Innovate UK Investor Partnerships: SME round 6
UK registered SMEs can apply for grant funding alongside private investment from selected investor partners.
Your project’s total costs will depend on your research category and must be between £50,000 and £300,000 for feasibility studies, £100,000 and £1 million for industrial research, £250,000 and £2 million for experimental development. The aligned investment led by the investor partner must always be at least equal to the grant funding for feasibility studies and industrial research (i.e. grant funding can cover at most 50% of costs), or double the grant funding for experimental development (i.e. grant funding can cover at most 33% of costs).
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 SMEs 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
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 18 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 18 months
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.
- 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
- critical circular materials
- power, particularly offshore wind, civil nuclear, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and whole systems integration (note that this was not available in round 5 but is now back in scope)
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)
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
- innovations from diverse talent that are from underrepresented groups and are role models
- innovations outside of the future economy theme areas, including those that support underserved communities and groups
The following Net Zero categories are no longer in scope as funding has been fully committed in earlier rounds:
- battery technologies for transport and energy storage (Faraday Battery Challenge)
- heating and retrofit
- resource efficiency for materials and manufacturing