General guidance - Innovate UK


Categories of research and development

The competition scope will specify the category of research and development (R&D) activity for that particular competition.

Innovate UK supports the following R&D categories:

  • fundamental research
  • feasibility studies
  • industrial research
  • experimental development

Fundamental research

This means experimental or theoretical work primarily to gain new knowledge of underlying phenomena and visible facts, without any direct practical application or usage. This type of research is usually undertaken by a research organisation.

Feasibility studies

This means analysis and evaluation of a project’s potential, aimed at supporting the process of decision making.

This is achieved by uncovering its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as well as identifying the resources needed and the prospects for success.

Feasibility studies will usually help businesses decide to work either individually or collaboratively with other industrial or research organisations, before conducting a subsequent larger project.

Individual competition scopes will define their own requirements for feasibility studies in terms of project size and length.

Industrial research

This means planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills. This should be for the purpose of product development, processes or services that lead to an improvement in existing products, processes or services.

It can include the creation of component parts to complex systems and may include prototypes in a laboratory or environment with simulated interfaces to existing systems, particularly for generic technology validation.

Experimental development

‘Experimental development’ means acquiring, combining, shaping and using existing scientific, technological, business and other relevant knowledge and skills with the aim of developing new or improved products, processes or services.

This may also include, for example, activities aimed at the conceptual definition, planning and documentation of new products, processes or services.

Experimental development may comprise prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real life operating conditions.

The primary objective is to make further technical improvements on products, processes or services that are not substantially set.

This may include the development of a commercially usable prototype or pilot which is not necessarily the final commercial product and which is too expensive to produce for it to be used only for demonstration and validation purposes.

Experimental development does not include routine or periodic changes made to existing products, production lines, manufacturing processes, services and other operations in progress, even if those changes may represent improvements.

Projects that span more than one category of research

In your application enter the research category that reflects the majority of your work. If your work is going to be evenly split across categories, please email

Last updated: 24 November 2023

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