Sources of funding for innovation, and innovators, in the wake of COVID-19 and beyond

Sourcing funding for innovation is currently at the forefront of many businesses’ agenda in response to the current global pandemic. While it is an uncertain time for many, there are still plenty of funding opportunities available for innovation-led businesses. In this article we highlight some of the funding opportunities available to small businesses, larger businesses and universities.

Funding in response to the COVID-19 outbreak has been implemented to support and help businesses continue to prosper through these challenging economic times. Opportunities have also started to emerge to secure funding for COVID-19 related innovations in order to promote a quick response from innovative businesses and researchers to mitigate the impacts of the outbreak.

British Business Bank

British Business Bank is a government-owned, business development bank dedicated to making finance markets work better for smaller businesses. They have recently introduced ‘The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme’ and the ‘Future Fund’ in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. There are four schemes available, summarised below, all of which aim to provide funding to UK businesses that have experienced financial disruption as a result of the pandemic:

  • Future Fund – deadline, end of September 2020: an investo- led loan of between GBP 250k to GBP 5m in government support, which must be matched by third party investors
  • Bounce Back Loan Scheme: loans for small, micro and other businesses requiring loans of between GBP 2k to GBP 50k
  • Corona Virus Business Interruption Loan Scheme: a loan of up to GBP 5m for smaller businesses with a turnover of less than GBP 45m
  • Corona Virus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme: a loan of up to GBP 200m for larger businesses with a turnover of more than GBP 45m

More information, including eligibility requirements.

UK Research and Innovation

UK Research and Innovation works with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government, to encourage and support research for innovation. Funding is available from UK Research and Innovation for short-term innovative projects in any sector, that have potential to contribute to the understanding of and response to the current COVID-19 situation. There is no specific budget for this funding and it is available for research of any scale.

More information.

Innovate UK

Innovate UK are part of UK Research and Innovation, working to support businesses and research collaborations to accelerate innovation. Innovate UK has put together a new product range as part of their support package in response to COVID-19, focused on sustaining existing customers and introducing new competitions to support new innovations. These include:

  • Managing cashflow and project slippage for existing recipients: automatic ‘no cost’ extensions up to three months; reducing the project retention rate from 15 percent to ten percent; introducing monthly payments
  • Additional funding to ensure existing projects can continue to complete for existing recipients: innovation continuity loans up to GBP 1.6m for businesses facing greater funding challenges – deadline 31December 2020
  • Funding new projects for new innovations: new sector specific competitions which can be found on the Innovate UK website

Innovate UK is also maintaining its support channels, working to boost business innovation via sourcing funding, connections and advice:

  • Enterprise Europe Network: provides support for businesses to grow on an international scale
  • Knowledge Transfer Network: links new ideas and opportunities from all sectors with funding
  • Knowledge Transfer Partnership: links businesses with academic or research organisations/graduates

Other funding available to innovative businesses

There are still the usual sources of funding available to innovative businesses which can also be beneficial during the current disruption:

Appleyard Lees Growth Fund

Appleyard Lees is committed to launching innovations and companies at early grown and development stages. Grants from the Appleyard Lees Growth Fund are available to innovative start-ups with a sound strategic approach to help towards the cost of protecting their IP. The funding is awarded on a case-by-case basis and each application is assessed by partners at the firm. For more information please contact us.

More information relative to start-up businesses specifically is discussed in The Greenshoots Podcast by Appleyard Lees, Episode 4: Intellectual property for start-ups in uncertain times.

Private investors

Private investors will still be looking to invest in research lead businesses. Current low interest rates may be attractive for investors to fund innovative businesses developing sound technology with real-world impacts. Furthermore, the Enterprise Investment Scheme provides tax breaks for investment in high-risk start-ups that are heavily dependent on research and development (R&D), which is a further bonus for investors.

More information.

Research and development tax reliefs

Businesses working on innovative science and technological projects may qualify for R&D tax relief. The R&D relief is available for both SMEs and larger businesses.

More information.

Regional government growth funds

There are many regional growth funds available from the government with funding opportunities available to businesses focused on research and innovation.

More information.

Charity funding

Many large charities also provide funding schemes for research and development related to their sector. For example, Cancer Research has many Funding opportunities focused on innovation and research in in cancer related fields and immunology. This may be a good opportunity for Universities and SMEs to secure support ad funding for their R&D.

More information.

Space Agencies

The UK and European Space Agencies are also offering funding for space-lead innovation. The UK Space Agency is currently running a GBP 152m International Partnership Program for space-based innovations to deliver a ‘satellite-enabled data devices for public policy’.

More information.

The European Space Agency run funding opportunities all year round to support businesses from any sector who intend to use space technologies to develop new commercial services. 

More information.

Funding for individuals affected by COVID-19

We would also like to highlight the following benevolent funds that are available to support their members who have been impacted by COVID-19.

Chemist’s Community Fund (CCF)

The CCF is celebrating 100 years of supporting RSC members around the world.  The recent Chemistry World Article highlights this much-needed support, as well as assistance the Fund has provided to members over the past century. 

More information.

IOP Benevolent Fund

The Institute of Physics (IOP) Benevolent Fund provides financial help to members of the IOP and the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine at unexpected times of need.  The Fund may be able to help those who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.  

More information.

The IET Benevolent Fund (Foothold)

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) offers a range of support for its members.  The IET Benevolent Fund (Foothold) is available for those impacted by challenging times which, alongside financial help, offers a free legal helpline, programmes, and advice.

More information.

The Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)

The Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has a range of grants, services and support available.

More information.

Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)

Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) offers support through a range of one-off gifts, grants and loans to help those experiencing hardship.

More information.

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