Innovate UK innovation loans future economy: round 13

Key Features

UK registered businesses can apply for loans for innovative projects with strong commercial potential to significantly improve the UK economy.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £25 million

Opens: 11th Jan 2024

Closes: 6th Mar 2024

! This scheme is closing soon

Overview

Innovate UK is offering up to £25 million in loans to micro, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Innovate UK innovation loans are for highly innovative late stage research and development (R&D) projects with the best potential for the future. There must be a clear route to commercialisation and economic impact.

Your project must lead to innovative 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.

Your project must focus on one or more of the future economy areas included in the Innovate UK plan for action.

You must be able to show that you:

  • need public funding
  • can cover interest payments
  • will be able to repay the loan on time

The funding available will be allocated across a series of competitions with the next round opening on the day the previous round closes:

  • round 13, 11 January 2024 and will close on 6 March 2024 (this round)
  • round 14 will open on 7 March 2024 and will close on 1 May 2024
  • round 15 will open on 2 May 2024 and close on 26 June 2024
  • round 16 will open on 27 June 2024 and will close on 21 August 2024

Scope

This competition offers loans to help businesses overcome barriers to their innovations becoming a successful, commercial reality. The aim is to make a considerable economic impact which results in significant, sustainable business growth.

Innovate UK is looking for businesses who can demonstrate that their projects have the best potential for the future.

Your idea must lead to innovative 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.

Your proposal must demonstrate:

  • a clearly expressed and compelling innovative idea
  • a robust and deliverable business plan that addresses and shows evidence of market potential and needs
  • a team with the necessary skills and experience to run and complete the project successfully and on time, and take the outputs forward
  • awareness of all the main risks the project and business will face, with realistic plans to manage, mitigate and minimise the impact of each of these
  • sound, practical financial plans and timelines that represent good value for money and ability to repay the loan
  • why you are unable to fund the project from your own resources or other forms of public or private sector funding
  • a clear, evidence-based plan to deliver significant economic impact, return on investment (ROI) and growth through commercialisation, as soon as possible after project completion

Your project can include:

  • prototyping
  • demonstrating
  • piloting
  • testing
  • validation

These can be in environments that represent real life operating conditions.

Innovate UK 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

Innovate UK particularly welcome applications from businesses from these communities.

Your application will be evaluated on:

  • the quality of your project proposal
  • the suitability of your business to take on a loan

Innovate UK will decline applications for loans for businesses which:

  • Innovate UK consider unable to afford the interest and repayments on the loan
  • have not demonstrated that they are unable to obtain finance from other sources on suitable terms

Specific Themes

Your project must focus on one or more of the following themes or sub-themes:

Net Zero

  • energy
  • impact of industrial processes and use of materials
  • agriculture and food and other sources of emissions
  • capital intensity

Health and wellbeing

  • tackling ill health
  • enhancing wellbeing
  • diet and food

Next generation digital technologies

Technology families

  • advanced materials and manufacturing
  • artificial intelligence digital and advanced computing
  • bioinformatics and genomics
  • engineering biology
  • electronics, photonics and quantum technologies
  • energy and environment technologies
  • robotics and smart machines

Eligibility

You can apply for a loan of between £100,000 and £2 million to fund your project’s eligible costs.

Projects can last up to 5 years, including both the R&D and commercialisation phases. Projects are expected to start by 1 August 2024. Your exact project start date and first innovation loan drawdown will depend on the timing of the final credit committee decision and completion of loan documentation.

To receive an innovation loan for a new project you must:

  • be a UK registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)
  • carry out your project from or in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • give evidence that your business is suitable to take on a loan

Innovate UK will evaluate whether your business is suitable to receive an offer of a loan for your project.

Individuals, large companies, not for profits, charities, academic institutions, and research organisations are not eligible for innovation loans.

Only single businesses can receive loans, so collaboration with other organisations cannot be funded in this competition.

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

You are responsible for entering your own project costs in the application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian or Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

Subcontractors

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

Number of applications

Your business can only submit one application per round of this competition. If you submit more than one application, only the first application will be considered for assessment.

Use of animals in research and innovation

Innovate UK expects and supports the provision and safeguarding of welfare standards for animals used in research and innovation, according to best practice and up to date guidance.

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

Exclusions

In this competition we are not providing grant funding.

Innovate UK will not provide funds to match the grant funding of any projects.

Innovate UK will not fund commercial activities such as marketing and sales.

Innovate UK cannot fund projects that are:

  • dependent on export performance, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it exports a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it uses 50% UK flour in their product

Funding Costs

Up to £25 million has been allocated to fund innovation projects across the current rounds of this competition.

Innovate UK will offer loans of between £100,000 and £2 million, based on your project proposal and our judgement of the suitability and affordability of a loan for your business. The Innovate UK Loans Ltd credit committee will decide the final terms, amount and length of the loan offer.

Innovation loans will be:

  1. Available for up to 3 years when the project is under way, but the exploitation has not yet started (the ‘availability period’). You can borrow in stages (‘drawdowns’) during this period and will pay interest at 3.7% per annum on anything you borrow, with additional interest at 3.7% accrued and deferred until the repayment period.
  2. Extended until the first commercial sales from the results of the project, up to a maximum of 2 further years (the ‘extension period’) after the end of the availability period. You will not be able to make further drawdowns during this period. You will not have to make repayments, but you will pay interest on the amount you have borrowed at 3.7% per annum, with additional interest at 3.7% accrued and deferred until the repayment period.
  3. Repayable over a maximum of 5 years (the ‘repayment period’) after the availability and extension periods. You will have to repay anything you have borrowed, including interest accrued and deferred from the availability and extension periods, on a quarterly schedule. You will pay interest at 7.4% per annum on the outstanding loan amount.

These are the longest periods we will consider. The overall term of the loan must not exceed 7 years. Your application must propose how long your project will last, including the availability and extension periods, and how long the repayment period you are requesting, will be.

These periods must be based on the needs of your business. We will consider the suitability of your proposed timings in any loan offer that we make to you.

Innovate UK expect to take security in the form of a debenture. We will not require personal guarantees.

More details of our approach, including a summary ‘heads of terms’ document setting out the main terms and conditions of the loan, is in the terms and conditions for this competition.

You can get a loan of up to 100% of your eligible project costs. Since the loan will have favourable terms, particularly a below-market rate of interest, the value of this benefit over the life of the loan will be the equivalent of a grant.

The gross grant equivalent will be the present value of the difference between the market cost of interest and fees of a similar loan, using reference rates for interest, and the cost of an innovation loan. The present value is determined at the date of commitment of the loan.

For experimental development projects this grant equivalent, as a proportion of the eligible project costs, can be:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business

Innovate UK expect that most innovation loans will meet this requirement.

Interested in applying for this competition?

Book an appointment to speak to one of our advisors to discuss your eligibility to apply for this Grant Funding opportunity.