Funding competition UK Regulatory Science and Innovation Networks – Discovery phase

Collaborations of UK based organisations can apply for grant funding of up to £50,000 to develop proposals for Regulatory Science and Innovation Networks in their area.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £7.5 million, up to 2025, to support the creation of regulatory science and innovation networks across the UK.

The aim of this competition is to support the development of proposals for virtual networks of expertise in regulatory science that generate research-based evidence and insights.

We define ‘regulatory science’ as the science of developing new tools and approaches that enhance regulatory decision making across product lifecycles (such as approvals, ongoing safety and performance monitoring), and support policymaking that enables agile and proportionate regulation in response to innovation.

This investment will help unlock its potential by giving organisations the capacity to collaborate in developing new tools, data sets and approaches that lead to the development of policies that best promote innovation.

This is phase one of a two phase competition:

  • UK Regulatory Science and Innovation Networks – Discovery (this competition)
  • UK Regulatory Science and Innovation Networks – Implementation

At this Discovery phase we will support projects to:

  • build relationships
  • complete background information and data gathering
  • develop a proposal for the Implementation phase

Only successful applicants at this Discovery phase will be invited to apply for the Implementation phase.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process.

This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated in this Innovate UK competition brief. We cannot guarantee other government or third party sites will always show the correct competition information.

Funding type


Project size

Your collaboration’s total grant funding request for the Discovery phase must be no more than £50,000.

Accessibility and Inclusion

We welcome and encourage applications from people of all backgrounds and are committed to making our application process accessible to everyone. This includes making reasonable adjustments, for people who have a disability or a long-term condition and face barriers applying to us.

You can contact us at any time to ask for guidance.

We recommend you contact us at least 15 working days before this competition’s closing date to allow us to put the most suitable support in place. The support we can provide may be limited if you contact us close to the competition deadline.

You can contact Innovate UK by email or call 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm UK time, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Who can apply

Your collaboration

Your Discovery phase collaboration must:

  • start its activities by 1 March 2024
  • end its activities by 31 August 2024
  • carry out its project work in the UK

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.

Lead organisation

To lead a collaboration your organisation must be a UK registered:

The lead organisation must:

  • collaborate with other eligible UK registered organisations
  • not act in any way to gain selective commercial or economic advantage from the outputs of this collaboration

Existing regulatory science and innovation networks can apply for funding, but only to expand their focus into new areas of activity or scale up existing activities.

More information on the different types of organisation can be found in our Funding rules.


To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be a UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • public sector research establishment (PSRE) eligible for UKRI funding
  • independent RTO or Catapult centre eligible for UKRI funding
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • regulator
  • other public sector organisation

Your proposal must include at least two organisations interested in forming a network that will serve a specific emerging technology.

The organisations do not need to have worked together before and can develop their relationship during this Discovery phase.

There should be a clear rationale for why your organisations are working together.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once partners have accepted the invitation, they will be asked to login or to create an account in the Innovation Funding Service. They are responsible for entering their own project costs and completing their Project Impact questions in the application.

To be an eligible collaboration, the lead and at least one other organisation must apply for funding when entering their costs into the application.


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 organisation can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in any number of applications.

Use of animals in research and innovation

Innovate UK expects and supports the provision and safeguarding of welfare standards for animals used in research and innovation, according to best practice and up to date guidance.

Applicants must ensure that all of the proposed work within projects, both that in the UK and internationally, will comply with the UKRI guidance on the use of animals in research and innovation.

Any projects selected for funding which involve animals will be asked to provide additional information on welfare and ethical considerations, as well as compliance with any relevant legislation as part of the project start-up process. This information will be reviewed before an award is made.

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, for example, an aid award granted under the General Block Exemption Regulation.

Further information about the Subsidy Control Act 2022 requirements can be found in the Subsidy Control Act 2022 (

EU Commission rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see the Windsor Framework to check if these rules apply to your organisation.

Further information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the Subsidy Control Act 2022, you should take independent legal advice. We cannot advise on individual eligibility or your legal obligations.


We will fund up to 30 initial collaborative innovation projects in this Discovery phase competition.

Your total project costs will be 100% funded. Total project costs detailed within your application must not exceed the maximum project size. If your total project costs do exceed the maximum then your application will be made ineligible.

You can make reference to any additional voluntary contribution in your application answers. It must not be detailed in the finance section.

Within your collaboration, priority for funding should be given to the organisations that would not be able to participate in your proposal’s development without financial assistance.

At this Discovery phase you are not required to provide a detailed breakdown of your activity or budget. We will work with successful applicants to create a detailed budget as part of the awarding process.

For more information on company sizes, please refer to the Company accounts guidance.

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 the development of proposals for virtual networks of expertise in regulatory science that generate research-based evidence and insights.

We want to support organisations with the potential to advance regulatory science as a tool that helps policymakers understand, identify and assess different approaches to regulating new technologies, leading to the development of policies that best promote innovation.

Discovery phase (this competition)

Funding for this Discovery phase must be used to support the collaborative development of your application for the Implementation phase.

This includes:

  • building collaborations and partnerships
  • convening discussions
  • hosting workshops
  • engaging communities
  • collaborative bid writing
  • desk research

This list is not exhaustive.

We will manage a support package for all potential network collaborations chosen at the Discovery phase. This will include workshops and events to assist in the development of applications for the Implementation phase and encourage networking between collaborations.

The support package will also include some ongoing non-financial support for collaborations beyond the initial six month Discovery phase. More information about the support package will be made available to successful Discovery phase collaborations.

The Implementation phase

Network collaborations awarded funding at the Discovery phase will be invited to apply for the Implementation phase competition, which will open on or after August 2024. Further details about the application timeline and requirements for this phase will be released in due course.

In the Implementation phase you must have identified all partners and have agreement on their roles in the network and how the funding will be distributed.

Implementation phase funding must be used to invest in the capacity and capability of the network partners to deliver across four key goals:

  • building the evidence base while accelerating innovation and adoption to mitigate near-term risks and identify long-term opportunities
  • strengthening partnerships and interactions across the ecosystem on regulatory science and innovation matters
  • facilitating knowledge transfer that leads to more evidence-based policymaking around regulation for innovation
  • increasing opportunities to improve business capacity to exploit commercial opportunities

You must develop a strategy for policy, practice and standards in your sector. This includes plans to engage government departments and regulators in those sectors, to ensure that the evidence and insights generated are influencing policy development, while maintaining strategic and operational independence.

Areas for your network can include:

  • research to inform the needs of policymakers and regulators
  • training programmes and fellowships to upskill and provide continuous development to individuals across the regulatory system
  • support for regulators for particularly challenging assessments where the required expertise may be lacking or needs expanding
  • creating and delivering research-informed interventions, to help UK firms address their regulatory needs at both a national and international level
  • focused programmes on specific areas of regulatory science in response to priorities agreed by network stakeholders

This list is not exhaustive.

Who should be involved in a network?

The organisations in your collaboration, as well as the relationships and their roles in the network can change between the Discovery and Implementation phases. However, your collaboration must involve at least half of the participants from the Discovery phase, and at least one eligible RTO in the Implementation phase.

Portfolio approach

We want to fund a variety of projects across different technologies, and themes. We call this a portfolio approach.

Specific themes

We welcome proposals from collaborations across different sectors.

We encourage proposals that align with innovation priorities identified by the UK Government, these include

In the health and life sciences sector we encourage proposals focusing on the following themes:

  • artificial intelligence (AI) and software as a medical device
  • biotherapeutics, cell and gene therapies
  • data science
  • diagnostics and genomics
  • genomics and synthetic human biology
  • international recognition
  • in Vitro Diagnostic (IVD) regulation
  • medical technologies

  • neurotechnology
  • vaccines and immunotherapies

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding:

  • capital expenditure
  • activity that you are already undertaking in partnership or as a single organisation
  • activity that does not contribute to the development of a proposal for the Implementation phase of the programme
  • activity that an existing regulatory science and innovation network was already undertaking or so-called “business as usual”
  • enterprises which are seeking to gain a selective economic or commercial advantage from the funding

We cannot fund projects that:

  • involve primary production in fishery and aquaculture
  • involve primary production in agriculture
  • have activities relating to the purchase of road freight transport
  • are not allowed under De minimis regulation restrictions
  • are not eligible to receive 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

13 December 2023
Competition opens
15 December 2023
Online briefing event: watch the recording
31 January 2024 11:00am
Competition closes
14 February 2024
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 the application is correct
  • your proposal meets the eligibility and scope criteria
  • all sections of the application are marked as complete
  • that all partners have completed all assigned sections and accepted the terms and conditions (T&Cs)

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

What we ask you

The application is split into four sections:

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

Accessibility and Inclusion

We welcome and encourage applications from people of all backgrounds and are committed to making our application process accessible to everyone. This includes making reasonable adjustments, for people who have a disability or a long-term condition and face barriers applying to us.

You can contact us at any time to ask for guidance.

We recommend you contact us at least 15 working days before this competition’s closing date to allow us to put the most suitable support in place. The support we can provide may be limited if you contact us close to the competition deadline.

You can contact Innovate UK by email or call 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm UK time, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

1. Project details

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

Application team

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

Application details

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

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. If your project is not in scope, it will not be eligible for funding.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score all your answers apart from question 1 to 4. You will receive feedback for each scored question. Find out more about how our assessors assess and how we select applications for funding.

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 and any partners or 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. Every organisation in your collaboration must complete a declaration template, 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 question text box.

You must upload the completed declarations as one compiled 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. Animal Testing (not scored)

Will your project involve any trials with animals or animal testing?

You must select one option:

  • Yes
  • No

We will only support innovation projects conducted to the highest standards of animal welfare.

Further information for proposals involving animal testing is available at the UKRI Good Research Hub and NC3R’s animal welfare guidance.

Question 4. Innovation Priorities (not scored)

Will your proposal align with any innovation priorities identified by the UK Government?

Describe what priority your project aligns with.

Question 5. Proposed focus

In which area or sector will your proposed network operate?

How will its proposed activities help government and regulators support innovators to overcome existing regulatory barriers and the challenges to bringing new products and services to market?


  • the regulatory barriers and challenges faced by innovators in the sector or area in which your proposed network will operate
  • initial ideas for how your network will use regulatory science to address those sector-specific regulatory challenges and unlock innovation
  • any work you have already done to harness the power of regulatory science in your sector
  • existing partnerships, initiatives or networks you plan to leverage in the development of your network
  • any previous funding received to support this or other skills that are relevant

If you are applying for funding to scale up and expand your existing regulatory science network, you must explain how your planned activities within this Discovery phase represent an expansion, scaling or change in focus from business as usual.

Your answer must be no more than 800 words long.

Question 6. Team and resources

Who is in the collaboration and what are their roles?


  • the roles, skills, experience of all members of the collaboration that are relevant to the approach you will be taking and your ability to develop the network
  • the current relationships between collaborators and how you expect these to develop during this phase
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
  • the details of any subcontractors you expect to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • any roles you reasonably believe you will need to recruit for

Your answer must be no more than 1000 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.

Your projects total grant funding request must not exceed the maximum of £50,000. If your grant funding request does exceed this maximum, then your application will be made ineligible.

You can make reference to any additional voluntary contribution in your application question answers but these must not be detailed in this finance section.

For this Discovery phase, each organisation must add their intended grant claim as a single entry in the ‘other costs’ category. The figure should be roughly equivalent to their intended claim. We will work with successful applicants to produce a more detailed budget as part of the awarding process.

For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance. You can also view our Application Finances video.

4. Project Impact

This section is not scored but will provide background to your project.

Each partner must complete the Project Impact questions before being able to submit the application.

More information can be found in our Project Impact guidance and by viewing our Impact Management Framework video.

Background and further information

Regulation has the power to accelerate innovation by providing confidence to innovators, certainty for investors and boosting consumer confidence.

Innovate UK’s UK Regulatory Science and Innovation Networks programme is a key initiative to harness the power of regulatory science to generate evidence and insights that inform regulatory policy and practice. By responding to the evolving innovation landscape and the increasing complexity of regulating new technologies, this intervention will contribute to the creation a pro-innovation regulatory environment that benefits society.

Innovate UK's Plan for Action recognises the important role regulatory and market frameworks have in shaping and supporting innovation. This programme is a key lever for delivering on the government's commitment in its recently published Science and Technology Framework to create a system of regulation and standards in the UK by 2030 that is easy to navigate and facilitates widespread commercial adoption of novel science and technology applications.

The programme responds to calls for action to establish a series of regulatory hubs that replicates the success of the FDA’s Centers of Excellence in for Regulatory Science and Innovation in the USA. By building on existing regulatory science activity, this investment will contribute to securing the UK's position as a global leader in regulatory science.

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

Innovate UK complies with the requirements of UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, and is committed to upholding data protection legislation, and protecting your information in accordance with data protection principles.

The Information Commissioner’s Office also has a useful guide for organisations, which outlines the data protection principles.

Find a collaborator

If you want help to find a collaborator, 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.


Your application will be reviewed by up to 5 independent assessors based on the content of your application and their skills or expertise relevant to your project. All of the scores awarded will count towards the total score used to make the funding decision unless you are notified otherwise.

You can find out more about our assessment process in the General Guidance.

Your submitted application will be assessed against these criteria.

Next steps

If you are successful with this application, you will be asked to set up your project.

You must follow the unique link embedded in your email notification. This takes you to your IFS Set Up portal, the tool that Innovate UK uses to gather necessary information before we can allow your project to begin.

You will need to provide:

  • the name and contact details of your project manager and project finance lead
  • a redacted copy of your bank details
  • a collaboration agreement
  • an exploitation plan

In order for us to process your claims, you must make sure you have a valid UK business bank account. It can take several weeks for a new account to be created if required. We recommend starting this process as early as possible to avoid any delays to your project start date.

The bank account which grant is to be paid into must:

  • be a business account in the same name as the organisation listed in IFS
  • be from a UK bank regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA)
  • have a cheque and credit clearing facility

Online accounts are eligible as long as they meet the above criteria.

Innovate UK will accept most banking societies apart from:

  • Viva Wallet
  • Intesa Sanpaolo
  • Equals Money UK Limited

If you have any doubts that your bank account will not meet Innovate UK's funding criteria, you can use the sort code checker. If you input the sort code and find a tick next to the ‘BACS Direct Credit payments can be sent to this sort code’, this will give you an indication that the bank account you hold is acceptable.

Finance checks

We will carry out checks to make sure you are an established company with access to the funds necessary to complete the project.

You must check your IFS portal regularly and respond to any requests we have sent for additional information to avoid any delays.

Failure to complete project setup may result in your grant offer being withdrawn.

Your Grant offer letter (GOL)

Once you have successfully completed project setup, we will issue your GOL.

The GOL will be made available on your IFS portal. You will need to sign and upload this for us to approve. Once approved we will send you an email with permission to start your project on your confirmed start date.

You must not start your project before the date stated on your email and GOL. Any costs incurred before your agreed start date cannot be claimed as part of your grant.

If your GOL is approved on or before the fifteenth of the month it will be dated from the first of that month. If your GOL is approved after the fifteenth, it will be dated the first of the next month.

If your application is unsuccessful

If you are unsuccessful with your application this time, you can view feedback from the assessors. This will be available to you on your IFS portal following notification.

Your application may score well and receive positive feedback from the assessors but be unsuccessful. This can be because your average score has not reached the funding threshold for this competition, or your project has not been selected under the portfolio approach if applied to this competition.

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 12pm and 2pm to 5pm UK time, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Need help with this service? Contact us