Innovate UK funding and support

Innovate UK funding: How does it work


Innovate UK provides government funding to businesses and research organisations across the UK, primarily through grant funding competitions. Some of these competitions are challenge-led, others are open to businesses from all sectors and industries.

Challenge-led competitions

Through its core grant funding, Innovate UK supports a wide range of businesses and ideas needed to maximise economic growth and societal impact across the country.

However, most significant opportunities for businesses exist in four priority areas set out in the government's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). These so called 'Grand Challenges' include:

  • artificial intelligence and the data economy
  • ageing society, health and nutrition
  • clean growth and infrastructure
  • future of mobility

Throughout the year, Innovate UK will launch various competitions within each of these challenge areas, as well as competitions targeted at other sectors and technologies with significant innovation potential and impact.

Typically, there are pre-briefings for each of the competition, as well as webinars, competition documents and deadlines for applications. The competition scope will specify the category of research and development (R&D) activity for that particular funding opportunity. Find out what categories of R&D are supported by Innovate UK.

Find Innovate UK funding opportunities.

Grants are awarded based on competition. This means that, in order to win the grant, you must:

  • first meet the eligibility criteria for the particular challenge
  • present the best proposal amongst all other applicants

The competitive process ensures that the funding goes to the most suitable business whose project meets the scope and the objectives of the competition. Find out how to apply for Innovate UK funding.

Open competition

As well as thematic, challenge-led competitions, Innovate UK also runs the 'Smart grant' programme with open competitions launching four times a year. These are open to any business or organisation from any sector, regardless of their technical or industrial area of focus. See more on Smart grants for innovative businesses.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP)

KTP is another core Innovate UK funding programme. It offers funding for partnerships between businesses and universities, enabling companies to bring in a graduate and embed innovation within their business. Find out more about the KTP scheme.

Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)

Grants are not the only, or always most effective, form of funding from Innovate UK. Through the SBRI competitions, your business can apply for government contracts to help demonstrate and develop your new technologies. Read more about the SBRI funding.

Innovation loans

Innovation loans is a relatively new programme offering late-stage-development businesses flexible capital to support business growth through innovation. To get a loan, you must apply through a competitive loans process with strict eligibility criteria. Find out more about Innovate UK innovation loans.

Other Innovate UK support

As well as funding businesses and research organisations, Innovate UK also fund networks such as the Innovate UK Business Growth, Innovate UK Business Connect and Catapult centres.