Funding competition Women in Innovation Award 2024/25

Women within UK registered micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can apply for a share of up to £4 million to develop their exciting and innovative ideas. The £75,000 grant also includes bespoke business support.

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Competition sections

Description

Text update 22 May 2024: We have amended wording for applicant clarity.

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is offering up to 50 Women in Innovation Awards to women entrepreneurs within SMEs across the UK. The winners will receive a £75,000 grant and bespoke business support.

The aim of this competition is to fund and support a diverse portfolio of Women in Innovation Award winners:

  • who will be relatable role models for women from all backgrounds
  • from regions across the UK
  • who are solving a range of pressing societal, environmental and economic challenges
  • in a variety of innovation areas

We want to support women who are at a critical stage, where the injection of support from an award will accelerate the growth of their business.

The funding should help you make a real difference to innovation in the UK including in and beyond your sector or innovation area.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition has a funding limit, so we may not be able to fund all the proposed projects. It may be the case that your project scores highly but we are still unable to fund it.

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

Grant

Project size

Your project’s grant funding request must be up to £75,000.

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

Text update 24 May 2024: further clarity has been added regarding lead applicant eligibility.

Text update 12 June 2024: we have changed the guidance in the funding section for clarity.

Your project

Your project must:

  • have a grant funding request of up to £75,000
  • last for 12 months
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • start on 1 December 2024
  • end on 30 November 2025

Projects must always start on the first of the month and this must be stated within your application. Your project start date will be reflected in your grant offer letter if you are successful.

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 participant

To lead a project you must:

  • be a woman founder, co-founder or senior decision maker within a UK registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) that has been registered on Companies House for at least 12 months by the competition closing date
  • be a resident in the UK
  • attend two development days in 2025
  • be fully committed to volunteer as a role model for at least five days over the duration of the award

Applications from UK-registered social enterprises operating economically will be eligible if they meet all other criteria.

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

You are not eligible to apply for Women in Innovation 2024 - 2025 if you or anyone else from your business have previously received Innovate UK funding from:

  • Women in Innovation
  • Young Innovators Next Steps follow on funding
  • Innovate UK Award: Build

Subcontractors

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition. Subcontracting costs must not exceed 50% of the grant funding amount.

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

We expect all subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs.

Number of applications

You can only make one application for yourself. Only one woman working within an organisation can apply.

The awards are for individuals, but this does not prevent you from working on the project with others.

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

You can make a maximum of two submissions to Innovate UK with any given proposal. If Innovate UK judges that your proposal is not materially different from your previous proposal, it will be counted towards this maximum.

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 three 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 (legislation.gov.uk).

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.

Funding

We have allocated up to £4 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

Your total project costs will be 100% funded. Your total project costs and grant funding request must match and must not exceed the £75,000 grant funding amount. If your total project costs or grant funding request exceeds the maximum then your application will be made ineligible.

If successful, the grant funding will be paid in two instalments:​

  • 90% paid upfront in December 2024​
  • 10% paid post project end, upon approval of the final claim, independent accountant report (IAR) and project close form (PCF)

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

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 fund and support a diverse portfolio of Women in Innovation Award winners:

  • who will be relatable role models for women from all backgrounds
  • from regions across the UK
  • who are solving a range of pressing societal, environmental and economic challenges
  • in a variety of innovation areas

Your project must identify clearly evidenced pressing societal, environmental or economic challenges, and how your project and innovation can help solve them.​

Applications can come from any area of innovation (where innovation is defined as the commercially successful exploitation of ideas) and be applied to any part of the economy.

We are looking for women who clearly explain how they will benefit from the full package of funding and support on offer and who can describe how this will add value to them and their business.

We are particularly encouraging applications from women who:

  • are looking to develop a game changing novel idea or business innovation
  • have the potential, capability, experience and personal drive to become leaders in business innovation
  • want to be a role model for others, including in their region, sector and to young people
  • have a clear vision for their business
  • know what they are hoping to achieve from the award and how to measure success

As an award holder you will receive tailored business support, including but not limited to:

  • funding and finance options and how to access these
  • media and communications, for example, branding
  • developing new business models
  • evaluating market opportunities
  • finding new partners
  • growth and scale up
  • developing international collaborations and accessing global markets
  • business planning strategy

Role model work

Award holders will be required to volunteer as a role model for at least five days over the 12 month duration of the award. This is likely to generate interest in your stories and business.

A role model is a person perceived by others as setting an example of best practice which, if replicated, can enable the achievement of goals.

A role model is frequently associated with undertaking activities, including but not limited to:

  • mentoring
  • coaching
  • presentations
  • advice and guidance

A role model will help encourage and inspire others to enter a career in innovation and promote diversity and inclusion in innovation.

Portfolio approach

We want to fund a variety of projects across different locations in the UK. We call this a portfolio approach.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that:

  • are not led by a woman founder, co-founder or senior decision maker within a UK registered SME
  • have total project costs and a grant funding request over £75,000
  • attribute more than 50% of their costs to subcontractors
  • do not intend to use the full award package, for example, requesting just the funding and not the wider support package
  • have a negative impact on the environment or society
  • have a detrimental effect on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)
  • are unable to commit to two development days in 2025
  • are not able to fulfil at least five days of Role Modelling during the 12 month Award
  • have previously received Innovate UK funding from Women in Innovation, Young Innovators Next Steps follow on funding, or Innovate UK Award: Build

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 May 2024
Competition opens
14 May 2024

Online briefing event: watch the recording

(Briefing slides will be available to download from supporting information after the event)
31 May 2024
Grant Writing Workshop​
12 June 2024
How to make an effective video submission
28 June 2024
Project Planning and Risk Management Workshop
4 July 2024
Women in Innovation: Applicant Support Q&A
10 July 2024 11:00am
Competition closes
22 August 2024
Applicants notified

Before you start

Text update 22 May 2024: We have added clearer wording to Question 6 and 7 regarding scoring.

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

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. The assessors will not have access to the equality diversity and inclusion survey data.

Application details

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

Projects must start on 1 December 2024 and be of 12 months’ duration.

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.

Scope

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.

Applicant location

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.

Due to our portfolio approach, we reserve the right to withdraw your award if your location changes before your start date.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score all your answers apart from questions 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 other than your video link for question 5.

Question 1. 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 question 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 six years and be prepared to release it to any public funding body which requests it.

Question 2. 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 3. Role model commitment (not scored)

Can you commit five days over the duration of the award to activities related to being a role model?

You must state Yes or No as part of your answer and explain why role models are important to inspire future innovators.

If you state no, you will be made ineligible.

Your answer can be up to 150 words long.

Question 4. Further business support (not scored)

Even if you are unsuccessful, we may be able to find you some business support through our partner organisations. Are you happy for us to share your details with our partner organisations, Innovate UK Business Connect, Innovate UK Business Growth and the Catapult network?

Select:

  • Yes
  • No

Question 5. Video (scored)

You must provide a video to describe your proposal. The video is mandatory and if you do not provide a link to access your video in this question, your application will be made ineligible.

In your video, tell us about:

  • your business and innovation
  • the problem your innovation will solve
  • why you are best placed to solve it
  • the skills, expertise and experience you have which are relevant to ensuring successful delivery of the project
  • your capacity to successfully deliver this project alongside existing business activities or constraints

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

You must upload your video to YouTube.

Your video must be no longer than three minutes. If your video is over three minutes long, only the first three minutes will be viewed.

You do not need to be in the video, you are able to submit a black screen or slide deck with a voice over. The video does not need to be a costly production. It is simply an opportunity to give the assessors clarity in understanding your project.

You must ensure:

  • your video is ‘unlisted’ in the privacy settings
  • your video remains available until 1 December 2024
  • you give the link and any passwords required in your written answer to this question

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.

If the assessors are unable to view your video link, or it is hosted on a platform other than YouTube, your application will be made ineligible.

Requests for extensions due to problems uploading a video will not be accepted.

If you cannot upload your video to YouTube, you must contact support@iuk.ukri.org at least 15 working days before the competition closes for advice, or to ask permission to use an alternative platform.

This question is worth 20% of the total score.

Your answer can be up to 100 words long.

Question 6. Need or challenge (scored)

What pressing societal, environmental, or economic challenge are you trying to solve through your innovation and what is the expected impact?

Describe:

  • the expected impacts on society, the economy and the environment
  • what potential negative impacts you have considered and how you plan to mitigate them
  • the overall societal, environmental, or economic challenges your innovation is focussing on
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example, if the project focuses on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations

This question is worth 20% of the total score.

Your answer can be up to 500 words long.

Question 7. Approach and innovation (scored)

What innovation would you develop with the award?

Explain:

  • the new idea or business opportunity and why this is innovative and important
  • how your new idea or business opportunity will respond to the challenge identified in question 6
  • the freedom you have to operate, for example, patents, intellectual property (IP)
  • how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
  • your target customers or end users and their location (whether they are based in specific regions, across the UK or other locations)
  • how you will consider equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the design, development and delivery of your innovation
  • how you have engaged with the target audience to understand their need
  • the nearest current state of the art, including those near market or in development, and its limitations

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF and can be up to two A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

This question is worth 20% of the total score.

Your answer can be up to 500 words long.

Question 8. Plan for the award (scored)

How will you deliver the award? How will the full package of support enable you to successfully deliver the award?

Describe:

  • the specific activities or work packages you will undertake with the grant funding you are requesting with the costs associated
  • any resources, equipment and facilities required for the project or activity and how you will access them
  • who you will need to work with to successfully execute your project or carry out the planned activity, such as subcontractors
  • how you will manage the project to keep it on track and maximise the likelihood of success, including any tools and mechanisms that will be used to ensure successful delivery
  • your three main risks for your project or planned activity, for example, any technical, commercial, managerial or environmental risks, and explain how these will be mitigated
  • how you will incorporate and utilise the full package of support from this award

You must upload a risk register as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 10MB and up to one A4 page long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

You can also upload a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 10MB and up to one A4 page long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

This question is worth 20% of the total score.

Your answer can be up to 500 words long.

Question 9. Added value and timeliness of the award (scored)

What added value would an injection of public funding have on the business? Why is this the right time for the Women in Innovation Award?

Explain:

  • the impact this project will have on the growth potential for your business
  • your vision for where you see your business in the future
  • the added value of the Women in Innovation Award to you and why this is the right time for the injection of support it offers
  • what advantages public funding would offer your project, for example, appeal to investors, more partners, reduced risk or a faster route to market
  • what other routes of investment you have already approached and what your project would look like without public funding
  • what you expect the next steps to be after the award (potential challenges and opportunities)

This question is worth 20% of the total score.

Your answer can be up to 500 words long.

3. Finances

Your project’s total grant funding request and total project costs must not exceed the maximum of £75,000. If your grant funding request or total project costs do 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 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.

You 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.

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.

Background and further information

Text update 22 May 2024: We have added a link to our Frequently Asked Questions to help with your application.
Innovate UK launched Women in Innovation (WII) in 2016, after research revealed that just one in seven applications for Innovate UK support came from women. Boosting the number of women entrepreneurs could deliver £250 million to the economy.

The overall aim was to get more women with excellent ideas innovating within UK businesses. WII is part of our commitment to promote greater diversity and inclusion in business innovation.

Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of the Women in Innovation programme which forms an integral part of Innovate UK’s 2021-2025 Plan for Action for UK Business Innovation.

Through the Women in Innovation programme, we are nurturing pioneering women to embrace innovation, grow their businesses, and work in partnership with many brilliant organisations and develop their own diverse teams for positive economic, environmental, and societal change.

Since 2016, WII has been incredibly successful, we have over 200 award winners with a £10.1 million investment and an associated community of over 9,500 members.

The programme has amplified our reach and impact towards Innovate UK’s mission to foster a more gender-diverse business innovation ecosystem in the UK. WII remains one of the most popular Innovate UK programmes and is highly valued within the community.

Development days

The two Women in Innovation development days will be held during the 12 months of your award. The first will be held in February 2025 and the second in September 2025.

The development days are an opportunity to engage and network with both those providing the expert support available and other peers in your cohort.

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions to help you apply for the Innovate UK Women in Innovation Award 2024/25.

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 project partner

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

Support for SMEs from Innovate UK Business Growth

If you receive an award, you will be contacted about working with an innovation and growth specialist at Innovate UK Business Growth. 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 Business Growth, delivered by a knowledgeable and objective specialist near you.

Assessment

Your application will be reviewed by five 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.

Briefing Slides

Briefing slides are available to download here.

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 Innovation Funding Service (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
  • 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 support@iuk.ukri.org 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).
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