The Fresh Ideas Fund

The Fresh Ideas Fund is a grant programme developed by Northern Rock Foundation to enable voluntary, community and social enterprises in the North East of England to explore new opportunities to help them grow in size, improve long term sustainability and increase their impact, through grants of up to £50,000.  The fund has made 81 grants to 76 organisations since 2011.

The Northern Rock Foundation announced the Fund will continue until 2017, after awarding £3m to a new regional foundation; the Northstar Foundation, to carry on this grant programme. The Community Foundation Serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland is managing the Fresh Ideas Fund on behalf of The Northstar Foundation. This award is one of a number of large legacy grants and awards Northern Rock Foundation is making this year. These are intended to have long term impact and benefit in the region, both to support the sustainability of the VCSE and to have a positive and long term impact on beneficiaries.

What will the Fresh Ideas Fund support?

The Fresh Ideas Fund is looking for ideas that will help applicants explore new ways of generating income and, by doing so, achieve greater sustainability and impact. They may have plans to develop new social enterprises, support more beneficiaries, spread their work into their neighbouring town, or work with completely new clients.  Or they might want to take on a new asset or build a partnership with a like-minded charity.  With the Fresh Ideas Fund’s support they will be able to take these ideas to the next stage.

How big are the grants?

The fund will provide organisations with grants of up to £50,000 to establish whether their ideas are feasible, to pay for expert advice and to cover start-up costs.  The aim is to help them to produce the evidence they need to secure the support and investment to make their ideas happen.

Successful applicants will receive expert help and guidance from Northstar Ventures to ensure their proposals are tested thoroughly.

Who can apply

The Fresh Ideas Fund is open to:

working in the areas of:

Whilst there are no restrictions on the size or turnover of an applicant organisation it is expected that they will have the capacity to deliver the proposed projects. Please see the case studies as a guide.

The fund is not open to applications for mainstream educational activity; hospitals; places of worship and organisations seeking funds for the promotion of religion; natural environment and conservation; animal welfare; national or non-north east based organisations which do not have a regional office or other representation in the North East; co-operatives, unincorporated organisations, or groups; individuals or partnerships.

Previous recipients of Fresh Ideas Fund grants may apply for new activity but if demand is high priority may be given to those organisations who have not received funding before.

For the avoidance of doubt North East shall include Northumberland, County Durham, Tyne and Wear and the Tees Valley area (to include Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Darlington and Stockton on Tees unitary authority areas).


In 2016 there will be two Fresh Ideas rounds.

The first round closed on 5 February 2016. The second round will open in the summer. Please keep an eye on our website or sign up to our newsletter to stay informed of when it will open.

Applying to the Fresh Ideas Fund is a three stage process that takes around 5 months in total. The process and timescale for the first round in 2016 is below as a guide.

Stage One:  Until  5 Feb

All applicants will need to complete a short application form here  provide a budget and a set of accounts. The form can be submitted by post to Fresh Ideas Fund or by e-mail to

Applicants will receive feedback on whether their application has made it to the next stage or not by 4th March 2016.

Stage Two: 4 March – 15 April 2016

Shortlisted applicants will be asked to develop their ideas in greater detail by completing a longer project plan. Support from Northstar Ventures will be available at this stage but should be booked as soon as possible after notification.

Stage Three: W/C 16 May 2016

From these project plans, those ideas thought to have the most potential to succeed will be asked to present to a panel during this week (exact dates TBC) It is recommended that all applicants keep this week clear when they first apply.

Successful groups will be informed by the end of May 2016.