The investor partnerships model is aimed at highly innovative micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who:
- are carrying out research and development (R&D) projects
- also seek aligned equity funding to deliver their technology or research
The model not only allows Innovate UK to directly fund companies who have a R&D project, but also encourages companies to seek equity investment so that they are not just funding their project, but also accessing capital from equity investment to grow their business.
Innovate UK has selected a ‘pool’ of investor partners who have demonstrated that they have the credibility, capability, capacity and appetite to invest in innovative, technology-led businesses in areas that align with our objectives in programme areas.
The investor partners will work with Innovate UK to consider innovative businesses that apply for grant funding alongside their investment. The investor partners include venture capital funds, corporate investors, business angel groups and social impact investors, coming from across the UK, Europe, and the US.
View the full list of investor partners.
The three-year programme was launched in 2022 with the scope focused on the ‘Future Economy’ described in Innovate UK’s plan for action. This focuses on the following themes:
- net zero
- health and wellbeing
- next generation digital technologies
- technology families
The investor partnership programme will be focused on specific themes for the future economy areas that include:
Capital intensive technologies
Solutions where investors often find it hard to invest, and where we see a gap in investment, including:
- capital intensive technologies
- business model innovations
- total investment between £2 million to £20 million in size
- focused on the scale-up, rather than start-up, stage of development
Critical circular materials
Stimulate growth in a circular critical materials supply chain for high performance magnets. Collaborative innovation projects will address opportunities across the whole value chain and help increase supply chain resilience.
Initial focus on rare earth elements (REE) or new and alternative materials for permanent magnets. REEs are defined as the group of 17 chemical elements in the periodic table, the 15 Lanthanides plus Scandium and Yttrium.
It can cover one, or more of the following areas:
- upstream processing, including: sustainable routes to rare earth metal oxides, valorisation of radioactivity
- midstream and downstream processing, including: sustainable routes from metal alloys to permanent magnets
- circularity, including: recycling of rare earth containing end of life products, solutions that enable materials provenance, ESG solutions
- alternative materials for magnets, to reduce or substitute usage of rare earth elements
Power with a focus on:
- offshore wind
- civil nuclear
- carbon capture and storage
- whole systems integration
Heating and retrofit (no longer in scope as funding has been fully committed)
Solutions to get buildings off gas for heating space and water, including:
- solutions to get buildings off gas for heating space and water
- building fabric
- decarbonised heating technology
- data driven approaches to better delivery of retrofit
- excludes hydrogen
Battery technologies for transport and energy storage (Faraday Battery Challenge. No longer in scope as funding has been fully committed)
- extraction and processing of raw materials
- cell materials and components
- cell, module, pack and BMS
- end of life and recycling
- physical and digital technologies that support the design, development, optimisation and deployment of batteries
- system integration
Mobility (no longer in scope as funding has been fully committed)
Clean propulsion technologies that advance transport towards zero emissions, including:
- electric propulsion including fuel cells
- PEMD (power electronics machines and drives) for powertrains
- energy management software and controls
- range extenders and on vehicle or vessel energy generation
- on vehicle or vessel fuel storage
- hydrogen internal combustion engines
- alternative clean propulsion such as wind propulsion
Digital technologies for improved transport efficiency, optimisation, cost savings and safety, including:
- transport autonomy and connectivity
- route and asset (fleet and infrastructure) analysis and optimisation
- vehicle and infrastructure condition monitoring and management
- service alignment and interoperability
- traveller personalisation and information provision
Resource efficiency for materials and manufacturing (no longer in scope as funding has been fully committed)
Projects to support UK materials and manufacturing organisations to become significantly more resource efficient. Simultaneous demonstrations of how UK materials and manufacturing will become more resilient or technologically advanced are encouraged. Your proposal must improve resource efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.
You must focus on two or more of these five core areas:
- materials for the future economy: new material applications for cutting-edge products that reduce emissions, energy consumption and costs
- smart design: effective design methods, design for resource efficiency, and design for maximum through-life value
- resilient supply chains: sustainable feedstocks, supply chain visibility, and co-location of waste and emission streams
- world-class production: flexible production capacity, minimal material waste, high-quality products, high productivity, and full adaptivity
- longer in use and reuse: minimising materials use and waste, practising complete traceability, and using new remanufacturing services
Health and wellbeing
Biomedical Catalyst is the Innovate UK flagship funding mechanism for supporting UK health and life sciences SMEs. It has three key objectives:
- deliver growth to the UK health and life sciences sectors
- deliver innovative life sciences products and services more quickly and more effectively into healthcare
- provide support to commercially led R&D in a seamless, effective, and efficient manner. Biomedical Catalyst supports the development of innovative solutions to health and healthcare challenges
It supports innovation that improves global healthcare through funding areas such as:
- disease prevention and proactive management of health and chronic conditions
- earlier and better detection and diagnosis of disease, leading to better patient outcomes
- tailored treatments that either change the underlying disease or offer potential cures
- transforming the delivery of healthcare
- the development of digital health technologies
Biomedical Catalyst is technology agnostics and supports range of technology areas in any human health or a healthcare sector or disciplines including:
- advanced therapies (gene and cell therapies)
- diagnostic, medical technology and devices
- digital health
- independent living and wellbeing
- precision medicine
- preclinical technologies and drug target discovery
- therapeutic and medicine development
This initiative aims to unleash business-led innovation from the UK’s vibrant research base in immuno-oncology, treatments that guide the patient’s own immune system to target their cancer cells.
In addition, it will support innovation projects that address unmet medical needs in treating childhood cancers, a leading cause of death between the ages of zero to 14 in the UK.
Mental health problems of some kind will be experienced by one in four of us each year in the UK, while only one in eight adults with a mental health problem are currently getting any kind of treatment. The NHS and other formal providers of mental healthcare are under increasing pressure to implement new and innovative treatment models and solutions that can enable more efficient and scalable service provision.
The Mindset Programme is a £20 million initiative, running to 2026, which aims to catalyse growth in the nascent but growing extended reality for mental healthcare sector. The programme includes an existing R&D grant investment project portfolio of some £3 million, comprised of business-led feasibility and industrial research projects that are creating immersive digital therapies for improved mental health. Some of our Mindset organisations already have established sales platform within the NHS. Many are working with collaborative industry partners to establish sustainable delivery pathways.
The programme aims to further grow the sector through follow-on rounds of R&D grant funding in immersive digital therapeutic solutions for treatment of mental health conditions, planned for later in 2023 and in 2024. These investments will be supported by a bespoke innovation support package which will encourage opportunity, sharing of sector expertise and marketplace longevity.
Next generation digital technologies
Pre-commercial innovation projects from high potential companies within the Creative Industries that are underpinned by innovative digital technologies and methodologies. These include AdTech, FashTech, MusicTech, PubTech and the wider CreaTech definition. As well as digital innovations we also interested in sustainability in the creative sectors, such as circular fashion.
This competition is open to the whole of the UK; however, we are particularly interested in applications from outside the greater south-east. This funding would complement the innovation journey of creative businesses we have previously supported. Therefore, we welcome applications from companies that are part of Innovate UK’s Creative Catalyst cohort, as well as those who have been involved with the UK Research and Innovation Creative Clusters Programme.
Projects underpinned by artificial intelligence and machine learning which: boost business productivity in four target industries; boost business productivity in internal business processes; or accelerate the adoption of trusted and responsible AI technologies by reducing bottlenecks during development and deployment of such technologies (BridgeAI)
Equality, diversity and inclusion
The aim of this is to support innovation projects that empower diverse and under-represented innovators with high growth potential businesses to thrive. There is wealth of evidence that is accumulating that highlights the disparities for underrepresented founders, who are being excluded from the opportunities of equity investment at a very early stage of business development. This represents a significant untapped opportunity for investment in the UK.
Research from Extend Ventures shows that all-ethnic teams received an average of 1.7% of the venture capital investments made at seed, early and late stage between a 10-year period, with a total of 0.02% being invested in Black female entrepreneurs. The Rose review shows a £250 billion economic return to the UK if women started and scaled businesses at the same rate as men.
Projects must fund and support a diverse portfolio of innovations:
- from diverse innovators and teams that are:
- from underrepresented groups
- relatable role models for their community
- able to volunteer at least five days towards role model for the duration of their funding
Projects must identify clearly evidenced pressing societal, environmental or economic challenges in a variety of innovation areas.