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Open sector innovation

New Innovate UK Open Sector R&D grants competition opens 10th May

It’s really encouraging to see Innovate UK continuing with yet another Open Sector R&D grant competition. This one opens on 10th May 2018 with an 11th July deadline for applications. This £20M fund is looking for the best game-changing or disruptive ideas offering up to 70% funded R&D grants towards a project costing up to £2 Million.

Any technology innovation using science or engineering can be submitted, including ideas from arts, design, media or creative industries. However, it does make this competition very, very competitive simply because of the huge number of applicants with great ideas.

Projects can include:

  • Feasibility studies (including market research) – up to 70% grant
  • Industrial research – up to 70% grant
  • Experimental development – up to 45% grant

Single company applications can be submitted for projects up to 18 months’ duration costing up to £500,000. Longer, more expensive projects have to be collaborative with not-for-profit partners, such as Universities, accounting for no more than 30% of costs. All projects must have at least one SME partner.

These R&D grants are not for mundane, me-too ideas. If you’re simply slightly improving on what’s already out there, you’d be better off claiming R&D tax credits. To stand a chance of getting an R&D grant, your new product, process or service really needs to be game-changing. What really excites Innovate UK, are innovations that can make a real improvement to UK productivity and/or create export-led growth.

The grant funding pays more towards earlier stage R&D activities such as feasibility studies and industrial research. These are funded at a rate of 50% to 70% of project costs depending on size of business. Closer to market R&D activity, such as experimental development of a prototype, is funded at up to 45% of project costs depending on business size.

Applicants will need to present a solid business case with the potential to lead to significant return-on-investment (ROI), positive impact, growth and scale-up of their business. Only the very best proposals with clear cutting-edge, game-changing innovations that can evidence a strong, robust business plan with highest potential ROI and impact will succeed in winning R&D grant funding.

These open sector grants provide an ideal vehicle for overcoming the barriers that stop smaller businesses innovating in a tough, risk-averse financing market. They are especially useful to those businesses that don’t fit any of the Innovate UK priority areas.

It’s all part of a long-term strategy to make the UK the world’s most innovative nation by 2030 with the Government committed to investing over £725 million over the next 3 years.

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