Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Innovate UK Contracts for Innovation

Innovate UK Contracts for Innovation (formerly known as the Small Business Research Initiative or SBRI) helps public sector organisations to solve complex challenges by running a competitive funding opportunity, to develop and adopt new solutions and technologies.

Partners involved:
Innovate UK

The scope and what we're doing

With the support of Innovate UK, public sector organisations looking to address a specific challenge that requires new research and development can use Contracts for Innovation to run a competitive funding opportunity.

Through Contracts for Innovation, successful organisations are awarded a contract to develop a new product or service with input from end users, which is then available for use by the challenge owner.

How it works

The Contracts for Innovation funding mechanism is highly flexible. It allows public sector organisations, as the challenge owner, the ability to shape competitions to fully meet their needs.

Through Contracts for Innovation competitions, public sector organisations can support:

  • early-stage feasibility studies
  • prototype development
  • late-stage demonstrator projects

Competitions are open to all types and sizes of organisation, including businesses of any size, academic and research organisations and not-for-profits and charities. There is no minimum or maximum size of contract award.

Potential contract recipients can be from anywhere in the UK, EU or the European Economic Area to align with current public sector procurement regulations.

Contracts for Innovation can be run in as many phases as required. This enables challenge owners to down select the most promising solutions at each phase for further research and development (R&D) investment where desired. Each phase must involve at least two funded suppliers and fund at least 50% R&D activity.

IP rights after the project

To facilitate adoption of the solutions developed through Contracts for Innovation, the challenge owner retains free usage rights to foreground intellectual property (IP) developed during the funded project. This ensures that no matter the size of award Contracts for Innovation funding is never considered a subsidy under the Subsidy Control Act 2022.

For successful organisations, Contracts for Innovation provide:

  • a route to market for new ideas and technologies
  • a chance to work with the public sector as an early adopter of cutting-edge innovation
  • a way to create and retain intellectual property with the aim of commercialising solutions, helping to achieve business growth and success

Support from Innovate UK

We offer a range of support options including:

  • capacity-building within public sector organisations
  • enabling public sector organisations to run their own competitions
  • fully managing competitions
  • supporting promotion of the funding opportunity to applicants

The level of support can be tailored to the challenge owner.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

With Innovate UK support, to date over 100 public sector organisations have invested more than £1.5 billion through Contracts for Innovation. Public sector organisations who use Contracts for Innovation include the following (as well as many other organisations):

  • 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


A 2022 independent review shows how SBRI (now Contracts for Innovation) has helped some of the most exciting and innovative projects that have made the public sector more efficient and effective.

The evaluation report produced from the review shows evidence that SBRI Healthcare programmes will generate cumulative cost savings of £1.2 billion to £1.8 billion for the healthcare sector.

Read the evaluation report.

Impact case study: automated tree sowing in Cumbria

Cumbria Tree Growers adapted technology from the vegetable growing industry to produce a fully automated process of sowing tree seedlings and provide a more efficient growing system. Initial results suggest increased germination rates of tree seed, increased productivity rates, increased quality of product, and lower production costs.

With these developments, TreeTapes could improve forestry sector profitability and growth as the new technology is utilised, and contribute to national and international carbon reduction targets.

Who to contact

Ask a question about this area of investment

Contact the Innovate UK Contracts for Innovation team to discuss how we can support you.


Please note that the mailbox only monitors queries for public sector organisations looking to address their specific challenges. If you are an interested innovator you can find more information on Contracts for Innovation.

To stay informed on Contract for Innovation funding opportunities and latest news:

Last updated: 27 June 2024

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