£200m government fund aims to revive innovative projects threatened by coronavirus

The Sustainable Innovation fund will help keep “cutting-edge projects and ideas alive” as we exit the pandemic, according to the government.

The government is hoping to get UK innovators back on track with a £200 million fund dedicated to supporting the country’s research and development (R&D) businesses.

The Sustainable Innovation Fund is the latest in a line of government aid, set up to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus crisis on the country’s economy. It aims to “keep cutting-edge projects and ideas alive”, and is open to businesses and projects that have suffered because of the pandemic.

The funding forms part of a wider £750 million package of grants and loans announced back in April to support innovative firms and is being managed and delivered through Innovate UK. This sits alongside the £500 million Future Fund, an initiative set up to provide match-funding to private investors.

“In any sector”

Like all other areas of the economy, R&D-focused firms have taken a significant hit – the money allocated here aims to revive ideas and secure jobs for businesses that need “urgent financial support”.

It is hoped the support will encourage a more sustainable path out of the crisis, and for this reason funding is open to businesses “in any sector”, according to a statement from the government.

The scope of the fund itself is similarly broad. As stated by Innovate UK, the aim is to fund “a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, regions, technological maturities and research categories”.

While the organisation is open to ideas, several have been suggested by the government which could be of interest to designers and design businesses.

The promotion of “climate positive” behaviours is a particular focus of the fund, and the government gives the examples of apps that help people cut down on food waste and biodegradable packaging as two potential areas of work.

Procurement and grants

The fund, which opens for applications today, has been split into two slightly different avenues. The first is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) which aims to find projects that will help businesses and the public sector recover from the public health crisis “in a sustainable manner”.

This exists as a procurement deal, rather than a grant, and asks applicants to conduct “challenge-based R&D to develop products or services that address a specific unmet public sector need”. In this case, such products or services will focus on creating a more sustainable economy, in line with the government’s Clean Growth Strategy and “net zero ambition”.

Applicants in this first phase will be awarded up to £60,000 to conduct a feasibility study. The second phase of the competition will see successful phase one applicants allocated a share of £70 million.

The other avenue the Sustainable Innovation Fund offers is a grant initiative, in which businesses can apply for up to £175,000 for each funded partner. This has a slightly broader scope in that it isn’t necessarily focused on just bringing businesses out of the crisis.

To apply for funding under the Sustainable Innovation Fund or to find out more, head to the Innovate UK website.

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