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 £5,000 and £10 million.

Innovate UK runs funding competitions which can help you develop your idea and make it successful. These competitions are open to all UK based companies. Some are also open to research organisations working with business. Innovate UK awards funding to the winners of these competitions.

There are different funding competitions depending on the size of business you have and the type of industry you are in.

You can find out which competitions are open now and apply online.

Watch these videos to find out about our funding rules and application process.

Funding rules

Innovate UK - Funding Rules

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. Innovate UK also runs some competitions for businesses based in specific UK locations. Some competitions are also open to research organisations working with business.

The projects Innovate UK funds

You can apply for funding if you want to do one or more of the following:

  • carry out a feasibility study to test your idea and make sure it will work
  • create a new product or service, or improve an existing one, through research and development (R&D)
  • work with other businesses or research organisations on collaborative projects

The industries Innovate UK funds

Some of the Innovate UK funding competitions focus on specific industries. You can find background information about each industry in the Innovate UK delivery plan 2014-15. There are opportunities for your business in the following areas:

Agriculture and food:

  • crop productivity and protection and crop nutrition and management
  • sustainable livestock production
  • waste reduction in farm storage and food processing and packaging
  • greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture

For more information view or download the Innovate UK Agriculture and food action plan 2014-15. You can also learn about support for innovation in sustainable agriculture and food on _connect, the online networking platform.

Built environment:

  • digital design and engineering
  • high-performance materials and building technologies
  • energy eco-systems
  • energy management and diagnostics tools

For more information view or download the Innovate UK Built environment action plan 2014-15. You can also learn about support for innovation in low-impact buildings on _connect, the online networking area.

Digital economy:

  • new uses for digital technology
  • designing with the user in mind
  • helping businesses develop the technical tools they need to innovate
  • encouraging experimentation and business growth
  • coordinating business and technology innovation with advances in other areas

For more information view or download the Innovate UK Digital economy action plan 2014-15.

Emerging technologies:

  • synthetic biology
  • energy-efficient computing
  • energy harvesting
  • non-animal technologies
  • emerging imaging technologies
  • graphene
  • quantum technologies

For more information view or download the Innovate UK Emerging technologies action plan 2014-15.

Enabling technologies:

  • advanced materials
  • biosciences
  • electronics, sensors and photonics
  • information and communication technology

For more information view or download the Innovate UK Enabling technologies strategy 2012-15 and the Enabling technologies action plan 2014-15.

Energy:

  • developing new energy technologies
  • building a flexible, secure and resilient energy system
  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions at point of use

For more information view or download the Innovate UK Energy supply strategy 2012-15 and the Energy action plan 2014-15.

Health and care:

  • health and wellbeing, disease prevention and management of long-term conditions
  • earlier and better detection and diagnosis of disease
  • more efficient and cost-effective treatments tailored to patients’ needs

For more information view or download the Innovate UK Health and care action plan 2014-15. You can also learn about support for innovation in the areas of assisted living and personalised medicine on _connect, the online networking area.

High value manufacturing:

  • resource efficiency
  • manufacturing systems
  • integration of new materials with manufacturing technologies
  • manufacturing processes
  • manufacturing business models

For more information view or download the Innovate UK High value manufacturing strategy 2012-15 and High value manufacturing action plan 2014-15.

Resource efficiency:

  • developing new business models to include repair, reuse, remanufacture, recycle, reduce and replace

For more information view or download the Innovate UK Resource efficiency action plan 2014-15.

Space applications:

  • promoting business opportunities in satellite applications and services
  • demonstrating new applications, services, components, systems and instruments

For more information view or download the Innovate UK Space applications action plan for 2014-15.

Transport:

  • reducing vehicle emissions while increasing their efficiency
  • supporting the acceleration of new vehicle technologies
  • improving the operation, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the transport system
  • integrating different energy sources into transport systems and vehicles
  • exploring integrated and sustainable solutions for future infrastructure
  • developing a longer-term strategy towards sustainability

For more information view or download the Innovate UK Transport action plan for 2014-15. You can also learn about support for innovation in the area of low carbon vehicles on _connect, the online networking area.

Urban living:

  • tools for integrating data
  • city-scale simulation and modelling
  • rethinking urban infrastructure and services through integration
  • providing practical evidence of the effectiveness of integrated urban living

For more information view or download the Innovate UK Urban living action plan for 2014-15.

Other areas:

  • creative industries
  • design
  • financial services
  • personal security

Opportunities open to any innovative business

The following programmes are open to businesses in any sector and are open to applications all the time.

If you’re not eligible for Innovate UK funding

You can use Business Finance and Support Finder to check for other funding opportunities. You can also download the Innovation Directory (PDF, 547KB, 50 pages) to find details for other relevant organisations.

Find an innovation funding programme

Catalysts

You could get £150,000 to £10 million to run a research and development project. You must work with a research partner or other business. You can apply for competitions in agri-tech, biomedical, energy and industrial biotechnology industries.

Find out more about Catalysts.

Collaborative research and development (CR&D)

You could get £25,000 to £1 million or more to fund a research and development project in science, engineering or technology. You must work with a research partner or other business.

Find out more about CR&D.

Feasibility studies

You can get up to £150,000 to test your idea and see if it will work. You can apply on your own or with another business.

Find out more about feasibility studies.

Innovation vouchers

If you are a start-up, micro, small or medium-sized business, you can apply for up to £5,000 to get help from an external expert.

Find out more about Innovation Vouchers.

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.

Find out more about Horizon 2020 and Eurostars

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs)

You can get funding of around £80,000 to innovate within your business by working with a research organisation and a newly-qualified graduate. You can apply if you are a business or a third sector or public sector organisation.

Launchpads

If you have a young high-tech company, you can get up to £100,000 to help your business grow and attract private investment. Competitions are based around specific UK locations. You must be a small to medium-sized business.

Find out more about Launchpads.

Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)

You can get a contract worth around £1 million or more for your business to develop a new product or service for the public sector.

Find out more about SBRI.

Smart

You can apply for a Smart grant to develop a science, engineering or technology project. You can get £25,000 to £250,000 to prove that your idea will work, find a potential market or develop a prototype. You must be a small to medium-sized business or be thinking of starting a company.

Find out more about Smart.

How to apply for an innovation grant

Before you apply

To get a grant you have to apply through a funding competition.

Each competition has 2 documents that you need to read before you apply:

  • you can find out about the funding available and the technical scope in the competition brief
  • you can find out if you are eligible and how to apply in the guidance for applicants document

You can also attend a briefing event to find out more about the competition.

You can usually apply for more than one competition at a time but funding rules vary.

Some competitions are open only to small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). You may need to check if you fit the EU definition of an SME.

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 you can access the instructions and documents you will need to apply. You must upload your completed application and any other requested documents before the deadline.

After you have applied

After the closing date for applications, Innovate UK will ask a panel of independent experts to assess your application. Innovate UK selects assessors for each competition based on their knowledge of the competition theme. 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 also get feedback on your application, usually about 4 weeks later.

If you are successful

Innovate UK will send you a conditional grant offer letter and details of the documents you will need to provide to confirm the contract. You may also need to create a collaboration agreement between project participants.

Innovate UK will check your proposed project costs and make sure your business can manage the cash flow to deliver the project. When these checks are complete, you will need to sign and return the grant confirmation letter.

If you’re an SME and receive funding through an eligible competition, you will automatically gain access to a growth workshop, an online diagnostic and must meet a growth expert to help you develop a growth plan. This may include coaching, mentoring, entrepreneurial skills training.

You must attend a new project workshop to find out how the process will work and what Innovate UK will expect of you.

You will usually need to claim grants quarterly in arrears but each funding competition is different.

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. You can also download the Innovation Directory (PDF, 547KB, 50 pages) to find details for other relevant organisations.