Funding competition Creative Catalyst 2023

UK registered micro and small businesses in the creative industries sector, can apply for funding up to £50,000 with a package of support to grow their business.

This competition is now closed.

Start new application

Competition sections


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £10 million in innovation projects. This funding is part of the Creative Catalyst.

The aim of this competition is to support business innovation within the creative industries by providing a package of targeted and continuous support to help businesses to grow.

Your proposal must:

  • be from the creative industries or support the creative industries
  • demonstrate clear benefits for the UK creative industry and the wider UK economy
  • focus on a clear opportunity and the proposed innovation which addresses it
  • demonstrate the impact funding and support can have to the growth plan of your business, if your proposal is successful you must work with an adviser from Innovate UK EDGE to maximise the impact of your project

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 grant funding request must be no more than £50,000.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have a total grant funding request of no more than £50,000
  • start by 1 June 2023
  • end by 30 November 2023
  • last between 3 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 or Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian 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 your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered micro or small business (SME)
  • have not previously received funding from Innovate UK
  • be from the creative industries or support the creative industries
  • have a demonstrable ambition for growth
  • work with an Innovate UK EDGE advisor during your project to maximise its impact


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

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

An eligible business can only submit one application.

Previous applications

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

We will not award you funding if you have been previously funded by Innovate UK or the Technology Strategy Board.

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.


Up to £10 million has been allocated to fund innovation projects in this competition.

You can claim 100% of your eligible project costs up to the maximum of £50,000.

If successful, your grant will be released in instalments:

  • your total grant request minus £15,000, will be paid on the return of your signed grant offer letter, this can be in advance of your project start date
  • the remaining £15,000 will be paid at the end of the project, on receipt and approval of a statement of expenditure (SOE) by Innovate UK, and completion of a three-month action plan with your EDGE advisor

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 Commission 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.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to support business innovation within the creative industries, by providing a package of targeted and continuous support to help businesses to grow.

Your project must:

  • be related to and for the benefit of the creative industries in the UK
  • demonstrate a clearly innovative and ambitious idea
  • be new to your business, with a demonstrable impact to your growth plan
  • create a new revenue stream, for example new products, services or IP
  • respond to the changing market conditions, such as new modes of audience consumption, or the adoption of new technologies within the sector
  • be market ready within 12 months of receiving support
  • demonstrate value for money

We encourage proposals that can demonstrate benefit to the wider creative Industries subsector or regional cluster for example:

  • support the fashion and textile’s transition to a circular model
  • improve transparency and accountability across the online advertising supply chain
  • create new revenue streams and fan engagement activities in the music sector
  • demonstrate how advanced digital technologies, including, Metaverse, blockchain and AI, can transform the publishing sector

This list is not exhaustive and innovations from across the creative industries are welcome.

Portfolio approach

We want to fund a portfolio of projects, from a variety of creative subsectors across the UK. We call this a portfolio approach.

Specific themes

The creative industries are defined by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Your project must focus on one or more of the following subsectors:

  • advertising and Marketing
  • architecture
  • arts and culture
  • broadcasting including sport
  • crafts
  • design
  • fashion
  • film
  • games
  • music
  • publishing

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects:

  • that are for businesses that have previously received funding from Innovate UK
  • for business as usual (BAU) activities
  • that lack evidence their proposed innovation is expected to lead to significant and positive economic or societal impact, or value for money that will be achieved
  • that do not address how potentially negative outcomes would be managed, for example, on the environment
  • that lack research and development or innovation, for example the creation of information only websites
  • have costs and grant request in excess of £50,000
  • that involve primary production in fishery and aquaculture
  • that involve primary production in agriculture
  • whose activities relate to the purchase of road freight transport
  • not allowed under De minimis regulation restrictions
  • not eligible to receive Minimal Financial Assistance

We cannot fund projects that 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.
  • 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
2 December 2022
Online briefing event: watch the recording
5 December 2022
Competition opens
16 February 2023 11:00am
Competition closes
4 May 2023 9:04am
Applicants notified

Before you start

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

Before submitting, it is the lead applicant’s responsibility to make sure:

  • that all the information provided in your application is correct
  • your proposal meets the eligibility and scope criteria
  • all sections of the application are marked as complete

You can reopen your application once submitted, up until the competition deadline. You must resubmit your application before the competition deadline.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.
  3. Finances.

Accessibility and inclusion
Innovate UK is committed to making applications 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 15 working days before the competition closing date.

You can email or call 0300 321 4357.

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

1. Project details

This section provides background for your application and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which people from your organisation will work with you on the project and invite those people to help complete the application.

Application details

Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

Project summary

Briefly describe your project.

You must provide a short pitch describing your project to help us quickly understand what you are proposing.

Your answer can be up to 135 words.

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 200 words long.


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

To be in scope your project must:

  • demonstrate a clearly innovative and ambitious idea
  • be new to your business, with a demonstrable impact to your growth plan
  • create a new revenue stream, for example new products, services or IP
  • respond to the changing market conditions, such as new modes of audience consumption, or the adoption of new technologies within the sector
  • be market ready within 12 months of receiving support
  • demonstrate value for money
Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers for questions 5 to 12. You will receive feedback for each scored question. Find out more about how our assessors assess.

You must answer all questions. Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) or links in your answers unless asked.

Question 1. Applicant location (not scored)

You must state the name and full registered address of your organisation and any 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. You 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.

You must complete all the fields on your form before uploading.

You must write “declaration attached” in the text box.

You must upload the completed declaration as an appendix. It must be a PDF and the font must be legible at 100% zoom.

You 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 sector (not scored)

Which of these sectors does your project address?

Select one main sector:

  • advertising and marketing
  • architecture
  • arts and culture
  • broadcasting including sport
  • crafts
  • design
  • fashion
  • film
  • games
  • music
  • publishing

Question 4. Video demonstration (not scored)

You must provide a video to describe your project.

This question is not scored, but the assessors will use it to understand your project.

In your video, tell us:

  • the problem your innovation will solve
  • your solution
  • your market
  • why you are best placed to solve it

You must upload your video to YouTube. It must be no longer than 2 minutes. If your video is over 2 minutes long, only the first 2 minutes will be viewed.


  • your video is ‘unlisted’ in the privacy settings
  • your video remains available until 30 April 2023
  • you give the link and any passwords required in your answer to this question

If we are unable to view your video or it is not hosted on YouTube, your application will be made ineligible.

You can find more information on how to create an unlisted video on YouTube.

Check that your video can be opened with the link and any passwords and can be played before completing your submission.

Your video will be considered together with the responses you give in the other application questions.

If you cannot upload your video to YouTube, you must contact at least 10 working days before the competition closes for advice or to ask permission to use an alternative platform.

The video does not need to be a costly production. It is simply an opportunity to give the assessors clarity in understanding your solution.

If there is content you do not want to include in the video for reasons of confidentiality, explain these in your answer to this section.

Question 5. Problem and need (this question will be scored out of 20)

What is the problem you are trying to solve and why is your proposed approach a good innovative solution?


  • the problem your innovation will solve
  • how big is the problem is
  • who is experiencing the problem
  • why you are best placed to solve it

Question 6: Approach or solution (this question will be scored out of 20)

How will your solution resolve the problem you have identified?


  • what your solution is
  • how your solution can be commercialised
  • who your addressable market is
  • the size of the opportunity and your the route to market

Question 7. Team and resources (this question will be scored out of 10)

Who is in the project team?


  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team
  • any advisory board members, board of directors
  • the details of any vital external parties, including subcontractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • any roles you will need to recruit for

Question 8. Competitors (this question will be scored out of 10)

Who are your competitors in the market?


  • any existing solutions
  • how your idea is different
  • your Unique Selling Point, for example, positioning, pricing, function, network or solution

Question 9. Added value (this question will be scored out of 10)

How will this public funding help you to accelerate or enhance your approach to developing your project towards commercialisation?

Why should Innovate UK invest in your project and what impact would this award have on the organisations involved?


  • what advantages public funding would offer your project, for example, appeal to investors, more partners, reduced risk or a faster route to market (this list is not exhaustive)
  • what other routes of investment you have already approached
  • what your project would look like without public funding

Question 10. Project costs (this question will be scored out of 10)

How much will your project cost?


  • your total project costs and what will the funding be spent on
  • any subcontractor costs and why they are critical to your project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • wider support you may need during or after the project that you do not currently have access to for example, domestic, and international partnerships, private finance, export advice

Question 11. Risks (this question will be scored out of 10)

How will you plan and schedule to achieve project commercialisation?

How will you manage your project effectively?


  • your approach in managing your project effectively
  • your project plan identifying any links or dependencies between work packages, indicating the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
  • your project risks and how you will mitigate them

Question 12. Vision and ambition (this question will be scored out of 10)

Why are you passionate about your project and committed to making it happen?

What is your ambition for your organisation and how will the outcomes of this project support these ambitions?


  • your big vision and ambition
  • where you see your company in three years’ time
  • why you believe in this project

3. Finances

You must complete your project costs, organisation details and funding details in the application.

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

Background and further information

The creative industries sector is a £30 million programme of phased financial and nonfinancial activities to provide end to end innovation support for high potential businesses in the creative sector.

The aim of the initiative is to accelerate, de-risk and amplify their journey from ideation to commercialisation.

Businesses who receive funding in this competition will be provided priority access to creative industries sector support including:

  • business growth support
  • creative mentor networks
  • investor accelerator funding
  • inward investment programmes
  • open innovation challenges
  • research facilities

Further information on the Creative Catalyst is available here.

Data sharing

This competition is operated by Innovate UK.

Innovate UK is directly accountable to you for its holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information. Data is held in accordance with our own policies. Accordingly, Innovate UK will be data controllers for personal data submitted during the application. Innovate UK’s Privacy Policy is accessible here.

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 the 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).

Need help with this service? Contact us