Innovation funding surge shaping the future of North East business

By Peter Graham, New Skills Consulting


Peter Graham (left) with BIC Chief Executive Paul McEldon

Businesses across the UK are gearing up to take advantage of a surge in Government innovation investment. The North East BIC and local funding specialist, Peter Graham, have entered into a collaborative partnership to help businesses to secure UK grant funding for innovation projects. Peter Graham talks about what’s in store and what it could mean for businesses in our region.

A revolution in innovation funding is underway, which could have far reaching benefits for businesses.

Late in 2016 the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced an extra £2bn a year of Government funds will be invested in innovation by 2020-21, a 20% increase on current funding. This rise in innovation spending is important because the UK has seen nothing like it for decades, during which time we’ve trailed well behind our international competitors in government R&D investment.

So why now, and what does it mean for North East businesses?
The Industrial Strategy Green Paper, launched in January this year, heralds the arrival of a more interventionist Government approach to boosting economic growth in all parts of the UK. And innovation is front and centre of this, with more funding and support promised for UK businesses to develop the technologies of the future, creating jobs and prosperity along the way.

The Government wants the UK to be a world-leading innovation nation, investing in technologies and sectors where we can take a global lead. To help us get there, two funding routes are being made available.

Where is the new money coming from?
Firstly, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) will invest £1bn in joint projects with businesses, supply chains and universities working together to solve global challenges and unlock the industries of the future. Technologies in focus include healthcare and medicine, battery technology, materials manufacturing, and artificial intelligence.

Meanwhile, through its ‘open programme’, Innovate UK is inviting businesses of all sizes to bid for grants from £10,000 up to £300,000 for ‘disruptive’ innovation projects, developing technologies and products that shake-up existing markets or create completely new ones.

The opportunities are out there now, and look set to accelerate from 2017 onwards. Innovate UK ran an open funding competition in February 2017, with another to follow later this year. And in April this year the first projects supported by the ISCF received their funding, with more bidding rounds announced in June.

What does it mean for me?
Because this new money comes through national challenge funds, North East businesses must be ready to bid in direct competition with firms across the UK, from Gateshead to Glasgow, and Grimsby to Guildford. In many cases, it will mean groups of businesses collaborating to develop projects and win funding. Achieving success in this competitive environment requires strong innovation projects backed by equally strong funding bids.

To help the region capitalise on these crucial funding opportunities, the North East BIC is launching a brand new service to help businesses, research institutes, and universities to develop this winning combination of stand-out innovation projects and compelling grant funding bids.

As part of this November’s VentureFest North East, the BIC will be running a free workshop on how to secure UK grant funding for your innovation project, with essential tips for creating a winning bid. Register for this event here 

In the meantime, if you need advice on grant funding opportunities for your innovation project contact the Innovation Team on 0191 516 6035 or email

Additional information:

Innovation competitions 

Knowledge Transfer Network

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