We were really pleased to publish our delivery plan for 2016/17 last week and I thought it might be helpful to highlight some of the changes we’re making to respond to the consistent feedback we’ve been receiving over the past few years.
The strongest suggestion was to make it easier to understand what grant funding opportunities are available and when. We’ve been thinking about this very hard and Kevin Baughan blogged about simplifying our approach to funding innovation as part of Innovate UK's New Year’s resolutions.
We completely recognise the need to remove complexity so it is easier to work with us.
I’d like to talk about how we’ll make our programmes easier to understand and navigate and take you on a whistle-stop-guided-tour – so here goes…
Thinking about sectors
Our plan is to build on the momentum we’ve established by focussing on much clearer sector groups, which are easier for businesses, investors and the government (local, devolved and central) to understand and work with.
We will expand from our focus on projects and opportunities to also concentrate on the growth of the investment-worthy businesses that are created as a result. Each of our sector groups will provide a single, integrated offering of all the current Innovate UK activities and the services we deliver for other public sector funding bodies or EU/international activities, including:
- Catapults and innovation centres
- Competitive funding
- Connectivity to all other resources available through our Innovation Networks
Our programme for the year is based on four sector groups, plus an ‘open’ approach:
- Emerging and Enabling Technologies
- Health and Life Sciences
- Infrastructure Systems
- Manufacturing and Materials
- Open funding programme
Simplifying funding competitions
This year we will be running our competitions on a more predictable and regular “drum-beat”. There will be two competitions every year in each of our four sector groups and in our open programme – in essence, one every six months or so with a break for Summer and Christmas.
Each sector group competition will cover the full range of topics covered by the group, with some areas highlighted as particular areas of interest for a given competition. We will be seeking proposals for any type of project we support, from short, single company early-stage evaluations, to large multi-partner demonstrator projects – of course all funding will need to comply with State Aid rules.
We recognise that really exciting ideas also come from areas outside our sector groups; which is why we also have two open competitions a year. These will accept proposals on any topic to ensure every business from every sector of the economy has a route to apply for funding. As with the sector competitions, a proposal for any type of project can be submitted - from quick, early-stage studies, to large-scale collaborations.
We will also run more innovation programmes and competitions in partnership with other government bodies and organisations - so there will be targeted competitions in specific areas, but the majority of the Innovate UK grant funding activity will be through this new simplified approach.
So if you are an entrepreneur or are involved in an innovative business, I’d like to think it’s another big year for innovation both in terms of how you will take your innovative idea to market and also how we deliver our new approach to help you do this. We will run this new type of competition for the first time in May 2016 with the manufacturing and materials competition, followed by the first open competition in June 2016.
I can’t wait to see the innovative ideas that you have.
Follow me on Twitter: @Mike_Biddle
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