Women in Innovation Awards 2020/21

Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, is offering 10 Women in Innovation Awards to female entrepreneurs across the UK. The winners will receive a £50,000 grant and a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and business support.

Opportunity Details


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Each award will provide £50,000 of funding. Projects must start by 1 April 2021 and will last for one year.


Innovate UK

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The aim of this competition is to find women with exciting, innovative ideas and ambitious plans that will inspire others. The awards are for female founders, co-founders or senior decision makers working in businesses that have been operating for at least one year.

Applicants must be confident, with the support of an award, that they can make a significant contribution to a pressing societal, environmental and/or economic challenge through their innovative project.

The competition is split into 2 phases. In phase 1 the written application will be assessed by independent experts. In phase 2 the shortlisted applicants will be interviewed by a panel of experts.

We have produced a set of Frequently Asked Questions – click here for more information.


De minimis

The funding will be made as a de minimis award. All applicants for a de minimis award must complete and provide to Innovate UK a de minimis declaration, which can be found in question 1. This declares any and all de minimis awards (from any source of public funding) during the current and previous 2 fiscal (tax) years. Total grant must not exceed 200,000 euros for any one organisation in line with the above de minimis regulations.

Agriculture, fisheries and road transport sectors

Innovate UK provides research, development and innovation funding opportunities within the agriculture and fisheries sectors through other forms of aid. However, we will not fund the following through de minimis:

  • aid subsidising any primary production within fishery and aquaculture sectors
  • aid subsidising any primary production of agricultural products
  • aid partially or wholly subsidising any primary producers involved in the marketing and processing of agricultural products (for instance, a farm producing and marketing meat)

De minimis aid cannot be used for costs associated with:

  • export-related activities towards third countries or member states, namely aid directly linked to the quantities exported, to the establishment and operation of a distribution network or to other current expenditure linked to the export activity
  • activities that favour domestic goods over imports
  • activities related to purchasing of road freight transport. For any other activity which involves hire or reward in the road freight transport sector, aid is limited to 100,000 euros over 3 fiscal years

Your project

Your project must:

  • start on 1 April 2021
  • end on 31 March 2022
  • last 12 months

Lead organisation

To be eligible for an award you must:

  • be a female founder, co-founder or senior decision maker within a UK registered micro or SME business which has been operating for at least 12 months by the competition closing date
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • be able to receive funding under de minimis state aid regulations
  • be legally and contractually able to use the funding
  • be available to attend an online interview panel during the week beginning 7 December 2020
  • attend 2 bootcamps over one and a half days during the week beginning 18 April 2021 and in November 2021
  • be fully committed to work as a role model for up to 5 days over the duration of the award

Applications from UK-based social enterprises operating economically will be eligible if they meet all other criteria.

You can only make one application for yourself. More than one woman working within the same organisation can apply.

We have allocated up to £500,000 for 10 awards at £50,000 each. We will also provide a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and business support.

The funding will be paid in 3 increments:

  • 50% (£25,000) upfront (April 2021)
  • 40% (£20,000) at the mid-point (October 2021)
  • 10% (£5,000) at the end of your project on receipt of a completed statement of expenditure

In addition to the grant funding, all award holders will receive a package of support tailored to their needs.

Award holders will be required to work as a role model for at least 5 days over the one year duration of the award. This is likely to generate interest in their stories and businesses. See the work that was done with the Women in Innovation Award holders from 2016 and 2019.


The aim of this competition is to fund and support a diverse portfolio of Women in Innovation Award winners:

  • from regions across the UK
  • who are solving a range of pressing societal, environmental and economic challenges
  • in a variety of innovation areas

Your proposal must identify clearly evidenced pressing societal, environmental and/or economic challenge(s), and how your project and innovation can help solve them.

Applications can come from any area of innovation (where innovation is defined as the commercially successful exploitation of ideas) and be applied to any part of the economy, such as but not exclusively:

  • the arts, design and media
  • creative industries
  • science or engineering

Whilst we welcome projects that overlap with the grand challenge areas this is not a requirement, as we are also keen to support projects in other areas.

We plan to offer 10 awards.


An online briefing event was held on 1st September: you can view the recording here.


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