UK innovation funding for high growth SMEs

The UK is second only to the USA with having the best science and best research universities in the world. Investment into research and innovation is one of the ways that we can drive economic growth. It is pretty much a way government can also tackle the big societal challenges that we are facing such as climate change, security,  and an aging population.

How the UK implements funding competitions

The UK follows a sector based approach to funding. These are the four sectors;

  • Manufacturing and materials
  • Infrastructure systems
  • Health and Life Sciences
  • Emerging & Enabling technologies

In the past InnovateUK competitions were technology or application focussed. Now, each year two broad competitions will be run in each sector as well as other specific funding competitions and activities.

Open funding programme

But the approach above doesn’t cope for business-led ideas or concepts, and especially if your idea cuts across different sectors.

The open programme is designed to help small or young innovative UK companies to grow and develop technology.

Open competitions will:

  • enable businesses to find and prove an innovative
    idea from discovery
  • establish market potential through to
    concept feasibility

To be in scope you have to

  • demonstrate innovation leading to novel, new products, processes or services
  • articulate a clear and anticipated growth impact for the business(s) leading to a significant return on investment (ROI)

Proposals that show they are likely to lead to sustainable gains in productivity and/or access to new overseas markets will be given funding priority.

How much can I get?

The competition funds a percentage of your total project costs. How much  percentage you will get funded will depend on the size of your company and the type of research you are carrying out. Companies are grouped into three different sizes and there are four different research types.

Applicant business size Market/fundamental research Feasibility studies Industrial research Experimental development
Micro/small 100% 70% 70% 45%
Medium 100% 60% 60% 35%
Large 100% 50% 50% 25%

To understand what company size you are you’ll need to read this.

Projects may last between 6 and 36 months. Total eligible project costs should range from £25,000 to £1 million depending on the research type. For example all companies get 100% on market research, and the smaller you are the more support you get back.

What is the difference between research types?

Good question, the different definitions are given below (taken directly from InnovateUK).

Fundamental research
This means experimental or theoretical work primarily to gain new knowledge of underlying phenomena and visible facts, without any direct practical application or usage. This type of research is usually undertaken by a research organisation.

Industrial research
This means planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills. This should be for the purpose of product development, processes or services that lead to an improvement in existing products, processes or services. It can include the creation of component parts to complex systems and may include prototypes in a laboratory or environment with simulated interfaces to existing systems, particularly for generic technology validation.

Experimental development
This means the acquiring, combining and shaping of existing scientific, technical and other relevant knowledge and skills. This would be to produce plans, arrangements and designs for your products, processes or services. This can include producing drafts, drawings, plans and other documentation as long as they are not intended for commercial use.

Feasibility  and market studies
This means analysis and evaluation of a project’s potential, aimed at supporting the process of decision making. This is achieved by uncovering its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as well as identifying resources needed and the prospects for success. Feasibility studies will usually help businesses decide to work either individually or collaboratively with other industrial or research organisations, before conducting a subsequent larger project.

How to apply

To apply:

If you are interested in talking about UK funding and seeing if your project is a good fit for a UK funding opportunity. I’m happy to give you a free coaching session to help you understand the value and chances of winning funding. Book an enrollment interview by following this link.




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