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Future Economy Investor Partnerships SME round 1

General & Misc
Project Size:
between £50,000 - £2 million

Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, has selected a pool of investor partners. These investor partners have demonstrated that they have the credibility, capability, capacity and appetite to invest in innovative, technology-led businesses that align with our programmes. These programmes will focus on the future economy as described in our plan for action.

The Future Economy investor partnership programme brings together:

  • Innovate UK’s expertise in identifying innovation and using grant funding to change the risk profile of businesses
  • investor partners’ aligned funding and expertise in identifying opportunities and teams that can best use extra investment finance

This approach aims to provide you with support for research and development and access to the capital investment you need to develop and commercialise your innovations.

Innovate UK provides support for your investment readiness and for engaging with suitable investors via Innovate UK Edge and Innovate UK KTN. In the first instance you should contact Innovate UK Edge for support in understanding your readiness for investment and also to look at your wider strategy for growth.

You should also contact Innovate UK KTN to establish if there are specific programmes for connecting businesses in your sector to relevant investors. Support and connections to sector specific investors may also be provided by the relevant catapult centre.

You will need to establish a relationship and a level of investment traction with one of our approved investor partners before you apply for funding. A full list of selected investor partners is provided at Innovate UK Investor Partners – UKRI and Innovate UK KTN investor partnerships websites.

The investor partner must have confirmed with you that you are in a position to apply for grant funding as you will be asked to identify them in the application.

To be successful, your project must be independently assessed by Innovate UK as fundable and receive investment directly, led or catalysed by the investor partner.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. The competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.


Your project

The eligibility criteria will depend on your research category.

For feasibility studies projects:

  • your total project costs must be between £50,000 and £300,000
  • the project duration must be between 6 and 12 months

For industrial research projects:

  • your total project costs must be between £100,000 and £1 million
  • the project duration must be between 6 and 24 months

For experimental development projects:

  • your total project costs must be between £250,000 and £2 million
  • the project duration must be between 12 and 24 months

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian and Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian and Belarusian source.

If you have not provided information on the investor partner who is leading on your investment or we are unable to confirm the investment position with that investor partner, then your application will not be eligible. Your application will then not be sent for assessment.

Your organisation

To apply your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered micro, small or medium sized business (SME)
  • carry out its project work in or from the UK
  • intend to exploit the results in or from the UK
  • have discussed and agreed your proposal with your investor partner before submitting your application

More information on the different types of organisation can be found in our Funding rules.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

Number of applications

You can only submit one application into this round of the competition.

The aim of this competition is to provide you with support for research and development and access to the capital investment you need to develop and commercialise your innovations.

Your proposal must have a clear route to market, a clear link to innovation and evidence that you can create a team to deliver your proposal.

You must be:

  • registered in the UK as an SME by the time the award is contracted
  • able to raise the aligned finance needed to draw down the award, through the issue of new shares or convertible debt

You must also demonstrate that if your project is funded, it will:

  • have significant market impact
  • be scalable
  • be attractive to other equity investors

Broader themes

We are looking to support projects that focus on the future economy areas included in the Innovate UK plan for action. The broad theme areas are:

  • net zero
  • health and wellbeing
  • next generation digital technologies and technology families

Innovation and ideas can come from anyone and anywhere. We want to see investments unlocked for the diverse and extraordinary talent in the UK. We are encouraging diverse applicants and inclusive project applications, pushing beyond the status quo.

We encourage innovation involving communities that are typically under-represented, including:

  • from regions that have historically accessed lower levels of investment (outside London, Oxford and Cambridge)
  • ethnic minority groups
  • women and other marginalised genders
  • disabled people
  • people with non-traditional education backgrounds

To support this, we also have a targeted theme on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).

Specific themes

The investor partnership programme will be focused on specific themes for the future economy areas that include:

Net Zero

  • capital intensive technologies
  • power – particularly offshore wind, civil nuclear, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and whole systems integration
  • heating and retrofit
  • mobility
  • resource efficiency for materials and manufacturing
  • critical circular materials
  • battery technologies for transport and energy storage (Faraday Battery Challenge)

Health and Wellbeing

  • innovative solutions to health and healthcare challenges (Biomedical Catalyst)
  • advancing life-changing Cancer Therapeutics, focussed on immunotherapies and paediatric oncology
  • the application of extended reality for digital mental health, including immersive content that could be delivered as a digital mental health therapeutic in formal healthcare settings (Mindset)
  • controlled environment agriculture and alternative proteins

Next generation digital technologies

  • projects within the creative industries which are underpinned by innovative digital technology as well as sustainable innovations, such as circular fashion (Creative Catalyst)
  • adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies in targeted industries (Bridge AI)

Knows No Limit (equality, diversity and inclusion)

  • innovations from diverse founders or senior decision-makers that are from under-represented groups and are role models
  • innovations outside of the future economy theme areas, including those that support under-served communities and groups

These programmes are described in more detail in the UKRI investor partnerships and Innovate UK KTN investor partnerships websites.

If your project is not focused on one of the specific themes above then it may be supported if it is in the future economy areas of net zero, health and wellbeing and digital and technologies as set out in the Innovate UK plan for action.

In scope and the specific themes questions, you must explain which theme your project most closely relates and why. If it does not relate to one of the specific themes, but is within the broader future economy scope, then indicate to which broader theme it relates to and why.

Your application will be considered out of scope if you do not answer this clearly.

Portfolio approach

We want to fund a variety of projects across different technologies and markets, with a particular focus on future economy areas set out in the Innovate UK plan for action. We call this a portfolio approach. We will also take into account the impact of the grant in attracting investment and the likelihood of the investment completing within a reasonable time.

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