UK Regulatory Science and Innovation Networks – Discovery phase

Key Features

Collaborations of UK based organisations can apply for grant funding of up to £50,000 to develop proposals for Regulatory Science and Innovation Networks in their area.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £50,000

Opens: 13th Dec 2023

Closes: 31st Jan 2024

! This scheme is now closed


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £7.5 million, up to 2025, to support the creation of regulatory science and innovation networks across the UK.


The aim of this competition is to support the development of proposals for virtual networks of expertise in regulatory science that generate research-based evidence and insights.

We want to support organisations with the potential to advance regulatory science as a tool that helps policymakers understand, identify and assess different approaches to regulating new technologies, leading to the development of policies that best promote innovation.

Discovery phase (this competition)

Funding for this Discovery phase must be used to support the collaborative development of your application for the Implementation phase.

This includes:

  • building collaborations and partnerships
  • convening discussions
  • hosting workshops
  • engaging communities
  • collaborative bid writing
  • desk research

This list is not exhaustive.

Innovate UK will manage a support package for all potential network collaborations chosen at the Discovery phase. This will include workshops and events to assist in the development of applications for the Implementation phase and encourage networking between collaborations.

The support package will also include some ongoing non-financial support for collaborations beyond the initial six month Discovery phase. More information about the support package will be made available to successful Discovery phase collaborations.

The Implementation phase

Network collaborations awarded funding at the Discovery phase will be invited to apply for the Implementation phase competition, which will open on or after August 2024. Further details about the application timeline and requirements for this phase will be released in due course.

In the Implementation phase you must have identified all partners and have agreement on their roles in the network and how the funding will be distributed.

Implementation phase funding must be used to invest in the capacity and capability of the network partners to deliver across four key goals:

  • building the evidence base while accelerating innovation and adoption to mitigate near-term risks and identify long-term opportunities
  • strengthening partnerships and interactions across the ecosystem on regulatory science and innovation matters
  • facilitating knowledge transfer that leads to more evidence-based policymaking around regulation for innovation
  • increasing opportunities to improve business capacity to exploit commercial opportunities

You must develop a strategy for policy, practice and standards in your sector. This includes plans to engage government departments and regulators in those sectors, to ensure that the evidence and insights generated are influencing policy development, while maintaining strategic and operational independence.

Areas for your network can include:

  • research to inform the needs of policymakers and regulators
  • training programmes and fellowships to upskill and provide continuous development to individuals across the regulatory system
  • support for regulators for particularly challenging assessments where the required expertise may be lacking or needs expanding
  • creating and delivering research-informed interventions, to help UK firms address their regulatory needs at both a national and international level
  • focused programmes on specific areas of regulatory science in response to priorities agreed by network stakeholders

This list is not exhaustive.

Who should be involved in a network?

The organisations in your collaboration, as well as the relationships and their roles in the network can change between the Discovery and Implementation phases. However, your collaboration must involve at least half of the participants from the Discovery phase, and at least one eligible RTO in the Implementation phase.

Specific Themes

Innovate UK welcome proposals from collaborations across different sectors.

Innovate UK encourage proposals that align with innovation priorities identified by the UK Government, these include

  • the Science and Technology Framework
  • the Pro-innovation Regulation of Technologies Review
  • areas of interest identified by the Regulatory Horizons Council in either its reports to Government, or other publications

In the health and life sciences sector we encourage proposals focusing on the following themes:

  • artificial intelligence (AI) and software as a medical device
  • biotherapeutics, cell and gene therapies
  • data science
  • diagnostics and genomics
  • genomics and synthetic human biology
  • international recognition
  • in Vitro Diagnostic (IVD) regulation
  • medical technologies
  • neurotechnology
  • vaccines and immunotherapies


Your Discovery phase collaboration must:

  • start its activities by 1 March 2024
  • end its activities by 31 August 2024
  • carry out its project work in the UK

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.

Lead organisation

To lead a collaboration your organisation must be a UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • independent research and technology organisation (RTO) or Catapult centre eligible for UKRI funding
  • charity
  • not for profit

The lead organisation must:

  • collaborate with other eligible UK registered organisations
  • not act in any way to gain selective commercial or economic advantage from the outputs of this collaboration

Existing regulatory science and innovation networks can apply for funding, but only to expand their focus into new areas of activity or scale up existing activities.

More information on the different types of organisation can be found in our Funding rules.


To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be a UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • public sector research establishment (PSRE) eligible for UKRI funding
  • independent RTO or Catapult centre eligible for UKRI funding
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • regulator
  • other public sector organisation

Your proposal must include at least two organisations interested in forming a network that will serve a specific emerging technology.

The organisations do not need to have worked together before and can develop their relationship during this Discovery phase.

There should be a clear rationale for why your organisations are working together.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once partners have accepted the invitation, they will be asked to login or to create an account in the Innovation Funding Service. They are responsible for entering their own project costs and completing their Project Impact questions in the application.

To be an eligible collaboration, the lead and at least one other organisation must apply for funding when entering their costs into the application.


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

An eligible organisation can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in any number of applications.

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.

Any projects selected for funding which involve animals will be asked to provide additional information on welfare and ethical considerations, as well as compliance with any relevant legislation as part of the project start-up process. This information will be reviewed before an award is made.

You cannot use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.


Innovate UK are not funding:

  • capital expenditure
  • activity that you are already undertaking in partnership or as a single organisation
  • activity that does not contribute to the development of a proposal for the Implementation phase of the programme
  • activity that an existing regulatory science and innovation network was already undertaking or so-called “business as usual”
  • enterprises which are seeking to gain a selective economic or commercial advantage from the funding

Innovate UK cannot fund projects that:

  • involve primary production in fishery and aquaculture
  • involve primary production in agriculture
  • have activities relating to the purchase of road freight transport
  • are not allowed under De minimis regulation restrictions
  • are not eligible to receive Minimal Financial Assistance
  • are dependent on export performance, for example giving an award to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • are dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example if we give an award to a baker on the condition that they use 50% UK flour in their product

Funding Costs

Innovate UK will fund up to 30 initial collaborative innovation projects in this Discovery phase competition.

Your total project costs will be 100% funded. Total project costs detailed within your application must not exceed the maximum project size. If your total project costs do exceed the maximum then your application will be made ineligible.

You can make reference to any additional voluntary contribution in your application answers. It must not be detailed in the finance section.

Within your collaboration, priority for funding should be given to the organisations that would not be able to participate in your proposal’s development without financial assistance.

At this Discovery phase you are not required to provide a detailed breakdown of your activity or budget. We will work with successful applicants to create a detailed budget as part of the awarding process.

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.