Funding competition Immersive Technology Investment Accelerator: phase 2, SME projects

UK businesses doing R&D in immersive technology can apply for a share of up to £2 million grant funding alongside private equity investment. The grant funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will award up to £2 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s Audience of the Future programme. This is for immersive technology research and development (R&D) projects.

This investment accelerator competition is for UK-based micro, small or medium sized enterprises (SMEs) who are looking for grant funding and who want to establish an equity relationship with a UK venture capital firm.

The competition aims to encourage investment in innovative immersive technology companies. These companies can be engaged in:

  • immersive content production
  • the delivery of new immersive products, services or platforms
  • or the development of novel immersive software, hardware or devices

We recognise the potential value of creative companies who are supporting innovation through immersive technologies across a range of industries.

Companies can apply for simultaneous grant funding and private investment to cover their total eligible project costs.

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

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £150,000 and £300,000.

Who can apply

State aid

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

Your project

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £150,000 and £300,000.

Projects must start by 1 January 2020 and end by 31 December 2020, and can last up to 1 year.

Lead applicant

To apply you must:

  • be a UK-based micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) working with immersive technology, this can include spin-out companies
  • carry out your R&D project activity in the UK
  • intend to commercially exploit the results in or from the UK
  • apply as a single company, as collaborations are not permitted

Eligible SMEs can be:

  • producing immersive content
  • delivering new immersive products, software and services
  • developing new immersive platforms, hardware or devices

We expect businesses who apply to this competition to be prepared for investment. Investment readiness resources and support can be found on Immerse UK.

To be considered for funding your application must receive a high enough score from Innovate UK’s independent assessors. You must also secure private investment from one of the investor partners listed in the supporting information section.

Multiple applications

Any one business can only make one application to this competition.

Previous applications


If Innovate UK judges that your proposal is not materially different from your previous proposal, it will be classed as a resubmission.

We will only accept one resubmission.

Your resubmission can:

  • take into account the feedback received from the assessors
  • be for a later round of this competition or for another competition

Failure to exploit

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole company and were awarded funding by Innovate UK or UK Research and Innovation, 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, and communicate it to you in writing

Previous projects

Under the terms of Innovate UK funding, you are required to submit an independent accountant’s report (IAR) with your final claim. If you or any organisation in your consortium failed to submit an IAR on a previous project, we will not award funding to you in this or any other competition until we have received the documents.


We have allocated up to £2 million in grant funding to be used alongside the equity investment from the investor partners in this competition.

For feasibility studies and industrial research projects, you can get 100% funding for your eligible project costs. Innovate UK will fund:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business

The remaining funds must be provided by one of our listed investor partners through equity investment or convertible loans. You must agree the terms of the investment with the investor partner you wish to work with. It must be a new investment into your business and cannot come from an existing investment or from your existing balance sheet. If you already have investment from one of our listed investors you can still apply, but again, this must be new money.

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘Aid for research and development projects’, of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Your proposal

This competition is a component of the £33 million ‘Audience of the Future Challenge’ funded through the UK government’s industrial strategy. Despite the growth of the immersive technology market, the finance and investment ‘ecosystem’ is undeveloped, particularly for early stage companies that need seed funding to support R&D and grow. This competition aims to address this by:

  • encouraging early-stage private investment in innovative immersive content, products, platforms, services, software and hardware, to give companies greater confidence that investment will continue after the project funding
  • giving management teams more time to run the business rather than continually chasing investment
  • removing the need to find match funding
  • giving companies direct access to investment partners’ commercial skills, knowledge and market opportunities

Your project must deliver innovation in one or more of the following areas:

  • the creation and capture of future value from the production of immersive content, intellectual property (IP) or experiences through the adoption and implementation of immersive technology
  • the development of tools, products, platforms or services for the creation, delivery or distribution of immersive content
  • the development of new software, hardware and/or development methodology that will enable immersive content to be created faster, more efficiently or in new ways

Your project must have the potential to significantly advance the current ‘state of the art’ in the field. The application and market for these innovations can be in any market sector, and within business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) markets.

We define ‘immersive’ as technologies that blur the line between the physical world and the 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
  • haptics
  • advanced visualisation
  • other sensory interfaces

The aim of the investment accelerator is to fund innovative high-risk projects and invest in companies that have potential for growth. We will achieve this by working closely with our investor partners. We will assess applications using the standard Innovate UK assessment process, while the investors will use their own assessment techniques.

Both Innovate UK and the investor partner must identify a project as fundable before we can offer a grant. For the investor, this means taking the project forward to the ‘heads of terms’ stage with the applicant by 30 September 2019.

External, independent experts will assess the quality of your application. We will then select the projects to fund, building a portfolio of projects that:

  • are high quality
  • address the range of themes as described in the scope
  • represent the potential for return on investment for the company and the UK

We are particularly encouraging new deal flow from the investor partners. SMEs who already have investment from one or more of the investors are also eligible. Preference may be given to first time investments in the event of a large number of high quality applications.

Subject to meeting the quality threshold and reaching ‘heads of terms’ with an investor partner we reserve the right to manage the portfolio to achieve the correct balance of projects and funding.

Investor partners

Learn about our investor partners, their interest in immersive technology and the value they can add to your business. We encourage you to contact the investor partners you are interested in before submitting your application to discuss whether they wish to invest in your company. Read each investor partner description to help you decide which is right for your project.

  • Creative England

  • GC Angels (GC Business Finance)

  • HTC Europe

  • London Venture Partners LLP

  • Mercia Technologies PLC

  • Northstar Ventures Ltd

  • Oxford Sciences Innovation plc

  • R/GA

  • Station12

  • Techstart Ventures LLP

  • Warner Music UK

Specific themes

Your project can focus on one or more of the following:

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

Research categories

Businesses that receive grant funding and investment can undertake feasibility studies and industrial research projects. Please see the general guidance to help you decide which category your project fits in.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that cover:

  • the development of new creative content, no matter how new or cross genre it might be
  • one-off artistic or creative projects
  • projects that are not part of your company’s plan for business growth
20 May 2019
London briefing event
20 May 2019
Online briefing event. Watch the recording
20 May 2019
Competition opens
21 May 2019
Edinburgh briefing event.
4 June 2019
Manchester briefing event.
10 June 2019
Belfast briefing event.
3 July 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
26 July 2019
Innovate UK's assessment notification
30 September 2019
Heads of terms with investor partner deadline
11 October 2019 9:09am
Applicants notified

Before you start

Please read the general guidance for applicants. 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.

You will be able to invite colleagues to make contributions.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

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

1. Project details

This section is not scored.

Application team

Invite colleagues to contribute to your application and other organisations to collaborate on your project.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration. Is the application a resubmission?

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

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 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

The assessors will score your answers to these questions. You will receive feedback from them 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. Need or challenge

What is the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity behind your innovation?

Describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • 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 work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project is focused 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, using our Horizons tool if appropriate

Question 2. Approach and innovation

What approach will you take and where will the focus of the innovation be?

Describe or explain:

  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • whether the innovation will focus on the application of existing technologies in new areas, the development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
  • how it will make you more competitive
  • 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

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 3. Team and resources

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?

Describe or explain:

  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
  • the details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • any gaps in the team you will need to fill

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4. Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

Describe or explain:

  • the markets (domestic, international or both) you will be targeting in the project and any other potential markets
  • the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by references where available
  • the structure and dynamics of the target markets, including customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
  • the target markets’ main supply or value chains and business models, and any barriers to entry that exist
  • the current UK position in targeting these markets
  • the size and main features of any other markets not already listed

If your project is highly innovative, where the market may be unexplored, describe or explain:

  • what the market’s size might to be
  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential

Question 5. Outcomes and route to market

How are you going to grow your business and increase your productivity into the long term as a result of the project?

Describe or explain:

  • your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • your target customers or end users, and the value to them, for example, why they would use or buy your product
  • your route to market
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation, including increased revenues or cost reduction
  • how the innovation will affect your productivity and growth, in both the short and the long term
  • how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, patenting, designs or changes to your business model
  • your strategy for targeting the other markets you have identified during or after the project

Question 6. Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Describe, and where possible measure:

  • the economic benefits from the project to external parties, including customers, others in the supply chain, broader industry and the UK economy, such as productivity increases and import substitution
  • any expected impact on government priorities
  • any expected environmental impacts, either positive or negative
  • any expected regional impacts of the project

Describe any expected social impacts, either positive or negative on, for example:

  • quality of life
  • social inclusion or exclusion
  • jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
  • education
  • public empowerment
  • health and safety
  • regulations
  • diversity

Question 7. Project management

How will you manage the project effectively?

Describe or explain:

  • the main work packages of the project, indicating the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms you will use to get a successful and innovative project outcome
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones

You can submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 8. Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

Describe or explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks, providing a risk register if appropriate
  • how you will mitigate these risks
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise, data sets
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how will you manage this?

You can submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9. Added value

What impact would an injection of public funding and private investment have on your business?

Describe or explain:

  • if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as a faster route to market, more partners or reduced risk
  • the benefits for your business of engaging with private investors at this time and the likely impact on your business plan
  • the likely impact of the project on your business
  • why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding, and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful
  • how this project would change the nature of R&D activity you would undertake, and the related spend

Question 10. Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?

Describe or explain:

  • the total eligible project costs and the grant you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

Question 11: Investor selection

Select your investor partner.

You can choose to have your application viewed by one preferred investor partner, or by all investors.

Please type ‘all investors’ or insert the name of one preferred investor.

3. Finances

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

Extra help

If you need support with your application or guidance on how to prepare your company for investment please go to Immerse UK.

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

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