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£40m grant funding confirmed for business projects tackling post COVID-19 global impact


£40m grant funding confirmed for business projects tackling post COVID-19 global impact

Innovate UK has today (Wednesday) confirmed that over 800 companies - nearly twice as many winners as any previous Innovate UK competition - will share grant funding of £40 million – double the amount first planned – to develop new projects and services designed to boost economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19.  

Following record-breaking levels of interest from across the UK, those R&D-intensive businesses and technology companies successful in the competition will now drive forward new technological advances in areas including delivery services, food manufacturing, retail and transport, addressing new and unique challenges arising from the COVID-19 impact.

The money is part of the £1.25 billion coronavirus package first announced by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to help UK businesses driving innovation and development.

Very first payments to companies will be made by the end of this week with more to follow from next week onwards.

More than 8,600 companies applied in April to the special fast-track competition for up to £50,000 each.  This number is more than had applied to Innovate UK competitions across the previous 12 months combined.

The competition’s aim was to support the development of ambitious and innovative products and services which will help society or industry during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For example, the need to stay at home and to social distance or self-isolate presents new threats to a wide range of businesses and services. These include firms focused on logistics, food manufacturing, entertainment, financial services, healthcare, hospitality, retail, transport and community support.

Businesses will now be able to start work on the projects in June.  They include:

  • A cutting-edge entertainment platform, allowing performers like bands, theatre productions and comedians to perform on a digital stage streamed directly to global audiences via TV or mobile devices.
  • The next generation of personal protective equipment with viral-stopping capabilities based on nanofibers for face masks to increase their effectiveness and allow them to potentially be re-used – this will ensure key workers like doctors, nurses and carers have access to the latest advances and protecting them against the disease.
  • A social media app that aims to strengthen local communities and allow volunteers to target support to the most vulnerable members in the local neighbourhood.
  • New software to help UK schools connect with their pupils to deliver teacher-led, structured and interactive home learning.
  • Innovative virtual-reality solutions enabling surgeons to remotely train and virtually perform surgery to treat patients, keeping medical studies going and helping them to teach the next generation of surgeons.
  • A new virtual farmers’ market to replace traditional markets closed down as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak and social distancing restrictions, providing a platform for local businesses and farmers to sell produce.

This package comes on top of Innovate UK’s and UK Research and Innovation’s many standard programmes.  While delivered competitively, Innovate UK moved quickly to trial rapid and light-touch processes considering the unique national circumstances.

These included a shorter application form and a simplified approach to due diligence, matching the need for rapid assessment while appropriate to the funding levels involved and still ensuring the necessary rigour.

Overall, the period between competition design and opening to closure and notification of results was shortened from six months to just six weeks.

Innovate UK Executive Chair Dr Ian Campbell, said: “The COVID-19 situation affects not only the nation’s health but also the economy and society. Businesses from all over the UK answered our call rapidly to meet the challenges we face today and in the future through the power of innovation.

“The ideas we have seen can truly make a significant impact on society, improve the lives of individuals, especially those in vulnerable groups and enable innovative businesses to prosper in challenging circumstances.”

These competition awards are part of a wider £750 million package of targeted support being offered by Innovate UK, as announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last month, for the UK’s most R&D intensive small and medium size firms.

The full programme will accelerate up to £200 million of grant and loan payments for its 2,500 existing Innovate UK funding recipients on an opt-in basis and existing

An extra £550 million will also be made available. This will support both existing customers and provide on average £175,000 of support to 1,200 new projects. Existing companies are currently being contacted, with guidance also available on the website (follow link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-coronovirus-business-innovation-support-package).The additional £20 million provided to double today’s grant programme to £40 million is from this extra £550 million.

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