Global innovation: what support is available

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


Innovate UK runs a number of initiatives that can help you to access global opportunities and partners. These are open to a range of organisation types and sizes in the UK.

We can help you:

  • by funding you to work on global innovation projects
  • build relationships with other businesses, research organisations, investors and government
  • identify other sources of public and private investment
  • understand the laws and legislation of your target market
  • de-risk innovation and protect your business when working overseas

Please note, the international research and innovation funding environment is changing rapidly. To find current opportunities with Innovate UK search our Innovation Funding Service.

Funding programmes

Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is the largest ever European funding programme for research and innovation. It is making available 79 billion euros until 2020 to fund collaborative projects that ensure Europe is at the heart of world-class science and innovation.

Funding calls are based on 3 areas:

  • excellent science
  • industrial leadership
  • societal challenges

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

The UK government has committed to underwriting payment of Horizon 2020 awards for successful applications that are submitted while the UK remains a member of the EU. This includes when specific projects continue beyond the UK’s departure from the EU.

The flight deck of the Airlander

The flight deck of the Airlander.

Catalyst competitions

These competitions are run by Innovate UK to support businesses to scale up and innovate. In recent rounds of the following competitions funding has been provided by the Department for International Development (DFID) for international support.

Agri-tech Catalyst

The Agri-tech Catalyst is a £70 million programme for the agri-tech sector. It is for businesses and researchers to work together to speed and scale up agricultural projects from research through to commercial viability, and embed these innovations in developing countries.

This fund was set up by Innovate UK, DFID and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Funding competitions are typically run once a year. Search for funding on the Innovation Funding Service.

Energy Catalyst

The Energy Catalyst programme funds UK businesses and researchers to carry out projects that tackle the global need for clean, affordable and secure energy. It aims to accelerate the development, commercialisation and deployment of new energy solutions.

The programme is run by Innovate UK with co-funding from other department partners.

Internationally, through DFID, the programme looks to fund research and innovation that supports affordable, reliable access to clean energy in developing countries.

Funding competitions are typically run once a year. Search for funding on the Innovation Funding Service.

For any questions about the Catalysts contact our customer support service on 0300 321 4357 or email

Newton Fund competitions

The Newton Fund develops science and innovation partnerships between the UK and 18 partner countries eligible to receive the UK government’s Official Development Assistance.

The funding is to:

  • engage in new science and innovation opportunities overseas
  • work with Newton partner countries to support economic development and social welfare within that country
  • create collaborative solutions that benefit all parties involved

There is up to £735 million available for Newton Fund projects between 2014 and 2021. Innovate UK is one of the UK delivery partners of the fund, specifically supporting UK businesses to innovate.

Partnering countries include:

  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Egypt
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Peru
  • South Africa
  • the Philippines
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Vietnam

Newton Fund: Working with Overseas Partners

As more funding is made available we will host new competitions on our Innovation Funding Service. Search ‘Newton Fund’ on our Innovation Funding Service for the latest business opportunities.

EUREKA Eurostars

The EUREKA Eurostars programme is for UK SMEs who want to take part in collaborative research in Europe to develop new products, processes or services.

There are 2 calls for proposals every year until 2020. You can apply with 2 or more participants from 2 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 euros 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.

For information on the latest call contact our customer support service at or 0300 321 4357.


ERA-NET provides funding opportunities for joint activities that support transnational research and innovation. It enables partners to take on tasks together that they would not have been able to tackle on their own.

No funding is currently available. If this changes we will add details here and you can also search the Innovation Funding Service.

Get information on the programme and find out about any new opportunities by contacting customer support service on 0300 321 4357 or email

Connect to innovation partners

Enterprise Europe Network

Through the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) - the largest business support network in the world - you can access free specialist help and advice to:

The EEN has offices across the UK and is active in more than 60 countries.

Welcome to Enterprise Europe Network in the UK

Get more information by visiting the EEN website or contact the team on 0300 123 4587.

Knowledge Transfer Network

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) is Innovate UK’s network partner. It offers sector-focussed, thematic support to businesses to:

  • understand and access UK, European and international funding
  • 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
  • access private finance for overseas business expansion
  • 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

Horizon 2020 National Contact Points

The team exists to help you on every aspect of the Horizon 2020 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

EUREKA network

More than 40 countries make up the EUREKA network, which supports international collaboration on developing new, innovative products.

As a member of EUREKA, businesses in the UK can:

  • get access to skills, expertise and support to deliver projects quickly, for example, help to reach cooperation agreements
  • find financial support, including venture capital and loans, public financial aid and tax credits

Innovate UK will take over chairmanship from July 2018.

For more information and advice contact our customer support service on 0300 321 4357 or email

Global business innovation programme

Through the global business innovation programme, we help high-growth UK businesses prepare for and attend overseas missions in order to explore and exploit innovation opportunities. These are countries where we have already laid the groundwork and scoped out the market.

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

So, 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 coherent package of support, including access to resources and intelligence, to meet their specific business goals as they scale up. This is split into 3 phases:

  • helping businesses get ready for the market
  • visiting the market on an innovation mission, where businesses can gain understanding and build, strengthen and exploit connections with peers, investors, government and the research community
  • exploiting the opportunity, including ongoing support after the mission to make the most of it

The programme is offered by Innovate UK, working with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s UK Science and Innovation Network and DIT. Previous work has targeted Canada, China, South Korea, Japan, Israel and India.

Whitefox Technologies establishes foothold in US biofuel industry

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

European Institute of Technology Knowledge and Innovation Communities

The innovation communities bring together businesses, research organisations and universities. These communities are a hub for activities such as training and education, innovation projects and business incubation.

There are 8 communities that UK businesses can join. These cover:

  • climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • the future of information and communication
  • sustainable energy
  • innovation for healthy living and active ageing
  • raw materials including sustainable exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution
  • future of food
  • added-value manufacturing
  • urban mobility

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 European programmes and bilateral initiatives such as those financed through the Newton 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

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

Published 8 March 2018
Last updated 29 August 2018 + show all updates
  1. 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.

  2. First published.