Innovation funding for game-changing ideas

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:

Through Innovate UK’s smart grants, UK businesses can access new government innovation funding that will provide support for game-changing ideas from any sector and help turn them towards major commercial successes.

Funding of up to £20 million will be available for the very best game-changing or disruptive ideas. The grants are earmarked for projects that can provide evidence for considerable potential to gain market share, generate economic impact and exports.

Since 2007, Innovate UK has invested £2.5 billion in businesses across the country to get new ideas off the ground. It has helped companies such as SwiftKey, one of the UK’s most successful start-ups, with its predictive texting app installed on more than 350 million devices worldwide.

“We know that new business ideas have the potential to improve and transform people’s lives, industries and the world and they can come from anywhere, at any time,” said Ian Campbell, executive chair of Innovate UK. “Our Smart grant funding is designed for businesses with great innovative ideas, and the capacity and appetite to achieve significant growth.”

Previous winners of grant funding through Innovate UK include:

  • With the help of a £15,000 Innovate UK grant, University of Cambridge graduates Jon Reynolds and Dr Ben Medlock founded SwiftKey in 2008. Its keyboard app has been installed hundreds of millions of times. Now part of Microsoft, Swiftkey has offices in Seoul, San Francisco and London.
  • London-based start-up Fidel developed a platform that makes it easier for consumers to receive rewards for their purchases. Instead of having to carry different loyalty cards or coupons for each store, they can use their normal debit or credit cards and rewards are allocated automatically at the point of sale. They have now secured further capital from Horizons Ventures that is helping them grow and commercialise the service internationally.
  • Peterborough-based 3D printer and resin manufacturer Photocentric began in 2002 with the aim of making the creation of business stamps simpler and cheaper. Since then, the company has evolved into manufacturing 3D printers and patented photopolymer packs for making stamps. It is now the largest clear stamp manufacturer outside China. This year they expect to sell over £2.3 million of 3D printers and photopolymers, rising to over £8m by 2020 – all from an invention in 2014 which was a consequence of an Innovate UK grant.
  • Oxford-based Oxehealth used funding from Innovate UK to support the development of a way to improve the care of patients by combining computer algorithms with optical sensors. This enables staff to monitor activity like getting out of bed or leaving a room, as well as the patient’s vital signs, heart rate and breathing rate in real time and to medical-grade accuracy.


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