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!

Have you claimed your Research and Development (R&D) tax relief?

R&D tax relief form with stacks of coins and penRedKnight Consultancy has teamed up with LimestoneGrey, a leading independent chartered R&D tax credit consultancy, to promote the benefits of R&D tax credits. They are a government incentive designed to make innovation easier for small companies. SMEs can claim back up to 33p for every £1 spent on R&D activities, with the average claim currently standing at £54,000!

The tax definition for R&D purposes is more far-reaching than many businesses realise. Generally, it refers to the work undertaken to develop new products, processes, services or software. Making improvements to existing ones may also qualify. For example, if your business has developed an automated process, or one that is quicker, more efficient, and creates less waste, it may be eligible.

R&D tax credit claims are directly linked to the level of qualifying expenditure a business has incurred. Qualifying categories of expense include staffing costs, expenditure on subcontracted activities, external workers, consumables, computer software, and utilities. However, knowing which costs qualify is the easy part. Preparing a claim requires thorough understanding of the extensive rules and regulations, as well as the ability to produce a robust project report that withstands scrutiny from HMRC.

To find out how to maximise your claim and retrieve some of the money you've invested in innovation, contact us today.

Sustainable Innovation Fund: Round 2

Sustainable growth - tree growing out of a pile of coinsRound 2 of the Sustainable Innovation Fund is now open for applications. Through Innovate UK, £26m is available for new projects focusing on sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19. The health pandemic has affected research and development across all sectors. Therefore, this competition aims to help all sectors of the UK rebuild, grow, and create new opportunities.


Your proposal must show evidence of key challenges caused by Covid-19 and how your project can help solve them. Innovate UK is looking to fund a portfolio of projects across a variety of technologies, markets, regions, technological maturities, and research categories. Specifically, your project can focus on themes including:

  • decarbonisation, circular economy and/or biodiversity
  • climate change and environmental sustainability
  • geographic or regionally targeted innovation
  • innovation that is aimed at commercial or residential users
  • innovations that work across more than one sector
  • follow-on international opportunities that help the UK lead the world

This is round 2 of a potential 3, with the third scheduled to open in September. For round 2, proposals can only be from a single business. This means no more than one partner receiving grant funding on the application. However, subcontractors are allowed.

The funding will be made as a de minimis grant. De minimis aid provides public funding up to 100% of eligible costs. Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £100,000. Furthermore, your project must be ready to start by 1 November 2020 and last between 3 and 6 months.

The Sustainable Innovation Fund: Round 2 closes on the 2nd September 2020. You can find further information regarding eligibility, scope, and how to apply here. For our help in putting together a competitive proposal in a short timeframe, please contact us today.


UKRI awards £400m to regional R&D projects

Seven major research and innovation projects across the UK are set to receive over £400m in government and industry funding. This investment will benefit some of the country’s most promising R&D projects, including businesses and universities in Cardiff, Bristol, Liverpool, Kent, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Belfast.

As part of UKRI’s Strength in Places Fund, the funding will support cutting-edge research and innovation projects that drive local economic growth. It is the latest step towards reaching the government’s target of investing 2.4% of GDP in UK research and development by 2027. Each programme will deliver long-term economic benefits and benefit local people, closing the gap between the rate of growth in the area and nationally. The scheme will encourage more competitive and future-proof industries as our economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, creating thousands of jobs and enhancing skills across regions,

In May 2020, seven projects were awarded full stage funding from wave 1 of the Strength in Places Fund. As a Cardiff-based company, we are delighted that South Wales’ CS Connected is among them! Led by Cardiff University, the CS Connected SIPF project focuses on strengthening an emerging regional cluster in advanced semiconductor materials and manufacturing, bringing socio-economic benefits to South Wales. The project aims to develop a global advantage in a sovereign, key enabling technology that will allow the UK to increase trade globally in critical sectors such as communications, 5G, autonomous and electric vehicles, and medical devices.

The cluster already hosts 1400 high-value manufacturing jobs in the region and is delivering well above-average contributions to productivity. The project will also introduce a compound semiconductor skills academy, providing significant training that will enhance skills across South Wales. You can find out more about CS Connected and all the other successful projects here.

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£200m available to help innovative companies bounce back

A new £200m Sustainable Innovation Fund will help companies recovering from the impact of COVID-19 keep their cutting-edge projects and ideas alive. This funding, delivered through Innovate UK, forms part of a wider £750m package of grants and loans announced in April to support innovative firms.

The Sustainable Innovation Fund will help power the UK’s economic recovery and develop new sustainable opportunities for businesses in any sector. It will also help the UK to meet its ambitions to cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050.

The funding will support a variety of projects, including the development of ground-breaking medical technologies, as well as new technologies to make homes and offices more energy efficient. The fund is also available to smart sustainability-focused projects aimed at establishing more “climate-positive” behaviours.

Following the launch, the Business Secretary, Alok Sharma said:
"Today I am urging businesses in all parts of the UK to come forward and pitch their state-of-the-art ideas to us, so we can work together to power the UK’s economic recovery."
Two exciting opportunities have now opened as part of the Sustainable Innovation Fund:

Sustainable Innovation Fund: round 1

  • UK-registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £55m to fund new projects focusing on sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19.
  • Competition closes: 29th July 2020

Sustainable Innovation Fund: SBRI phase 1

  • Organisations can apply for a share of up to £10 million to help UK businesses and the public sector recover from COVID-19 in a sustainable manner.
  • Competition closes: 5th August 2020

If you think you may be eligible for one of the above opportunities, you can apply now through Innovate UK. For our help in putting together a competitive proposal, please contact us today.