Funding competition Investment opportunity: immersive technology investment accelerator

UK investors can apply to partner with Innovate UK to combine grant funding with investment in UK immersive tech companies.

Register and apply online

Competition sections

Description

Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, is inviting UK-based investors to partner with us. Together we will provide simultaneous grant and investment to UK micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) working in immersive content and technology.

The aim of this competition is to encourage investment in innovative immersive technology in the creative industries, including content, products, services, software and hardware. We recognise the potential value of creative companies who are driving innovation through the use of immersive technologies in other industries. Investor partners must provide wider business skills and experience as well as capital investment.

The Immersive Investment Accelerator is supported by 2 competitions:

  1. This investor partner competition.
  2. A second phase competition that we plan to open in May 2019. This is for SMEs to apply for a proportion of their eligible project costs, split between grant funding and private investment.

Innovate UK’s Investment Advisory Board will assess applications.

This competition closes at midday 12pm UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type

Grant

Project size

This competition is not offering any funding.

Who can apply

Investment phase

In this competition we are looking for investor partners. To join as an investor partner you must be an equity provider with a UK office. This can include charities and trusts.

The Innovate UK Investment Advisory Board will create a pool of investor partners for this competition. We want to ensure that we have good and appropriate geographic coverage across the whole of the UK, focusing on the most relevant areas.

We are particularly interested in investors who:

  • are prepared to deploy capital with a patient and long-term view
  • can add other value to companies, such as leadership, market access, skills or resources
  • can follow their investment and syndicate to provide more capital when required
  • can commit to helping the company grow and scale up
  • can invest in early-stage companies, including university spin-outs and pre-seed investment
  • have relevant sector and technology-specific expertise

The process for becoming an investor partner is competitive and applications will be assessed by Innovate UK’s Investment Advisory Board. By submitting an application to become an investor, each applicant agrees to be bound by the terms and conditions of the competition, including the memorandum of understanding and the non-disclosure agreement. Both documents are available on the secure website once you register to apply.

SME project phase

The second competition will be open to projects from UK small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). This includes:

  • new deal flow for you
  • SMEs already in your portfolio who are looking for further investment and grant funding for a specific project

We plan to open phase 2 in May 2019. SMEs’ projects must start by 1 Jan 2020 and can last up to 1 year. Total eligible project costs submitted in the second phase, including grant and investment, must be between £150,000 and £300,000.

We will cover 100% of successful applicants’ eligible project costs by matching grant funding with direct equity investment or convertible loans from an investor partner.

The SME applicant must choose either to have their application sent to a single preferred investor partner in the programme, or to have it sent to all the investor partners in the programme. You must therefore provide an email address to allow SME applicants to discuss their project and company with you, with a view to agreeing heads of terms for investment.

Innovate UK will pass all eligible applications to expert and independent assessors and rank the assessed applications as fundable and non-fundable.This will be independent from any discussions between investor partners and applicants.

There will be a meeting on 26 July 2019, after which we will inform investor partners which SMEs have been assessed as grant fundable.

You must inform Innovate UK by 23 August 2019 if you want to pursue the investment opportunity with any of the successful SMEs.

If any of the SME projects you have partnered with are assessed as fundable, you must agree heads of terms with each SME by 30 September 2019. Innovate UK will issue the grant to the SMEs on final investment contracts signed no later than 1 January 2020.

Funding

This first competition is not offering any funding.

In the second competition we have allocated up to £2 million to match fund private investment from investor partners.

For feasibility studies and industrial research projects, Innovate UK will fund 70% of project costs and the investor partner must provide at least the remaining 30% for small and micro businesses.

For medium-sized businesses, Innovate UK will fund 60% of project costs and the investor partner must provide at least the remaining 40%.

This funding will support the development and de-risking of new product ideas, as well as business model development, prototypes and user testing.

Scope

The aim of this competition is to encourage and support innovation investment in the UK’s immersive technology sector. Despite the growth of the market, the finance and investment ecosystem is underdeveloped, particularly for the early stage when companies need seed funding to fund research and development (R&D) and to grow.

You must outline how you intend to invest in order to develop new products, services, systems or tools associated with immersive content production. The funding will help maximise the impact of your private investment in terms of innovation and growth.

We define ‘immersive’ as technologies that blur the line between the physical world and digital or simulated world. They create a sense of immersion, surrounding the audience or individual user so they feel completely involved in the experience.

Specific immersive, multisensory or interactive experiences mediated through technologies include:

  • virtual, mixed and augmented reality (VR, MR and AR)
  • haptics
  • advanced visualisation
  • other sensory interfaces

Funded projects must look to create progress in the immersive sector by enabling immersive content to be created faster, more efficiently or in new ways, and improve significantly on the current ‘state of the art’ in the field.The application and market for these innovations can be in any market sectors, and within business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) markets.

We are looking to fund UK creative and tech companies who are:

  • creating and capturing additional value from the production of immersive content, IP or experiences through the application of technology
  • developing a scalable road map in products, platforms, services, software, hardware and tools in immersive technology

Specific themes

We are particularly looking for applications in:

  • new immersive content production tools, software and systems
  • VR, AR and other digital technologies to deepen and enrich the immersive experience

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund:

  • the development of new creative content in itself (no matter how novel or cross genre it might be)
  • one-off artistic or creative projects
  • projects that are not part of a company’s plan for business growth

4 March 2019
Competition opens
11 March 2019
Edinburgh briefing event
14 March 2019
Brighton briefing event
15 March 2019
Belfast briefing event
19 March 2019
Manchester briefing event
20 March 2019
London briefing event
27 March 2019 12:00pm
Registration closes
3 April 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
26 April 2019
Applicants notified

Before you start

To apply:

  1. Register online using the green button.
  2. You will receive an email acknowledgement of your registration followed by a second email up to 48 hours later. The second email will contain a username and password to register for our secure upload facility along with a unique application number and form.
  3. The non-disclosure agreement and memorandum of understanding for this competition will be available on the secure upload facility once you register.
  4. Download, read and sign the non-disclosure agreement and memorandum of understanding. Upload these and your application form to the secure upload facility.

We will not accept late submissions. Your application is confidential.

You must use Microsoft Word for the application form or your application will be ineligible.

Application questions

This section explains the structure of the application form and offers guidance on what to answer in each question. All sections are mandatory.

Innovate UK’s Investment Advisory Board will score your answers to these questions. After assessment you will receive feedback.

Investor partner details

Describe what type of investor you are, such as venture capital, angel, third sector, corporate and so on. Explain when you expect to have capital available to invest in early stage, innovative SMEs.

Eligibility

Describe how you fit within the eligibility of this competition. Say what stage of company development you are most interested in, such as proof of concept, pre-seed, seed and so on.

Investor description for public use

Provide a description that you are happy to see published of your investment interests and what benefits you can bring to an SME. Do not include any commercially sensitive information.

You must explain:

  • the type of investor you are (venture capital, angel, third sector, corporate and so on)
  • your investment scope
  • the added value of your investment beyond the capital itself

We will use this description to brief potential SME applicants looking for investment. We may also use it to promote the Investor Partnerships Programme if you are chosen as an investor partner.

Application questions

Question 1: Investment constraints

Innovate UK wants to give equal opportunity to companies seeking funding and investment across the whole of the UK. Do you have any constraints in terms of investments?

Tell us:

  • whether geographic overlap with your existing portfolio influences your decision to invest
  • about anything that restricts when you can invest or for how long
  • if you need to syndicate before investing
  • if you are looking for a new deal flow or for a grant and further investment for companies in your existing portfolio, both of which are eligible

Question 2: Capital

What approach will you take to investing capital?

Describe:

  • how much capital you potentially have available to invest into this competition
  • how much further capital may be available to follow your investment
  • the total length of time you can hold an investment
  • how much capital you can typically put into your investments each round and over the lifetime of each company
  • the typical investment size or any boundary levels of capital at each stage of investment, be it pre-seed, seed, series A or something else
  • if you intend to charge a fee should you reach Heads of Terms with companies in the Investment Accelerator

Question 3: Investment timing and rounds

Innovate UK typically issues grants to young companies developing highly innovative products which can be a high risk for investment.

Tell us:

  • the stage of company development when you typically invest, be it pre-seed, seed, series A or something else
  • if you invest in innovations and companies as early as proof-of-concept stage
  • if you invest in university spin-out companies, and any constraints on the universities you work with
  • the number of companies in your current portfolio that took first investment from you in the range of £150,000 to £300,000
  • if you typically fund over several rounds of investment

Question 4: Investment scope

The Immersive Investment Accelerator will increase funding and investment in opportunities that improve the way immersive content is produced, distributed and experienced.

We will use your answer to this question to publicise your offer to companies applying for funding and investment. If you are successful it will be available to applicants through the Innovate UK website. We may also use it at briefing events and in other Innovate UK documents linked to the Immersive Investment Accelerator.

Describe or explain:

  • your interest in the field of immersive technologies and why you believe it is an exciting area for investment
  • how many investments you typically make a year, both into new companies and companies already within your portfolio
  • the investment opportunities you are interested in: content, experiences, devices, products, platforms, services, software hardware, production tools or others
  • any investments you currently have that could be classed as immersive

Question 5: Added value of your investment

Innovate UK has established the Investor Partnerships Programme because we recognise the added value an investor can bring to companies beyond the investment capital itself.

Please note: we will use your answer for publicity in the same way as question 4.

Describe or explain:

  • what expertise you can bring to actively build value in a business, including the development of business skills, recruitment, supply chain development, market access and so on
  • what expertise you can bring to a company specifically operating in the field of immersive technology
  • how your investment can use Innovate UK grant funding to help scale and grow innovative UK companies operating in the broad field of immersive experiences
  • what relevant sector and technology specific expertise you have

Question 6: Impact on the Investor Partnerships Programme

The Investor Partnerships Programme at Innovate UK has been established to bring private investment into early-stage and innovative UK companies earlier, wider and for longer.

Describe the impact co-investing with Innovate UK would have on this programme and your involvement in it.

Describe or explain:

  • the likely impact on your fund of being an investor partner on the Immersive Investment Accelerator and any wider impact on your business
  • the difference being an investor partner would make to your fund, such as giving you a faster route to market or reducing risk
  • how being an investor partner would change the nature of your investment activity
  • what would, or would not, happen if your application to become an investor partner is unsuccessful

Background and further information

The Immersive Investment Accelerator aims to provide simultaneous grant funding and venture capital investment in early-stage projects led by UK companies.

We are now in a position to offer UK-based equity providers (including charities or trusts) the opportunity to join Innovate UK and become investor partners on the Immersive Investment Accelerator.

If you need more information, email us at support@innovateuk.ukri.org or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357.

Need help with this service? Contact us