Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). They support innovative ideas and business growth through grant funding, loans and procurements.

Businesses can apply for a funding opportunity through the Innovation Funding Service. Each opportunity has its own eligibility criteria and scope, and the Innovation Funding Service is where you can find out further information on these funding opportunities and establish which ones may be right for you.

Browse and apply for a funding opportunity through the Innovation Funding Service.

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

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.

Feasibility Studies

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.

Industrial Research

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 through 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

‘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.

Funding Opportunities

Throughout the year there are various types of funding opportunities. You can find a full list of open or soon to open opportunities.

The application process

Innovate UK typically runs 2 types of application process for funding awards. These are:

  1. An online application process through our digital Innovation Funding Service.
  2. A document-based file transfer protocol (FTP) application process.

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 an 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.

Once an application is submitted, the process cannot be reversed.

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 require registry 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.

Lead applicants

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

Only the people who are directly involved in the project are to be added. If a project wants to change who is leading the application, the new person will need to start a new application.

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.

Partner organisations

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

Funding rules

Innovate UK provides funding to support and stimulate innovation in the UK economy. This is encouraged by permitting businesses to work with other commercial and research organisations. 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:

  • Businesses: 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.
  • Research Organisations: 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)
  • Charities

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 in order 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.

  • Public Sector Organisations or Charities undertaking Research Activity: 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

Help in applying

You need to read the full eligibility, scope and guidance for the funding opportunity that your business is wishing to apply for. All information about completing an application is made clear in the opportunity guidance.

It is strongly advised not to leave submission to the last minute before deadline. Late submissions are not considered and Innovate UK will not enter into discussion regarding this.