Guidance for organisations applying for Innovate UK's funding opportunities to test ideas and develop innovative products and services.
Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). We support innovative ideas and business growth through grant funding, loans or procurements.
Organisations can apply for a funding opportunity. Each opportunity has its own eligibility criteria and scope. Opportunities are available through the Innovation Funding Service, where you can find out more about funding opportunities and which ones may be right for you.
Disclaimer: Following the departure of the UK from the European Union, the current transition period comes to an end on the 31st December 2020. Following the end of the transition period it is expected that changes will need to be made to our terms and conditions, and guidance, for any future awards under the UK’s new subsidy regime.
Find out more about what we do.
Throughout the year we offer various types of funding opportunities. You can find a full list of open or soon to open opportunities.
The government also offers other opportunities for businesses to get finance and support.
Before you start an application
You need to read the full eligibility, scope and guidance for the funding opportunity you wish to apply for. All information about how to complete the application is made clear in the opportunity guidance.
We strongly advise you not to leave your submission to the last minute before the deadline. If you experience technical difficulties there will be no extension. Late submissions are not considered and Innovate UK is not able to enter into any discussion regarding this.
Your previous projects
Before you start your application you must make sure that any previous projects have been completed fully.
If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole organisation and were awarded funding by Innovate UK or UK Research and Innovation, but did not make a substantial effort to exploit that award, we will award no more funding to you, in this or any other competition. You will not be able to contest our decision.
- assess your efforts in the previous competition against your exploitation plan for that project
- review the monitoring officers’ reports and any other relevant sources for evidence
- document our decision, which will be made by 3 team members, and communicate it to you in writing
Under the terms of Innovate UK funding, you must submit an independent accountant’s report (IAR) with your final claim. If you or any organisation in your consortium failed to submit an IAR on a previous project, we will not award funding to you in any other competition until we have received the documents.
We will not send your application for assessment:
- deliberately increase word count using punctuation
- use unprofessional, aggressive or threatening language
- submit with a notable lack of content
- apply with no clear innovation
if the application:
- is the same as, or very similar to, a project that has received public funds previously
- is the same as, or very similar to, another application
- has already been submitted for assessment in 2 other competitions
if the competition does not allow a previously submitted application
You can submit an application that was unsuccessful in one previous competition. You can improve your application based on the assessors’ feedback and the scope of the competition.
If you submit a new application this time you can only submit the updated application into one future competition that allows this.
If you need more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 11:30am and 2pm to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).
We will not tolerate abusive language in any written or verbal correspondence, applications, social media or any other form that might affect staff.
The application process
Innovate UK typically runs 2 types of application process for funding awards. These are:
- An online application process through our digital Innovation Funding Service.
- A document-based file transfer protocol (FTP) application process.
The following sections outline the differences in the 2 processes.
Apply on the Innovation Funding Service
The Innovation Funding Service is an online application process. You need to create an account in the service to start an application, or sign in to your existing account.
Applications are separated into sections, which all need to be completed to submit your application. You cannot submit an application unless you have correctly completed each section. Applications not submitted via the Innovation Funding Service or which are sent by email will not be accepted.
Please note that once you submit your application, the process cannot be reversed.
Full guidance for completing each section is found within the service.
Collaborating in the Innovation Funding Service
Many Innovate UK competitions require organisations to work with others on collaborative research and development projects.
The collaboration rules are stated in the eligibility section of the guidance for each funding opportunity. This section outlines the different roles of organisations who intend to work collaboratively in completing an application and setting up a project on the service.
The lead applicant represents the lead organisation for the application. As the lead applicant you will be responsible for:
- starting an application
- adding people from your organisation to the application and removing them
- adding partner organisations you wish to collaborate with, where applicable, and removing them
- assigning questions
- answering questions relevant to you
- reviewing answers given by team members
- submitting the application before the deadline
- accepting the terms and conditions on behalf of your organisation
- uploading permitted appendices
You should only add people who are directly involved in the project. If your project wants to change who is leading the application, the new person will need to start a new application.
Partner organisations are invited to join an application by the lead applicant. They will receive an email invitation from the Innovation Funding Service and will need to accept the invitation and create an account, or sign in to an existing account.
As a partner you are responsible for:
- completing project costs and finance details for your organisation
- inviting other people from your organisation to help with the application
- answering questions assigned to you by the lead applicant
- accepting the terms and conditions for your organisation
Partners can see:
- all application questions and answers
- their own organisation’s finance details
- the application finance summary
Neither the lead applicant nor partners can view the financial details of any of the other organisations involved in the application. They can only view their own.
Partners are not able to:
- start an application
- invite people from other organisations
- assign questions
- submit the application
Apply for an FTP funding opportunity
A few funding opportunities, such as some of the international competitions, are not yet able to use the Innovation Funding Service. These will use a secure file transfer site (FTP).
Funding opportunities using the FTP application process will prompt you to register to apply online. If you are the lead or sole applicant, you will need to register using the link on the competition guidance page. Registration closes at midday one week before the submission deadline. Registrations are not accepted after this time.
Your username and password
When you register you will receive an email from Innovate UK containing your:
- unique application form
- secure FTP site URL
As applications contain sensitive information they must be submitted using the process below. Applications submitted by email or after the competition deadline are not accepted.
When you click on the URL (or paste it into your address bar) you will be taken to the public download area of the secure FTP site. This area will include downloadable documents for the competition. To submit your application you need to sign in to the site with your username and password.
If you cannot see the log in tab, you must zoom out. You can do this by holding down the ctrl key and either scrolling with the mouse wheel or pressing the minus (-) key.
If you want to apply more than once, you must ask for more application forms by emailing email@example.com before the registration deadline. You must provide your application number in your email. Late applications will not be considered.
Uploading your documents
The funding opportunity you are applying for will provide guidance on uploading documents and file naming conventions.
For submissions through FTP, Innovate UK uses secure sites such as https for you to upload your application and appendices safely. Secure sites enable information between your browser and our server to be encrypted and decrypted.
If you need additional help or support
Innovate UK is committed to making support for applicants accessible to everyone.
We can provide help for applicants who face barriers when making an application. This might be as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or anything else that makes it difficult to use our services. We can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful. If you think you need more support, it is important that you contact us as early as possible during your application process.
You should aim to contact us no later than 10 working days before the competition closing date.
What happens after you have submitted your application
How your application is assessed
The assessment process listed here is the standard approach. Some assessments may vary and some funding may not go through a standard assessment process, but this will be made clear in the guidance for the funding opportunity you are applying for.
After the deadline, applications that meet the eligibility, scope and overall guidance of the funding opportunity are sent for assessment. You will be notified if your application is ineligible with full reasons as to why. Innovate UK has the right to declare applications as ineligible.
Applications are assessed by up to 5 independent assessors. The assessors are experts from both business and academia and are allocated based on the skills and expertise in the area relevant to your project.
Standard assessment process
The standard assessment process applied to most full stage applications is as follows:
- applications are allocated to assessors in a secure and confidential manner, taking into account conflicts of interest and expertise that best match the funding opportunity
- each application is marked by a minimum of 3 assessors
- applications are assessed against the same set of questions within a funding category
- each assessor must complete and submit a score-sheet with comments for each application they assess. This will form your application feedback
- a report is compiled to identify a ranked order of all applications based on the average of all assessor scores. This is known as the panel sheet
- the panel sheet is reviewed and moderated
- the highest ranking applications, subject to a minimum quality threshold, are recommended to Innovate UK for funding
- moderation involves checking for any outlying assessor scores, for instance, if one of the scores varies considerably from the other scores provided
- the final recommended panel list is presented to the Funder’s Panel of Innovate UK to obtain final approval for funding
- resubmissions are assessed by different assessors who do not have access to your previous application or assessment
Please note that while Innovate UK engages assessors to act on its behalf, we keep the right of decision over scope and to whether a proposal is in or out of scope absolutely. Projects considered out of scope will not be funded.
Innovate UK reserves the right to apply a ‘portfolio’ approach in certain competitions. The portfolio will be spread across a range of:
- scope areas
- categories of research and development
- project durations
- project costs, including demonstrating value for money
This is to fit the spend profile of the competition. It will make sure that funds are allocated across the strategic areas identified in the scope of the funding opportunity. Successful applications are all required to meet a quality threshold.
Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) competition assessment process
- ISCF competitions run by Innovate UK will follow the standard Innovate UK assessment process. This part of the process may include an interview panel, which will be explained in the competition guidance.
- Projects that score above the agreed quality threshold will be reviewed by a panel of industry experts against the portfolio criteria set out in the competition details. The panel will make written recommendations of which projects to fund, to the ISCF Challenge Director. The outcomes of the competition will be confirmed by UK Research and Innovation senior management through the agreed ISCF approvals process.
You will be notified of the decision and receive feedback
Once all applications are assessed, you are informed of the final decision by email. If you are the lead applicant you should ensure any application partners know of the decision. This decision is final and there is no right of appeal.
Assessor feedback is provided to successful and unsuccessful applicants and is made up of the comments provided by the assessors. This can take up to 4 weeks after you are notified of the decision. You will receive an email which will let you know when feedback is ready to view.
The assessor feedback is intended to be constructive. Contradiction in your feedback may suggest that your proposal could be clearer or better justified, as well as reflecting the different views of assessors. Your feedback may contain points or comments that you may disagree with. The comments provided will be based on the individual assessors’ interpretation of your project idea.
No additional feedback will be provided and addressing feedback with Innovate UK or the assessors in question is not permitted.
You may wish to address the assessor feedback in a resubmitted application should you be eligible. Please note: resubmissions will be reviewed by different assessors who will have no prior knowledge of the original application or its feedback.
Addressing assessor feedback in a resubmission does not guarantee success and the onus is on you to act on the suggestions made.
There is no right of appeal against the feedback provided and you should not use the complaints procedure should you disagree with a scientific or technical decision Innovate UK makes regarding your application.
Assessor confidentiality and potential conflicts of interest
All assessors have to sign confidentiality agreements and declare any potential conflicts of interest. They must treat applications in the strictest of confidence and adhere to information protection rules.
Assessors working for Innovate UK are engaged as individuals, not as representatives of their employment. They must carry out an assessment of the applications themselves. They cannot ask anyone else to review an application in their place nor ask anyone to give another opinion of their assessment. All assessors will be briefed by Innovate UK to undertake assessments according to our requirements.
Innovate UK preserves the anonymity of the assessors and their names will not be provided under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
What happens if you are successful
If you applied through the Innovation Funding Service
If you have made an application through the Innovation Funding Service and are successful, you need to complete project setup before your project can start.
Your project and bank details must be complete within 30 days of our notification to you. Project setup, including any requested agreements or documentation, must be complete within 90 days or funding could be withdrawn.
Your project must not start until you have receipt of a signed and approved offer letter.
You will receive full instructions and guidance for project setup in the Innovation Funding Service.
If you applied through the FTP site
If you applied for a funding opportunity that uses the FTP process you will be sent a conditional offer letter that you must sign and return before the project can start.
Any additional documentation that you are asked for will need to be completed and returned within stated timelines.
Once you have submitted all documentation
We will review your total eligible project costs to check that they meet our funding criteria. You may be asked to provide further information on the detail in your finance forms.
Financial viability checks are made on all industry partner organisations, also known as an undertaking in difficulty test.
If your project is a collaboration you will be asked to provide a collaboration agreement. An example of this is in the Lambert toolkit.
We may choose to promote your project as part of our communications. If you have any queries about public relations or media coverage email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a UK SME and successful in receiving an award, contact Innovate UK EDGE. 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.
You will be assigned a monitoring officer who will work with you throughout the project. They will help to make sure your project complies with our terms and conditions. They are not responsible for project management.
Claims and auditing
Costs are only eligible if they are incurred and paid between the project start and end dates. Claims may be subject to an independent audit. You must to submit an independent accountant’s report (IAR) with your final claim.
As standard, funding should be claimed quarterly in arrears. Once audits and reports are complete and approved, the claims are released.
All participants must provide evidence to support each claim made.
Claims must be paid in to an account in the name you have applied to be able to receive grant payments.
Your banking provider must have a clearing facility and must be authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
If your bank provider does not have a clearing facility, we can accept it if there are no sanctions and it is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
If Innovate UK has not paid grant payments to you before, we will request details in the form of a redacted bank statement in a PDF format.
If you need further information please contact our customer support service on 0300 321 4357 or email email@example.com.
Subsidy Control (and State aid where relevant)
Innovate UK supports UK based businesses to invest in research, development and innovation. The support we provide is consistent with the UK’s international obligations and commitments to Subsidy Control. These include:
- WTO rules
- the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, (see EU-UK TCA summary and BEIS (Dept. for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) guidance)
- in certain circumstances (e.g. under the Northern Ireland Protocol) EU State aid regulations may also be applied
- other bilateral UK FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) where relevant
What is a subsidy?
Innovate UK uses the EU-UK TCA definition of a subsidy which:
- Is given by a public authority. This can be at any level; central, devolved, regional or local government or a public body
- Makes a contribution (this could be a financial or an in kind contribution) to an enterprise, conferring an economic advantage that is not available on market terms. Examples of a contribution are grants, loans at below market rate, or a loan guarantee at below market rate or allowing a company to use publicly owned office space rent free. An enterprise is anyone who puts goods or services on a market. An enterprise could be a government department or a charity if they are acting commercially
- Affects international trade. This can be trade with any World Trade Organisation member or, more specifically, between the UK and a country with whom it has a Free Trade Agreement. For example, if the subsidy is going towards a good which is traded between the UK and the EU this could affect trade between the EU and the UK. It is not necessary to consider whether the subsidy could harm trade, just whether there could be some sort of effect. Subsidies to very local companies or a small tourist attraction are unlikely to be a problem as this is unlikely to affect international trade.
Subsidy (or State aid in EU context) confers an advantage on a selective basis to organisations that take part in economic activity, which distorts or threatens to distort competition.
The BEIS Subsidy Control regime (or where relevant EU State aid regulations) are designed to prevent unfair advantages and distortion of trade: Complying with the UK’s international obligations on subsidy control
More information on the principles of awarding subsidies can be found in the BEIS guidance.
Each Innovate UK or UKRI competition will have its own eligibility and scope criteria.
What types of Subsidy are prohibited?
There are types of subsidy which are prohibited. Two are prohibited under WTO rules for goods, while the UK-EU TCA and some FTAs prohibit subsidies of this kind to both goods and services:
- Subsidies dependent on export performance – for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country.
- Subsidies that are dependent on domestic inputs usage- for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that they use 50% UK flour in their product.
The UK has agreed a number of FTAs, including the UK-EU TCA, which also prohibit the following two types of subsidies:
- Subsidies in the form of unlimited state guarantees to enterprises, where the subsidy giver places no limit on the amount of debt or liabilities covered, or where the duration of the guarantee is similarly unlimited.
- Subsidies granted to “ailing or insolvent enterprises” (defined as enterprises highly likely to fail in the short to medium term in the absence of subsidy), where there is no credible restructuring plan to restore the business in question to long-term profitability.
Financial viability and eligibility
Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. All applicant organisations are subjected to financial viability and eligibility checks to ensure they are suitable for public funding.
How do EU State aid regulations now affect Innovate UK awards?
For awards made from 01 January 2021 onwards, the majority are subject to the BEIS Subsidy Control regime which ensures compliance with the UK-EU TCA and other UK international trade commitments, not EU State aid regulations. EU State aid rules now only apply in certain limited circumstances:
aid that is granted within scope of the Northern Ireland Protocol. Read guidance on the application of the Protocol.
payments made under EU Structural Funds such as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)Any award made under State aid regulations is subject to notification to the European Commission. You can also visit the European Commission’s information on State aid.
Undertakings in difficulty
N.B. In the unusual circumstance of an award having to be made under the EU GBER regulation, the applicant must pass ‘undertaking in difficulty’ checks as defined by GBER (2014).
Further information on State aid
The State aid branch of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has lead responsibility within the UK for coordination and development of State aid policy. The BEIS State aid guidance has further information. You can also visit the European Commission’s information on State aid. At Innovate UK we also have our own State aid policy.
If the European Commission considers a business or any undertaking to have been in receipt of State aid due to ineligibility for exemption under GBER, that undertaking is likely to be required to repay any aid received to the value of the gross grant equivalent.
Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) and EU de minimis awards
For organisations applying under SDR, the total subsidy which can be given to each organisation is up to a maximum of €325,000 SDR (approximately £350,000) over a rolling 3 fiscal year period. This includes cumulation of grants under the EC’s de minimis regulation for the same period. The maximum total under the EC regulation is €200,000.
This is for all project types and for most purposes, including operating aid. You can learn more about the chapter on subsidies in the BEIS summary guidance and de minimis regulation.
The following are not funded by Innovate UK under SDRs or de minimis and this is made clear again for each individual funding opportunity:
- purchase of road freight transport vehicles
- enterprises in fishery and aquaculture
- enterprises in the processing and marketing of agricultural products where: the amount of aid is fixed to the price or quantity of products purchased from primary producers or put on the market by the enterprise; the aid passes entirely or in part to primary agricultural producers; the aid is for export, meaning the establishment and operation of a distribution network or expenditure linked to the export activity
- top up awards made under approved State aid schemes, resulting in a circumvention of the aid intensities set out in the rules attached to such schemes. In these cases, it can only be awarded towards separate eligible costs.
- subsidies dependent on export performance, for example giving a subsidy to a manufacturer linked to exporting a certain tonnage or amount of product to another country.
- subsidies contingent on the use of domestic content, for example stating that the beneficiary must use …% UK manufactured inputs in the manufacture of their product.
Enterprises applying for this funding will not need to go through the same level of financial viability and eligibility tests, nor will the undertaking in difficulty test apply.
We do our best to ensure that the information published in this guidance is up to date and accurate. If you want to draw something to our attention, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This guidance is not a substitute for taking independent legal advice on your eligibility status, before applying for funding. Every applicant is responsible for securing their own independent legal advice to ensure they are lawfully eligible.
Innovate UK accepts no liability for actions arising from the use of our guidance. Innovate UK cannot be held responsible for the contents of any pages referenced by an external link.
De minimis aid
De minimis aid is a term used to describe small amounts of State aid that the European Commission expects will have a negligible impact on trade and competition. These do not require Commission approval.
The total de minimis aid which can be given to each organisation is €200,000 over a 3-year fiscal period. This is for all project types and for most purposes, including operating aid. You can learn more from page 20 of the BEIS State aid manual and from the de minimis regulation.
The following are not typically funded by Innovate UK under de minimis aid but this is made clear on an individual competition basis:
- purchase of road freight transport vehicles
- undertakings in fishery and aquaculture
- undertakings in the processing and marketing of agricultural products where:
- the amount of aid is fixed to the price or quantity of products purchased from primary producers or put on the market by the undertaking
- the aid is conditional on being partly or entirely passed on to primary producers
- aid for export to third countries or EU member states, meaning the establishment and operation of a distribution network or expenditure linked to the export activity
- top up awards made under approved State aid schemes, resulting in a circumvention of the aid intensities set out in the rules attached to such schemes. In these cases it can only be awarded towards separate eligible costs
For undertakings active in the road freight transport sector, the de minimis ceiling is €100,000.
The undertakings in difficulty test does not apply under de minimis rules.
Innovate UK provides funding to support and stimulate innovation in the UK economy. We do this by encouraging businesses to work with other commercial and research organisations. We largely require that projects are led by businesses. Other types of organisation can apply in collaboration with a business partner.
Innovation is never easy, especially if it involves multiple organisations or is in the early stages of taking a new idea to market. Sometimes numerous businesses might need to be brought together with the help of a Research and Technology Organisation (RTO) leading the project. This can happen if:
- no business in the consortium has the capacity to lead the project
- collaborative research is to be undertaken by businesses who are at the same point in the value chain. In this instance the work must be essential to lay the foundations for the growth of an early stage industry. This type of project might lead to the development of new industry procedures or measurement standards
Innovate UK recognises the opportunity for innovation projects to be led by RTOs. This is subject to them being in collaboration with 2 or more companies. They need to have been developed to make sure that those with the right skills are doing the right work at the right time. This means that those in the consortium that are best placed to lead and deliver the overall project can do so. This will allow businesses (and especially SMEs) to focus on their contribution, route-to-market and exploitation.
The funding rates you can receive will depend on the size and type of your organisation and your role in the project. Organisations fall into 3 categories:
- research organisations
- public sector organisations or charities undertaking research activity
A business is defined as an organisation undertaking economic activities.
The definition of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) used by Innovate UK is set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.
A large business in this context means any enterprise which is not an SME.
When referring to research organisations, Innovate UK uses the definition from the Framework for State aid for Research and Development and Innovation which states:
“‘research and knowledge dissemination organisation’ or ‘research organisation’ means an entity (such as universities or research institutes, technology transfer agencies, innovation intermediaries, research-oriented physical or virtual collaborative entities), irrespective of its legal status (organised under public or private law) or way of financing, whose primary goal is to independently conduct fundamental research, industrial research or experimental development or to widely disseminate the results of such activities by way of teaching, publication or knowledge transfer. Where such entity also pursues economic activities, the financing, the costs and the revenues of those economic activities must be accounted for separately. Undertakings that can exert a decisive influence upon such an entity, for example in the quality of shareholders or members, may not enjoy a preferential access to the results generated by it.”
Within Innovate UK, this means:
- universities (higher education institutions)
- non-profit research and technology organisations (RTOs), including catapults
- public sector organisations (PSO)
- public sector research establishments (PSRE)
- research council institutes
- research organisations (RO)
This list is not comprehensive and is subject to change and exceptions. Research organisations undertaking non-economic activity will be funded as follows:
- universities: 80% of full economic costs (as set out by the Je-S application system described below)
- all other research organisations: 100% of eligible costs
Research organisations should be non-profit distributing to qualify. They should explain how they will disseminate the output of their project research as outlined in the application.
Research organisations which are engaged in economic activity as part of the project will be treated as business enterprises for the purposes of funding.
Full economic cost (FEC) and Je-S system
Universities, higher education institutions (HEIs) and other research organisations which are registered on the Je-S system should submit their costs through this. Submitted and approved costs should then be added onto the specific application. These will then be submitted.
Only 80% of the FEC is allowable as eligible costs for Je-S applicants. The remaining 20% should not be shown on the finance table or forms. Research costs submitted through Je-S must be in line with business and participation rules.
Public sector organisation or charity
Public sector organisations and charities can work with businesses to achieve innovation through knowledge, skills and resources. These organisations must not take part in any economic activity or gain economic benefit from a project. They can apply for 100% of funding for their eligible costs under the following conditions:
- they are undertaking research (this may be experimental, theoretical or critical investigation work to gain knowledge, skills or understanding vital to the project)
- they meet requirements for dissemination of their project results and they state in the application how they will do this
- they include their eligible costs for research purposes in the total research organisation involvement
- they make sure they are not applying for funding towards costs which are already being paid by the public purse such as labour and overheads
Third sector organisations are primarily voluntary and community, such as associations, self-help groups, mutuals and cooperatives. Third sector organisations can be non-funding partners in a project.
If you need help with any of these definitions please contact customer support service email@example.com or telephone 0300 321 4357.
Categories of research and development
The competition scope will specify the category of R&D activity for that particular funding opportunity.
Innovate UK supports the following R&D categories:
- fundamental research
- feasibility studies
- industrial research
- experimental development
This means experimental or theoretical work primarily to gain new knowledge of underlying phenomena and visible facts, without any direct practical application or usage. This type of research is usually undertaken by a research organisation.
This means analysis and evaluation of a project’s potential, aimed at supporting the process of decision making. This is achieved by uncovering its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as well as identifying the resources needed and the prospects for success. Feasibility studies will usually help businesses decide to work either individually or collaboratively with other industrial or research organisations, before conducting a subsequent larger project.
Individual competition scopes will define their own requirements for feasibility studies in terms of project size and length.
This means planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills. This should be for the purpose of product development, processes or services that lead to an improvement in existing products, processes or services. It can include the creation of component parts to complex systems and may include prototypes in a laboratory or environment with simulated interfaces to existing systems, particularly for generic technology validation.
‘Experimental development’ means acquiring, combining, shaping and using existing scientific, technological, business and other relevant knowledge and skills with the aim of developing new or improved products, processes or services. This may also include, for example, activities aimed at the conceptual definition, planning and documentation of new products, processes or services.
Experimental development may comprise prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real life operating conditions. The primary objective is to make further technical improvements on products, processes or services that are not substantially set. This may include the development of a commercially usable prototype or pilot which is not necessarily the final commercial product and which is too expensive to produce for it to be used only for demonstration and validation purposes.
Experimental development does not include routine or periodic changes made to existing products, production lines, manufacturing processes, services and other operations in progress, even if those changes may represent improvements.
Projects that span more than one category of research
In your application enter the research category that reflects the majority of your work. If your work is going to be evenly split across categories, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other funding opportunities
Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
Through this fund, the government is bringing world-class research and businesses together to take on the major industrial and societal challenges of our time.
The challenges are aligned with the 4 grand challenges named in the Industrial Strategy. New challenges and funding opportunities are announced intermittently.
Innovate UK Smart grants
Innovate UK Smart grants support the very best, game-changing and disruptive ideas that have the potential to change the world.
Funding is available for projects at various stages, from feasibility studies through to developing and testing a prototype, coming from any industry and anywhere in the UK.
Projects should either:
- develop a brand new product, service or process
- take an existing technology or service above and beyond what’s currently available in the field
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships
You can get funding to bring in new knowledge and expertise through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership. Taking part will allow you to work with an academic organisation and a highly-qualified graduate to innovate within your business.
You can apply if you are a business, public or third sector organisation.
The Knowledge Transfer Network
KTN is a network partner of Innovate UK. It links new ideas and opportunities with expertise, markets and finance through our network of businesses, universities, funders and investors. From agri-food to autonomous systems and from energy to design, KTN combines in-depth knowledge in all sectors with the ability to cross boundaries.
Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)
Through SBRI, you can apply for funded contracts with government organisations to develop their innovative ideas. Public sector organisations that have successfully run SBRIs include the NHS, Ministry of Defence and the former Department of Energy & Climate Change.
Innovate UK’s pilot loans programme has up to £50 million available in innovation loans. These are low interest, flexible, patient loans for SMEs that want to carry out late-stage experimental development projects in the UK.
To get a loan you need to apply and be successful in a loan competition.
Read our introduction to innovation loans to find out if they are right for you and how to apply.
The investment accelerator programme provides simultaneous grant funding and venture capital investment in early-stage innovation projects. This joint public and private investment stops UK businesses having to chase additional capital and gives them a clearer route to commercialisation.
Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe)
The ICURe pilot programme funds research teams to accelerate the time it takes to get ideas out of the lab and to commercialisation. If your organisation is a start-up that has emerged through the programme, you could get funding to help you establish your business and support future growth.
The Biomedical Catalyst funds businesses and researchers to test and develop innovative health and care projects.
It supports the acceleration and scale up of ideas that prevent and manage diseases, support better detection and diagnosis and create tailored treatments that improve patient outcomes.
The programme is run by Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council.
This programme offers funding to UK businesses and researchers to develop ideas for tackling the global need for clean, affordable and secure energy. It funds projects from early-stage through to commercialisation to quickly bring innovative new energy solutions to market.
The programme is run by Innovate UK with co-funding from partners including the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Department for International Development and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
We run a number of initiatives that can help you get access to international opportunities and partners. This includes Horizon 2020, EUREKA Eurostars and the Newton Fund. These are open to a range of organisation types and size.
Get specific advice on Horizon 2020 for UK businesses and how to apply. You can also search directly for current European research and innovation funding opportunities on the European Commission funding and tender opportunities portal.
Innovate UK also runs funding competitions on behalf of other organisations. Details and how to apply are published as new competitions are announced.