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The Sustainable Innovation Fund: Round 1 (temporary framework)


UK-registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £55million for new projects focusing on sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19.

Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £55million to fund single and collaborative research and development projects as part of the Sustainable Innovation Fund.

The aim of this competition is to help all sectors of the UK rebuild after the effects of COVID-19.

All projects must be led by a business and include at least one SME. Proposals can either be from a single business or a collaboration.

This competition is round 1 of a potential three.

  • Round 1 – Temporary framework (this competition)
  • Round 2 – De Minimis (opening July 2020)
  • Round 3 – Temporary Framework (opening September 2020)

Open Date:


Close Date:


COVID-19 has affected R&D across all sectors, and Innovate UK’s aim of this competition is to help all sectors of the UK recover, grow and create new opportunities from the aftermath of the global health pandemic.

Your proposal must show evidence of key challenges as a direct consequence of COVID-19, and how your project can help solve them.

In addition, Innovate UK expect your proposal to ensure that any recovery, growth and opportunity is clean and sustainable.

Innovate UK expect all projects to consider COVID-19 recovery in a way that has a positive impact on climate change and/or environmental sustainability, and you should explain how this will be achieved, maintained and measured.

Innovate UK would also like you to address where necessary, equality, diversity and inclusion in relation to your project, your organisation(s) and your approach to innovation.

Innovate UK are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, regions, technological maturities and research categories, including the themes listed below.

Specific themes

Your project can also focus on

  • Decarbonisation, circular economy and/or biodiversity
  • Climate change and environmental sustainability
  • Geographic or regionally-targeted innovation
  • Innovation that is aimed at commercial or residential users
  • Innovations that work across more than one sector
  • Follow-on international opportunities that help the UK lead the world

These grants are a form of state aid under the COVID-19 Temporary Framework for the UK.

Aid may be granted to organisations that were not in difficulty (within the meaning of Article 2(18) of the General Block Exemption Regulation) on 31 December 2019, but that faced difficulties or entered into difficulty thereafter as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

You must complete a state aid declaration in question 2 to confirm that your organisation was not an undertaking in difficulty on 31 December 2019.

The cumulative aid that any organisation may receive under the Temporary Framework must not exceed €800,000 in total. Any aid provided under de minimis is in addition to this allowance.

If you have been awarded a continuity grant or any other funding under the Temporary Framework, then any money awarded through this competition funding will count towards your €800,000 limit.

If you wish to carry out R&D activity in the agricultural sector you cannot use your grant to pay primary producers of agricultural products. Some examples of activities of primary producers are: farming, fishing, livestock rearing.

Primary producers of agricultural, fishery and aquaculture, as defined by Regulation No 1379/2013 of the EU, can participate as a project partner in this competition but cannot claim more than £75,000 per organisation. A failure to adhere to this limit will result in the entire proposal being deemed ineligible for funding.

In the event that an applicant fails to meet the criteria set out in the COVID-19 Temporary Framework, there is a round 2 of this competition opening in July under de minimis that applicants could choose to apply to.

It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid. Innovate UK strongly recommend that you seek independent legal advice before applying into, and accepting the terms of, this funding award.

Your project

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £100,000 and £500,000.

Each funded partner can claim a maximum of £175,000 against their eligible project costs. This amount cannot exceed their cumulative aid total of €800,000 if they have received other funding as part of the Covid-19 Temporary Framework.

Projects must be ready to start by 1 October 2020. They can last between three and nine months.

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

  • Be a UK-registered business of any size
  • Involve at least one SME
  • Carry out its project work in the UK
  • Be able to carry out project work under the current restrictions of COVID-19
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

Academic institutions and research and technology organisations (RTOs) cannot lead or work alone.

Sole traders are not eligible to apply for this competition.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead organisation your organisation must:

  • Be a UK-registered business, academic institution, charity, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • Carry out its project work in the UK
  • Be able to carry out project work under the current restrictions of COVID-19
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • Be invited to take part by the lead applicant
  • Enter your costs in the Innovation Funding Service

The lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding if applying as a collaboration.

The research organisations in your consortium undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition. Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK/European Economic Area (EEA). Innovate UK expect subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. Subcontractor costs should not exceed 30% of your total project costs.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.

All projects awarded funding must upload evidence for each expenditure with every claim made. These might include invoices, timesheets, receipts or spreadsheets for capital usage. This is part of Innovate UK’s obligations under the Managing Public Money government handbook in relation to assurance, financial management and control.

Multiple applications

Any one business can lead on one application and collaborate in a further two applications.

If a business is not leading an application, they can collaborate in up to three applications.

Academic institutions and RTOs can collaborate on any number of applications.

Innovate UK have allocated up to £55million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

If your organisation’s work on the project is mostly commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.

Under the COVID-19 Temporary Framework your business could get up to 80% funding for your eligible project costs, up to a maximum of £175,000 per organisation, regardless of size.

Research organisations working in collaboration undertaking non-economic activity will be funded as follows:

  • Universities: 80% of full economic costs
  • All other research organisations: 100% of eligible costs

Innovate UK will provide up to £50,000 to each grant-claiming organisation as an advance on grant payment 10 working days after the return of a fully-signed Grant Offer Letter (GOL). This will be taken off the first and any subsequent claims.

This competition provides state aid funding under the COVID-19 Temporary Framework for the UK. It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Please refer to the framework, and subsequent amendments to the framework dated 3 April 2020 and 8 May 2020. There are specific T&Cs under the Temporary Framework, including potential clawback, so it is important that you review these and satisfy yourself that this is the best route for your business.

Innovate UK are not funding projects that:

  • Are not related to an impact on a business due to Covid-19 disruption
  • Have a negative impact on the environment and/or society
  • Have a detrimental effect on equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Would duplicate other UK Government activities or EU-funded initiatives already under way such as the testing or manufacture of vaccines and ventilators
  • Do not involve any research and development or innovation, for example, the creation of information-only websites
  • Are feasibility studies

Cresco Innovation works with companies to develop and implement innovation strategies. We help client companies identify opportunities to develop new products and services, and then create a package of support to ensure that the idea is turned into a commercial reality.

Our services include securing grants (as a team we have raised around £40million over three years), business planning, IP advice, access to finance and funders, project management and IP commercialisation support.

We regularly act as the interface with the funding bodies and help clients ensure that their projects are properly managed to ensure the best outcome for all.

Call to find out more

If you’d like to know more about this competition, please give us a call on 01509 261182 and one of our team will be delighted to help you access this funding opportunity for your business.