Innovate UK

The competition scope

Dates and deadlines
Competition opens Monday 8 May 2017
Briefing event for applicants Monday 15 May 2017
Registration deadline Midday Wednesday 28 June 2017
Application deadline Midday Wednesday 5 July 2017

This is a pilot programme for Innovate UK. It provides simultaneous grant funding and venture capital investment in early stage projects led by UK companies.

The programme will provide 100% of project costs. The aim is to:

  • bring private investors into Innovate UK grant-funded companies earlier, giving companies greater confidence that investment will continue after the project funding
  • give management teams more time to run the business rather than continually chasing investment
  • remove the need to find match funding
  • give companies direct access to commercial acumen and market opportunities

This competition covers 2 of our sector groups: infrastructure systems and health and life sciences. It therefore has a large scope, comprising the following areas:

Infrastructure systems

  • smart infrastructure
  • energy supply and systems
  • connected transport
  • urban living

Health and life sciences

  • agriculture
  • biosciences
  • advanced therapies
  • medical technology
  • digital health

The aim of this competition is to fund feasibility studies that explore and evaluate the commercial potential of innovative ideas. Applicants should do this through:

  • reviewing research evidence and identifying possible applications
  • assessing business opportunities
  • consolidating the intellectual property position of their idea
  • validating initial concepts or existing demonstrators
  • identifying areas for further development

In all these cases, the aim of the investment accelerator pilot is to fund innovative high-risk projects and invest in companies that have real potential for growth. We will achieve this by working closely with our investor partners.

We will assess applications using the standard Innovate UK assessment process, while the investors will use their own assessment techniques. Both Innovate UK and the investor partner must identify a project as fundable before a grant is offered. For the investor, this means taking the project forward to the ‘heads of terms’ stage with the applicant within the competition timeline.

3. Specific competition themes
Innovate UK can fund projects in a number of sub-sectors.


3.1 Infrastructure systems
Smart infrastructure
Innovations that develop smart, resilient and sustainable integrated infrastructure. We are looking for innovations that add intelligence to one of our infrastructure systems programme areas to:

  • improve functionality, capacity, productivity, security or whole-life performance
  • improve resilience and sustainability and reduce the risk of failure
  • reduce whole-life costs or environmental damage (such as air pollution)

Energy supply and systems
Innovations that improve value proposition, energy affordability and security, and reduce carbon emissions. These could include:

  • energy supply solutions, such as carbon abatement, renewable energy technologies, nuclear power and hydrogen and fuel cells
  • solutions that flexibly match energy supply and demand, such as storage, grid balancing and integration of micro-energy generation
  • solutions that optimise performance across different energy vectors (the competition is not limited to electricity)
  • Connected transport
    innovations that improve network capacity and efficiency and reduce operational cost, through balancing demands for transport infrastructure and connecting different transport modes, people and goods
  • better services, flexibility, reliability and safety through greater system intelligence in existing transport networks
  • systems integration to enable sustainable transport

Urban living

  • citizen-centric solutions to challenges experienced in urban environments, leading to better health and wellbeing, increased productivity and higher resilience to change and system shocks
  • urban living solutions that integrate ‘hard’, ‘soft’ and/or environmental systems:
  • ‘hard’ systems such as energy, transport, waste, water and communication
  • ‘soft’ systems such as security, law, justice, health, wellbeing, social care and education
  • environmental systems such as parks and other green spaces, rivers and canals

3.2 Health and life sciences

  • solutions that increase agricultural productivity through advanced precision engineering, fighting agro-chemical and antimicrobial resistance and enhancing resilience to biotic and abiotic stress
  • individualised livestock/aquaculture nutrition, healthcare, novel genetics and breeding
  • improved food quality, sustainability and manufacturing methods, including enhanced nutritional value, protein development, food safety and new, smarter ingredients and packaging


  • synthetic biology, including gene synthesis and assembly, strain development, parts characterisation and standards
  • computational systems for replicating and predicting biological activity
  • non-healthcare biotechnology, such as biofuels/energy, materials and food
  • technologies to manipulate and characterise microbiomes and other bio-communities, so as to improve human and animal health and wellbeing
  • technologies for the use and management of biofilms

This area covers advanced therapies, medical technology and digital health. Innovations include:

  • proactive management of acute and chronic conditions
  • therapeutic discoveries and developments
  • medical technologies and devices, including digital health solutions (both hardware and software)
  • earlier and better detection and diagnosis of disease
  • innovative platform technologies for analysing, screening and optimising potential new medicines
  • original in-vitro, in-vivo and in-silico models that determine the mechanism of action, efficacy or safety of potential new medicines
  • stratification in primary care, the community and the home, including of direct-to-consumer products and medical devices

4. Projects that we won’t fund
In this competition we are not funding projects that we consider to be at too early a stage. This includes basic research, generation of pure scientific and technological knowledge, and development of research ideas, hypotheses and experimental designs without any application.

In addition, we will not fund incremental innovations to existing projects that are unlikely to improve UK economic and small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) growth.

More specifically, we will not fund the following projects in the different scope areas:

Infrastructure systems

  • building fabric, white goods and vehicles
  • transport innovations that can only be applied to a single mode of transport, such as automotive, rail, air or marine vehicles or vessels. Although the initial activity may concentrate on a single mode of transport, there must be the potential to connect infrastructure, people and goods using additional transport modes
  • urban living applications that do not bring about better health and wellbeing, increased productivity or higher resilience to change and system shocks

Health and life sciences

  • forestry or equine projects
  • wild-capture fisheries
  • food processing or manufacturing applications that concentrate solely on improving production efficiency
  • food projects with a primary emphasis on a health claim (as opposed to a nutrition claim) that would require approval from the European Food Safety Authority
  • the discovery of new biomarkers for diagnostic or bioscience applications
  • interventional clinical studies in human beings
  • projects we think are too close to market or are already at market. These include: evaluations to inform labelling; approval of a pharmaceutical product/device by the relevant authorities; laboratory accreditation; distribution or marketing activities; post-marketing studies; and post-marketing surveillance


5. Find out if you are eligible to apply
To apply for this competition and lead a project you must:

  • be a UK based business, or have registered a UK business before the point of a grant award. Research and technology organisations and universities may not apply, but spin-out UK companies may
  • be a micro, small or medium enterprise
  • carry out your project in the UK
  • work alone; that is, the grant funding and investment cannot be split with partners

6. Funding and project details
Innovate UK has allocated up to £6 million of grant funding for this competition: £3 million for infrastructure systems and £3 million for health and life sciences.

For technical feasibility studies, you could get:

  • up to 70% of your eligible project costs in grant funding if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business

Our investor partners have agreed to match fund the remaining 30% or 40% of project costs through equity investment or convertible loans. In each case, you must agree the remaining match funding with one of the listed investor partners. It must be new investment: the match funding cannot come from an existing investment. Nor can it come from the existing balance sheet of the applicant.

If you already have investment from a listed investor you may still apply, but again, the match funding for the grant must be new money.

For example: you are a micro/small company and request £150,000 of project costs. You are successful in the Innovate UK assessment process and secure match funding through one of our investor partners. Innovate UK will cover £105,000 (70%) of the project costs and the investor will cover £45,000 (30%).

Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

We expect projects to last 3 to 12 months. We expect them to have total costs of up to £150,000.

7. How to apply
To apply:

  • the lead applicant must register online (a link will be available once the competition opens)
  • read the guidance for applicants for this competition, which will be available once the competition opens
  • attend the briefing event for potential applicants in London on 15 May 2017 (in person or by webinar)
  • complete and upload your online application on our secure server

We will not accept late submissions. Innovate UK and our investor partners are committed to maintaining strict confidentiality of applications. This confidentiality is managed through substantial non-disclosure agreements and a memorandum of understanding between Innovate UK and individual investor partners.

External, independent experts assess the quality of your application. Our investor partners will also carry out their own independent assessment. In consultation with our investors, we will then select the projects that we fund. We will build a portfolio of projects as described in the competition guidance for applicants. Please read this carefully before you apply.

Also please read the general guidance for applicants as it will help your chances of submitting a quality application.


8. Further information
If you need more information, contact the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

Our investor partners and their interests for this competition are listed below. To ensure a prompt response, if you wish to use an email link to contact the investor please put the words ‘investment accelerator’ into the subject line, along with the name of your company or project.

IP Group (all sectors) Email:
Longwall Ventures (all sectors) Email:
Mercia Fund Management (all sectors) Email:
Oxford Sciences Innovation (all sectors) Email:
Rainbow Seed Fund (all sectors) Email:
Syncona Investment Management (health and life sciences only) Email:
Touchstone Innovations (health and life sciences only) Email:

100% Funded