There are many different grant funding types to support industry-led R&D. Funds range from local level support grants to £multi-million UK or European-wide support packages.
Local funding is generally smaller amounts of support accessed through local enterprise partnerships which provide grants for business growth and expansion. This is normally attached to job creation. There are also grants for research and development at a UK and EU level – these are looking to drive innovation in state-of-the-art products and services. This funding is typically accessed through competition-based programmes. On a UK level, the main source of grant funding for private companies is Innovate UK, although other funders such as BEIS, DfT, NIHR, APC, ATI, and SBRI Healthcare all administer grant funding schemes. For Europe, the central grant funding scheme is Horizon Europe.
Below is a summary of some of the main grant funding types available to UK businesses.
Innovate UK funding can be roughly divided into two types – themed competition-based funding and open scope competition-based funding.
Innovate UK has run open scope funding, designed to fund the most innovative, promising R&D, for many years. Currently, this is in the form of the SMART competition. Each competition has around £25m to fund the best game-changing, commercially viable innovative or disruptive, business-led ideas.
Projects can be single-applicant or collaborative. For projects of 6 – 18 months, costs must be less than £500,000. For projects of 19 – 36 months costs can be up to £2m and applications must be collaborative. Collaborations can be between private companies of any size, universities, research organisations, public sector organisations, or charities. All applications must involve a micro, small or medium enterprise (SME). Project work must be completed in the UK.
The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is the UK Government’s flagship program for R&D investment. It is structured into four Grand Challenges which are: AI and data, future of mobility, clean growth, and healthy ageing. Innovate UK themed competitions generally fall under one or more of these Grand Challenge headings.
Given the themed nature of these competitions, applicants will need to carefully review scope and eligibility criteria to make certain their proposed project meets all the criteria.
Technically not grant funding but a competitive procurement process, the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) fully funds companies to complete R&D projects. Competitions are highly themed and generally run annually. This includes SBRI Healthcare and other SBRI led competitions such as First of A Kind competitions.
An example of grant funding offered outside of Innovate UK. The Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP) is BEIS’ current funding focus. Funding is focussed on 10 priority areas, with the aim to accelerate the commercialisation of low-carbon technologies, systems, and business models in power, buildings, and industry.
The Automotive Propulsion Council (APC) and Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) are two examples of industry-led grant funding. The APC flagship scheme supports ambitious R&D into low carbon propulsion. Smaller feasibility and early-stage research is funded through the Niche Vehicle Network and Automotive Transformation Fund. The ATI runs similar competition structures within aerospace.
The National Institute for Health Research is focused on funding academic and clinical research excellence. SMEs have two main grant funding options – the Invention for Innovation (i4i), and AI for Health and Care Award. Projects are fully funded, to support medical and healthcare interventions designed for NHS uptake.
UK companies and research organisations can take part in Horizon Europe projects as an associated country. The majority of funding is framed under themed topics, targeting international collaboration and research excellence. For single applicant SMEs, there is a grant funding option through the EIC Accelerator. Innovative UK-based SMEs with proven prototypes can apply for up to €2.5m to reach commercialisation.
Working with TBAT will help you identify a suitable competition for your scope, size, and timing of the project. At TBAT we understand that the funding must work for you and we maintain awareness of all available funding opportunities to bring the best possible value to our clients. To ensure a project fit we complete technical qualifications free of charge, with one of our grant funding experts, before committing to an application. Contact us here.