A surge in Government innovation investment is under way. Laura White, Communications Manager at the Innovation SuperNetwork, finds out how regional businesses can take advantage of this by talking to local funding specialist Peter Graham who’s working with the North East BIC to ensure the area makes the most of the money.
Q. Tell us about this new wave of investment in innovation and how did it come about?
Late in 2016 the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced an extra £2bn a year of Government funds will be invested in innovation by 2020-21, a 20% increase on current funding. This rise in innovation spending is important because the UK has seen nothing like it for decades, during which time we’ve trailed well behind our international competitors in government R&D investment. It is causing much excitement as it represents a revolution in innovation funding, which could have far reaching benefits for businesses.
Q. So why now, and what does it mean for North East businesses?
The Industrial Strategy Green Paper, launched in January this year, heralds the arrival of a more interventionist Government approach to boosting economic growth in all parts of the UK. And innovation is front and centre of this, with more funding and support promised for UK businesses to develop the technologies of the future, creating jobs and prosperity along the way. The Government wants the UK to be a world-leading innovation nation, investing in technologies and sectors where we can take a global lead. To help us get there, two funding routes are being made available.
Q. Where is the new money coming from?
Firstly, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) will invest £1bn in joint projects with businesses, supply chains and universities working together to solve global challenges and unlock the industries of the future. Technologies in focus include healthcare and medicine, battery technology, materials manufacturing, and artificial intelligence.
Meanwhile, through its ‘open programme’, Innovate UK is inviting businesses of all sizes to bid for grants from £10,000 up to £300,000 for ‘disruptive’ innovation projects, developing technologies and products that shake-up existing markets or create completely new ones.
The opportunities are out there now, and look set to accelerate from 2017 onwards. Innovate UK ran an open funding competition in February 2017, with another open until August 9. And in April this year the first projects supported by the ISCF received their funding, with more bidding rounds announced in June.
Q. What does it mean for North East businesses?
Because this new money comes through national challenge funds, North East businesses must be ready to bid in direct competition with firms across the UK, from Gateshead to Glasgow, and Grimsby to Guildford. In many cases, it will mean groups of businesses collaborating to develop projects and win funding. Achieving success in this competitive environment requires strong innovation projects backed by equally strong funding bids.
Q. What support is there to access the funding?
To help the region capitalise on these crucial funding opportunities, the North East BIC is launching a brand new service to help businesses, research institutes, and universities to develop this winning combination of stand-out innovation projects and compelling grant funding bids.
As part of this November’s VentureFest North East, the BIC will be running a free workshop on how to secure UK grant funding for your innovation project, with essential tips for creating a winning bid. Register for this event here.
About the expert
Peter Graham is a local funding specialist who has entered into a collaborative partnership with the North East BIC to help businesses to secure UK grant funding for innovation projects.
About the Innovation SuperNetwork
The Innovation SuperNetwork is a unique network supporting innovation and business growth across the North East of England. Its programme is developed with around 50 partner organisations and is supported by Innovate UK, the North East LEP, Northumbrian Water Group and the North East BIC, with part funding from the European Regional Development Fund. The Innovation SuperNetwork delivers inspiring events including VentureFest North East and FinanceCamp, helps businesses explore new opportunities through projects such as Innovation Challenge and supports collaboration by creating links between sectors and bodies of expertise.