What is Innovate UK?
Innovate UK (formerly known as Technology Strategy Board) provides grants to companies that are working on projects that will develop something that can be classed as a “technology innovation”. It is the U.K.'s innovation agency and is a public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Out of a total fund for investment for 2016/2017 of £561 million, entities can apply for funding of between £25,000 and £1,000,000 (depending on the specifics of the individual funding stream). More information on Innovate UK can be found here.
What does Innovate UK support?
Innovate UK aims to invest in early stage innovation projects with high potential as well as focusing on sectors it has identified as priorities. Out of the sectors identified as priorities in 2016-2017 the most relevant to video games studio was “Emerging and Enabling Technologies”.
How is the programme structured?
Innovate UK’s three main funding programmes are:
- IC Tomorrow which organises competition where applicants can compete for funding by submitting solutions to particular problem. These are always sector specific grants so the majority of competitions will not be applicable to companies operating in the games industry.
- Launchpad which is restricted to specific regions. Like IC Tomorrow, funding is granted through competitions where applicants pitch an innovative solution to specific challenges set.
- OPEN funding which is not restricted to specific regions nor is it granted through competitions posing specific problems. There are usually two rounds of OPEN funding per year.
Innovate UK’s plans to launch full details of its investment strategy up to 2020 alongside the Government’s National Innovation Plan (the date of which has not yet been announced). Innovate UK is to be moved into UK Research and Innovation and when it does it will publish a longer term strategy (presumably beyond 2020). Information on UK Research and Innovation can be found here.
What funding is available to the video games industry?
Innovate UK had no specific video game funding programme within its 2016-2017 financial year plan. However, within each sector Innovate UK ran two broad competitions per year which didn’t restrict applicants to a particular area. It also runs two OPEN funding rounds per year for applications from any sector. It is important to note that, like Horizon 2020, Innovate UK will not specifically fund games or digital content but it may fund the development of a new algorithm, tool or engine. More information on the latest funding opportunities can be found here.
Each funding opportunity has different eligibility requirements which can be found on the Innovate UK webpage here. Generally, however, the projects that are eligible are divided into three categories (1) Market research (eligible for funding of £25,000 plus and 100% of the project’s budget); (2) Technical feasibility (eligible for funding of £25,000 to £1,000,000 and capped at 50% - 70% of the project’s budget); and (3) Experimental development (eligible for funding of £25,000 to £1,000,000 but capped at 25% - 45% of the project’s budget). The only eligibility requirements for the OPEN funding rounds are that the entity is UK based and the relevant project needs to demonstrate cutting-edge, game-changing or disruptive innovation leading to novel, new products, processes or services.
How do you apply?
Applicant need to submit a detailed application form. Each application form has specific rules regarding length and content. Once submitted the application will be evaluated and funding granted on that basis only. More information about the application process can be found here.