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A Guide to Getting Funding in Science

A Guide to Getting Funding in Science

A great idea, no matter how simple, needs nurturing and moulding if it’s to capitalise on its potential for innovation. Whether it’s a product, process or service, there’s a wide range of grants and funds that organisations or individuals can apply for, in order to develop their creations.

From research organisations and charities to laboratories and businesses, the resources available continue to allow projects to flourish in ways they wouldn’t be able to without the necessary funding. Here, we’ll present a guide to applying for and receiving funding, covering the kinds of funding that are available, what to do before applying and some tips on how to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Scientist working in a laboratory with two scientists in background
Group of medical science professionals working in a laboratory.

Innovate UK

Innovate UK, as their name suggests, are ‘the UK’s innovation agency’. Part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by grant-in-aid from the UK government, Innovate UK are dedicated to fostering productivity and economic growth through supporting business innovation and research. Since 2007, they have invested around £2.5 billion in businesses across the country, helping 8,500 organisations in the process.

  • Applying for funding from Innovate UK

Whether you’re a start-up, you’ve recently gained micro company status or it’s a large multi-national you work for, you may be able to receive funding of between £25,000 and £10 million through grant funding competitions that help to develop your ideas and ensure they’re a success.

A scientist doing calculations about science funding
calculating finances

If your project involves one of the following, Innovate UK may be able to provide funding for:

  • Testing the feasibility of your idea to ensure it will work
  • Creating a new product, service or process – or improve an existing one – through research and development
  • Working with other businesses or research organisations on collaborative projects. 

When you apply for the funding – specific criteria and eligibility will be outlined in the scope of the competition. Eligibility rules vary for each competition, and they should be thoroughly read to ensure full understanding in order to see if they’re right for your proposal. Depending on which competition you apply through, you may work alone on your project, or form a consortium.

  • Innovate UK initiatives

Open programme

The open programme is a great all-rounder, supporting innovation from any business within any area of the UK economy, so any sector or technology base can apply.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

If you’re looking to increase your knowledge and expertise, then the Knowledge Transfer Partnership allows you and your company to work with an academic organisation, where a highly-qualified graduated will offer additional help and insights.

Futuristic scientific flask

Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research

A pilot programme that seeks to fund research teams in order to accelerate the time it takes to get ideas from the lab and into the commercial sphere.

Biomedical catalyst

If you have a healthcare project and need to test or fund it, the Biomedical Catalyst can be incredibly beneficial. The grant can speed and scale up ideas that can prevent and manage diseases, improve detection and diagnoses, and tailor treatments to the individual in order to improve patient outcomes.

Energy catalyst

This programme offers funding to UK businesses and researchers to develop ideas that help contribute to the need for clean, affordable and secure energy. It funds projects from early-stage through to commercialisation, bringing new energy solutions to market at an increased rate.

UK Research and Innovation

A relatively new body that works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to foster research and innovation. Through individual and collective work, they operate across the country with a combined budget of more than £6 billion.

The body currently has the following funding opportunities available:

  • Global Challenges Research Fund

A £1.5 billion fund announced by the government in late 2015 to support research that addresses the challenges developing countries face.

  • Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

Part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, the long-term plan to raise productivity and earning power in the UK.

  • Strength in Places Fund

A new competitive funding scheme that takes a location-based approach to research and innovation funding in order to support significant regional growth.

What to consider when you apply

When applying for funding, the lead applicant is the lead organisation for the application, and as such they are responsible for the following:

  • Starting an application
  • Adding and removing collaborators to the application
  • Assigning questions to collaborators
  • Answering questions relevant to you
  • Reviewing content entered by collaborators
  • Submitting the application before the deadline

If the project involves a degree of collaboration, then be mindful that collaborators are:

  • Members of each of the consortium partner organisations (if more than one)
  • Members of the lead organisation (for example, financial directors)

As a collaborator, responsibilities include completing project costs and finance details for your organisations, inviting other collaborators from the lead organisation to the application, and answering questions assigned by the lead applicant.

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