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Innovation loans: April 2021 open competition

Project Size:
£250,000 - £1.6 million


Innovate UK is offering up to £20 million in loans to SMEs. Loans are for highly innovative late stage projects with the best game changing and disruptive ideas or concepts. There should be a clear route to commercialisation and economic impact.


Your project must aim to develop new products, processes or services which are significantly ahead of anything similar in the field. You can also propose an innovative use of existing products, processes or services.


Applications can come from any area of technology and be applied to any part of the economy.


You must be able to show that you:

  • can cover interest payments
  • will be able to repay the loan on time
  • need public funding


You could get a loan of up to 100% of your eligible project costs.



Loans of between £250,000 and £1.6 million are available to fund your project’s eligible costs. This is based on your project proposal and our judgement of the suitability and affordability of a loan for your business. The Innovate UK Loans Ltd credit committee will decide the final terms, amount and length of the loan offer.


Projects can last up to 4 years, including both the R&D and commercialisation phases. Projects are expected to start by September 2021.


To take on an innovation loan for a project you must:

  • be a UK registered SME
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • give evidence that your business is suitable to take on a loan


Your organisation can only submit one application per competition round. 


The aim of this competition is to help businesses overcome barriers to their innovations becoming a successful, commercial reality. The loans are intended to support significant, sustainable business growth which results in considerable economic impact.


Innovate UK are looking for businesses who can demonstrate their projects have the best potential to deliver future growth.


Your idea must lead to innovative products, processes or services that are significantly ahead of others in the field.


Your proposal must demonstrate:

  • a clear game-changing and disruptive innovative idea
  • a robust and deliverable business plan that addresses (and documents) market potential and needs
  • a team, business arrangement or working structure with the necessary skills and experience to run and complete the project successfully and on time
  • awareness of all the main risks the project and business will face, with realistic plans to manage, mitigate and minimise the impact of each of these
  • sound, practical financial plans and timelines that represent good value for money
  • a clear, evidence-based plan to deliver significant economic impact, return on investment (ROI) and growth through commercialisation, as soon as possible after project completion.


Your project can include prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation (in environments that represent real life operating conditions).


Projects can last up to 4 years, of which up to 2 years can focus on late-stage research and development (R&D). Up to 2 more years can be spent establishing a clear route to commercial success.


We will require loan repayments over a further period of up to 5 years. However, the overall term of the loan must not exceed 7 years.

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