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Funding FAQs

Kirsty Marrs |28, April, 2022

We have pulled together the most frequently asked questions. If you have a burning question that hasn’t been included elsewhere on our website, it could be here.

1. What can the Challenge Fund be used for? 

The Challenge Fund can be used to support and progress an innovation that has been approved by EPIC. This is not an exhaustive list, but some of the things you can use the grant for include:

  • The hire or purchase of equipment
  • Wages – for PAYE personnel hired specifically for the project (including graduate and/or student placements, provided these are not already being funded through EPIC)
  • Travel and venue costs
  • Payment for freelancers and consultants
  • Marketing and publicity
  • Expenses

2. What can’t the Challenge Fund be used for?

The Challenge Fund cannot be used for land, buildings or major capital equipment. It cannot be used to pay existing employees or directors of the company/business. This is not an exhaustive list, but some of the things you cannot use the grant for include:

  • Anything you would have normally paid for without our grant support such as overheads – this includes legal and accountancy fees which would be classed as an ongoing expense of running a business, e.g. payroll administration
  • Statutory costs, e.g. health and safety
  • Staff who do not perform a role directly associated with the delivery of the project, e.g. those performing supporting roles such as reception, central finance, IT support and organisation management
  • Any expenditure which is not related to the project or named in your final approved budget
  • Publicity with no ERDF credit
  • Recoverable VAT
  • Dividends
  • Cash withdrawals
  • Penalties, e.g. late filing fees
  • Payments in advance of need
  • Retrospective payments, prior to the project
  • Spend on alcohol within refreshments/entertaining
  • Non-standard travel, e.g. first class travel
  • Any activities that are in breach of the Government’s COVID-19 guidance

3. Can the Challenge Fund be used to pay for a student intern’s wages?

The Challenge Fund cannot be used to pay for an intern that is already part-funded by EPIC or another ERDF project. You can however us Challenge Fund money to employ an intern yourself to drive your project forward.

4. What is match funding, and what can be used as private match?

In relation to the Challenge Fund (as with other forms of public sector grants) a grant will be paid on the condition that a certain amount of funding is also contributed privately. For Challenge Fund grants over £4000, applicants will need to provide some match funding.

The European Regional Development Fund defines private match contributions as the financial contribution towards the cost of support made by the beneficiary business (end beneficiary/end user). Private match can be sourced from the applicant’s own funds, or from a third party private investor resulting from ERDF investment. Contributions can be from the applicants themselves, businesses, registered charities, not-for-profit organisations, private individuals, further education or higher education institutions, and social enterprises where the funding cannot be traced to a public source.

Match funding is treated the same as ERDF regardless of source. This means that the total expenditure (including match funding/applicant contribution) must be used for the agreed purposes and defrayed on eligible expenditure. All expenditure must be evidenced, auditable and defrayed prior to the inclusion in any claim and follow all other ERDF compliance rules.

Any expenditure on the project prior to the start date specified in the funding agreement cannot be used as private sector match, and all match funding must come from a ‘clean’, non-European source i.e. an SME cannot obtain a European grant and use that to match fund another project.

Applicants will be required to provide EPIC with evidence in relation to eligible spend and procurement (certified copies of invoices and bank statements), as well as retaining evidence for audit purposes, which will include originals of certain documents which the beneficiary may require for other purposes.

5. Can people’s time be used as match funding?

Existing staff and directors’ costs cannot be counted for match funding. However the Challenge Fund can be used for new staff (working on the innovation/project or to cover the cost of consultants).

6. When do the review panels sit for the Challenge Fund?

The Challenge Fund Committee sits approximately every six weeks. This will happen until all of the fund has been allocated. As the project concludes in 2023, we anticipate that all funds will have been allocated by Winter 2022.

7. How long will it take to hear back about my application to the Challenge fund?

We contact applicants for the Challenge Fund within two weeks of the committee sitting. You will receive a decision about whether your application has been successful and feedback about how a decision was reached. If successful, you will receive your official Funding Allocation Agreement within 2 weeks.

8. How and by whom are Challenge Fund Applications assessed?

The Challenge Fund committee is made up of individuals from a variety of backgrounds including those with business, financial and clinical experience and expertise. The panel review all applications and accompanying documents and utilise a scoring criteria to enable them to reach a decision about the applications. All parts of the applications are taken into consideration in relation to where the business is on their individual innovation journey, including product/service viability, potential impact, system needs and deliverability. Further considerations include the financial viability of the product and business to ensure maximum long term benefit to both the health sector and the economy.

9. Can I reapply for the Challenge Fund if I am unsuccessful in my application?

You are most welcome to reapply if you are unsuccessful in an application. You must make sure that you address the feedback that you are given by the Fund Manager in any new application. We strongly suggest that applicants submit a draft proposal and book in a time to meet with the Fund Manager.

10. How many times can I reapply for the Challenge fund?

There is no limit to the number of times that you can apply. Always contact the Fund Manager for advice about reapplications. EPIC can also advise about other support programmes available that may be a good fit for your business.

Businesses that have already received funding from the Challenge Fund can seek further EPIC funding. It is crucial that within a new application, the learning from the previous funding highlighted to demonstrate that any future funding will be used to build on this learning.

11. What support will the team at EPIC provide me to help me fill in the application? If I am already working with EPIC, is my academic lead involved in my application for the Challenge Fund?

The Challenge Fund is managed by the Fund Manager at SWAHSN, as they are placed in the best position to support you in your application. They can you offer you guidance on how to have the best possible chance to make a successful application. They can offer you guidance on how to have the best possible chance to have a successful application. Your academic lead is not involved in your application for The Challenge Fund. Once you have registered your interest in The Challenge Fund or have been signposted to the Fund Manager by one of the EPIC Team, the Fund Manager will contact you to discuss your application. You will have an initial meeting and can contact the Fund Manager at any point to discuss your application. We recommend that you send a draft of your application to the Fund Manager prior to the deadline. The Fund Manager will provide useful insight into what the award committee will be looking for and give advice about what you can add or amend information. It is important that you take heed of advice.

As the award is discretionary, there is no guarantee that your application will make it to the Committee or that you application will be successful.

12. If my business is receiving funding from other ERDF-funded projects, can I still apply for the Challenge Fund?

Yes as long as funding is not used for activity or expenditure that is being funded by another ERDF source. The process is called Differentiation. You also must be aware of the rules around State Aid.

The EPIC programme is fully funded by a combination of different sources including the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and therefore must comply with European state aid regulations, as published in the Official Journal of the European Union: . On that basis, all support provided by EPIC covered by this agreement will be considered as state aid and count toward your €200,000 de minimis (Commission Regulation (EU) No 1407/2013 of 18 December 2013) allowance over a rolling three year period. Please note that this is in addition to any other business support assistance provided within the project. When seeking further state aid from UK public authorities or the European Commission you must declare the amount of ‘de minimis’ or ‘GBER’ funding your organisation has received, confirm you understand the state aid regulations and acknowledge that if you fail to meet the eligibility requirements you may become liable to repay the full price that would otherwise be payable in respect of the services received.

13. Can EPIC assist with me finding match funding?

EPIC cannot directly help you find match funding but we can introduce you to sources of general business and commercial advice such as Access to Finance who can provide expert advice about managing finance and making grant applications that involve match funding requirements.

14. Is every application treated the same?

Yes. Rest assured every application is assessed on individual merit and assessed against the same criteria.

15. Who is eligible for the fund?

To be considered eligible for the Challenge Fund, a business/enterprise must be registered for EPIC business support and meet the definition of an SME as set out by the European Commission:

  • a medium-sized business has fewer than 250 employees and either a turnover of up to €50 million or a balance sheet total of up to €43 million
  • a small business has fewer than 50 employees and either a turnover of up to €10 million or a balance sheet total of up to €10 million
  • a micro-business has fewer than ten employees and either a turnover of up to €2 million or a balance sheet total of up to €2 million

SMEs must also meet the following criteria:

  • be registered in Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly
  • be companies, not-for-profit organisations, charities, community interest companies or other social enterprises.
  • SMEs can work alone on their project, or in collaboration with other businesses or research organisations as non-grant claiming partners or subcontractors
  • received no more than €200,000 de minimis state aid over the last three fiscal years.

16. How much can I ask for?

You can ask for what you need. Be realistic about what you can achieve with the funding that you are requesting. We offer grants up to £26.5k, although awards of smaller grants will be more numerous.

It’s worth talking to the Fund Manager before making an application to decide how much you think that you may need so that you can be sure that your request is appropriate for your project.

17. Do you provide feedback on applications?

All applicants receive feedback whether successful or not.

18. I have missed the deadline due to a technical issue, can I still submit my application?

If you have a problem with submitting your application, contact the Fund Manager to discuss the best next steps as it may be appropriate to resubmit your application in the next round. That’s why we advise that you send a draft application well before the deadline in order to make sure that you are in the best possible position to have a successful application.

19. What are the terms and conditions of the funding?

Terms and conditions are agreed with the SWAHSN if the application is successful. this will be documented and signed by both parties in the form of a Funding Allocation Agreement.

20. What happens if the project is unfinished?

You may be required to pay back funds related to the parts of the project that you were unable to deliver.

21. Can a charity apply for The Challenge Fund?

Charities, community interest companies, social enterprises (where engaged in economic activity) are all welcome to apply.

22. What is State Aid and how does it apply to me?

The EPIC2 programme is fully funded by a combination of different sources including the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and therefore must comply with European state aid regulations, as published in the Official Journal of the European Union:

On that basis, all support provided by EPIC2 covered by this agreement will be considered as state aid and count toward your €200,000 de minimis (Commission Regulation (EU) No 1407/2013 of 18 December 2013) allowance over a rolling three year period.

23. When will I receive the money? How will it be paid?

Typically 50% of the grant will be released at the beginning of the project and 50% upon completion. The terms of the grant will be set out in the Funding Allocation Agreement between the SWAHSN and the SME.

24. What paperwork do I need to provide as evidence of spend?

You must maintain full and accurate accounts and documentary evidence in relation to the delivery of the project, including but not limited to marketing materials, timesheets, receipts, invoices, bank statements and procurement evidence. For example, this may mean an invoice for an item, along with bank statements from your business identifying the payment to the supplier of the item. Certain evidence for procurement may be required when making purchases of over £2,500.

25. Do I have to cite EPIC and ERDF on my website/promotional materials in return for the funds? How long does this need to be promoted for? (In March 2023 when EPIC concludes? Longer?)

SMEs awarded funding are required to credit the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and EPIC on relevant marketing materials including (but not limited to) press releases, websites, advertisements, blogs and media interviews.

All logos along with guidance will be provided to successful applicants.

26. Do I have to do publicity in return for the funds? If so, what will I be expected to do?

Funded SMEs will be required to participate in at least one piece of publicity with EPIC/University of Plymouth/SWAHSN, if asked. This could be in the form of an interview, blog or other suitable format, as determined by EPIC.


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