Innovation: apply for a funding award
Guidance for business and academic organisations on how to get funding to test ideas and develop innovative products and services.
If you want to develop an innovative product or service, you may be able to apply for funding of between £25,000 and £10 million.
Innovate UK runs funding competitions which can help you develop your idea and make it successful. These competitions are open for projects led by any UK based companies. Innovate UK awards funding to the winners of these competitions.
Watch this video to find out about our application process.
Find out if you are eligible to apply for innovation funding
The organisations Innovate UK funds
You can apply for funding if you are a UK based business. All kinds of businesses can apply - from pre-startup and new companies to large multi-nationals.
The projects Innovate UK funds
You can apply for funding if you want to do one or more of the following:
- to test the feasibility of your idea and make sure it will work
- create a new product, process or service, or improve an existing one, through research and development (R&D)
- work with other businesses or research organisations on collaborative projects
Find out which industries Innovate UK funds
Some of the Innovate UK funding competitions focus on specific industry sectors. There are opportunities for your business in the 4 following sector groups:
Emerging and enabling technologies
Our priorities are:
- emerging technologies including biofilms, energy efficient computing, energy harvesting, graphene and new imaging technologies
- accelerated support for non-animal technologies, quantum technologies and synthetic biology
- enabling technologies including cyber security, data, earth observation, electronics, sensors and photonics, Internet of Things, robotics and autonomous systems
Find out more about innovation funding in the emerging and enabling technologies sector.
Health and life sciences
Our priorities are:
- precision medicine
- advanced therapies including cell, gene and others
- preclinical technologies
- improving agriculture productivity
- developing centres for agricultural innovation
- enhanced food quality
Find out more about innovation funding in the health and lifesciences sector.
Our priorities are:
- energy – systems and supply
- transport systems
- urban living
- smart and resilient infrastructure
Find out more about innovation funding in the infrastructure systems sector.
Manufacturing and materials
Our priorities are:
- digital technologies for manufacturing and materials
- manufacturing readiness at scale
- early stage manufacturing and materials concepts
Find out more about innovation funding in the manufacturing and materials sector.
Find funding opportunities open to any innovative business
The following programmes are open to businesses in any sector.
The open programme supports high quality innovation from any company, in any area of the UK economy. It includes open funding competitions and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships to enable businesses to access knowledge and expertise.
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs)
You can get funding of around £80,000 to innovate within your business. KTPs will help you work with a research organisation and a recently-qualified graduate. You can apply if you are a business or a third sector or public sector organisation.
Innovate UK can help you access EU funding through Eurostars and Horizon 2020. You can get funding for research or to develop an innovative product or service. Organisations of any type or size can apply for Horizon 2020 but Eurostars is only open to small or medium-sized enterprises.
If you’re not eligible for Innovate UK funding
You can use Business Finance and Support Finder to check for other funding opportunities.
Other funding opportunities for businesses
Innovate UK also runs funding competitions on behalf of other organisations, details and how to apply will be published on our website
How to apply for an innovation grant
Before you apply
To get a grant you have to apply through a funding competition.
Details about each competition and the technical scope are published as notices on our website. You can sign up for email alerts from our home page.
You should read the scope information carefully before you apply. You can also attend a briefing event or webinar to find out more about the competition.
Eligibility rules vary for each competition. Please read them carefully before applying. For example, some competitions need projects to be collaborative with a business partner as the lead applicant.
Some competitions will be open only to small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Check if you fit the EU definition of an SME.
Innovate UK will ask for a breakdown of your eligible project costs as part of the application. The project costs guidance will help you to understand this process.
How to register online
You will be eligible for different rates of funding depending on the type and size of your organisation and your role in the project. All competitions are open to businesses. If you are another type of organisation you may be able to apply for some competitions but rules vary.
You must register online for each competition so that we can send you an application form. You must upload your completed application and any other requested documents before the deadline.
After you have applied
Once the application deadline has passed, your application will be assessed by independent experts. Innovate UK selects assessors for each competition based on their knowledge of the innovation area. These experts represent both business and research sectors.
When this process is complete, Innovate UK will email you to tell you the decision. You will get assessor feedback on your application, usually about 4 weeks later.
If you are unsuccessful
You may be able to resubmit your application for a future competition but you will need to check the eligibility criteria.
You can use the Business Finance and Support Finder to check for other funding opportunities.
Published: 22 October 2014
Updated: 6 May 2016
- Duplication of information which is contained in guidance for applicants.
- Link and information on project costs guidance for Innovate UK.
- Changes made on 'How to apply for an innovation grant'. Eligibility rules now vary with each competition. Updated guide on what happens if you are successful. We no longer hold new project workshops.
- Innovate UK has simplified the way it offers funding opportunities. Our competitions now come under one of 4 sector groups or are 'open' to any idea. The Innovate UK open programme invites applications for any cutting-edge innovative idea regardless of industry or sector. This competition covers applications that may previously have been made into Innovate UK's Smart programme (which is no longer available in its previous form). All Innovate UK funding competitions will continue to be published on the Innovate UK website with news announcements when they are opening for applications.
- Removed out of date references to 2014-15 action plans. Clarified information on Innovation Vouchers and Smart. These are not open all the time but have opening and closing dates for applications.
- Removed information about SME support as this is now closed for new applicants
- Factual update to funding offered all the time to any business
- New videos to find out about our funding rules and application process.
- Added content about our new SME growth support.
- First published.