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A whistle-stop tour of our delivery plan

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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

Delivery plan 201617 financial spend

Our programme for the year is based on four sector groups, plus an ‘open’ approach:

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.

With this approach, everybody will know exactly what’s coming and when – as published in our delivery plan and kept up-to-date on our website.

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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  1. Comment by Ejaz Qureshi posted on

    Great move to simplify funding calls........particularly welcomed by all of our partners.

    To help with R&D Budgetary planning for all our public and business sector partners, and to improve the quality of projects proposed, it would be good if IUK could publish its calls for this 2016-17 delivery plan as soon as possible and soon after give an indication of calls in 2017-18, 2018-19.

  2. Comment by Mike Biddle posted on

    Thank you Ejaz.

    We agree it’s important to give as much advance visibility as possible and we are aiming to publish the competition scope up to three months before the competition opens. This will take a little bit of time for us to achieve - so we might not get there until the second half of the year but it is our intention.

    In terms of future visibility – our new strategy will be published soon which will show where we are heading over the next four years and specific detail about 2017-18 and 2018-19 will be part of the delivery plans we publish in those years.

    This year was the earliest we have published our delivery plan and we’re working to make that trend continue and give as much notice as possible.

  3. Comment by Chris Wilkinson posted on

    Its a shame that the SMART scheme is no more. It's 6 times a year freqency and open nature made it very popular with SMEs who often didnt naturally fit into the more sector specific grant calls. Is the twice a year Open Programme (£28m compared to approx £50m+ a year from SMART) to be seen as it replacement and when will the application guidelines for Round 1 be published?

    • Replies to Chris Wilkinson>

      Comment by Mike Biddle posted on

      Hi Chris,

      Innovative ideas that would previously have been submitted to Smart, can now apply to the relevant sector competition or the open competition - whichever is most suitable. Specific Smart competitions are no longer available as we found that having a separate stream was too restrictive. With the new simplified approach, companies including SMEs can now apply for funding to develop their innovation and not have to worry about understanding the precise details of the right scheme for you.