One year on, Innovate UK has delivered a £750 million investment at pace with agility to support thousands of companies to survive and thrive through COVID-19.
The UK, and the world, has been living with the pandemic for over a year. COVID-19 is not only a health emergency but something that has impacted society and the economy.
The UK was put under lockdown on 23 March 2020. Less than two weeks later, Innovate UK colleagues pulled together to rapidly launch its first COVID-related competition.
By 20 April 2020, the government had entrusted Innovate UK with delivering £750 million of investment and support for UK businesses driving innovation and development in response to COVID-19.
To mark the first anniversary of COVID-related funding reaching UK businesses, Innovate UK has commissioned a series of online videos. The videos celebrate the ingenuity and resilience of innovative businesses it has funded right across the UK.
- Radical Fibres will create the next generation of personal protective equipment, using materials that capture viruses
- The National Theatre is developing a cutting-edge entertainment platform, giving performers a digital stage for global audiences
- Volunteero has developed a social media app to connect local communities and allow volunteers to target support to their most vulnerable neighbours
- i3d Robotics is building a virtual-reality training and teaching platform that will enable medical students to upskill remotely and perform simulation surgeries
- Elchies Estates is setting up virtual farmers’ markets to replace traditional markets that have closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak, providing a platform for local businesses and farmers to sell their produce
- With support from our FartStart programme, Fernhay responded with an updated electric assist, emission free eQuad now in production and sales with customers like UPS.
Watch the playlist of videos on YouTube.
Boosting economic recovery
As well as grants and loans for existing Innovate UK customers, £40 million was made available to fast-track new projects and services specifically designed to boost economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19.
The Innovate UK-managed ‘Business-led innovation in response to global disruption’ competition attracted around a record 20,000 applications, with over 800 businesses awarded funding.
In addition, on 29 June 2020, Innovate UK launched the Sustainable Innovation Fund to:
- help power economic recovery by developing new sustainable opportunities for businesses
- help the UK meet its ambitions to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.
In November 2020, it was announced that nearly 1,200 companies across the UK would share £134 million of phase 1 of this fund.
Feedback from businesses is still being collected and analysed, yet early data suggest that, of the 4,340 of companies supported through the COVID-response programmes to-date:
- 78% said Innovate UK support helped them safeguard staff
- 81% were able to develop new products and services
- 88% secured new customers or entered new markets
- 10% penetrated overseas markets for the first time
- 74% said that their innovations would not have been possible (or at least not as timely) without Innovate UK’s support.
As Britain builds back better, Innovate UK continues to support businesses and unite industry, government, and academia together to unleash innovation and drive growth in every region and nation in the UK.
Simon Edmonds, deputy executive chair and chief business officer, Innovate UK said:
The pandemic has done many things. What it hasn’t done is stop innovation. We have been amazed at the brilliant ideas that have sprung from this crisis. Innovate UK has been there to help businesses through the pandemic and help businesses help people through the pandemic too. I am immensely proud of the resilience, dedication, and achievements of every member of Innovate UK.
Collaboration is at the heart of innovation and through our collective efforts we have enabled businesses to radically develop new products and services that are truly transforming lives and livelihoods and contributing to economic growth.
In a year we have doubled the number of projects we fund.
Top image: Credit: gremlin / Getty Images