Guidance

Business innovation: what funding you can apply for

Guidance for business and academic organisations on what funding they can get to test ideas and develop innovative products and services.

Overview

If you want to develop an innovative product, process 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. Competitions are open for projects led by a UK-based company. We award funding to the winners of these competitions.

Watch our video about the different types of funding we offer and for what.

Innovate UK - Application Process

Find out if you are eligible to apply for innovation funding

The organisations we fund

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 we fund

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
  • 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
  • biosciences

Find out more about innovation funding in the health and life sciences sector.

Infrastructure systems

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.

Open programme

The open programme supports high-quality innovation from any company, in any area of the UK economy. It supports innovation at various stages. Applications can be from any technology base or sector.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs)

You can get funding of bring in new knowledge and expertise that will help you innovate within your business. Taking part in a KTP will help you to work with an academic organisation and a highly-qualified graduate. You can apply if you are a business, public or third sector organisation.

International programmes

We run a number of initiatives that can help you get access to international opportunities and partners. This includes Horizon 2020, Europe’s biggest ever funding initiative, EUREKA Eurostars and the Newton Fund. These are open to a range of organisation types and size.

Other funding opportunities for businesses

Innovate UK also runs funding competitions on behalf of other organisations. Details and how to apply are published as new competitions are announced.

Search the Innovation Funding Service for other funding competiitons.

Apply to the Aerospace Technology Institute R&T programme, which offers innovation funding to businesses to sustain the UK’s position in aerospace design and manufacture.

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 on our website. 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.

Apply for a competition

There are a number of ways you can register and find out about new and upcoming opportunities.

General competition guidance

You should read the general guidance for applicants to get advice on completing your application.

State aid (for example, when it’s applied and where to get more information).

Project costs guidance

We will ask for a breakdown of your eligible project costs as part of the application.

If you’re not eligible for Innovate UK funding

Innovate UK funding is for the advancement of innovative ideas only. There are other opportunities for non-innovating businesses to get finance and support.

Published 22 October 2014
Last updated 18 May 2017 + show all updates
  1. Added the ATI competition under 'Other funding opportunities for businesses'.
  2. Updated sections for general guidance for applicants and project costs guidance.
  3. Defined and added links to the relevant sections in the guidance for applicants. Added links to the Innovation Funding Service, project cost guidance and all European funding opportunities. Removed section on how to register and what happens after you apply as this is covered in the general guidance for applicants.
  4. Duplication of information which is contained in guidance for applicants.
  5. Link and information on project costs guidance for Innovate UK.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Removed information about SME support as this is now closed for new applicants
  10. Factual update to funding offered all the time to any business
  11. New videos to find out about our funding rules and application process.
  12. Added content about our new SME growth support.
  13. First published.