Funding competition Design Foundations July 2022

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £2 million for early-stage, people and planet centred design projects to influence their future R&D activity.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £2 million in early-stage innovation projects that use people and planet centred design processes and expertise. This funding is from Innovate UK.

The aim of this competition is to help businesses develop new ideas that will deliver benefits for people and the planet, aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. These can be for new or significantly improved products, services, places or business models.

The competition is for eligible organisations that want to test and improve the customer experience, social and environmental benefits of their early stage ideas, as well as generating new ideas.

Applications are encouraged from organisations that have not previously used people and planet centred design processes or expertise.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total costs must be between £40,000 and £80,000.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total costs between £40,000 and £80,000
  • start by 1 March 2023
  • end by 31 August 2023
  • last between 3 months and 6 months
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian source.

You will be made ineligible if you exceed the Minimal Financial Assistance limit. You must submit a complete declaration as part of your application.

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must be a UK registered:

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:

Your project team must include appropriate design expertise. Businesses without this capability are encouraged to collaborate with designers as project partners.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

To collaborate, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application.

Your project can include UK registered partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding. Their costs will count towards the total project costs.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractor costs must not exceed 20% of the total project cost. If you need to spend a larger amount of the project cost with another organisation, for example a design organisation, they must be included as a project partner. The partner can claim funding to cover their costs as part of the application.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

Number of applications

A business, charity, not for profit or public sector organisation can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in a further 2 applications.

If an organisation is not leading any application, it can collaborate in any number of applications.

Previous applications

You cannot use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

We will not award you funding if you have:

Minimal Financial Assistance (and De minimis where applicable)

Grant funding in this competition is awarded as Minimal Financial assistance (MFA). This allows public bodies to award up to £315,000 to an enterprise in a 3-year rolling financial period.

In your application, you will be asked to declare previous funding received by you. This will form part of the financial checks ahead of Innovate UK making a formal grant offer.

To establish your eligibility, we need to check that our support added to the amount you have previously received does not exceed the limit of £315,000 in the ‘applicable period’.

The applicable period is made up of:

(a) the elapsed part of the current financial year, and

(b) the two financial years immediately preceding the current financial year.

You must include any funding which you have received during the applicable period under:

You do not need to include aid or subsidies which have been granted on a different basis (such as an aid award granted under the General Block Exemption Regulation).

Further information about the UK subsidy control requirements can be found in:

EU Commission rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see our general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.

Further information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK’s International Obligations to Subsidy Control or the De minimis rules, you should take independent legal advice. We cannot advise on individual eligibility or your legal obligations.

If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean we need to change the terms of this competition, we will tell you as soon as possible.


Text update 31 August 2022: we have changed the research participation to 100%.

Up to £2 million has been allocated to fund innovation projects in this competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

You can claim up to 100% grant funding for your eligible costs.

For more information on company sizes, please refer to the Company accounts guidance. This is a change from the EU definition unless you are applying under European Comission De minimis.

If you are applying for an award funded under European Commission Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.

Research participation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 100% 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.

Of that 100%, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-S registered institution such as an academic
  • 100% of your project costs if you are an RTO, charity, not-for-profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to help businesses develop new ideas that will deliver benefits for people and the planet, aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. These can be for new or significantly improved products, services, places or business models.

It will help businesses gain experience of working with design processes and expertise.

Your project must generate new ideas or test and improve the customer experience, social and environmental benefits of your existing, early-stage ideas.

Your project must use a people and planet centred design approach to consider and enhance the value of your ideas. You must consider how to make your ideas more desirable and easy to adopt, so that their benefits can be realised.

You can learn more about appropriate design approaches by searching online for terms including planet centred design, life centred design, humanity centred design and design for planet.

Your project can include activities or work packages to:

  • understand market, social and environmental needs and customer behaviour
  • define problem statements and innovation opportunities
  • generate new or significantly improved ideas
  • create imagery, models, mock-ups or simulations to test ideas with customers and other stakeholders
  • use appropriate tools and models to evaluate the likely environmental and social impact of ideas
  • improve ideas in response to customer feedback and new discoveries
  • plan next steps to develop your ideas toward commercialisation
  • create design outputs to support investment pitches or funding applications

Your project can explore innovative ideas for physical or digital products, services, places or business models.

You are encouraged to respond to new discoveries made during the research and design process. This might include abandoning or rethinking your original ideas and changing the focus of planned R&D activity.

Portfolio approach

We want to fund a variety of projects across the Sustainable Development Goals detailed in specific themes. We call this a portfolio approach.

Specific themes

Your project must focus on one or more of the following UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which are:

  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Good health and wellbeing
  • Quality education
  • Gender equality
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • Reduced inequality
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Responsible consumption and production
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Life on land
  • Peace, justice and strong institutions
  • Partnerships for the goals

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that:

  • focus on late-stage refinement or specification of ideas where fundamental design decisions have already been made
  • seek only to validate technical feasibility or progress the technology readiness level of ideas, rather than validating and improving the quality of customer experience, social and environmental benefits
  • are not allowed under De minimis regulation restrictions
  • are not allowed under Minimal Financial Assistance
  • are dependent on export performance, for example giving an award to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • are dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example if we give an award to a baker on the condition that they use 50% UK flour in their product

6 July 2022
Competition opens
14 July 2022
Online briefing event : watch the recording
31 August 2022 11:00am
Competition closes
30 September 2022
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

1.Project details.

2.Application questions.


1. Project details

This section provides background for the assessors and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you on the project. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

Team members must each complete an Equality Diversity and Inclusion survey. The lead applicant must complete their survey to submit the application.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

Subsidy basis

Will the project, including any related activities you want Innovate UK to fund, affect trade between Northern Ireland and the EU?

You and all your project partners must respond and mark this question as complete, before you can submit your application.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.


Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition including the specific themes. If your project is not in scope it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment. We will tell you the reason why.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score all your answers apart from questions 1 and 2. You will receive feedback for each scored question. Find out more about how our assessors assess.

You must answer all questions. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Question 1. Applicant location (not scored)

You must state the name and full registered address of your organisation, any partners and subcontractors working on your project.

We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all applicants.

Question 2. Minimal Financial Assistance declaration (not scored)

You must download the declaration template and distribute among all partners requesting funding on your project. Each organisation must complete this, declaring any funding received under Minimal Financial Assistance (previously referred to as Special Drawing Rights) or De minimis awards, (from any source of public funding) in the applicable period.

Each partner organisation must complete all the fields on the form before uploading.

You must upload each completed declaration as an appendix. It must be a PDF and no larger than 10 MB. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

After uploading write ‘declaration attached’ in the question text box.

You and your partners must keep all documentation relating to Minimal Financial Assistance (previously referred to as Special Drawing Rights) and other De minimis awards for a period of 6 years and be prepared to release it to any public funding body which requests it.

Question 3. Project challenge and objectives

What innovation challenge or opportunity will your project address? What are the objectives and wider impacts of your project?


  • the challenge or opportunity you plan to explore including which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals your project will support
  • the business context and motivation for the project, including its relevance to your business and any work you have already done in this area
  • the main objectives of the project
  • who will benefit from the project outcomes, and how will they benefit

Your answer can be up to 600 words long.

Question 4. Project workplan and management

What will you do with the grant funding? How will you manage the project to achieve the objectives described in question 3?

Provide a concise, step-by-step project plan, broken down into individual phases of work. For each phase, explain:

  • what will be done
  • how much it will cost
  • who will do it
  • what the outputs will be
  • how those outputs will support the overall project objectives
  • any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones


  • any specific design processes, methods or tools you will use
  • your approach to project management and the reporting lines
  • how you will embed project learning to develop your business capability

Your answer can be up to 600 words long.

You can submit a project chart or process diagram as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF, up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 5. Team and resources

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?


  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the design approach you will be taking
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
  • the details of any vital external parties, including subcontractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • if your project is collaborative, the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • any roles you will need to recruit for

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

You can submit one appendix with a short summary of the main people working on the project to support your answer. It must be a PDF, up to 4 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 6. Risks

How will your project help you to understand and reduce innovation risks? What are the risks to the success of the project itself, and how will you address them?


  • the risks and uncertainties associated with the innovation challenge or opportunity that your project seeks to explore
  • how your design project will help you to understand and reduce those risks
  • the risks and uncertainties that could affect the success of the project itself
  • how you will mitigate these risks
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise, knowledge and data

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

You can submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF, up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 7. Impact and added value of funding

How will this public funding impact the project and the organisations involved?


  • how your project represents a new approach or a different way of working for the organisations involved
  • the difference that public funding would make to your project, for example making it affordable, more comprehensive, faster, involving additional staff, different partners or reducing risk (this list is not exhaustive)
  • whether you have considered other ways to pay for the project, and why these are not available or appropriate
  • the likely impact of the project outcomes on the organisations involved including how it might change their capabilities, ways of working and R&D plans

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisation details and funding details in the application. Academic institutions must complete and upload a Je-S form.

For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

Join the The Innovate UK KTN Design Innovation Network

Read Innovate UK’s Design in Innovation Strategy 2020-2024

Data sharing

Innovate UK is directly accountable to you for its holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information It is held in accordance with its Information Management Policy.

Innovate UK complies with the requirements of GDPR, and is committed to upholding the data protection principles, and protecting your information The Information Commissioner’s Office also has a useful guide for organisations, which outlines the data protection principles.

Find a project partner

If you want help to find a project partner, contact Innovate UK KTN.

Support for SMEs from Innovate UK EDGE

If you receive an award, you will be contacted about working with an innovation and growth specialist at Innovate UK EDGE. This service forms part of our funded offer to you.

These specialists focus on growing innovative businesses and ensuring that projects contribute to their growth. Working one-to-one, they can help you to identify your best strategy and harness world-class resources to grow and achieve scale.

We encourage you to engage with Innovate UK EDGE, delivered by a knowledgeable and objective specialist near you.

Contact us

If you need more information about how to apply or you want to submit your application in Welsh, email or call 0300 321 4357.

Our phone lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Innovate UK is committed to making support for applicants accessible to everyone.

We can provide help for applicants who face barriers when making an application. This might be as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or anything else that makes it difficult to use our services. We can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful.

If you think you need more support, it is important that you contact our Customer Support Service as early as possible during your application process. You should aim to contact us no later than 10 working days before the competition closing date.

Need help with this service? Contact us