Innovate UK Investor Partnerships: SME round 4
UK registered businesses can apply for grant funding alongside private investment from selected investor partners.
Your project’s total costs will depend on your research category: £50k-£300k for feasibility studies, £100k-£1m for industrial research, £250k-£2m for experimental development. Aligned investment must be at least equal to Innovate UK funding for feasibility studies / industrial research, and at least double Innovate UK funding for experimental development.
Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, has selected a pool of investor partners. These investor partners have demonstrated that they have the credibility, capability, capacity and appetite to invest in innovative, technology-led businesses that align with our programmes. These programmes will focus on the future economy as described in our plan for action.
The future economy investor partnership programme brings together:
- Innovate UK’s expertise in identifying innovation and using grant funding to change the risk profile of businesses
- investor partners’ aligned funding and expertise in identifying opportunities and teams that can best use extra investment finance
This approach aims to provide you with support for research and development and access to the capital investment you need to develop and commercialise your innovations.
Innovate UK provides support for your investment readiness and for engaging with suitable investors via Innovate UK Edge and Innovate UK KTN. In the first instance you should contact Innovate UK Edge for support in understanding your readiness for investment and also to look at your wider strategy for growth.
You should also contact Innovate UK KTN to establish if there are specific programmes for connecting businesses in your sector to relevant investors. Support and connections to sector specific investors may also be provided by the relevant Catapults.
You will need to establish a relationship and a level of investment traction with one of our approved investor partners before you apply for funding. A full list of selected investor partners is provided at Innovate UK Investor Partners – UKRI and Innovate UK KTN investor partnerships websites.
The investor partner must have confirmed with you that you are in a position to apply for grant funding as you will be asked to identify them in the application.
To be successful, your project must be independently assessed by Innovate UK as fundable and receive aligned investment directly, led or catalysed by the investor partner.
To apply your organisation must:
- be a UK registered micro, small or medium sized business (SME)
- carry out its project work in or from the UK
- intend to exploit the results in or from the UK
- have discussed and agreed your proposal with your investor partner before submitting your application
Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.
You can only submit one application into this round of the competition.
The eligibility criteria will depend on your research category.
For feasibility studies projects:
- your total project costs must be between £50,000 and £300,000
- the project duration must be between 6 and 12 months
For industrial research projects:
- your total project costs must be between £100,000 and £1 million
- the project duration must be between 6 and 24 months
For experimental development projects:
- your total project costs must be between £250,000 and £2 million
- the project duration must be between 12 and 24 months
Projects must always start on the first of the month and this must be stated within your application. Your project start date will be reflected in your grant offer letter if you are successful.
The aim of this competition is to provide you with support for research and development and access to the capital investment you need to develop and commercialise your innovations.
Your proposal must have a clear route to market, a clear link to innovation and evidence that you can create a team to deliver your proposal.
You must be:
- registered in the UK as an SME by the time the award is contracted
- able to complete the aligned investment led by the investor partner needed to qualify for the award, through the issue of new shares or convertible debt
You must also demonstrate that if your project is funded, it will:
- have significant market impact
- be scalable
- be attractive to other equity investors
We are looking to support projects that focus on the future economy areas included in the Innovate UK plan for action. This covers:
- 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).
The investor partnership programme is focused on specific themes for the future economy areas that include:
- capital intensive technologies
- power – particularly offshore wind, civil nuclear, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and whole systems integration
- heating and retrofit
- critical circular materials
- battery technologies for transport and energy storage (Faraday Battery Challenge)
- resource efficiency for materials and manufacturing – no longer in scope as funding has been fully committed in earlier rounds
- mobility – no longer in scope as funding has been fully committed in earlier rounds
Health and Wellbeing
- innovative solutions to health and healthcare challenges (Biomedical Catalyst)
- advancing life-changing cancer therapeutics, focussed on immunotherapies and paediatric oncology (Cancer Therapeutics)
- 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)
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)
- projects underpinned by artificial intelligence and machine learning which boost business productivity in four target industries
- projects underpinned by artificial intelligence and machine learning which boost business productivity in internal business processes
- projects that accelerate the adoption of trusted and responsible AI technologies by reducing bottlenecks during development and deployment of these technologies (BridgeAI)
No Limits (equality, diversity and inclusion)
- 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
The following specific themes are not in scope for this competition but will be covered by separate funding opportunities:
Create Growth Programme – Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
- Innovation and investment in the creative sector, helping high-growth creative businesses to explore new innovative projects that will stimulate growth
Novel low-emission food production systems
- to create new sources of resource efficient, low-emission foods, particularly proteins, while delivering healthy and sustainable diets.
- progress emerging novel food production systems towards commercial viability with the ability to supply mainstream consumer markets.
Farming Innovation – Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
- developing ambitious late-stage innovative solutions, technologies, systems or approaches that will make significant steps towards improving productivity, increasing sustainability and resilience, and helping the agriculture sector move towards achieving net zero emissions by 2050
- supporting late-stage projects which are close to market and support adoption of opportunities which will benefit farmers, growers or foresters in England
Innovate UK KTN held an online briefing event for potential SME applicants on Tuesday 12th September: click here to watch the recording.
You should contact Innovate UK Edge for support in understanding your readiness for investment and also to look at your wider strategy for growth.
You should also contact Innovate UK KTN’s Investment team to establish if there are specific programmes for connecting businesses in your sector to relevant investors.