Guidance

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.

Overview

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.

Application process

Watch this video to find out about our application process.

Innovate UK - 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
  • biosciences

Find out more about innovation funding in the health and lifesciences 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 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.

International programmes

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.