General guidance - Innovate UK


Funding opportunities

To find out more about the competitions currently available you can visit either the Innovation Funding Service (IFS) or the funding finder on the UKRI website. Through these links, you can review the competitions available and decide which ones may be right for you.

You can sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest information on our competitions straight to your inbox or register for email alerts to get page updates from Innovate UK.

The government also offers other opportunities for businesses to get finance and support.

Innovate UK reserves the rights to host competitions on a needs basis and will adjust each competition criteria and scope accordingly. We may occasionally run closed competitions that are for invited applicants only. These are run based on the challenge requirement or need.

Innovate UK manages various types of funding opportunities which are listed below.

UKRI Challenge Fund

Through this fund, the government is bringing world-class research and businesses together to take on the major industrial and societal challenges of our time.

The challenges are aligned with the four grand challenges (GOV.UK) named in the industrial strategy.

New challenges and funding opportunities are announced intermittently.

Get the latest on the fund and the various challenge areas on GOV.UK.

Innovate UK Smart grants

Innovate UK Smart grants support the best game-changing, highly disruptive and commercially viable ideas that have the potential to positively impact the UK’s economy and growth.

Funding is available for projects at various stages, from feasibility studies through to developing and testing a prototype. Proposals can come from any area of technology and be applicable to any part of the economy.

Projects can either develop a brand new product, service, or process, or take an existing technology or service above and beyond what is currently available.

Projects must:

  • include a small medium enterprise (SME)
  • be set for rapid commercialisation
  • carry out all works in the UK

Find out more about the programme and funding opportunities.

Knowledge transfer partnerships

You can get funding to bring in new knowledge and expertise through a knowledge transfer partnership (KTP). Taking part will allow you to work with an academic organisation and a highly qualified graduate to innovate within your business.

You can apply if you are a UK registered business or not-for-profit organisation.

Each KTP is a three-way partnership between:

  • a UK registered business of any size or a not for profit organisation (including social enterprises and charities)
  • a knowledge base, this could be a university, college, research and technology organisation or catapult in the UK
  • a suitably qualified graduate, with the capability to lead a strategic business project

Find out more about KTPs.

Innovate UK Contracts for Innovation

Through Contracts for Innovation, you can apply for funded procurement contracts with government organisations to develop their innovative ideas.

The public sector organisations who have successfully utilised the Contracts for Innovation mechanism include:

  • Department of Energy, Security and Net Zero
  • Department of Health and Social Care
  • Department for Transport
  • Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • devolved administrations
  • NHS
  • Defence and Security Accelerator
  • UK Space Agency
  • UK Atomic Energy Authority
  • Network Rail

Find out more about Contracts for Innovation.

Innovation loans

Innovation loans aim to provide affordable, flexible and patient capital to SMEs. They will support late-stage research and development projects with a clear route to commercialisation and business growth through innovation.

To receive a loan you need to apply for, and be successful in, a loan competition.

Your application must show that you have a high quality innovative project, your business is suitable to take on a loan and that you need public sector support.

Read our introduction to innovation loans to find out if they are right for you and how to apply.

Investor partnership

Investor partnership programmes offer a package of public sector grant funding alongside private equity investment to support ambitious businesses with innovative early-stage research and development projects.

The aligned investment means that the business is better capitalised and with supportive investors provides a clearer route to commercialisation.

Search the IFS for other funding competitions.

Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe)

The ICURe pilot programme funds research teams to accelerate the time it takes to get ideas out of the laboratory and to commercialisation.

If your organisation is a start-up that has emerged through the programme, you could get funding to help you establish your business and support future growth.

Find out more about the ICURe programme.

Read an evaluation of the pilot programme so far.

Biomedical Catalyst

The Biomedical Catalyst funds businesses and researchers to test and develop innovative health and care projects.

It supports the acceleration and scale up of ideas that, prevent and manage diseases, offer better detection and diagnosis, and create tailored treatments to improve patient outcomes.

The programme is run by Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council.

Find out more about the Biomedical Catalyst and funding opportunities.

Energy Catalyst

This programme offers funding to businesses and researchers to develop ideas for tackling the global need for clean, affordable and secure energy.

It funds projects from early stage through to commercialisation to quickly develop and bring innovative new energy solutions to market.

The programme is run by Innovate UK with co-funding from partners including the:

  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • Department for International Development
  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Find out more about the Energy Catalyst and the funding opportunities.

International programmes

We run a number of initiatives that can help you get access to international opportunities and partners. This includes Horizon Europe, EUREKA Eurostars and the Newton Fund. These are open to a range of organisation sizes and types.

Find out more about global opportunities with Innovate UK.

Get specific advice on Horizon Europe and how to apply.

Search directly for current European research and innovation funding opportunities on the European Commission funding and tender opportunities portal.

Search for ‘international’ on the IFS.

Managed programmes

Innovate UK also manages funding competitions on behalf of other organisations. Details and how to apply are published as new competitions are announced.

Search the IFS for other funding competitions.

Last updated: 12 July 2024

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