Funding competition The Sustainable Innovation Fund: round 2 (de minimis)

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £26 million for new projects focusing on sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19. This funding is from Innovate UK.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £26 million to fund single and collaborative research and development projects as part of The Sustainable Innovation Fund.

The aim of this competition is to help all sectors of the UK rebuild after the effects of COVID-19.

All projects must be led by a business. Proposals can only be from a single business.

This competition is round 2 of a potential 3.

  • round 2 - De Minimis (this competition)
  • round 3 - Temporary Framework (opening September 2020)

This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £100,000.

Who can apply

De minimis

The funding will be made as a de minimis grant. All applicants for a de minimis award must complete and provide to Innovate UK a de minimis declaration, which can be found in question 1. This states any and all de minimis awards (from any source of public funding) during the current and previous 2 fiscal years.

Agriculture, fisheries and road transport sectors

Innovate UK provides research, development and innovation funding opportunities within the agriculture and fisheries sectors through other forms of aid. However, we will not fund the following through de minimis.

  • aid subsidising any primary production within fishery and aquaculture sectors
  • aid subsidising any primary production of agricultural products

De minimis aid cannot be used for costs associated with:

  • export-related activities towards third countries or member states, namely aid directly linked to the quantities exported, to the establishment and operation of a distribution network or to other current expenditure linked to the export activity
  • activities that favour domestic goods over imports
  • activities related to purchasing of road freight transport. For any other activity which involves hire or reward in the road freight transport sector, aid is limited to 100,000 euros over 3 fiscal (tax) years

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £50,000 and £100,000
  • be ready to start by 1 November 2020
  • last between three and six months

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • be able to carry out project work under the current restrictions of COVID-19
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

Academic institutions and research and technology organisations (RTOs) cannot lead or work alone but can be subcontractors.

Find out which definition your organisation falls into.


Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK. Where subcontractors are non-UK based, please justify why you are unable to use a UK alternative. We would expect subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs.

Multiple applications

A business can only submit one application in this competition.

Previous applications


You can use a resubmission to apply for this competition.

Failure to exploit

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole organisation 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 must 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 £26 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

You can receive funding of 100% of your total eligible project costs, up to £100,000.

We will provide up to £50,000 to each grant-claiming organisation as an advance on grant payment. We aim to make this payment within 10 working days of a fully-signed grant offer letter being returned. This will be taken off the first and any subsequent claims.
De minimis

In order to minimise distortion of competition, the European Commission sets limits on how much assistance can be given without its prior approval, to organisations operating in a competitive market. There is a ceiling of €200,000 for all de minimis aid provided to any one organisation over a 3 fiscal year period.

You need to declare any de minimis aid awarded to any other public funding body which requests it. You must also keep all documentation associated with the award for 10 years from the date the award is granted.

Your proposal

COVID-19 has affected R&D across all sectors, and our aim with this competition is to help all sectors of the UK recover, grow, and create new opportunities from the aftermath of the global health pandemic.

Your proposal must show evidence of key challenges as a direct consequence of COVID-19, and how your project can help solve them.

You must consider your proposal’s impact on climate change and/or environmental sustainability.

We would also like you to address where necessary, equality, diversity, and inclusion in relation to your project, your organisation(s) and your approach to innovation.

We will fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, regions, technological maturities and research categories, including the themes listed below.

Specific themes

Your project can also focus on:
  • decarbonisation, circular economy and/or biodiversity
  • climate change and environmental sustainability
  • geographic or regionally targeted innovation
  • innovation that is aimed at commercial or residential users
  • innovations that work across more than one sector
  • follow-on international opportunities that help the UK lead the world

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that:

  • are not related to an impact on a business due to Covid-19 disruption
  • have a negative impact on the environment and/or society
  • have a detrimental effect on equality, diversity, and inclusion
  • would duplicate other UK Government activities or EU-funded initiatives already underway such as the testing or manufacture of vaccines and ventilators
  • do not involve any research and development or innovation, for example, the creation of information-only websites
  • are feasibility studies
  • involve primary production in fishery and aquaculture
  • involve primary production in agriculture
  • are not allowed under de minimis regulation restrictions
28 July 2020
Competition opens
30 July 2020
Online briefing event
31 July 2020
EEN "how to write a good application" recorded event
31 July 2020
KTN Q&A online event
2 September 2020 11:00am
Competition closes
2 October 2020 9:38am
Applicants notified

Before you start

Data protection

By submitting an application, you are providing authority for Innovate UK (and any subsidiary or agency appointed to evaluate your application) to do checks on the financial standing of your organisation. This might include, but will not be limited to, checks with credit reference agencies (which might be recorded on your record) to determine your credit standing, identity, beneficial ownership and control, and source of existing funds.

The principles that Innovate UK follows when we collect, hold or use your personal information and how you can check what details we hold are set out in Innovate UK’s personal information charter.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

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

1. Project details

This section sets the scene for the assessors and is not scored.

Application details

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

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We collect and report on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) data to address under-representation in business innovation and ensure equality, diversity and inclusion across all our activities.

You must complete this EDI survey (opens in new window) and type ‘EDI survey completed’ within your answer. The survey will ask you questions on your gender, age, ethnicity and disability status. You will always have the option to ‘prefer not to say’ if you do not feel comfortable sharing this information.

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 500 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 500 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 500 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers for questions 2 to 8. You will receive feedback from them for each one.

Your answer to each question can be up to 500 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers.

Question 1. De Minimis declaration (not scored)

Please download the de minimis declaration template. You must complete this declaring any de minimis aid received during the current and previous 2 fiscal years, then upload as a PDF to this question. You will still need to complete this even if you have received no previous de minimis funding. You must also keep all documentation relating to this and other de minimis awards for a period of 10 years and be prepared to release it to any public funding body which requests it. Please write “declaration attached” in the text box.

Question 2. Need or challenge

What is the challenge you are trying to solve, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • the impact COVID-19 has had on businesses or sectors that are a focus of your project
  • any decarbonisation, circular economy and/or biodiversity challenges as a result of COVID-19
  • any equality, diversity or inclusion challenges if appropriate
  • 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 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, using our Horizons tool if appropriate

Question 3. Your idea

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
  • how your idea can positively contribute towards a clean environment and sustainable growth within the UK, such as decarbonisation, circular economy and/or biodiversity (if at all)
  • the evidence to support your idea and how it will be measured, including any sustainability-specific plans
  • how you will consider equality, diversity and inclusion in the development of your innovation (for example unintended exclusion of minority groups, recognising bias)
  • 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 must submit one appendix to support your answer. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF, can be up to 2 A4 pages long and up to 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4. Team, resources and delivery

Who is in the project team, what are their roles, and how will you deliver the project?

Describe or explain:

  • the roles, skills and experience of all members and the diversity of the project team as a whole that are relevant to the approach you will be taking (please do not provide personal information on individuals)
  • any roles you will need to recruit for and how you will promote equality, diversity and inclusion, as appropriate
  • 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
  • the main work packages of the project 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
  • who will be responsible for measuring the sustainability outcomes and impact and how they will report this

You must submit one appendix describing the skills and experience of the main people working on the project to support your answer and any supplementary project management information such as a Gantt chart or project plan. It must be a PDF, can be up to 4 A4 pages long and up to 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 5. 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, including their sizes
  • the structure and dynamics of the target markets, including customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear time frames
  • 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 6. Outcomes and route to market

How are you going to stabilise and grow your business following COVID-19 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 consolidating, 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, particularly if COVID-19 has changed market dynamics
  • 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

If there is any research organisation activity in the project, describe:

  • your plans to spread the project’s research outputs over a reasonable timescale
  • how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities

Question 7. 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
  • ways to mitigate future risk arising from COVID-19 restrictions and other possible national and global factors
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise, data sets and if they are affected by COVID-19
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how you will manage this

You may submit one appendix to support your answer. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF, can be up to 2 A4 pages long and up to 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 8. Costs, added value and value for money

What impact would an injection of public funding have on the businesses involved?

Describe or explain:

  • the total eligible project costs and the grant you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how you will finance your contributions to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise
  • how you will ensure any sub-contractor costs are justified and appropriate
  • costs associated with baselining, monitoring and reporting the sustainability aspects of project
  • 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 or reduced risk
  • 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

3. Finances

You must complete your project costs, organisation details and funding details in the application.

For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

More information on climate change, net zero, and global warming can be found on the Committee on Climate Change website, an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008.

Equality, diversity, and inclusion resources that companies may find helpful include:

Extra help

The Knowledge Transfer Network’s (KTN’s) Good Application Guide aims to help you prepare the best application for Innovate UK competitions. This guide has been produced by KTN to supplement the official Innovate UK Guidance for Applicants. In addition to the guide, contact KTN for independent, objective feedback on your application.

In working towards a more sustainable future, the Horizons tool can help test your strategy, inform commercial decisions and drive new innovation within a sustainable economy. Contact KTN to discuss the big trends and issues in your marketplace.

Enterprise Europe Network (EEN)

If you are a UK SME and successful in receiving an award, you will be contacted by your local Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) Innovation Advisor. They act on behalf of Innovate UK to discuss the growth opportunities for your business.

They offer bespoke business support services to help you maximise your project and business potential. This service forms part of your Innovate UK offer under our commitment to help UK SMEs to grow and scale. It is only available to SMEs.

Please engage actively with your adviser so that, working together, you can determine and the most appropriate growth support for your business.

Contact us

If you need more information, email us at or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open between 9am and 11.30am or 2pm and 4.30pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

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