Marine-i is making available Rapid Innovation Grants of up to £2,000 to help accelerate innovation by funding the purchase of equipment or services to take ideas or innovation to the next level. The funds complement the existing suite of business support measures focussed on marine technology development including the Marine Challenge Fund which provides grants of reimbursable funds of £2,000 to £150,000 aimed at projects which drive marine sector research, development and innovation and help bring new marine products, processes and services to market. Please visit: https://www.marine-i.co.uk/services for more detail.

Grant funding can pose an opportunity for any business to rapidly develop. However, as with any investment, there will be a number of legal issues to consider.

  • Obligations under the grant funding agreement

The recipient will generally be obliged to enter into a binding grant funding agreement, under which the funder agrees to provide funding, and the recipient agrees to meet certain objectives. The recipient should ensure it is comfortable that it understands and can comply with its obligations under this agreement.

  • Match funding and interim funding

The recipient should ensure that it is able to fund any interim or outstanding project costs from either its own resources or as debt, equity or grant funding from other sources.

  • State aid

The project will have to comply with EU state aid rules. State aid applies to organisations receiving financial assistance from public sources, to ensure public funds do not give one undertaking a competitive advantage over others. One potential option is that  “de Minimis” state aid rules may be utilised, which allows grant funding of up to EUR 200,000 depending on what the grant will be used for and what other state aid the beneficiary has received over the previous three years. There are also methods of justifying state intervention in research and development projects under the General Block Exemption Regulation 2014 which may be appropriate. However, the ultimate responsibility for state aid compliance rests with the recipient and if there is any concern around the state aid position, advice should be sought.

  • Other contractual liability

In the delivery of any research and development project, the recipient may be entering into legally binding arrangements for a variety of purposes including for the acquisition of goods and services, the employment of staff, the acquisition of rights over land, and the securing of funding. The recipient should ensure that it is clear on its obligations under such agreements, and ensure that such arrangements are legally binding and enforceable. Recipients may wish to ensure that all intellectual property rights are appropriately protected and that it has addressed all regulatory issues, such as compliance with health and safety, environmental health, and data protection.

  • Taxation

Receipt of grant funding in respect of research and development can prevent businesses subsequently benefiting from research and development tax credits. Appropriate advice should be sought.

Although there are a number of issues to be considered in undertaking any grant funded research and development project, our experience has shown that with proper consideration and mitigation of the risks, it is possible for grant funding to assist in the delivery of some outstanding projects.  In our view, the Marine-i funds potentially represent fantastic development opportunities for businesses active in this sector.

Tim Lane is a solicitor in our corporate team.  If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article further, please contact Tim on corporate.cornwall@stephens-scown.co.uk.