North East Growth Hub

This fund is currently open for applications for County Durham.

Expressions of Interest form is open in the form of a ballot for businesses based in County Durham at 12 noon on Wednesday 30 September and will close at midnight on Thursday 1 October.

Business is located in County Durham can now apply here.

We are introducing a ballot system to manage applications to this fund, which means that all eligible businesses will have the equal chance of receiving funding by completing an expression of interest form, with successful candidates chosen by random selection.

Ballots will run at a Local Authority level so that we can fulfil the geographical requirements of the funding. We have shared below when each Local Authority call for applications will take place.

Please be aware that while limited grants for the purchase of small equipment were available, these were fully allocated in previous application rounds and for reason we can now only offer revenue funding to businesses. 

The level of grants available vastly outstrips demand with only around 650 businesses receiving support against a 150,000-business population. We really want this funding to go the companies who need it most so we’re asking everyone to re-read the eligibility guidelines, ensure they meet the criteria and can evidence a 20% decline in turnover due to COVID-19 from 17 March 2020 to date, compared to the same period last year.

About the fund

In response to the demand for increased support for SMEs, government has committed an additional £20m from the England European Regional Development Fund to support the wider economy and help SMEs restart and recover. 

The North East LEP area (County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland) has been awarded more than £1.8m.

Eligible SMEs in the area - businesses deemed to have been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic - will be able to apply for grants of between £1,000 and £3,000.

The funds can be used to access external expertise or consultancy support that will help the business to respond to the impact of COVID-19 and can include marketing, operations, HR,  finance, health and safety and strategic planning. Examples include:

  • Strategy Development
  • Change Management
  • Product development / diversification
  • Process improvement systems
  • Financial restructuring
  • Marketing planning
  • Web design / development
  • Accessing new markets
  • HR Strategy planning and development
  • Production of Videos or Animations

The Grant rate is 100%, but businesses will have to make the initial payment for the support or purchase and claim the grant back. The VAT element of any support or purchase is not eligible for grant support.

You must not pay for any equipment or services before you have been officially awarded the grant, any payments made to prior to signing your funding contract will not be eligible for funding.

Eligibility Criteria

For a business to be eligible to apply for this grant funding, it must meet the following criteria:

  • be able to demonstrate that the business has been adversely impacted by COVID-19 and suffered at least a 20% decline in turnover, from 17 March 2020 to date, when compared with the same period last year.  Businesses trading less than two years need to be able to demonstrate that the business has been adversely impacted by COVID-19 and suffered at least a 20% reduction in turnover, from 17 March 2020 to date.  NB: This will need to be evidenced.
  • it must be based in either Northumberland, Tyne and Wear or County Durham
  • it must be an SME - employ fewer than 250 people and have a turnover of less that €50M
  • it must have been trading prior to 01 March 2020 and still be actively trading.
  • it must generate 51%+ of its income from commercial sources – donations, grants and contracts awarded without a competitive process are not classed as commercial income.
  • can evidence a 20% decline in turnover due to COVID-19 from 17 March 2020 to date

Ineligible Sectors – ERDF funding cannot support the following sectors:

  • Businesses that deliver Statutory Services such as a schools / doctors surgeries / care homes
    Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and aquaculture, Processing and marketing of agricultural products,
  • Shipbuilding, Insurance/brokerage companies, Primary production, Coal or steel, Synthetic Fibres.

Local Authority Ballot dates

A simple form will be made available for 36 hours for businesses to provide us with high level information – we’ll be asking for this information in phases and in individual local authority areas. There will then be a random selection where an agreed number of businesses will be asked to complete a more detailed Expression of Interest.  We’ve taken this approach for a number of reasons, but mainly to ensure that its fairer and not first come first served and that there is less pressure on timings of completion. 

The dates and times of the local authority ballots are:

County Durham

Opens: Wednesday 30 September, 12noon.

Closes: Thursday 01 October, 23:59.


Opens: Friday 02 October, 12noon.

Closes: Saturday 03 October, 23:59.


Opens: Monday 05 October, 12noon.

Closes: Tuesday 06 October, 23:59.


Opens: Wednesday 07 October, 12noon.

Closes: Thursday 08 October, 23:59.


Opens: Friday 09 October, 12noon.

Closes: Saturday 10 October, 23:59

Durham (second round, if required)

Opens: Monday 12 October, 12noon.

Closes: Tuesday 13 October, 23:59

The SME restart and recovery grants are supported by the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014 to 2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. For more information click here.



Tagged under Coronavirus Covid19