Getting ideas off the ground is rarely easy. Alongside determination, having the idea in the first place and dare we say a bit of luck too, there’s also the funding aspect. Whether it is someone tinkering with a new fastener concept in their shed, or a small business that doesn’t have the resource to develop a prototype rivet tool, funding can often be the one major stumbling block for many an innovation, which are then left squandered on the work bench.
So, how do you get hold of some cash to see if your idea has legs? Forget Dragon’s Den – there’s cash available for innovative manufacturing projects without having to get up in front of those fearsome investors. While an appearance on the BBC programme famously ended up well for Jordan Daykin when Deborah Meaden signed up to support the fledgling GripIt Fixings, innovators will be no doubt pleased to hear they could be in line for a share of a £15 million fund without having to go on the telly and risking humiliation first.
The cash in question is coming from Innovate UK, a public body that reports into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The organisation is staffed by people from the business world and since 2007 has committed a considerable £1.8 billion to innovation, matched by a similar amount in partner and business funding, split across over 7,600 organisations.
For Innovate UK, the theory behind pledging this cash is to enhance UK competitiveness, growth and even improve national productivity. In practice, it’s an opportunity for businesses to ‘fasttrack’ ideas and take them to commercial success using government money.
This time, Innovate UK is looking for innovative R&D projects, namely business-led ideas or concepts that can be drawn from any technology, engineering or industrial area.
Innovate UK has so far got behind everything from intelligent textiles – designed to reduce the weight burden of soldiers – to conductive paint for interactive electronics and alternative insulation materials for homes.
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So before you dust off that prototype you’ve had in storage, you’ll need to produce a feasibility study and potentially a proof of market. Only projects that are underway need apply – they’ll be looking for industrial research and experimental development as part of your application. Innovate UK expects projects to last from six to 36 months and range in size from total eligible project costs of £25,000 up to £1 million. The competition is open to all UK companies, to small and medium-sized enterprises and large companies, working individually or collaboratively.
Innovate UK said: “Projects should demonstrate disruptive, cutting-edge innovations and businesses should demonstrate ambition and potential for growth.” That last one shouldn’t be a problem, we suspect.
If you are planning on throwing your innovation hat in the ring, you’ll need to register before noon on 31 August 2016 and then get your entire application uploaded by 7 September 2016. Even if you do miss out on a share of that cash and you still don’t fancy chancing your hand on Dragons’ Den, keep your eye on the Innovate UK site for further opportunities.