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Women in Innovation Awards 2020/21


Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, is offering 10 Women in Innovation Awards to female entrepreneurs across the UK. The winners will receive a £50,000 grant and a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and business support.

The aim of this competition is to find women with exciting, innovative ideas and ambitious plans that will inspire others. The awards are for female founders, co-founders or senior decision makers working in businesses that have been operating for at least one year.

Applicants must be confident, with the support of an award, that they can make a significant contribution to a pressing societal, environmental and/or economic challenge through their innovative project.

The competition is split into two phases. In phase 1, the written application will be assessed by independent experts. In phase 2, the shortlisted applicants will be interviewed by a panel of experts.

Each award will provide £50,000 of funding. Projects must start by 1 April 2021 and will last for one year.

Open Date:


Close Date:


The aim of this competition is to fund and support a diverse portfolio of Women in Innovation Award winners:

  • From regions across the UK
  • Who are solving a range of pressing societal, environmental and economic challenges
  • In a variety of innovation areas

Your proposal must identify clearly evidenced pressing societal, environmental and/or economic challenge(s), and how your project and innovation can help solve them.

Applications can come from any area of innovation (where innovation is defined as the commercially successful exploitation of ideas) and be applied to any part of the economy, such as but not exclusively:

  • The arts, design and media
  • Creative industries
  • Science or engineering

While Innovate UK welcome projects that overlap with the grand challenge areas, this is not a requirement, as they are also keen to support projects in other areas.

Innovate UK plan to offer 10 awards.

Innovate UK want to support women who are at a critical stage with their business, where an award will enable them to take an important step forward. The funding should help them make a real difference to innovation in the UK including in and beyond their sector or innovation area.

You should be someone who will be an inspiration to others.

Innovate UK are looking for women who clearly explain how they will benefit from the full package of funding and support on offer and who can describe how this will add value to them and their business.

Innovate UK are particularly encouraging applications from women who:

  • Have the potential, capability, experience and personal drive to become leaders in business innovation
  • Want to be a role model for others, including in your region, sector and to young people
  • Have a clear vision for their business
  • Are looking to develop a game changing novel idea or business innovation
  • Know what they are hoping to achieve from the award and how to measure success

De minimis

The funding will be made as a de minimis award. All applicants for a de minimis award must complete and provide to Innovate UK a de minimis declaration. This declares any and all de minimis awards (from any source of public funding) during the current and previous two fiscal (tax) years. Total grant must not exceed 200,000 euros for any one organisation in line with the above de minimis regulations.

Agriculture, fisheries and road transport sectors

Innovate UK provides research, development and innovation funding opportunities within the agriculture and fisheries sectors through other forms of aid. However, we will not fund the following through de minimis:

  • Aid subsidising any primary production within fishery and aquaculture sectors
  • Aid subsidising any primary production of agricultural products
  • Aid partially or wholly subsidising any primary producers involved in the marketing and processing of agricultural products (for instance, a farm producing and marketing meat)

De minimis aid cannot be used for costs associated with:

  • Export-related activities towards third countries or member states, namely aid directly linked to the quantities exported, to the establishment and operation of a distribution network or to other current expenditure linked to the export activity
  • Activities that favour domestic goods over imports
  • Activities related to purchasing of road freight transport. For any other activity which involves hire or reward in the road freight transport sector, aid is limited to 100,000 euros over 3 fiscal years

Your project

Your project must:

  • Start on 1 April 2021
  • End on 31 March 2022
  • Last 12 months

Lead organisation

To be eligible for an award you must:

  • Be a female founder, co-founder or senior decision maker within a UK registered micro or SME business which has been operating for at least 12 months by the competition closing date
  • Carry out your project work in the UK
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • Be able to receive funding under de minimis state aid regulations
  • Be legally and contractually able to use the funding
  • Be available to attend an online interview panel during the week beginning 7 December 2020
  • Attend 2 bootcamps over one-and-a-half days during the week beginning 18 April 2021 and in November 2021
  • Be fully committed to work as a role model for up to five days over the duration of the award

Applications from UK-based social enterprises operating economically will be eligible if they meet all other criteria.

Find out which definition your organisation falls into.

You can only make one application for yourself. More than one woman working within the same organisation can apply. The awards are for individuals, but this does not prevent you from working with others.


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.

Innovate UK have allocated up to £500,000 for 10 awards at £50,000 each. Innovate UK will also provide a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and business support.

The funding will be paid in three increments:

  • 50% (£25,000) upfront (April 2021)
  • 40% (£20,000) at the mid-point (October 2021)
  • 10% (£5,000) at the end of your project on receipt of a completed statement of expenditure

In addition to the grant funding, all award holders will receive a package of support tailored to their needs.

The expert advice available includes, but is not limited to:

  • Funding and finance options and how to access these, including introductions to investors and training on pitching
  • Media and communications, such as branding
  • Intellectual property
  • Developing new business models
  • Evaluating market opportunities
  • Finding new partners
  • Growth and scale up
  • Developing international collaborations and accessing global markets
  • Business planning strategy

Access to relevant world-leading facilities and equipment will be also be provided where this is appropriate.

The package of support will be delivered by the:

You will also be introduced to business mentors and Women in Innovation ambassadors within the Innovate UK network as part of your award.

Role model work

Award holders will be required to work as a role model for at least five days over the one-year duration of the award. This is likely to generate interest in their stories and businesses. See the work that was done with the Women in Innovation Award holders from 2016 and 2019.

De minimis aid

The grant funding will be made to the business as a de minimis award.

In order 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 euros for all de minimis aid provided to any one organisation over a three fiscal year period.

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

Innovate UK are not funding projects that:

  • Do not intend to use the full package of support on offer
  • Have a negative impact on the environment or society
  • Have a detrimental effect on equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Do not involve any research and development or innovation, for example, the creation of information-only websites
  • Do not meet the competition eligibility or scope
  • Involve exports or imports
  • Involve purchasing within road freight transport sector
  • Involve primary production in fishery and aquaculture
  • Involve primary production in agriculture
  • Are not allowed under de minimis regulation restrictions

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.