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Qualitative review of SE Large Grant Support – case study research


The main research objective was to undertake a qualitative review of Scottish Enterprise’s (SE) large grant programmes that have delivered around 1,700 grants (£512million) to around 1,300 businesses between 2009/10 and 2017/18. The review covered Regional Selective Assistance (RSA), SMART, R&D, Training Plus, High Growth Spinout Programme (HGSP), Proof of Concept (PoC), Environmental Aid and Young Innovative Enterprise (YIE) grants. The key aims were to assess the rationale for providing grants and the impact of grants on company performance. The review also considered administrative issues such as; the application and appraisal process, grant management, linkages with other support, marketing/promotion and performance metrics.


Desk research, review of management information and a fieldwork programme, including engagement with strategic stakeholders and partners, operational and delivery staff, and 38 company case studies.


The research suggests grants are leading to a wide range of impacts, with grants delivering economic benefits through a variety of mechanisms. This includes encouraging investment in company creation, staff training, capex and R&D, supporting innovation, driving up company sales including exports, attracting companies to locate to or stay in Scotland, supporting companies to remain competitive and viable, and creating or safeguarding employment. The research suggests there is a continued rationale for providing grants, with demand from companies, although there may be challenges in encouraging a wider range of companies to develop the kind of projects supported by grants which can drive economic impacts. The evaluation also found that grants are useful for stimulating projects in some circumstances where loans and equity solutions may not work and should be considered as part of a blended funded model. The evaluation found that processes generally worked well and were underpinned and informed by SE and State Aid policy. Companies were generally positive about the formal/informal role of SE staff in providing advice and guidance to help shape projects and acting as an “informal sounding board” at various stages throughout the process, and have an important role in ensuring a supply of ‘good quality’ projects. There were however some issues with grant appraisal and monitoring processes and issues cited included the amount of detail and evidence required for applications and claims, delays in decisions, lack of clarity on contract conditions and the requirement for individual claims to be externally audited.


Most recommendations related to improving the design of grant systems and processes; data collection, monitoring, evaluation; and marketing and promotion processes. The nine key recommendations included: consider opportunities to redesign and rationalise grant programmes; simplification of application and appraisal processes where possible; reviewing how risk is assessed; consider using grants as part of a blended funded model; targeting specific regions, sectors, or themes; analysis and research to understand what is constraining grant uptake; improving Post-Completion monitoring; improving monitoring and performance metrics; and improving marketing and promotion.

Author Ekos
Published Year 2020
Report Type Evaluation
  • Enterprise
    Entrepreneurship/new firm formation, High growth entrepreneurship, Support to existing/growth businesses
  • Innovation
    Commercialisation, Business innovation
  • Internationalisation
    Inward investment