UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has launched a new emergency rolling grant fund for entrepreneurs, to promote a new wave of business-led innovation and accelerated R&D in direct response to Covid-19. Unusually, the scope for this funding has been left open, with no limit on budget set, and no closing date for applications. Each application will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, meaning £multi-million project proposals can be grant funded, if entrepreneurs can justify their budgets.
Judges are seeking ambitious and innovative projects with high impact potential. Up to 80% grant contributions on total project costs will be available under this new scheme, with the remaining 20% to be found elsewhere.
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The focus of R&D projects must be directly linked to the COVID-19 outbreak, whether health related, social, economic, cultural or environmental. Any UK registered SME can apply for this grant support. Applicants need to be able to start work within 4 weeks of the funding being confirmed, explaining the level of urgency of their project, and why the activity is important now. Entrepreneurs will also have to quantify the potential impact of the project and how it is able to make a significant difference.
- Project length: Up to 18 months
- Closing date: none – apply at any time
- Funding: 80% of the full economic cost (fEC) for Research Council funding. For Innovate UK funding, State Aid rules apply. Please see guidance here.
- Award range: There is no specific budget for this call. UKRI will, in principle, fund research of any scale that can demonstrate it will deliver impact in the project length.
UKRI will support proposals up to 18 months duration which meet at least one of the following:
- new research or innovation with a clear impact pathway that has the potential (within the period of the grant) to deliver a significant contribution to the understanding of, and response to, the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts.
- supports the manufacture and/or wide scale adoption of an intervention with significant potential
- gathers critical data and resources quickly for future research use
UKRI is responsible for a large and growing budget. In 2018 over £6 billion of investment in research and innovation was managed, as part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, the majority of this delivered as public expenditure on R&D. The organisation invest in business-led innovation by The UK Government, which has sought to direct emergency funding for Covid-19 through this new innovation grant fund. It is designed as an additional economic stimulus, consistent with other ongoing R&D funds, provided by bodies including Innovate UK.
The UK’s thriving startup ecosystem has produced multiple breakthrough technology companies in the last 5 years thriving on the back of advanced R&D, including Babylon Health, which has pioneered telemedicine and AI diagnostics in primary healthcare. The UK’s highly regarded startup ecosystem sits alongside an extraordinary academic ecosystem, with top ranking Universities including Oxford, Imperial College, and The University of Edinburgh contributing to both commercial and academic R&D. UK university spin outs have emerged from ground breaking research on graphene, to nuclear fusion reactors, to artificial intelligence. The Founders of Google DeepMind Demis Habis and Shane Legg famously met while studying computational neuroscience as postgraduates at University College London, and now lead the world on machine learning, investing $hundreds-of-millions each year in Artificial Intelligence R&D.
It is hoped that this new grant funding will spur more high growth companies like DeepMind, inviting entrepreneurs to address some of the urgent needs of society, created by coronavirus and the sudden economic shut-down.