Funding competition Women in Innovation Awards 2018

UK business women can apply for one of 8 Women in Innovation Awards: £50,000 funding each and a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and business support.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, is looking for women who are rising stars in business innovation. Applicants must be confident, with the support of an award, that they can make a significant contribution to one of the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges:

  1. Artificial intelligence and data.
  2. Ageing society.
  3. Clean growth.
  4. Future of mobility.

We are offering 8 Women in Innovation Awards. The winners will receive a £50,000 grant and a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and business support.

The aim of this competition is to find women with exciting, innovative ideas and ambitious plans that will inspire others.

The competition is split into 2 phases. In phase 1 the written application will be assessed by independent experts. In phase 2 the shortlisted applicants will be interviewed by a panel of experts.

The awards are for female founders, co-founders or senior decision makers working in companies that have been operating for at least one year.

Funding type


Project size

Each award will provide £50,000 of funding. Awards must start by 1 April 2019 and will last for one year.

Who can apply

To be eligible for an award you must be:

  • a female founder, co-founder or senior decision maker within a UK based business
  • working in a business that has been operating for at least one year
  • working in an area that aligns with one of the 4 Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges: artificial intelligence and data, ageing society, clean growth, or the future of mobility
  • intending to exploit the results of the funded activities from or in the UK
  • able to receive funding under de minimis state aid regulations (page 20)
  • legally and contractually able to use the funding
  • available to attend an interview panel on 11 or 12 December 2018 (the exact date and time will be confirmed)
  • willing to work as a role model for up to 5 days over the duration of the award

You can only make one application for yourself. More than one woman working within the same organisation can apply. The awards are for individuals but this does not prevent you from working with others.

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole company and were awarded funding by Innovate UK, but did not make a substantial effort to exploit that award, we will award no more funding to you, in this or any other competition. You will not be able to contest our decision. We will:

  • assess your efforts in the previous competition against your exploitation plan for that project
  • review the monitoring officers’ reports and any other relevant sources for evidence
  • document our decision, which will be made by 3 team members
  • communicate our decision to you in writing

Any UK business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid. If you are unsure please take legal advice. For further information please see our general guidance.


We have allocated up to £400,000 for 8 awards at £50,000 each. We will also provide a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and business support.

The funding will be paid in 3 increments:

  • 20% (£10,000) upfront
  • 60% (£30,000) at the mid-point
  • 20% (£10,000) at the end

In addition to the grant funding, all award holders will receive a package of support tailored to their needs.

The expert advice available includes:

  • funding and finance options and how to access these, including introductions to investors and training on pitching
  • media and communications, such as branding
  • intellectual property
  • developing new business models
  • evaluating market opportunities
  • finding new partners
  • business growth and scale up
  • developing international collaborations and accessing global markets
  • business planning strategy

Access to relevant world-leading facilities and equipment will be also be provided where this is appropriate.

The package of support will be delivered by:

De minimis aid

The grant funding will be made to the business as a de minimis grant.

De minimis aid is used to describe small amounts of state aid that do not require European Commission approval. The European Commission considers that public funding which complies with the de minimis regulation has a negligible impact on trade and competition, and does not require notification and approval.

The total de minimis aid which can be given to a single recipient is €200,000 over a 3-year fiscal period. This can be given for most purposes, including operating aid, and is not project-related. Further information is available on page 20 of the state aid manual.

Role model work

Award holders will be required to work as a role model for at least 5 days over the one year duration of the award. This is likely to generate interest in their stories and businesses. See the work that was done with the Women in Innovation Award holders from 2016.

Your application

We plan to offer 8 awards, 2 in each of the 4 Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge areas. The aim of this competition is to find women with the potential to be future leaders in innovation.

We want to support women who are at a critical stage with their business, where an award will enable them to take an important step forward. The funding should help them make a real difference to innovation in the UK.

You should be someone who will be an inspiration to others.

As you are applying for more than a grant you must explain how you will gain value from the full package of support on offer.

The awards are not intended for women who have already achieved great success, where the added value of an award would be minimal.

We are particularly encouraging applications from women who:

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

30 July 2018
Competition opens
7 August 2018
London briefing event
7 August 2018
Online briefing event. Watch the recording
3 October 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
23 November 2018
Invite to interview.
11 December 2018
Possible interview panel.
12 December 2018
Possible interview panel.
20 December 2018 11:02am
Applicants notified

Before you start

Please read the guidance on monitoring officers and the additional general guidance. It will help your chances of submitting a quality application.

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


If your application is successful at the written stage you will be invited to attend an interview, where you will need to give a presentation. The invite will be emailed to you.

Presentations should be a maximum of 10 minutes in length, with no more than 10 slides (using Microsoft PowerPoint). Please do not include any video or embedded web links. This will be followed by 20 minutes of questions and answers.

You must submit your presentation slides to Innovate UK by the date stated in the email invite. You will not be able to make any changes to the presentation after this date.

The interview is for you but you can bring a partner with you if you think this is appropriate. You need to send us their name by the date stated in the invite email. Make sure they will be available on the published interview dates. We are unable to reschedule slots once allocated.

You will be expected to answer questions based on your application form and the assessor feedback from the written stage.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

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

1. Application details

Provide a summary of your application. This section is not scored, but we will use it to decide whether the application fits with the scope of the competition. If it does not, it will be immediately rejected.

Application details

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

Application summary

Describe yourself, your business and your idea briefly, and be clear about what makes your idea innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Public description

Describe yourself, your business and your idea in a way that you are happy to see published. Please do not include any commercially sensitive information. If your application is successful, we will publish this description. This could happen before the start date of your award. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.


Describe how your application fits the scope of the competition. If your application 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. Application questions

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

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.

Question 1: Your potential to be a leader in business innovation

Do you have evidence that you have the capabilities and potential to be a leader in your area of business innovation, and a role model for others?

Describe or demonstrate:

  • why you have the potential to become a leader in innovation
  • why you have made the decision to focus on innovation in your field
  • that you have the ambition to achieve great things and the business acumen to deliver commercial success
  • your relevant skills and capabilities, giving evidence of aptitude and potential to lead, inspire and influence, communicate, and a willingness to work hard to achieve your potential
  • how you would feel about being a role model to encourage and inspire more women into business innovation
  • your role in previous innovation activities including the development of novel technologies, innovative products or services and their commercialisation.
  • your understanding of the processes and stages involved in making innovation happen, including any relevant experience, such as accessing funding, protecting intellectual property rights, getting buy-in from stakeholders, leading teams, identifying resources for innovation projects, or understanding market requirements and dynamics
  • the difference that an award will make to you personally

If you were encouraged to apply for this award by a colleague, please include a few sentences from them on why they put you forward.

In a separate appendix named ’Appendix: Question 1‘ you can submit in PDF format up to one page of A4 for additional information to support this question. This can include recommendations from colleagues, publicity or outside references to your work. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 2: Your vision for your business and timeliness of the award

What is the vision for your business and why is this the right time for you and your business to benefit from the award?

Describe or explain:

  • your vision for where you see your business in the future
  • how the vision is ambitious
  • the current status with your business and progress to date including other relevant support that you have received
  • the added value of the award to the business and why this is the right time for the injection of support it offers
  • the market you are targeting and any other potential markets
  • what you expect the future to look like

State whether you have freedom to operate in the innovation area.

In a separate appendix named ’Appendix: Question 2‘ you can submit in PDF format up to one page of A4 for additional information to support this question. You can include details of any public or private support received to date and graphics to illustrate the vision and describe the dynamics of your target market. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 3: Your idea or business opportunity

What new idea or business opportunity would you like to develop with the award, and why this is a critical next step for your business?

Describe or explain:

  • the new idea or business opportunity
  • why this is important and how it relates to the vision described in question 2
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • the nearest current state-of-the-art, including those near market or in development, and its limitations
  • any previous work you have carried out that you will build on

Question 4: Significance to the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges

How does your vision relate to one of the 4 Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge areas, and what is the potential for impact in the UK?

Describe or explain:

  • which of the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges your vision relates to and how, specifying the most important element to your chosen Challenge or Challenges
  • the impacts you expect your vision to have towards the overall mission for the Grand Challenges
  • the wider economic, social, environmental or regional impacts for the UK

Question 5: Plan for the award

How will you use the package of support provided by the award?

Describe or explain:

  • the specific activities you would undertake with £50,000 of funding
  • the cost of each activity you plan to undertake and explain how this represents value for money
  • who you will need to work with to successfully execute your project or carry out the planned activity, including any important internal or external parties, such as sub-contractors
  • any resources, equipment and facilities required for the project or activity and how you will access them
  • 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
  • the main risks and uncertainties of your project or planned activity, for example any technical, commercial, managerial or environmental risks, and explain how these will be mitigated

Explain fully how you plan to use the non-grant package of support to add value to your work. Refer to the information on the package of support in the funding section. Tell us what expert advice you are most interested in and why. Say if you would like to access world-leading facilities and equipment and, if so, provide details of what you are looking for.

You can upload a project plan, risk analysis table or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 10MB and up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 6: What does success look like?

What are the expected outputs of the award and how will these be measured?

Describe or explain:

  • what outputs you expect to see for each activity described in question 5
  • what success looks like and how it will be measured
  • the nature of the outputs you expect from the project (for example, report, demonstrator, know-how, new process, product or service design) and how these will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, patenting, designs or changes to your business model
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how you will manage this
  • what you expect the next steps to be after the award

Question 7: Additional questions

These questions are not scored but will help us to match your application to the most suitable assessor and improve our service to you.

Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge areas

Write the name of the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge area that most closely aligns with your application:

  • artificial intelligence and data
  • ageing society
  • clean growth, or
  • the future of mobility

Where appropriate, please indicate if your application also aligns with another Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge area.

Previous applications

Have you applied for funding from any Innovate UK competition previously? Please state Yes or No.

How you heard about the Awards

How did you find out about the Women in Innovation Awards? Please write one of the following:

  • recommended by a colleague
  • Innovate UK’s Twitter
  • Innovate UK’s LinkedIn
  • Innovate UK’s Facebook
  • Innovate UK’s website
  • an email or other communication from Innovate UK
  • KTN’s social media
  • an email or other communication from KTN
  • KTN’s website
  • Instagram
  • from somewhere else (please specify)

Additional support

Even if you are unsuccessful we may be able to find you some support. Are you happy for us to share your details with our partner organisations, the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) and Catapults?

Please write yes or no.

3. Finances

In the finances section you must complete your project costs, organisational details and funding details. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation campaign was launched on 1 June 2016 to address the under-representation of women engaging with Innovate UK and to boost the economy as a result. The overall aim was to get more women with excellent ideas innovating in UK businesses. Women in Innovation is part of our commitment to promote greater diversity and inclusion in business innovation.

Shortly after launching the campaign we opened our first competition for Women in Innovation Awards. The campaign and awards programme in 2016 have had a huge impact so far. The Women in Innovation Awards 2018 will build on this success.

Anyone who self-identifies as a woman is eligible to apply.

'Building success' events

Are you a female innovator who wants business support and the chance to network?

Sign up to one of our 'Women in innovation: building success' events, run by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN). There are 4 regional events, running from November 2018 to March 2019.

They will include:

  • grant writing masterclass
  • guidance on finding out exactly what an investor is looking for
  • guidance on using KTN’s Innovation Canvas tool
  • guidance on using KTN’s Market Validation tool
  • talks from keynote speakers
  • review of the funding and finance landscape with upcoming opportunities
  • panel session with successful women entrepreneurs from the region
  • opportunity to network with your peers
  • opportunity to learn about the support available in your region

Extra help

If you want help to find a project collaborator, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

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

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