Funding competition Creative industries fund: fast start business growth pilot

UK registered micro and small businesses in the creative sector can apply for a package of support to grow their business. This package includes ongoing support from Innovate UK EDGE and funding of up to £25,000 for innovation projects.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Text update 18 May 2021: we have added detail to make it clearer where the funding is sourced from.

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is to invest up to £2.5 million in innovation projects. This funding is from the £750m COVID support fund to help businesses bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The aim of this competition is to provide a package of targeted support for growth so ambitious, creative businesses can reach their potential.

This package is designed to help creative businesses to explore new revenue streams by creating new products, services or IP which respond to changing market conditions.

Your proposal must:

  • be from the creative industries or support the creative industries
  • focus on a clear opportunity and the proposed innovation to address it
  • demonstrate the impact funding and support can have to the growth plan of your business

If your application is successful, you must work with an EDGE advisor to maximise your project’s impact.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be up to £25,000

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs up to £25,000
  • end by 31 March 2022
  • last between 3 and 6 months

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered micro or small business
  • have not previously received funding from InnovateUK
  • be from the creative industries or support the creative industries
  • have a demonstrable ambition for growth
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

For more information on company sizes, please refer to the company accounts guidance. This is a change from the EU definition unless you are applying under EC de minimis. 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.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

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

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in question 5 for why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you.

We expect all subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

A participant cannot subcontract their own directors, secretaries, or persons with significant control.

Number of applications

You can only apply for this competition once.

Special Drawing Rights (and de minimis where applicable)

The UK-EU Trade Cooperation Agreement (TCA) has agreed on small funding allowances under the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs).

These are for awards up to SDR of 325,000 (approximately £335,000) given to a single beneficiary over a rolling 3 fiscal year period.

You must complete and provide Innovate UK with a declaration as part of your response in question 2.

The declaration asks you to tell us about any awards, including those made under de minimis and SDR, (from any source of public funding) over a rolling 3 fiscal year period.

If you have received an award under de minimis for the same period, this will be added to your total allowance under SDR. This means that the total award must not exceed approximately £335,000 (325,000 SDR) for any one organisation. You must declare this allowance to any other funding body who requests it.

EC Commission rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see our general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.

Further information

Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent BEIS guidance. Or you can see our general guidance on Special Drawing Rights and EU de minimis awards.

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the de minimis rules, you should take independent legal advice. We cannot advise on individual eligibility or your legal obligations.

If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean we need to change the terms of this competition, we will tell you as soon as possible.


We have allocated up to £2.5 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

You can claim 100% of eligible project costs up to the maximum of £25,000.

Funds will be released in two instalments:

  1. Total grant less £5,000 will be paid in advance of the project start date.
  2. The remaining £5,000 will be paid at the end of the project, on receipt and approval of statement of expenditure, and completion of a three-month action plan with your EDGE advisor.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to provide a package of targeted support for growth so ambitious creative businesses can reach their potential.

Your project must:

  • offer a clearly innovative and ambitious idea
  • be new to your business, with a demonstrable impact to your growth plan
  • create a new revenue stream, for example new products, services or IP
  • respond to the changing market conditions, such as new modes of audience consumption, or the adoption of new technologies within the sector
  • be market ready within 12 months of receiving support
  • be able to start rapidly
  • represent value for money

We welcome applications which can demonstrate benefit to the wider creative industries sub sector or regional cluster.

We want to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of creative subsectors from every part of the UK.

Specific themes

The creative industries are defined by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Your project must focus on one or more of the following subsectors:

  • advertising and marketing
  • architecture
  • arts and culture
  • broadcasting including sport
  • crafts
  • design
  • fashion
  • film
  • games
  • music
  • publishing

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding any project:

  • supporting business as usual (BAU) activities
  • without evidence their proposed innovation is expected to lead to significant and positive economic or societal impact, or value for money that will be achieved
  • that does not address how potentially negative outcomes, for example on the environment, would be considered
  • without research and development or innovation, for example the creation of information-only websites
  • involving primary production in fishery and aquaculture
  • involving primary production in agriculture
  • not allowed under special drawing rights
  • not allowed under de minimis regulation restrictions
  • whose activities relate to the purchase of road freight transport
  • subsidies dependent on export performance – for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • subsidies that are dependent on domestic inputs usage- for example if we insisted that a baker use 50% UK flour in their product
14 May 2021
Online briefing event: watch recording
17 May 2021
Competition opens
16 June 2021 11:00am
Competition closes
12 August 2021 11:24am
Applicants notified

Before you start

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

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

1. Project details

This section provides background for the assessors and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you on the project. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

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 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.

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 100 words long.


Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope, it will be rejected and not sent for assessment. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers for questions 3 to 6. Questions 1 and 2 are not scored.

Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Question 1. Project partners location (not scored)

Where are the organisations within your project team registered?

Please state the name of each organisation along with its full registered address. If you are working with an academic institution this doesn’t need to be included.

Question 2. Special Drawing Rights declaration (not scored)

Please download the declaration template. You must complete this, declaring any awards, including those made under de minimis and Special Drawing Rights (SDR) subsidies, (from any source of public funding) over a rolling 3 fiscal year period.

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.

You must submit a copy of your special drawing rights declaration as an appendix. It must be in an A4 PDF format. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 3. The idea (scored out of 20).

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

What is the problem you wish to solve, who is it a problem for, and what is innovative about the approach or technology?

You should consider the following in your answer:

  • the specific need you propose to address and who would benefit from it in the immediate and longer term
  • the specific innovation you propose to develop and how this is different and better than alternative solutions
  • any previous technical and business planning work you may have conducted in relation to the proposed project, and your freedom to operate
  • the size of the opportunity and your route to market, (such as partnerships and business models)

Question 4. Impact and added value (scored out of 35).

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

What will be the impact of receiving the grant, to your business, how will the UK benefit, and why do you need public funding to help you succeed?

You should consider the following in your answer:

  • the outputs of the project in terms of specific deliverables and where will you have moved your business from and to
  • expected impacts on society, the economy and the environment, what potential negative impacts have you considered if any
  • why public funding is necessary and value for money, for example, is there a lack of private investment or market failure

Question 5. Business planning and resources (scored out of 35).

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Who is in the team, what is your capability to deliver a solution?

You should include in your answer a description of:

  • what combination of resources you can access, describe the main people involved, including their relevant track records, and any other critical internal and external resources including subcontractors
  • your capability to deliver in the required timeframe given your existing business activities or constraints
  • how you will deliver outcomes and impact beyond the life of the project

Question 6. Workplan and costs (scored out of 10).

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

What will you do with the grant funding. How will you manage the project effectively, and risks appropriately?

You should include in your answer a description of:

  • what will the funding be spent on, explaining the project work plan including technical approaches, main work packages, specific milestones, and project management.
  • the main risks, Covid-19 pandemic working constraints, interdependencies, impact, and mitigation strategy. You should pay particular attention to how you will mitigate project delivery risks with your immediate and extended teams (e.g., supply chain, end users), do they have the right infrastructure in place
  • the roles of individuals/organisations
  • a breakdown of costs aligned with tasks. Where possible describe how best value for money has been decided (for example quotation comparison)
  • wider support you may need during or after the project that you do not currently have access to e.g., domestic, and international partnerships, private finance, export advice

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own 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

This competition is supported by the Creative Industries Council – a forum of government, creative businesses, and other creative organisations.

Contact us
If you need more information about how to apply email or call 0300 321 4357.

Our phone lines are open from 9am to 11:30am and 2pm to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Innovate UK is committed to making support for applicants accessible to everyone.

We can provide help for applicants who face barriers when making an application. This might be as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or anything else that makes it difficult to use our services. We can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful.

If you think you need more support, it is important that you contact our Customer Support Service as early as possible during your application process. You should aim to contact us no later than 10 working days before the competition closing date.

Support from Innovate UK EDGE
If your application is selected, you will be contacted by a growth specialist at Innovate UK EDGE. This service forms part of the package of support.

The advisor will review your business to check that you are eligible for support.

Successful applications then receive a grant offer letter and must work with their advisors on a 3-month action plan.

Need help with this service? Contact us