Funding Available for Projects on Quantum Technologies

Abstract quantum technologies backgroundA new Innovate UK competition aims to advance the commercialisation of quantum technologies in the UK. From Monday 18th January, UK registered businesses can apply for a share of £7 million for feasibility studies or market research projects. This competition is funded through the Quantum Commercialisation programme of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).


In this competition, all proposals must identify a clear market opportunity and an innovative project which exploits it. While Innovate UK plans to fund a portfolio of projects across a variety of technologies, all projects must:

  • Study a commercial opportunity
  • Quantify performance objectives
  • Provide a roadmap of future exploitation
  • Exploit second-generation quantum technologies
  • Address at least one of the following: connectivity, situational awareness, or computing.
Specific Themes

In addition, there are a number of specific themes that your project can focus on, as listed below:

  • Involve consortia that span the supply chain of component suppliers, system integrators, and end user businesses
  • Focus on maximising UK return from the quantum technology research undertaken by the UK academic base
  • Bring significant new investment and businesses into the UK’s growing quantum technologies sector
  • Develop the quantum computing industry sector (hardware, components, simulators, algorithms and software) in the UK.

Projects must have total eligible costs of up to £500,000 for feasibility studies or £50,000 for market research projects. They should last between 12 and 18 months, starting by February 1st 2022 and ending by 31st July 2023. Projects can be single or collaborative but must involve an SME. Furthermore, the lead organisation must:

  • Be a UK registered business of any size
  • Involve an SME
  • Carry out its project work in the UK
  • Intend to exploit the project’s results from or in the UK

You can find more information regarding eligibility, scope, and how to apply on the Innovate UK competition page. Alternatively, if you have any questions, or would like to discuss a potential project with one of our expert bid writers, please get in touch.

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Categories of Research and Development: understanding where your project sits within the Innovate UK framework

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, supports innovative ideas and business growth through grant funding competitions. UK-based business and research organisations can apply for funding for research and development purposes, or to test their innovative ideas. Projects typically fall within four main research and development categories, each of which is explored below:

Fundamental Research

Fundamental research is the earliest stage of research and development and is usually undertaken by a research organisation. It involves the use of experimental or theoretical work to gain new knowledge of “underlying phenomena and visible facts.” Fundamental research does not involve any direct practical application or usage.

Feasibility Studies

A feasibility study involves analysis and evaluation of a project’s potential, uncovering its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential threats. Such studies will support the process of decision making. This can help businesses to decide whether to work individually or collaboratively before conducting a subsequent larger project.

Industrial Research

Projects that sit within the industrial research category involve planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills. This is useful when the project aims to develop a new product, process or service to improve its existing counterpart. According to Innovate UK, it can include the creation of component parts to complex systems, as well as prototypes in a laboratory or environment with simulated interfaces.

Experimental Development

Experimental development involves the use of existing knowledge and skills in order to develop a new or improved product. Projects in this category should aim to make further technical improvements. To achieve this, projects may involve prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation in environments representative of real-life operating conditions.

Within Innovate UK competition summaries, the competition scope specifies the desired category of R&D activity for that funding opportunity. For example, the ISCF Future Plastic Packaging Solutions competition intends to support feasibility studies and industrial research. You can find more information on each of the categories of research and development here, or contact us if you have any further questions.

£2 million available for sustainable plastic packaging projects

Innovate UK is investing up to £2 million in early-stage projects through the Future Plastic Packaging Solutions competition. This forms part of the wider Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) Challenge, which aims to deliver cleaner growth across the supply chain and reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the environment.


This competition will support feasibility studies and industrial research projects that address widely known problems related to plastic packaging. Innovate UK aims to fund projects with either direct or indirect commercial outcomes for the partners.  Additionally, proposals should explain how their innovation addresses one or more of the UK Plastics Pact targets.

Projects must deliver one or more of the following:

  • a more circular plastic packaging value chain, with reduced environmental impacts, such as carbon emissions and improved recyclability
  • improved understanding of effective communication techniques to increase recycling rates and uptake of re-use/refill business models
  • more consistent data and increased knowledge relevant to the supply chain.

You can find more information on in-scope projects, including specific themes, here.


Projects can last up to 18 months, starting by 1st June 2021 and ending by 30th November 2022. To lead a project or work alone, your organisation must be a UK registered business of any size, charity, non-government body or not-for-profit. It must carry out its project work in the UK and intend to exploit its results from or in the UK. If you are planning to work collaboratively, you can find the full eligibility criteria here.

To find out more, visit the ISCF Future Plastic Packaging Solutions competition page. Alternatively, if you'd like to discuss your project with one of our expert advisers, please contact us today.

Are you still looking for the right grant funding opportunity? If so, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter today to receive the latest competitions directly to your inbox.

£5 million available for innovative food production projects

SMEs can apply for a share of £5 million in grant support to transform food production towards net zero. The grant funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The project must also align with a Series A investment, which you can read more about here.


In short, you must develop precision technologies and data-driven solutions that make a significant step towards realising net zero food production systems by 2040. Additionally, you must demonstrate how your project meets the overall aims of the ISCF Transforming Food Production Challenge, which are to:

  • help food production systems achieve net zero emissions by 2040
  • help produce food in ways that are more efficient, resilient and sustainable
  • speed up the development and use of integrated precision approaches to improve productivity in agricultural systems.

Funding is only available for experimental development projects. They must focus on one or more of the following themes:

  • the development of precision solutions and systems that will make a significant step towards net zero emissions for food production
  • improving productivity of the agricultural sector
  • stimulating the establishment of novel high value production systems
  • developing export opportunities
  • Please also note that projects involving equine, amenity horticulture, wild-caught fisheries or non-food crops are ineligible.

Your project must have total eligible costs of between £1 million and £3 million. It should last 18 months, starting by 1st October 2021 and ending by 31st March 2023. To secure grant funding, you must also secure an investment of at least twice the amount of grant through one of the lead investors associated with this programme. However, you can submit your application before speaking to an investor.

This competition is open to single applicants only. To apply your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)
  • carry out its project work in the UK and intend to exploit the results from/in the UK
  • be prepared to negotiate head of terms for an aligned series A investment.

The ISCF Transforming Food Production Challenge opens on 2nd November and closes on 13th January. To find out more, please visit Innovate UK. Alternatively, you can contact us if you have any further questions.

Are you still looking for the right grant funding opportunity? If so, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter and receive the latest competitions directly to your inbox.

NATEP: helping SMEs innovate in aerospace

Innovate UK, working with the Aerospace Technology Institute and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has announced new funding for aerospace innovation projects. From 5th October, UK registered SMEs can apply for a share of £2.5 million for industry-led civil aerospace research projects.


This competition aims to help SMEs develop their own innovative technologies, thereby enhancing their capabilities and increasing their ability to win new business in the civil aerospace sector. Eligible projects must have a potential application within the civil aerospace sector. You can find information on specific themes here. More generally, all projects must have a credible route to market and preferably have identified their end-users.

Additionally, all projects should:

  • Demonstrate improvement in business productivity and competitiveness
  • Show clear benefits technically.
  • Be able to pull through new technology or processes for use in a current or future product or manufacturing process.
  • Show clear benefits in creating or safeguarding jobs.
  • Be able to enhance capabilities within the broader aerospace industry, as well as other sectors e.g. advanced manufacturing.

Innovate UK intends to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, and technological maturities.


Firstly, your project’s total eligible costs must be between £100,000 and £300,000. Furthermore, all projects must:

  • Be collaborative
  • Be led by a UK registered micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME)
  • Start by 1 May 2021 and end by 31 October 2022
  • Last between 12 and 18 months

This competition closes on 18th November 2020. You can find more information on eligibility, scope, and how to apply here. Before you start your application, check out our '5 steps to success' to ensure you write a competitive proposal.

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SBRI: using geospatial data to solve transport challenges, phase 1

Organisations can apply for a share of £2 million to develop feasibility studies for one of four themed challenges. Funded by the Geospatial Commission, this competition aims to identify innovative geospatial solutions to current challenges and enable the future of mobility.

This is phase 1 of a potential 2-phase competition. A decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1. Only successful applicants from the first phase will be able to apply to take part in phase 2.

Your application must focus on at least one of the following themes:
  • Mobility as a service – Overcoming siloed transport networks by enabling more seamless and accessible integration of transport modes.
  • Active travel – Mitigating safety risks to promote active travel.
  • Supply chains - Tackling logistical challenges including planning distribution networks and routing, optimising storage and warehousing, and last-mile delivery to reduce freight transport costs.
  • Increasing capacity - Managing over and under-capacity to increase efficiency of our transport networks without compromising safety.
More information

The Geospatial Commission expects to fund around 30 projects. To lead a project, you can be an organisation of any size and work alone or with other organisations. Contracts are available only for single legal entities, but subcontractors are also permitted.

Phase 1 contracts are for up to £75,000 for projects lasting up to 12 weeks. Projects should start by 4th January 2021 and end by 31st March 2021. Subsequently, phase 2 will award R&D contracts to businesses chosen from the successful phase 1 applicants. Funding of between £500,000 and £1 million will be allocated for each phase 2 contract, in order to develop a prototype and undertake field testing for 12 months.

If you think you are eligible for this funding, apply through Innovate UK before 4th November. You can learn more about Innovate UK bid writing here.

ISCF Faraday Battery Challenge: Round 4

The fourth round of the ISCF Faraday Battery Challenge is now open for grant funding applications. UK registered businesses can apply for a share of £10 million for innovation in electric vehicle battery technology. The competition aims to establish the UK's position as a global leader in the design, development, and manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles.

Innovate UK is looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, sectors, technological maturities, and research categories. There are two strands running at the same time:

1. Feasibility Studies

Firstly, Innovate UK will support business-led feasibility studies. They will fund the most exciting, high potential impact, early-stage research projects, where a 12-month feasibility study will accelerate commercialisation.

Proposals should clearly show how the feasibility study will accelerate the development of technologies with the potential to significantly advance the performance characteristics of batteries for electric vehicles. The project must last between 3 and 12 months and plan to end by 31st March 2022. Eligible costs should be between £100,000 and £1,000,000.

2. Innovation R&D

Secondly, Innovate UK will support the research and development of the most promising innovative battery technologies for the propulsion of electric vehicles. Projects should build on the outputs of previous activity to accelerate towards commercialisation.

Innovate UK is encouraging two types of project:

  • New projects building on the outputs and outcomes of previously funded Innovate UK projects or activities.
  • New projects building on internal activity within the organisation.

Proposals must clearly demonstrate a significant value-add and exploitation from a preceding feasibility study, collaborative research and development project, or previous non-grant-funded activity. Eligible costs must be between £300,000 and £1,500,000 and projects must again last between 3 and 12 months.

You can find more information on the ISCF Faraday Battery Challenge here. Alternatively, to discuss your project with one of our expert advisers, contact us today.

Women in Innovation: Closing the Gender Gap

Following the launch of the Women in Innovation Awards 2020/21, we're reflecting on the steps Innovate UK has taken to increase gender diversity in innovation.

The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship estimated that an additional £250 billion could be contributed to the UK economy if female entrepreneurs started and scaled their businesses at the same rate as men. However in 2016, just 14% of applications to Innovate UK were led by women – despite success rates between men and women being largely equal! Survey research found securing funding to be the biggest challenge facing women innovators. Furthermore, a third said they found being a woman in a male-dominated industry had negatively affected their career. Thus, there was a clear demand for more focused support services for female innovators.

Women in Innovation

This led to the creation of Innovate UK’s first diversity and inclusion campaign, Women in Innovation. The programme aims to address the under-representation of women engaging with Innovate UK. It encourages female-led innovation through specific events and funding competitions. So far, the programme has made significant progress in closing the gender gap; there has been an impressive 70% increase in the number of women leading Innovate UK grant applications.

Since 2016, Innovate UK has successfully engaged a new community of over 3000 women in innovation. Could you be next? The Women in Innovation Awards 2020/21 aim to find women with exciting ideas and ambitious plans that will inspire others. 10 winners will each receive a £50,000 grant, as well as a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching, and business support. If you think you might be eligible for this funding, you can apply here before 14th October 2020. Be sure to check out our '5 steps to success' to ensure you write a competitive proposal!


Additionally, Innovate UK has recently forged a new partnership with an award-winning educational-tech charity, Founders4Schools. The charity aims to increase the employability skills of pupils by facilitating encounters with employers. Through this partnership, inspirational members of the Women in Innovation community will volunteer to connect with their local schools. The goal is to encourage young people to explore innovative career pathways, regardless of their background or gender. We look forward to finding out how this initiative progresses.

What needs to happen next to close the gender gap in innovation? Share your thoughts with us in a comment below!

5G enabled road and rail transport trials in the West Midlands, round 2

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of £2.5 million to support the development of 5G enabled transport innovations. This funding is from West Midlands 5G, working in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the West Midlands Combined Authority through Transport for West Midlands. Innovate UK is managing the competition process.


This funding is available for innovative projects that develop a new service or product. These must improve road and rail operational efficiency, provide better-connected transport, or improve traveller experience. Furthermore, your project should include 3 months of user or product testing in your chosen location in the West Midlands using the live 5G environment.

Projects must focus on products or services in one or more of the following areas:

  • Movement of things – freight and logistics.
  • Movement of people – public transport, economic recovery, and traveller confidence following Covid-19.
  • Road operation and management.

Your project proposal should also demonstrate how 5G is essential to developing your new service or product. Alternatively, it can show how 5G offers a significant enhancement compared to current mobile communications.


Your project must:

  • Only claim up to £500,000 in grant funding.
  • Be up to 12 months in length.
  • Start by 15 March 2021 and end by 21 March 2022.

You must consult with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) if the transport monitoring and control system needs to integrate with physical road or rail networks, or requires data. In these cases, you must also ask TfWM to provide a letter of support for your project.

To confirm 5G functionality is available for your project in the West Midlands, you must also consult with a mobile network operator (Vodafone, O2, BT or 3). Additionally, a public or private communications network provider or a communications integrator should be included as a partner or sub-contractor in your consortium.

This competition closes on 2nd December 2020. For our help in putting together a competitive proposal, please contact us. To stay up to date on the latest grant funding opportunities, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter today.

How to write a winning Innovate UK Smart Grant proposal

The latest round of Innovate UK’s open grant funding programme launched last month. It has £25 million available to invest in the best game-changing and commercially viable innovative or disruptive ideas. Smart grant applications can come from any area of technology and be applied to any part of the economy.

However, applying for grant funding is complex, time-consuming, stressful, and highly competitive. While there is no magic formulae to winning grants, we’ve found that the following self-assessment process can increase your chances of success:

1. Idea

Before you begin writing your Smart Grant application, it is crucial that you have a clear understanding of exactly what it is you want to do. You should identify your aims and objectives and the tasks you need to undertake to achieve these. Clarity is key to writing a successful application - Innovate UK use the word “clear” three times in the competition scope alone!

2. Funding

The next step requires you to read and understand exactly what the funding call is looking to fund. By doing this, you can ensure your project fits within its scope. Remember, square pegs do not fit round holes!

It is important to note that Innovate UK will not fund proposals that do not:

  • Meet the competition eligibility or scope
  • Address the size, potential and access to market for the innovation
  • Evidence the potential for their idea or concept to lead to significant return on investment (ROI), positive economic impact, growth and scale-up of the business.

You can find the full scope for this competition here.

3. Capacity

Do you have the in-house skills to achieve what you are setting out to do? It is important that you are honest with yourself here. If you don’t have the in-house skills to convince Innovate UK of your capability to complete the project, it is unlikely that they will award you any funding. In this case, you may wish to consider working with a collaborative partner.

4. Track record

Are you able to convince the evaluators that you can deliver the project? Innovate UK requires proposals to demonstrate “a team, business arrangement or working structure with the necessary skills and experience to run and complete the project successfully and on time.” If you do not have the necessary skills and experience to do this, we would again recommend teaming up with a more experienced partner.

5. Partners

Lastly, applicants should consider whether they need project partners. For this competition, projects with durations between 6 and 18 months can be single or collaborative. In contrast, projects lasting between 19 and 36 months must be collaborative. If you answered ‘no’ to points 3 or 4, you will likely need the support of a project partner to secure an Innovate UK Smart Grant, regardless of project length. Through our extensive global network, RedKnight can help you in the search for a suitable project partner with the expertise and resources to complement your own.

These 5 steps will help to ensure that the funding you bid for is right for your organisation, thereby helping you to put forward the most competitive proposal possible.

If you're looking for further help, you can download our free application guide today! Alternatively, please get in touch if you'd like to set up a consultation with one of our innovation funding advisers.