Business growth through collaboration

Funding and support for collaboration


A range of support is available for Northern Ireland businesses that are looking to collaborate with other companies, academia or research partners.

The support can be advisory or financial and it can help strengthen your business, raise its profile and open up new business opportunities within and outside Northern Ireland.

Collaborative Growth Programme

Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI) runs a Collaborative Growth Programme offering support to SME-led networks that want to work together on innovative projects. Networks wishing to enquire about the programme should consist of a minimum of four Northern Ireland SMEs. At least one of the participating businesses must be an Invest NI customer and be prepared to make the application on behalf of the group.

Collaborative Growth Programme is currently closed for applications.

Innovation Vouchers

Innovation Vouchers enable small businesses to work with expert knowledge providers (such as universities and colleges) to develop innovative solutions to business issues. The voucher is worth up to £5,000. Invest NI typically hold four Innovation Vouchers calls per year.

Innovate UK

Innovate UK run funding competitions to enable individual businesses and groups to pursue research and innovation opportunities. Some of these competitions are open for collaborative projects led by any UK-based companies. Find Innovate UK competitions.

Innovate UK Edge in Northern Ireland

Innovate UK EDGE, formerly known as the Enterprise Europe Network, supports and advises businesses across the UK and helps them find collaboration partners, access funding for research and development, and improve their presence in new markets. Invest NI hosts Innovate Innovate UK EDGE in Northern Ireland, offering bespoke support to ambitious and innovative businesses wanting to grow and scale.

Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe is the main source of European funding for collaborative research and innovation. Invest NI can help Northern Ireland businesses find Horizon collaboration partners and opportunities, and understand if they meet the criteria for application. Find out more about Horizon Europe support.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs)

A KTP is a three-way partnership between a business, an academic institution and a qualified graduate delivering a project lasting about two years. Innovate UK and Invest NI fund the scheme in Northern Ireland. They partner businesses and graduates, matching project requirements with management or technical skills and academic disciplines. Find out more about the KTP scheme.

Competence centres

Competence centres bring together universities, research institutes and innovative businesses to carry out strategic collaborative research in areas with a direct industrial focus. Any NI-based business that wants to collaborate in applied research at a reduced cost can get involved. Centres that currently operate in NI include connected health, sustainable energy and agri-food.

Innovation Boost programme

Previously known as Fusion, InterTradeIreland's Innovation Boost programme can provide that support by helping to fund a high calibre science, engineering or technology graduate and partnering you with a third-level institution with specific expertise. The graduate is employed by you and is based in your company throughout the project with mentoring from the academic partner and InterTradeIreland Innovation Boost consultant.

Synergy programme

Synergy is an InterTradeIreland programme that’s designed to increase SME participation in innovative networks of entrepreneurs, academics, policy makers, corporates and third sector participants. It aims to scale cross-border collaboration, using cluster and network development supports to increase the impact of programmes with economic benefit to Ireland and Northern Ireland. Find out more about Synergy.