Innovate UK for Star-ups & Scale-ups

15 May 2023

Innovate UK provides money to support companies and realise the potential of new technologies, develop ideas and make them a commercial success.

advice : Fundraising

Financial support from the government such as Innovate UK to start-ups & scale-ups is crucial. These businesses need to tackle more obstacles than larger companies including developing their products, finding product-market fit or ensuring they have enough cash flow to run their business.

Luckily, these small yet innovative and often fast-growth businesses are seen as an important part of the economy and received support from the government in several forms. 

In this article, we will review the opportunities within Innovative UK.

Innovate UK

Innovate UK is an innovation agency, which provides money and supports organisations to realise the potential of new technologies, develop ideas and make them a commercial success. It was founded in 2007 and is part of UK Research and Innovation.

Innovative UK offers grants (between £25,000 and £10 million) and innovation loans (between £100,000 and £1 million), and continuously runs other various competitions.

Grant funds are available for all sizes of businesses, from new companies to large multinationals. Opportunities may be themed with one of the Industrial Strategy’s grand challenge areas that include:

  • Artificial intelligence and data;
  • Ageing society;
  • Clean growth;
  • Future of mobility.

Innovation loans are only available for UK-based SMEs to carry out late-stage research and development projects.

Innovate UK Smart Grants

Innovate UK Smart Grants is Innovate UK’s largest open call competition. These grants look to develop projects that surpass the state-of-the-art in a range of sectors and technological fields. 

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £25 million for game-changing and commercially viable R&D innovations that can significantly impact the UK economy. 

Innovate UK Smart proved to be very popular between start-ups & scale-ups, however, the eligibility criteria sometimes can be unclear. 

Competition closes: Wednesday 14 June 2023 11:00 am

Who is eligible?

Your project must meet the following eligibility criteria for this competition:

  • start by 1 December 2023;
  • end by 30 November 2026;
  • include at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) as the lead or a collaborative grant-claiming partner;
  • follow specific rules dependent on its duration;
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK;
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK.

In addition:

If your project’s duration is 6 to 18 months, it must:

  • have total eligible project costs between £100,000 and £500,000
  • be single or collaborative

If your project’s duration is 19 to 36 months, it must:

  • have total eligible project costs between £100,000 and £2 million
  • be collaborative

You must only include eligible project costs in your application. 

Certain other conditions apply for companies that leading organizations or are collaborating with the lead organization. Subcontractors are also allowed.

Companies can use a previously submitted application but make a maximum of 2 submissions to Innovate UK with any given proposal. If your proposal is judged as not materially different from your previous proposal, it will be counted towards this maximum.

If your application goes through to assessment and is deemed unsuccessful, you can reapply with the same proposal once more.

Reasons for rejection usually due to:

To find out more about specific opportunities available or to submit your application please visit the official website

Innovative UK loans

Innovate UK’s loans programme started in 2017. Innovation loans aim to provide flexible and patient capital to support business growth through innovation. Innovate UK is working to broaden the range of innovation finance support available to businesses, so they can access funding at all stages of innovation.

Who is eligible?

Innovation loans are for later stages of their research and development projects only. It includes activities covered under the categories of fundamental research or feasibility studies. 

Only UK-registered SMEs may apply for an innovation loan. That means that your business must be registered with Companies House and you have to carry out the part of your project work and exploit the results from or in the UK.

Collaboration with other individuals or organisations cannot be funded through an innovation loan. You may subcontract work to an individual or organisation as part of the project if you can justify why doing so is critical to the delivery of the project.

You can only obtain an innovation loan by applying to Innovate UK’s competitive loan process. If you would like to apply for an innovation loan, the guidance on the official website includes all information that will help you to find a relevant opportunity and complete an application. 

The information available on this page is of a general nature and is not intended to provide specific advice to any individuals or entities. We work hard to ensure this information is accurate at the time of publishing, although there is no guarantee that such information is accurate at the time you read this. We recommend individuals and companies seek professional advice on their circumstances and matters.