Future Economy Investor Partnerships: Investor Selection Feb 2023

Investors can apply to partner with Innovate UK to invest in innovative SMEs aligned with grant funding.

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No direct funding for investors. Grant funding will be awarded by Innovate UK to applicant SMEs to cover a proportion of eligible project costs alongside your aligned investment.


Innovate UK

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Innovate UK is inviting investors to partner with us. Together we will support growth in UK micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by aligning Innovate UK’s grant funding for R&D projects alongside your investment.

There is no Innovate UK funding awarded to applicant investors. Grant funding will be awarded by Innovate UK to applicant companies (SMEs) to cover a proportion of eligible project costs alongside your aligned investment from or led by one or more investor partners. The investment will typically be in the form of equity but may include other forms of funding, such as convertible loans.

Innovate UK has allocated up to £80 million to fund innovation projects, aligned with investment from investor partners. Funding will be offered through regular rounds of the SME competition from July 2022 to July 2024. This competition does not provide funding to the applicant investor.

We aim to create a broad “pool” of investor partners to invest in SMEs innovating across the future economy investor partnership programme and at all stages of business growth. The investor partnership programme will cover the breadth of the future economy, as described in Innovate UK’s plan for action, in particular:

  • net zero
  • health and wellbeing
  • next generation digital technologies and technology families

You will be asked to indicate the scope of your investment strategy for the next 3 years.


We are seeking investor partners who want to invest in high growth potential micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Your organisation must be an investor or be able to demonstrate that you can directly facilitate investment.

To be selected you must demonstrate that you:

  • are a credible investor, or can facilitate investment, with a clear investment strategy aligned to the Innovate UK plan for action for the future economy and have the ability to generate returns and add value to your portfolio businesses beyond financial support
  • have the capacity to invest in companies that are successful in their application to the investor partnerships programme
  • either have the capacity to follow your investment or to encourage other investors to fund further rounds of investment as and when required
  • have the capability to successfully transact investments and manage your portfolio
  • are in a position to lead the investment

Future SME selection competitions

SMEs will be able to apply for grant funding for a proportion of their eligible project costs, aligned with your investment into the business, through a series of competition rounds over the next 3 years. These projects can range in size from £50k to £2m, with up to 70% of costs being covered, depending on project type and business size, with investors being expected to cover a proportion of the cost.

The process for identifying and assessing SMEs is described in the competition brief for each round of the future economy investor partnership programme. In all cases it will require the SME to apply through our Innovation Funding Service to a specific competition.


Investor partnerships are aimed at supporting SMEs that seek support for R&D projects through Innovate UK grant funding and that also seek aligned investment from investor partners.

To be an investor partner, you must demonstrate credibility, capability, capacity, commitment and alignment of interest to the scope of the investor partnerships future economy programme.

SME projects must lead to new products, processes or services that are significantly ahead of others currently available or propose an innovative use of existing products, processes or services. It can also involve a new or innovative business model.

We are looking to support projects that focus on the future economy areas included in the Innovate UK plan for action. The broad theme areas are:

  • net zero
  • health and wellbeing
  • next generation digital technologies and technology families

Innovation and ideas can come from anyone and anywhere. We want to see investments unlocked for the diverse and extraordinary talent in the UK. We are encouraging diverse applicants and inclusive project applications, pushing beyond the status quo.

We encourage innovation involving communities that are typically under-represented, including:

  • from regions that have historically accessed lower levels of investment (outside London, Oxford and Cambridge)
  • ethnic minority groups
  • women and other marginalised genders
  • disabled people
  • people with non-traditional education backgrounds

To support this, we also have a targeted theme on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

Specific themes

The investor partnership programme will be focused on specific themes for the future economy areas that include:

Net Zero

  • capital intensive technologies
  • power – particularly offshore wind, civil nuclear, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and whole systems integration
  • heating and retrofit
  • mobility
  • resource efficiency for materials and manufacturing
  • critical circular materials
  • battery technologies for transport and energy storage (Faraday Battery Challenge)

Health and Wellbeing

  • innovative solutions to health and healthcare challenges (Biomedical Catalyst)
  • the application of extended reality for digital mental health, including immersive content that could be delivered as a digital mental health therapeutic in formal healthcare settings (Mindset)
  • controlled environment agriculture and alternative proteins

Next generation digital technologies

  • projects within the creative industries which are underpinned by innovative digital technology as well as sustainable innovations, such as circular fashion (Creative Catalyst)
  • adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies in targeted industries (Bridge AI)

Knows No Limits

  • innovations from diverse founders or senior decision-makers that are from under-represented groups and are role models
  • innovations outside of the future economy theme areas, including those that support under-served communities and groups

An online briefing will be held on 28th February, 2-3:30pm – click here to register to attend.

For further details and enquiries, contact Innovate UK KTN’s Investment team.

Related Events and Recordings


Investor Partnerships - Investor Briefing Webinar

14.00 - 15.30 | Online

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