Innovation Funding – What’s the opportunity? | Maciej van der Steen

Innovation Funding – What’s the opportunity? | Maciej van der Steen

Innovation is a key driver of growth, both for companies and for the economy. The UK Government recognises this and makes considerable grant funding available to support innovative projects.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, administered by Innovate UK, has committed to invest approximately £4.7bn over four years in R&D activity. The fund aims to address the biggest industrial and societal challenges today. Some examples are:

– Manufacturing and future materials

– Driverless cars

– Prospering from the energy revolution

– Healthy aging

– Transforming construction


There are also other funding programmes, including Innovate UK’s open funding competition, which are aimed at funding cutting edge or disruptive projects in any area of technology. All funding is made available through competitions and as part of the application process, projects must not only show the innovative aspects of the idea but also present a robust project delivery plan. This must be coupled with a strong market opportunity and approach for commercialisation after the project.

While it may look complex to navigate the grants landscape, it can be well worth the effort. Grants can range from tens of thousands to several millions of pounds per project, with the funding rate depending on both company size and the type of activity undertaken. The table below provides an overview of the funding levels typically available:

The table below provides an overview:

Applicant Business Size Feasibility Studies Industrial Research Experimental Development
Micro and Small 70% 70% 45%
Medium 60% 60% 35%
Large 50% 50% 25%


While the grant funding can undoubtedly provide a welcome financial boost to innovate companies, the uptake of this type of funding in the Black Country has been limited. Innovate UK data shows that companies in the BCLEP are behind companies in other areas, both in the number of projects that received funding and in the average grant size.


A comparison with the closest geographical LEPs shows the following trend:

LEP Number of projects funded Total allocated funding Average grant size
Black Country 231 £23M £100k
Greater Birmingham & Solihull 858 £421M £491k
Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire 287 £36M £125k
Coventry & Warwickshire 873 £542M £621k


While the Black Country is relatively small, there is more potential for businesses to attract innovation funding. It is definitely worth exploring – the funding can make a real difference to many businesses.

If you are considering applying for funding, please keep in mind that putting together a strong bid can take a significant amount of time and effort. Even then, a project could be rejected and not receive funding, due to the high levels of competition.

To win, a bid needs to be better than the majority of competing bids! As there are many complexities and nuances involved, it could be worth speaking to an advisor who specialises in helping companies obtain grant funding. These advisors can be particularly helpful in making sure that the true innovations in your project and technological complexities are clearly presented in a way that’s understandable and accessible to evaluators, as well as carve out the economic benefits of your idea from a business point of view. Both are critical elements for an application to be successful.

Some advisors can provide assistance in preparing the bid on a mostly success-fee basis, taking away significant work while limiting a company’s liability in the event the grant application is not successful. If you’re unsure how to get in touch with such advisors, The Black Country Growth Hub can impartially signpost you to an organisation who can provide this service. You can get in touch via email or phone (01902 321 272).


Maciej van der Steen

Senior Manager, Innovation Incentives


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