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The Sustainable Innovation Fund: Round 3 (temporary framework)


UK-registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £10million for new projects focusing on sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19.

Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £10million 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 micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME). Proposals can either be from a single business or a collaboration.

This competition is round three of three.

  • Round 1: temporary framework (closed 29 July 2020)
  • Round 2: de Minimis (closed 2 September 2020)
  • Round 3: temporary framework (this competition)

There is no minimum or maximum total project size. Each organisation working alone or in a collaboration can claim grant up to a maximum of £175,000.

Open Date:


Close Date:


COVID-19 has affected R&D across all sectors, and the 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, including the sudden shortage or availability of finance, and how your project can help solve them.

In addition, your proposal must consider its impact on climate change and/or environmental sustainability.

Innovate UK would also like you to address where necessary equality, diversity and inclusion in relation to your project, the partner organisations 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

State aid

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. Micro and small companies are exempt from this test unless they:

  • Are in insolvency proceedings
  • Have received rescue aid that has not been repaid


  • Are subject to a restructuring plan under state aid rules

Unless you are exempt as a micro or small company, you must complete a state aid declaration in question 1 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 euros in total. Any aid provided under de minimis is in addition to this allowance. All applicants must provide a simple declaration to this effect.

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 euro limit. If you are unsure if any previous funding fell under the Temporary Framework, please contact the funding body that issued you with your award.

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 and livestock rearing.

Primary producers of agricultural, fishery and aquaculture, as defined by Regulation No 1308/2013 and 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.

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

There is no minimum or maximum limit on your total project costs.

Each funded partner can claim up to 80% of their eligible project costs, up to a maximum of £175,000. This amount cannot exceed their cumulative aid total of 800,000 euros if they have received other funding as part of the COVID-19 Temporary Framework.

You must sign and return your grant offer letter by 14 December 2020, and be ready to start by 1 January 2021. Projects can last up to three 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 micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) if the lead is not one
  • 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

If you are a collaborative project, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding through the Innovation Funding Service Each partner organisation must be invited by the lead to collaborate on this project.

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 and must be selected through a participant’s normal procurement process. Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK. If an overseas subcontractor is selected, a case must be made as to why no UK-based subcontractor can be used, including a detailed rationale, evidence of UK companies that have been approached and reasons why they were unable to do so. A cheaper cost is not deemed as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

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 £10million 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 organisation 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:

There are specific terms and conditions 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

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.