Last October, I wrote a blog to introduce our innovation loans. We then travelled around the UK to hold briefing events, before formally launching our £50m pilot programme at Innovate 2017. Our first innovation loans competition, for infrastructure systems first of a kind projects opened at the same time and closed for applications in January.
Now our second competition, for materials and manufacturing readiness projects, is open for applications and our team is getting ready to travel around the UK once more to brief SMEs.
How will innovation loans help and who are they for?
Innovation loans aim to offer affordable, patient, flexible – and yes, interest bearing and repayable – funding for later-stage R&D projects with a clear route to commercial success. We will offer loans to growth-oriented SMEs through competitions to make sure that they are completely focused on innovation and growth.
We will also have a strong credit focus to make sure that we offer loans only where they are suitable and where there is a real need for public support.
New £10m manufacturing and materials innovation loans competition
Our second competition aims to provide loans which will help SMEs increase their manufacturing readiness. This applies to innovations in manufacturing systems, technologies or processes, and/or materials development, properties, integration or reuse.
We are looking for proposals for projects that focus on the scale-up of recent or ongoing manufacturing process innovation and/or materials development activities. We want to enable UK based companies to progress innovative manufacturing or materials developments to commercial readiness.
By commercial readiness we mean:
- the capability to produce prototype products or systems at a commercially viable rate or scale
- evidence that a business is financeable and has significant market potential
- the ability of a business to market and sell its products, processes or services
Projects should focus on a late-stage manufacturing or materials innovation rather than be at the product level. They may include (but are not restricted to):
- creation of new or improved manufacturing facilities, equipment and systems
- development of software
- development of new business models
- materials testing
It is open to all manufacturing sectors – and even though I’m not a technologist, I know that means it is quite broad in scope.
To see full information about this competition, go to: https://apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/116/overview.
Briefing events around the UK
We are holding a series of briefing events for the new competition across the UK in March. These events are aimed at senior decision-makers (at the CEO / CFO / CTO level) in innovative SMEs.
At the events we will explain the rationale for innovation loans and where they sit in the landscape of innovation support, outline the key features and obligations of the loans and explain how they will be delivered and operated.
These events will also go right into the detail of how to make a good application and provide us with a clear and compelling case for why your project is highly innovative and why your business is suitable to take on a loan from Innovate UK Loans Limited.
Where and when?
Further briefing events will be held in:
- Manufacturing Technology Centre, Ansty - 5 March
- Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Rotherham - 8 March
- National Biologics Manufacturing Centre, Darlington - 9 March
- Strathclyde Technology & Innovation Centre - 14 March
- Sci-Tech, Daresbury - 15 March
- The Engine Shed, Bristol - 16 March
- NIACE Centre, Belfast - 22 March
Innovation loans at other events
In addition to these briefing events, there will be presentations about innovation loans at several other events from Innovate UK and the Knowledge Transfer Network in the coming weeks:
- Innovate UK in the East of England, Martlesham - 27 February
- Materials Research Exchange, London - 12/13 March
- Innovation day with Magna, London - 21 March
- Innovation South Showcase, Farnborough - 27 March
How to book your place at one of the events
Reserve your place for one of these events, through the Knowledge Transfer Network website from which you will be able to click through to the individual event registration page.
Infrastructure Systems innovation loans competition progress
It has been very interesting going through the process or our first pilot competition that closed in January. We were pleased with the level of applications that we received, but slightly concerned that there were fewer than we expected from businesses in the Midlands and the North of England.
The independent innovation assessment process revealed some strong projects that were closely aligned with the ‘first of a kind’ scope of the competition across the themes of smart infrastructure, urban living, connected transport and energy supply and systems.
Our initial credit review highlighted some applications from businesses that were far more start up than scale up and who we do not believe are suited to take on debt finance.
We are now progressing to further credit analysis with innovative and suitable applicants, where the detailed work starts.
We are still on track to offer loans from early April that will help some fascinating businesses to scale and grow through innovation.
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