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Large or small, every architectural business needs help now and again, and here we present a few places to get a leg-up.

For advice on health and safety, IT and e-commerce, employment, taxation, finance and marketing, the Business Link is a great resource. On www. businesslink. gov. uk, you can search for information on various programmes and projects that can help your business.

The Job Introduction Scheme provides a contributory grant towards the costs of employing a disabled person during the first six weeks of that employment (full or part-time).

The maximum amount is £75 a week. However, the work trial must last for at least six months after the grant period ends.

Although nationwide, this scheme is administered on a local level by the Disability Employment Advisors. Contact www. jobcentreplus. gov. uk/cms. asp? Page=/Home/AboutUs/ OurOffices to find the advisor for your area.

Businesses that take on non-disabled employees aged between 18 and 24 can receive £60 a week for six months, and up to £40 a week for a part-time post, with £750 also available towards the cost of training. However, there is a catch: employees must attend an education establishment at least one day a week.

For those over 25, there is a weekly subsidy of £75 to help with a full-time wage and £50 for part-time employees. There is the option of offering a trial period. See Business Link website.

If it's inexpensive brainpower you need, the Shell Technology Enterprise Programme (STEP) helps independent businesses with fewer than 250 employees 'develop their potential by utilising the skills of undergraduates' at an affordable cost in July and August, or shorter non-summer placements and longer projects (up to 12 months).

The student undertakes an agreed business-related project pre-defined by the company and receives a weekly training allowance of £180, free of tax and National Insurance, for an eight-week summer project. Companies may have to make a contribution to the student's travel expenses. Depending on local circumstances, participating businesses may be eligible for a subsidy. See www. step. org. uk The Construction Lean Improvement Programme (CLIP) aims to develop best practice and increase productivity across the construction sector. It is tailored to the needs of the applicants and includes benchmarking - strategy development programmes, process-improvement master classes and supply-chain and lean-assessment advice. All construction businesses across the UK may apply. See www. bre. co. uk/service. jsp? id=355 Constructionline assesses consultants for prequalification to save procurers having to do it themselves. It currently has more than 1,500 public-sector organisations listed that are able to access information on over 12,500 registered contractors and consultants at national and local levels. A telephone advice line helps small businesses complete the questionnaire and present themselves accurately to clients. Very small and new enterprises may choose to limit the client support reference. Further details about the assessment criteria, including the various verification and assessment measures used, are on www. constructionline. co. uk The Enterprise Incentives scheme (EIS) provides taxadvantaged share options to help small higher-risk companies recruit and retain employees with the skills that will help them grow. They are also designed to reward employees for investing their time and skills in helping small companies achieve their potential. See www. hmrc. gov. uk/shareschemes/emi/index. htm Another source of finance can be raised from individuals who invest £500 to £150,000 each tax year in qualifying businesses and get tax relief on the investment subscription.

Under the EIS, an investor can become a paid director - this is to encourage investment by people who may be able to provide management expertise. Businesses seeking this funding must have no more than £15 million-worth of assets and be a trading company that carries out its trade mainly in the UK. Small, high-risk companies are eligible to apply. See www. eisa. org. uk The sample programmes above are nationally available.

But there are plenty of projects that can help your business, depending where in the UK you are based. Again, here's a sample list of what you can tap into.

The New Entrepreneur Scholarship programme aims to help those with a business idea by providing support, mentoring and funding. The maximum available is £1,500, and to qualify you must live in one of the 1,250 most disadvantaged areas of England. Individuals must be over 18 and have found it difficult in the past to access business support. See www. nfea. com/index.

htm? page=activities/nes. htm UK Steel offers finance of between £15,000 and £150,000 to help with business start ups, expansion and management buy outs or buy ins. It can even help provide suitable premises in which start-up and developing businesses can locate. To qualify, the applicant must be a small or medium-sized manufacturing and related service business in one of the 21 UK Steel Enterprise operating areas in England, Scotland and Wales.

See www. uksteelenterprise. co. uk Some businesses can receive grant funding to help with website design and development, as well as ongoing advice and support to enable the business to maximise the potential of the new technology. Businesses can receive a grant to cover up to 50 per cent of costs to a maximum of £1,000, but to qualify they must be located in the Park Royal area of London. Visit www.

parkroyal. org/Business/Grants/Default. aspx? itemPage=4 In the South East, Accelerator Fund scheme loans are available to small or medium-sized enterprises with the potential for significant growth. It offers sums between £25,000 and £100,000 for a three- to seven-year period (with capital repayment holidays available). Businesses must have a completed business plan, including financial accounts and projections, and a clear growth strategy. Visit www. financesoutheast. com/ desktopdefault. aspx? tabId=459 Adam Bernstein is a writer on business and taxation

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