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Government cash boost for small business innovation

Turner Little - cash boost small business innovation

Innovative businesses in the UK could benefit from a cash boost of £125 million. From this total, £100 million is available in Government grants for research that is deemed pioneering. The remaining £25 million as loans for the commercial aspect of transforming ideas into reality.

Any size of UK businesses, including SMEs, can compete to win a slice of the £125 million. If successful, the money will go directly into transforming their ideas into reality in the form of world-leading products and services.

Small business innovation grants

The £100 million is available through the Innovate Smart grant initiative, and applications are now open. Past winners of the Innovate Smart award include Magic Pony Technology, which was sold to Twitter for a reported $150 million earlier this year.

Magic Pony Technology is a London-based start-up that develops machine learning techniques based on neural networks. These systems are designed to operate and think like human brains, and are used to enhance photos, videos and to develop graphics for augmented reality or virtual reality apps. Co-founders CEO Rob Bishop and Zehan Wang stayed on as part of the deal.

The third start-up focusing on machine learning that has recently been acquired by Twitter, Magic Pony Technology benefited from SMART funding, as well as from investors including Entrepreneur First and Octopus Ventures. It’s the perfect example of what can be achieved by smart start-ups with ideas and expertise.

How to apply for Smart funding

If you want to find out about how to apply for the next round of Innovate Smart funding, see the Government website. Applications opened on 25 July 2019, so now is a good time to get involved if you have the right business idea and backing.

Smart is the new name for the Open Grant Funding programme from Innovate UK. Applications can be from all kinds of technological backgrounds, including media, creative industries, arts and design, engineering or science, and can be applied to any part of the economy.

Any application has to include at least one SME, and the project must run between April 2020 and April 2023. Different rules apply to projects, depending on their projected length:

  • Projects scheduled to last between six and 18 months must have projected costs between £25,000 and £500,000.
  • Those scheduled to last between 19 months and 36 moths must have total project costs between £25,000 and £2 million and be collaborative.

Lead businesses within each consortium must be based in the UK and can be any size. They must also be carrying out the research and development (R&D) project within the UK.

Either be an SME if they want to go through the project independently or include at least one SME if a large company that wants to collaborate.

The project team that wishes to work with the lead business must be based in the UK, and be other a business, charity, public sector organisation, or academic organisation, and must also be conducting the R&D in the UK. Other stipulations include proof that it is intended to commercially use the results in the UK.

Further support grants

There is also a further £25 million allocated through Innovation Loans to go towards projects that are in much later stages and are near to going on the market. This scheme is focusing on businesses that need help to het over the final barriers to commercialisation.

In a press release, the Government’s Business Secretary, Greg Clark, says: “Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are backing our homegrown businesses to boost productivity and create jobs, growth and opportunity in every part of the UK.”

Many businesses have already benefitted from funding provided by the Government to support innovation, including Digital Shadows. This online digital risk company has raised £20 million to fund its innovation that was developed using a Smart award.

James Turner, Managing Director of Turner Little Limited says: “Smart grants and other funding through Innovate UK are great ways for the Government to support innovation in either single businesses or collaborations between different sectors. With the deadline for the UK leaving the EU currently set at 31 October 2019, it’s important for small businesses to plan ahead.

“Applying for Government support is a way to ensure innovative ideas make it through to completion, therefore boosting jobs and the wider economy. The Government is increasingly recognising the importance of the SME sector to the economic stability of the country, which is encouraging. As we continue to move through uncertain times, it’s important that small businesses continue to push forward with innovative and disruptive products and services.”


About Turner Little
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