£125 million cash boost for game-changing UK innovators


Businesses large and small across the UK are poised to receive a £125 million cash boost to turn their innovative ideas into new products and services on the market.

This significant cash injection will cover businesses of any size at various stages of innovation. £100 million will be available as part of the government’s ‘Smart’ grant programme, helping businesses take initial ideas from concept stage to full commercialisation - while a further £25 million is also available through Innovate UK for late-stage research and development projects. The funding boost aims to keep the UK at the forefront of new technologies - a key aim of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy.

Innovative ideas can be submitted from businesses, for independent expert assessment, with the aim of securing investment to propel them to international success - boosting the UK economy along the way.

Previous beneficiaries of government financial support include:

  • 3D printing company Photocentric - which expects to sell over £8 million worth of its products by 2020;
  • Machine learning company Magic Pony Technology, which was sold to Twitter for $150m after impressing them with their algorithms that can understand features of imagery, and;
  • Cobalt Light Systems, whose grant helped the company to develop a prototype for screening liquids to identify explosives at airports. They have been acquired by Agilent – a US analytical laboratory technologies company - for £40m.

Each of these companies benefited from ‘Smart’ grant funding, which helped turn their concepts into marketable products.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “I am extremely proud of the UK’s reputation as one of the best places in the world for budding entrepreneurs to start and grow a business, with one business starting every 80 seconds in 2018.

“Through our modern Industrial Strategy we are backing our homegrown businesses to boost productivity and create jobs, growth and opportunity in every part of the UK. This includes one-to-one mentoring from successful businesses, peer improvement networks and the government-backed British Business Bank awarding over 60,000 Start-Up loans since 2012 - worth half a billion pounds.

“We are investing record amounts into R&D. This new £125m boost will give enterprising businesses a launch-pad for their cutting-edge ideas and enable them to develop the products and services of the future.”

Over the past 12 years, the Government has invested over £2.2 billion in more than 11,000 projects focusing on technological innovation, generating up to £16 billion for the UK economy and creating 70,000 jobs.

The cash available forms part of the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy, which is committed to keeping the UK at the forefront of research and development while boosting people’s earning power. 

Dr Ian Campbell, Executive Chair of Innovate UK, said: “Both our successful grants and loans schemes are popular with businesses because they help great ideas get to market faster.

“Smart grants are an excellent way of supporting innovation in single companies or, generating collaborations between companies, working with our world-class research base. Our Innovation loans suit late-stage-development businesses about to become, or just becoming, revenue earning. Both are awarded to projects that will make a real impact on the UK economy.”

Describing Innovate UK’s support for Magic Pony Technology, Rob Bishop, now Director of Product Infrastructure at Twitter, said: "We were fortunate to gain a development of prototype grant from Innovate UK’s Smart grant scheme in 2015, which provided us with essential funding to help turn our research ideas into a functioning product – ultimately leading to Magic Pony Technology being acquired by Twitter in 2016.”

This boost comes in addition to a new £3m investment accelerator scheme, the Regional Angel Investment Accelerator Pilots, which will encourage Business Angels across the country to channel investment and expertise into pioneering small and medium-sized companies.

Due to the Smart grant scheme’s popularity with businesses, there will be a rolling schedule of competitions throughout the year, with the latest round now open for applications until 24 July. The competition to win an innovation loan opened on 8th July.


About Innovate UK

Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. For more information, visit the UK Research and Innovation website.