Funding competition UK Research and Innovation strength in places fund

A new competitive scheme that takes a place-based approach to research and innovation funding, to support significant regional economic growth.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Consortia of UK businesses and publicly funded research organisations can apply for up to £50 million per application.
To be successful, applications must build on their existing research and innovation capability and present a valid plan of new research and innovation activities. These should have a demonstrable impact on local economic growth.
Project consortia must be based within the project’s geographical area and have the support of local civic leadership.
Projects can be led by either a UK based business or a UK publicly funded research organisation.
This first competition stage is an expression of interest (EoI). Consortia will set out plans for large collaborative proposals. Following assessment, successful EoIs will be selected to receive up to £50,000 in ‘seedcorn funding’ to further develop a proposal for a full stage project.

Funding type


Project size

There is up to £50,000 seedcorn funding for successful EoIs to develop full stage proposals between October 2018 and April 2019.There is between £10 million and £50 million funding for full stage proposals.Projects start in June 2019 and end by April 2024

Who can apply

To be eligible for funding you must be both:
  • a business or a publicly funded research organisation (University, Research Institutes, Catapult and other Research Technology Organisation (RTO))
  • a member of a consortium that includes at least one business and one research organisation
To lead a project you must be either:
  • a UK publicly funded research organisation or
  • a UK-based business of any size
The lead organisation must demonstrate the ability and experience in running large-scale research and innovation grant awards.
To be a member of a consortium you must:
  • be a business of any size
  • be a research organisation
  • or a non-grant claiming partner representing local civic partners such as a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Combined Authorities (CA), enterprise bodies and similar economic agencies across the 4 nations of the UK.
Consortium members’ costs will count towards the total project costs. They can provide co-investment to support the project however they cannot lead the project, or receive direct support from UK Research and Innovation.
We expect the size of your consortium to represent the scale of the initiative proposed.
If you use subcontractors, please explain how these will be used and the costs of each.
We expect all partners to be located within the project geographical area, including those covering multiple local authority or devolved administration areas.


EoIs that are unsuccessful in securing seedcorn funding for full project development in the first round will be eligible for resubmission in later rounds. This is provided that feedback supplied has been fully addressed, and the application is declared as a resubmission.


Consortia are invited to express an interest in submitting a full stage project to be funded between £10 million and £50 million. EoIs that demonstrate the strongest potential against the fund criteria will receive up to £50,000 to fund development of a full proposal. This will be over a period of 24 weeks between October 2018 and March 2019.
The final number and size mix of projects supported will be determined through the assessment process.
Funding is awarded only with the agreement that the lead organisation will allocate funds to partners, in line with a consortium agreement. All activities must be in line with state aid rules.
At the EOI stage, if the lead organisation is a non-profit distributing research organisation it will be eligible for up to 100% of the £50,000 seedcorn award.
If the lead organisation is a business it will be subject to state aid and will need to use either the state aid de minimis allowance or the General Block Exemption ‘feasibility study’ depending on which is appropriate. This will dictate the total amount of funding possible.
At full project proposal stage, consortia will have to describe how the project proposal meets state-aid funding rules

Your proposal

The fund is open to projects focusing on any one technological area, sector or discipline. Your proposal can draw on a mix of capital and revenue funding as relevant to the activities proposed.
Your project proposal should take a place-based approach to research and innovation funding. It must describe the business need that can be met by existing research strengths in your defined geographic area. Successful projects will undertake a range of research and innovation activities which must have a demonstrable impact on growing economic ‘clusters’ that supports local economic growth.
Your EoI will outline the activities to be undertaken within a full stage project proposal including, where appropriate:
  • scale
  • nature of partnerships
  • co-investment
The fund will support geographic areas within the UK. These range from city-scale to areas that cover multiple local authorities, as well as those crossing regional and/or country boundaries. The size and scope of the area must match the economic geography of the supply chain or local industry that the proposal focuses on. You must give evidence to justify the choice of area. This geographical area should also reflect the range and choice of partners involved in the collaboration.
We will only fund projects that are based on:
  • existing research excellence and high-quality innovation capability that focus on creating opportunities for economic growth, in line with the needs of local industry
  • activities that bring significant, relative economic impact and regional growth relative to the baseline economic activity for the defined or relevant geographic area
Eligible activities for full proposals include:
  • providing the capacity to commercialise ideas
  • assessing the potential for demand for the new technology and the potential for scale up
  • drawing in overseas research and development or business
  • reviving underlying technologies
  • transferring technologies between industries

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that cover:
  • new national infrastructure that would be supported through other UK Research and Innovation programmes, such as new Catapult centres
  • regional activity that recreates exisiting national programmes at regional level, and therefore duplicates funding through other UK Research and Innovation programmes, such as the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).
  • outreach programmes which aim to transfer local expertise to other regions outside of the consortium’s geography.
28 May 2018
Competition opens
3 July 2018
Briefing 1: introduction. Watch the recording
3 July 2018
Briefing 2: aims. Watch the recording
3 July 2018
Briefing 2: apply. Watch the recording
25 July 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
1 March 2019 3:16pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

Please refer to the document attached to the EOI application questions, for the guidance on this competition. This guidance was updated on 3rd July 2018 to clarify the role of collaborating partners in the Innovation Funding Service for the Strength in Places Fund. If you have any queries about the update please contact the policy team at
When you start an application you will be prompted to create an account as the lead applicant or sign in as a representative of your organisation. You will need an account to track the progress of your application.
As the lead applicant you will be responsible for:
  • collecting the information for your application
  • representing your organisation in leading the project if your application is successful
You will be able to invite:
  • colleagues to contribute to the application
  • other organisations to collaborate in the project if your application is successful

Full stage questions

The following questions will need to be addressed as part of the application at full stage. Applicants do not need to answer the questions below at this EOI stage, but the questions should inform the planned development activities to be undertaken during the seedcorn-supported development stage.
Question 1: Project governance structure
What project governance structure will you use to ensure the project is delivered successfully in terms of scope, time, cost and quality?
1. Detail the governance structure that you will use. This could include:
  • overarching project governance (including structure of the team)
  • the role of the local civic authorities involved
  • management reporting lines
  • milestones and gateways
  • deliverables with timings
  • leading KPIs
  • communication management
2. Set out how you will monitor project progress, and how will you report this information? Who will be responsible for collecting and collating this data?
3. Detail how the governance team will be kept informed of progress and highlight concerns or issues early to all affected stakeholders. Identify who these stakeholders are.
4. Describe the main commitments and responsibilities of each partner. This could be captured, for example, in the form of a RASIC (responsible, approves, supports, is informed, is consulted) matrix.
5. How will the finances be managed and planned for unexpected events?
You will be encouraged at the full stage to include a diagram to support this response.
Question 2: Project management and timeline
How will the project be managed and what is the timeline?
1. Identify who will lead the project on a day to day basis and how the project team will be structured.
2. Detail a clear project plan, deliverables, milestones and gateways. Identify the main work packages.
3. Describe how the project will achieve effective project team integration between partners, as well as the supply chain and any other main factors.
4. Identify any internal and external support that is required and indicate what is agreed at time of writing, and what is still to be agreed.
5. Explain your development plans to deliver a self-sustaining initiative beyond the timeline of this competition’s funding.
Question 3: Risks
What are the risks to project success? What is the project’s risk management strategy?
1. Identify the main risks and uncertainties of the project.
2. Provide a detailed risk analysis for the project content and approach. Include the technical, commercial, managerial, economic and environmental risks, as well as other uncertainties associated with the project, such as ethical issues, risks to job creation or safeguarding jobs. The main risks should be rated in a format which is in keeping with the project’s risk management strategy (high, medium or low).
3. Explain how these risks would be mitigated, and provide evidence of your ability to do this.
4. Distinguish between the probability of mitigation strategies not being effective, and the impact this would have on the project.
5. Identify which project management tools and mechanisms you will use to ensure you have sufficient control to minimise operational risk and promote successful project delivery. This should include arrangements for managing the project team and its partners.
6. Your project proposal should specifically address any legal agreements or consents that need to be put in place to enable the works to be undertaken.
7. Explain in detail your approach to intellectual property management.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Application details.
  2. EOI application questions.
  3. Finances.

1. Application details

Explain your project. This section is not scored, but we will use it to decide whether the project fits with the scope of the competition. If it doesn’t, it will be immediately rejected.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. This sets out your full stage application. Give the proposed title of your full stage project, start date and length.

Project summary

Describe your full stage project briefly and be clear about how it fits the objectives of this competition. This fund is open to projects across any technological area, sector or discipline focus. However we expect applicants to set out a clearly focused approach to the sector, technology or disciplines involved to support innovation-led relative regional economic growth. You must set out where the project is located (see the guidance for more information). If you are selected to receive seedcorn funding, describe the activities you will do to further develop your full project proposal.

List any organisations you have named as collaborators, and say whether their involvement has been confirmed.

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. Please 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. If your project is not in scope it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment. We will give you feedback on why.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. EOI application questions

Your answers to these questions will be scored by the assessors. You will receive feedback from the assessors for each question.

Question 1: Research excellence and innovation capability

What is the focus of the research and innovation activity that will drive the regional consortia?

Against the technological or sector or discipline focus within the chosen location you should:

  • summarise the evidence on how the proposed research activities build on established research excellence. You should present a sound case that sets out how you will increase sustainable research activity that will achieve local economic impacts. Your evidence should describe how the area has a relevant critical mass of activities compared to other parts of the country
  • summarise the evidence on the critical mass of businesses actively engaged in research and innovation
  • describe how these research and businesses currently collaborate and share knowledge within the consortia
  • summarise how this consortia fits against the strategic local economic plans for the chosen geography and its importance to the local economy
  • outline the main factors you need to overcome in order to enable this research and innovation consortia to grow and develop to the next level

In a separate appendix you can submit in PDF format up to 2 pages of supporting evidence. This should be legible in 100% zoom.

Your answer can be up to 600 words.

Question 2: Market awareness

What does the target market look like? What is the comparative advantage of this consortia to others in the UK and globally?

  • describe the national and global markets that industrial supply chains within this regional consortia compete in.
  • this should include examples of new and improved products, services, and processes driving growth.
  • what is the weight of Intellectual Property that the region contains, providing examples of patents, spinout companies etc.
  • what is the growth potential of this market?
  • estimate the current market share that this regional consortia has and what are the ambitions for growth?

In a separate appendix you can submit in PDF format up to 2 pages of supporting evidence. This should be legible in 100% zoom.

Your answer can be up to 600 words.

Question 3: Local economic impact

What is the intended significant, relative, uplift in growth and/or productivity as a result of the activities proposed?

  • what is the importance of this consortia to the local economy?
  • how will this project improve the local economy, and over what time-scale? This should include:
  • number of high quality jobs created
  • gross added value (GVA) return to the local economy
  • improvement to regional productivity
  • what broader societal and environmental impact will the project bring to the chosen geography?
  • how will the project leverage follow-on private sector investment in order to bring future sustainability?

In a separate appendix submit a diagram in PDF format that explains the steps your project will take to realise your answer (up to 2 pages). What is the theory of change, or the logic model for your proposed intervention?

Question 4: Activities requested for seedcorn support

Please set out the activities you will undertake if your EoI receives seedcorn funding to be developed into a full project proposal. Please cross-reference these activities to the details set out in the financial costing attachment (Excel spreadsheet).

Your answer can be up to 400 words.

Question 5: Project Team skills and experience

Does the consortium have the right skills, experience and existing relevant facilities to deliver the identified benefits?

  • detail the track record of the organisations undertaking the project in delivering successful research innovation and knowledge exchange and exploiting the results. In evaluating this, the assessors will consider whether:
  • the project team has available the right mix of skills and experience to deliver the project successfully
  • the project team’s formation objectives are clear, and whether it would have been formed without UK Research and Innovation’s investment
  • there is additional benefit demonstrated as a result of the collaboration, for example, increased knowledge transfer
  • the organisations working together will achieve more than if they were working individually
  • the organisations have the necessary resources to focus on the programme
  • you have considered diversity and inclusion in your project proposal

Your answer can be up to 400 words.

Question 6: Financial commitment and risk

What is the financial commitment required for the project? Cross-referring to the financial costing attachment (Excel spreadsheet)

  • what project costs do you anticipate?
  • detail the grant split and contribution from each of the consortium members and how they comply with state aid rules.
  • define what the expected operational and maintenance costs will be, who will be responsible for them, and how they will be financially sustainable.
  • detail the financial year breakdown, referencing the suggested phases of funding and the split between capital and resource costs. Provide leveraged funding breakdown information by partner in the financial costing attachment (Excel spreadsheet).
  • explain why the specific level of grant funding requested at full stage is needed. Why not more or less?
  • identify the top ten risks to the project, how they will be mitigated and the probability versus the impact

In a separate appendix provide a risk table in your chosen style. This should be no more than 2 pages and supplied in PDF format. This should be legible in 100% zoom.

In evaluating this the assessors will consider whether:

  • the indicative budget for the full stage is realistic for the scale and complexity of the project
  • a financial commitment from other sources is demonstrated for the balance of the project costs
  • a realistic budget breakdown has been provided
  • any work package breakdowns have been described and justified adequately
  • expected compliance with state aid categories has been detailed

All applications that reach the full stage will be asked to provide independent assurance in relation to their compliance with state aid rules. You should demonstrate at full stage that you have investigated state aid requirements fully.

Along with your risk table appendix you can also provide a breakdown of the project headline finances against state aid categories. This should be no more than 2 pages and supplied in PDF format.

Question 7: Funding from UK Research and Innovation

How does funding from UK Research and Innovation add value?

  • explain why this project could not take place without government financial support
  • explain what contribution you are requesting from government for each work package. Justify why this specific amount of funding is needed
  • detail how the funding required enables the project to proceed quickly and at scale
  • give a clear description of expected co-funding from industry and any direct follow-on funding from industry

Lead and partner organisations may be asked for additional financial information relating to their proposal or organisation. This could about the project or specific to consortium members. The requirement for additional financial information will vary across applications. It will be dependent upon the nature of the proposal and the consortium’s specific argument for support.

Other funding from public sector bodies (800 words)

If you have funding from other public sector bodies for your project please provide:

  • the names of the bodies
  • the name of the programme or scheme from which the funds are provided
  • the fund amounts


Please complete the financial costing attachment available as an Excel workbook attached.

The financial costing attachment asks the lead organisation to provide:

  • operating income and expenditure
  • capital income and expenditure (if applicable)
  • a breakdown of funded and leveraged staff and non staff costs

Detailed costings should be provided for the seedcorn proposal development and indicative costings for the full project proposal along with a projected payment profile. Guidance on terms is included in the PDF attachment in ‘Application details’. This guidance was updated on 3rd July 2018 to clarify the role of collaborating partners in the Innovation Funding Service for the Strength in Places Fund. If you have any queries about the update please contact the policy team at

3. Finances

Please complete the financial costing attachment available as an Excel workbook (this is provided in the application stage once the competition is open). This should be uploaded as an appendix to question 5.
The financial costing attachment asks the lead organisation to provide:
  • operating income and expenditure
  • capital income and expenditure (if applicable)
  • a breakdown of funded and leveraged staff and non staff costs
Detailed costings should be provided for the seedcorn proposal development and indicative costings for the full project proposal along with a projected payment profile. Guidance on terms is included in the Excel workbook. Please note the financial costing attachment was revised on 6 July to enable you to include any project costs relating year five of a project (if applicable).

EoIs relating to projects of three or four years in duration may submit either the original or the updated version of the spreadsheet.

Background and further information

If you need more information, call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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