Guidance

Global innovation: what support is available

Guidance on what help you can get from Innovate UK to innovate and grow your business overseas.

Overview

Innovate UK can support you to grow and scale your business globally, helping you access knowledge, develop new partnerships and explore international innovation opportunities.

Through the international programmes that we offer, we can help you:

  • build your knowledge about other countries through the insight we provide
  • build relationships with businesses, research organisations, investors and governments in other countries
  • collaborate with international partners and innovate together
  • explore innovation opportunities and future market potential. These programmes are open to businesses and other organisation based in the UK.

Explore opportunities to engage internationally by building your knowledge

Through our Global Expert Missions, we gather and disseminate knowledge and insight about innovation opportunities in specific technologies and sectors in other countries. Delivered by the KTN on our behalf, the detailed reports published provide a rich source of insight and highlight specific opportunities. Access the KTN reports

Build your international innovation relationships and explore future market opportunities

Through our Global Business Innovation Programmes, we help high-growth innovative UK businesses explore and exploit the collaboration, growth and innovation opportunities offered through working globally.

Understanding the needs of a different market and building collaborations and partnerships can be a barrier to businesses expanding globally.

This programme helps businesses to familiarise themselves with and build partnerships and connections in their target country to maximise their chances of success.

It does this by providing a programme of support to help businesses to meet their specific business goals as they scale up. Each Global Business Innovation Programme lasts 9-12 months and supports cohorts of 15 businesses through 3 phases:

  • prepare for the market - helping businesses understand and get ready for the market
  • visit the market – usually a week-long visit to a country to gain first-hand experience and to build, strengthen and exploit connections with peers, investors, government and the research community
  • exploit the opportunity - including ongoing support from and Innovate UK Innovation and Growth Specialist.

Global Business Innovation Programmes are run on a competitive basis and previous programmes have targeted countries such as the USA, Canada, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, China and countries across Europe.

This programme is delivered by Innovate UK EDGE. View more information on current opportunities.

Gain a deep understanding of future market opportunities

Our Global Incubator Programme is an acceleration programme for cohorts of 6-8 innovative high-growth and scaling businesses to spend time in world-leading incubators abroad.

Our structured programme uses an intensive four-stage method to tackle the challenges that most companies face when entering global markets. Small and medium-sized enterprises can explore the potential of specific overseas markets and access world-class mentors and tailored workspaces.

The programme operates in four countries: the USA, Canada, Singapore and India.

This programme is delivered by Innovate UK EDGE. Find out more about the Global Incubator Programme.

Other Innovate UK EDGE support to help you enter new markets

Innovate UK EDGE is a key part of the UK innovation agency’s investment in the innovative businesses that drive economic growth. It complements Innovate UK project funding with intensive, specialist-led support for such ambitious businesses.

Each high-potential, innovative business in our portfolio benefits from the objective perspective of a dedicated innovation and growth specialist local to them. Our specialist considers a business in the round and, working closely with its leadership, identifies the most productive ways to accelerate its growth.

Innovate UK EDGE brings a range of services to help ambitious, innovative SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises) grow and scale. We help businesses:

  • exploit innovation, intellectual property, and connections in the UK and abroad
  • enter new markets at home and abroad
  • access funding and finance and getting investment ready.

Innovate UK EDGE Innovation and Growth Specialists can help you source and establish connections with new collaborators and business partners in over 65 countries through our involvement in the Enterprise Europe Network, including through our partnerships tool providing global partnering opportunities.

There are also a range of focused brokerage events to help you find new international business opportunities and the key information you need on markets and sectors.

Find out more about Innovate UK EDGE or call 0300 123 3066.

Work with international partners and innovate together

As a UK business, we can provide you with financial support to collaborate with an international partner of your choice and undertake joint research, development and innovation. We do this by running funding competitions with another country or set of countries, and making competitive grant awards to business (and research organisations).

We also participate in international funding competitions delivered by the Eureka network, to make other international collaboration opportunities available to UK businesses.

To find current opportunities under our funding competitions including Eureka, search our Innovation Funding Service.

Eureka

More than 45 countries make up the Eureka network, which supports international collaboration on developing new, innovative products and services.

Through Eureka, businesses in the UK can:

  • get access to skills, expertise and support through collaborative R&D and innovation projects
  • work with other businesses and research organisations building longer-term partnerships
  • receive financial support for their participation.

Eureka Eurostars

The Eureka Eurostars programme is for UK SMEs who want to take part in collaborative research with businesses in over 35 countries to develop new products, processes or services. We expect the new programme under Horizon Europe to launch later this year.

There are two calls for proposals every year – usually in March and September. You can apply with two or more participants from two or more Eurostars countries. Only SMEs can lead a project. Innovate UK funds successful UK applicants up to 60% of eligible project costs (equivalent to €360,000 per UK project partner). We typically fund 10 to 15 projects per round.

Large businesses or academic organisations can also take part in a Eurostars project but must fund this themselves.

Eureka Network Projects

Network projects enable bilateral and multilateral projects between two or more countries in the Eureka Network in any area.

Eureka Globalstars

Globalstars offers the UK a trusted way to collaborate with other world-leading research and innovation nations beyond the Eureka network.

Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe is the largest ever European funding programme for research and innovation. The budget for the programme is €95.5 billion and will run from 2021 until 2027. UK businesses, researchers and scientists have access to EU funding on equivalent terms as organisations in EU countries. We therefore strongly encourage researchers, businesses and other innovators in the UK and worldwide to continue to work together in establishing global consortia to bid for funding.

Funding calls are based on 3 areas:

  • excellent science
  • global challenges and European industrial competitiveness
  • innovative Europe.

You can apply to run a standard research or demonstration project if you are a:

  • registered business
  • charity
  • local authority
  • partnership
  • research organisation that has legal standing.

Horizon Europe National Contact Points

The UK’s Horizon Europe National Contact Points (NCPs) exist to help you with every aspect of the Horizon Europe European funding programme.

Through your National Contact point expert, you can get free and impartial advice on:

  • choosing the best funding scheme
  • administrative procedures and contractual issues
  • the application process
  • documents that can help you, including forms, guidelines and manuals
  • finding a project partner
  • your proposal
  • liaising with the commission on the scope of projects.
The flight deck of the Airlander

The flight deck of the Airlander.

Connect to our innovation partners

KTN

The KTN offers sector-focused, thematic support to businesses to:

  • connect to other businesses and research organisations to build national and international research and innovation partnerships
  • understand the global innovation landscape and take advantage of opportunities for business growth
  • accelerate the development and exploitation of innovative ideas to commercialisation
  • understand and access UK, European and international funding
  • signpost other helpful sources of business support, including the Department for International Trade (DIT), Local Enterprise Partnerships, Growth Hubs, as well as the programmes and organisations mentioned on this page.

Find out more about KTN by visiting the website, call 03333 403 250 or email enquiries@ktn-uk.org

Catapult centres

The network of Catapult centres support UK innovation through access to expertise and cutting-edge technical capabilities.

The centres have significant engagement across the world, including within European programmes and bilateral initiatives such as those financed through the Newton Fund and the Global Challenges Research Fund. They can help UK companies internationalise, while also developing their own capability and attracting investment to the UK.

Past projects have included:

Catapult facilities also attract investment from international companies in the UK. These include US-based Boeing and Fisher BioServices.

Where to find out more

New opportunities through the programme are announced in our news stories. Sign up for Innovate UK’s newsletter or email updates to get alerts.

Take a look at the success stories of some of the companies Innovate UK has supported in the UK and overseas.

If you have any questions about international support contact customer support service on 0300 321 4357 or email support@innovateuk.ukri.org. You can also contact the Innovate UK Global team at globalteam@innovateuk.ukri.org.

Published 8 March 2018
Last updated 15 April 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated to reflect latest international innovation funding schemes.

  2. Replaced Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) with Innovate UK EDGE.

  3. Updated the section that looks at missions to show how these fit into global business accelerator programme. Missions are one phase of the programme. The 3 phases involve: helping a business get ready for their target market; hosting them on a mission to that market to meet and connect with partners; and ongoing support after the mission to exploit the opportunity.

  4. First published.