Funding competition Business-led innovation in response to global disruption (de minimis)

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £20 million to respond to new and urgent needs in UK and global communities during and following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The competition is now closed.

Competition sections


Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £20 million in innovation projects.

The aim of this competition is to support UK businesses to focus on emerging or increasing needs of society and industries during and following the Covid-19 pandemic. By fast-tracking innovation, the UK will be better placed to maintain employment levels, a competitive position in global markets and make the UK more resilient to similar disruption.

Your application must demonstrate both realistic and significant benefits for society (including communities, families and individuals) or an industry that has been severely impacted and/or permanently disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Your proposal must focus on a clear need and the proposed innovation to address it. You must have the ability to deliver the project during the working restrictions of Covid-19 pandemic.

You can claim 100% of your project costs up to the maximum of £50,000. These will be paid in advance of the project start date.

We intend to monitor and review projects during implementation with a view to providing follow-on funding and support for those with the most potential for impact.

The competition closes at midday 12pm UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £25,000 and £50,000.

Who can apply

De minimis

The funding will be made as a de minimis grant. All applicants applying for a de minimis award must complete a de minimis declaration and provide it to Innovate UK as part of the application. This declares any and all de minimis awards, from any source of public funding, during the current and previous 2 fiscal years. Any applications that exceed the de minimis limit will be considered ineligible.

We will monitor and review projects during implementation with a view to providing follow on funding and support where projects have the potential to provide real impact.

Whilst the intent of this grant is to focus on innovation in the face of global disruption, the de minimis aid itself cannot be used for direct export-related activities (except attendance at trade fairs) or aid favouring domestic goods over imports; this does not prohibit you from exporting your innovation post-project completion.

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £25,000 and £50,000
  • be able to start by 1st June 2020 at the latest
  • be no longer than 6 months in duration

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to deliver the proposed outcomes for UK domestic or global benefit

Sole traders are not eligible to apply for this competition.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition. We would expect subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs.

Multiple applications

Any one business can apply for this competition with up to 2 applications. However, we will only award grant funding to up to 1 project per business.

Previous applications


You cannot use a resubmission to apply for this competition. Any application to this competition identified as a submission to a previous competition (i.e. a resubmission) will be deemed ineligible.

Failure to exploit

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole organisation and were awarded funding by Innovate UK or UK Research and Innovation, but did not make a substantial effort to exploit the innovation/outputs, we will award no more funding to you, in this or any other competition. Our decision on this will be final. We will:

  • assess your efforts in the previous competition against your exploitation plan for that project
  • review the monitoring officers’ reports and any other relevant sources for evidence
  • document our decision, which will be made by 3 team members, and communicate it to you in writing

Previous projects

If you or any organisation in your consortium failed to submit an Independent Accountant’s Report (IAR) on a previous project, we will not award funding to you in this or any other competition until we have received the documents.


We have allocated up to £20 million to fund innovation projects in this competition. Each organisation can apply for up to £50,000 within de minimis limits.

You can claim 100% of your project costs up to the maximum of £50,000. These will be paid in advance of the project start date.

De minimis

To minimise distortion of competition, the European Commission sets limits on how much assistance can be given without its prior approval to organisations operating in a competitive market. There is a ceiling of €200,000 for all de minimis aid provided to any one organisation over a 3 fiscal year period.

You need to declare any de minimis aid awarded to any public funding body that requests it. You must also keep all documentation associated with the award for 10 years from the date the award is granted.

Your proposal

Your application must demonstrate:

  • a clearly innovative and ambitious idea, which would realistically and significantly meet a societal need that has emerged or increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic or the need of an industry that has been severely impacted and/or permanently disrupted
  • that you have the capacity and capability to deliver the project successfully and on time during the working restrictions of Covid-19
  • the ability to start your project no later than June 2020
  • value for money

Specific themes

We are interested in solutions, which tackle the new or emerging societal or industry needs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, including but not exclusively:

  • community support services
  • couriers and delivery (rural and/or city based)
  • education and culture
  • entertainment (live entertainment, music, etc.)
  • financial services
  • food manufacture and processing
  • healthcare
  • hospitality
  • personal protection equipment
  • remote working
  • retail
  • social care
  • sport and recreation
  • transport
  • wellbeing

We are also interested in projects which are both in scope and aligned to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) challenges.

We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets and applications.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund proposals that:

  • do not meet the competition eligibility or scope
  • cannot be undertaken within the working restrictions of Covid-19
  • do not evidence the potential for their proposed innovation to lead to significant and positive economic and/or societal impact, or value for money that will be achieved
  • are resubmissions of previous Innovate UK applications
  • are focused on aquaculture and fisheries, road freight transport or the production of agricultural products (due to de minimis restrictions)
  • would directly duplicate other UK Government activities already underway regarding the current Covid-19 healthcare situation, such as, ventilators and vaccines
  • do not address in their response how any potentially negative outcomes (e.g. on the environment) would be considered
3 April 2020
Competition opens
3 April 2020
Applicant briefing
17 April 2020 12:00pm
Competition closes
1 May 2020
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details
  2. Application questions
  3. Finances

1. Project details

This section provides background for the assessors and is not scored.

Project summary

Briefly, describe your project, and be clear about the need you will address and what makes the approach you propose innovative.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you would be happy to see published. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project. Do not include any commercially sensitive information.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.


Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment. We will not give you feedback on why due to the rapid timescale of the assessment process. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers. Please be aware we will not be able to give you feedback due to the rapid timescale of the assessment process and grant distribution.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Question 1. (not scored)

Have you received funding from Innovate UK before as a project partner?Please answer yes or no. If yes, please give us brief details including any project number and title.

Question 2. De Minimis (4 words not scored)

Please download the de minimis declaration template. You must complete this declaring any other de minimis aid you have received during the current and previous 2 fiscal years. You must also keep all documentation relating to this and other de minimis awards for a period of 10 years and be prepared to release it to any public funding body that requests it.

Type ‘De Minimis form attached’ as your answer

You must submit a copy of your de minimis declaration as an appendix. It must be in an A4 PDF format. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 3. The Idea

What is the problem you wish to solve, who is it a problem for, and what is innovative about the approach or technology?

We will score this question out of 25

You should include in your answer a description of:

  • the specific need you propose to address and who would benefit from it in the immediate and longer term
  • the specific innovation you propose to develop and how this is different and better than alternative solutions
  • any previous technical and business planning work you may have conducted in relation to the proposed project, and your freedom to operate
  • the size of the market for the innovation, and your route to market, (such as partnerships and business models)

Question 4. Deliverables and added value

What will be the specific outputs and outcomes of your project, how will society benefit, and why do you need public funding to help you succeed?

We will score this question out of 25

You should include in your answer a description of:

  • the outputs of the project in terms of specific deliverables, where will you have moved your project from and to – use technology/system/manufacturing readiness levels or similar if useful to illustrate the developmental stages of the innovation to be achieved
  • Expected impacts on society, the economy and the environment, what potential negative impacts have you considered if any
  • the new or enhanced products/processes/services that would be ready in the short, medium and long term (with specific timescales)
  • why public funding is necessary for this project, for example, why you cannot fund it yourself or how public funding allows you to undertake this project differently
  • how this project represents value for money for your business and the wider economy

Question 5. Business planning and resources

Who is the project team, what is your capability to deliver a solution, and what other support might you need?

We will score this question out of 25

You should include in your answer a description of:

  • the nature of your current business explaining how this project will add value to it
  • what unique combination of resources you can access that means you will be able to develop, deploy and scale your solution in this current challenging climate (e.g. team, capacity, expertise, partners) – describe the main people involved in the project including relevant track records, and other critical internal and external resources
  • your capability to deliver this project in the required timeframe given your existing business activities and the Covid-19 constraints
  • how you will deliver outcomes and impact beyond the life of the project
  • wider support you may need during or after the project that you do not currently have access to e.g. domestic and international partnerships, private finance, export advice

Question 6. Workplan and costs

What you will do with the grant funding and, how will you manage the project effectively, and manage risks appropriately?

We will score this question out of 25

You should include in your answer a description of:

  • what will the funding be spent on, explaining the project work plan including technical approaches, main work packages, specific milestones, and project management.
  • the main risks, Covid-19 pandemic working constraints, interdependencies, impact and mitigation strategy. You should pay particular attention to how you will mitigate project delivery risks with your immediate and extended teams (e.g. supply chain, end users), do they have the right infrastructure in place
  • the roles of individuals/organisations
  • a breakdown of costs aligned with tasks. Where possible describe how best value for money has been decided (for example quotation comparison)

3. Finances

You must complete your own project costs, organisation details and funding details in the application. For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

If you need more information about how to apply email or call 0300 321 4357 between 9am and 5:30pm, Monday to Friday.

Enterprise Europe Network

If you are a UK SME and successful in receiving an award, you will be contacted by your local Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) Innovation Advisor. They act on behalf of Innovate UK to discuss the growth opportunities for your business. They offer bespoke business support services to help you maximise your project and business potential. This service forms part of your Innovate UK offer under our commitment to help UK SMEs grow and scale. Please engage positively with your EEN contact so that, working together, you can determine the most appropriate form of growth support for your business.

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