Funding competition Women in Innovation Awards 2021/22

Women with exciting, innovative ideas who will inspire others can apply for a £50,000 grant and bespoke business support.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, is offering at least 20 Women in Innovation Awards to female entrepreneurs across the UK. 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 awards are for female founders, co-founders or senior decision makers working in businesses that have been operating for at least one year.

Applicants must be confident, with the support of an award, that they can make a significant contribution to a pressing societal, environmental or economic challenge through their innovative project.

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

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

Funding type


Project size

Each award will provide £50,000 of funding. Projects must start on 1 April 2022 and will last for one year.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • start on 1 April 2022
  • end on 31 March 2023
  • last 12 months

Lead organisation

To be eligible for an award you must:

  • be a female founder, co-founder or senior decision maker within a UK registered micro or SME business which has been operating for at least 12 months by the competition closing date
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

  • be legally and contractually able to use the funding
  • be available to attend an online interview panel during the week beginning 6 December 2021
  • attend 2 bootcamps over one and a half days each on the 16 and 17 March 2022 and in September 2022.
  • be fully committed to work as a role model for up to 5 days over the duration of the award

Applications from UK-registered social enterprises operating economically will be eligible if they meet all other criteria.

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 European Commission De minimis.

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 on the project with others.


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 9 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.

Previous applications

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

We will not award you funding if you have:

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 1.

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.

EU 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 at least £1 million for at least 20 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:

  • £33,333 upfront in March 2022
  • £11,667 at the mid-point in October 2022
  • £5,000 at the end of your project on receipt of a completed statement of expenditure by April 2023.

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 European Commission 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.

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

The expert advice available includes, but is not limited to:

  • 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
  • growth and scale up
  • developing international collaborations and accessing global markets
  • business planning strategy

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

The package of support will be delivered by:

You will also be introduced to business mentors and Women in Innovation ambassadors within the Innovate UK network as part of your Award.

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, 2018 and 2020.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to fund and support a diverse portfolio of Women in Innovation Award winners:

  • who will be relatable role models for women from all backgrounds
  • from regions across the UK
  • who are solving a range of pressing societal, environmental and economic challenges
  • in a variety of innovation areas.

Your proposal must identify clearly evidenced pressing societal, environmental or economic challenge(s), and how your project and innovation can help solve them.

Applications can come from any area of innovation (where innovation is defined as the commercially successful exploitation of ideas) and be applied to any part of the economy.

We plan to offer at least 20 awards.

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 including in and beyond their sector or innovation area.

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

We are looking for women who clearly explain how they will benefit from the full package of funding and support on offer and who can describe how this will add value to them and their business.

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 a role model for others, including in their region, sector and to young people
  • 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

As part of your application, you must share with us a short video, up to 3 minutes long. This must be uploaded to either Vimeo or YouTube and provided as an unlisted link in question 6 of your application. If the assessors cannot view your video or it is hosted on a platform other than YouTube or Vimeo, the assessors will be unable to assess this question and it will not be scored.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that:

  • do not intend to use the full package of support on offer
  • have a negative impact on the environment or society
  • have a detrimental effect on equality, diversity and inclusion
  • do not involve any research and development or innovation, for example, the creation of information-only websites
  • do not meet the competition eligibility or scope
  • involve exports or imports
  • involve primary production in fishery and aquaculture
  • involve primary production in agriculture
  • not allowed under De minimis regulation restrictions
  • not allowed under Special Drawing Rights (SDR)
  • include activities relating to the purchase of road freight transport
  • are dependent on export performance – for example giving an award to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country.
  • are dependent on domestic inputs usage- for example if we give an award to a baker on the condition that they use 50% UK flour in their product.
23 August 2021
Competition opens
24 August 2021
Online briefing event: watch the recording
13 October 2021 11:00am
Competition closes
29 November 2021
Invite to interview
9 December 2021
17 December 2021 4:45pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions including video pitch.
  3. Finances.


If your online application is successful at this stage, you will be invited to attend an interview, where you must give a presentation. Your interview will take place either online or at a designated location.

Before the interview, by the deadline stated in the invitation email, you:

  • must send a list of who will attend the interview
  • must send your interview presentation slides
  • can send a written response to the assessors’ feedback

List of attendees

The interview is for you but you can bring one 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.

Presentation slides

Your interview presentation must:

  • use Microsoft PowerPoint
  • be no longer than 10 minutes
  • have no more than 10 slides
  • not include any video or embedded web links

You must submit your presentation slides to Innovate UK by the date stated on the email invite. You cannot change the presentation after you submit it or bring any additional materials to the interview.

Written response to assessor feedback

This is optional and is an opportunity to answer the assessors’ concerns. It can:

  • be up to 4 A4 pages in a single PDF or Word document
  • include charts or diagrams


After your presentation the panel will spend 20 minutes asking questions. You will be expected to answer based on the information you provided in your application form, presentation and the response to feedback.

1. Project details

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

Application details

You must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration. Projects must start on 1 April 2022 and be of 12 months’ duration.

Subsidy basis

Will the project, including any related activities, you want Innovate UK to fund, affect trade between Northern Ireland and the EU?

All participants must complete this section.

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 then select yes in the application question. 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 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. 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 not be eligible for funding.
Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

Text update 14 September 2021: we have changed the video guidance and word count for question 6

The assessors will score your answers from questions 6 to 10 You will receive feedback from them for each one.

Your answer to questions 7 to 9 can be up to 500 words long. Your answer to question 6 can be up to 100 words and question 10 can be up to 600 words long. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Question 1. 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.

Question 2: Previous applications (not scored)

Have you applied for funding from any Innovate UK competition previously? Your answer will not affect your eligibility for this award.

Please select Yes or No.

Question 3: Previous support (not scored)

Have you previously received support from the Innovate UK family including Innovate UK EDGE, KTN and the Catapults? Existing business support will not affect your eligibility for the Women in Innovation Awards.

Please state Yes or No as part of your answer and explain what support you have received.

Question 4: How you heard about the Awards (not scored)

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

  • recommended by a colleague
  • recommended by a friend
  • Innovate UK’s social media channels such as LinkedIn or Twitter
  • KTN’s social media channels such as LinkedIn or Twitter
  • KTN Women in Innovation newsletter
  • an email or other communication from Innovate UK
  • an email or other communication from KTN
  • Women in Innovation event
  • Women in Innovation social media channels such as World Labs or LinkedIn
  • Innovate UK EDGE
  • other (please specify)

Question 5: Additional support (not scored)

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, Innovate UK EDGE, KTN and Catapults?

Please select either yes or no.

Question 6: Your potential to be a leader and role model to inspire other women – video pitch

You must upload your video to YouTube. In your answer, you must provide us with a link to your video and any passwords to allow access to it. Your video must be:

  • no longer than 3 minutes
  • ‘unlisted’ in your YouTube privacy settings
  • available for us to view until 1 April 2022

Your application will be marked as ineligible if:

  • we cannot view your video
  • it is hosted on a platform other than YouTube

If you cannot upload your video to YouTube, you must contact at least 10 working days before the competition closes for advice.

In your video you must:

  • introduce yourself and your business
  • describe how you would feel about being a champion for equality, diversity and inclusion and a role model to inspire women (especially in your sector or innovation area, region and to young people)
  • describe your relevant skills and capabilities, giving evidence of aptitude and potential to lead, inspire and influence, communicate, and a willingness to achieve your potential.
  • explain the difference that an award will make to you personally
  • describe any particular equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) challenges in your sector or innovation area that have motivated you to apply
  • include any additional information about you and your idea that will help to strengthen your application.

If you were encouraged to apply for this award by a colleague, please acknowledge this in your video pitch.

This question is worth 34% of the total score.

Question 7: Need or challenge

What is the pressing societal, environmental or economic challenge(s) you are trying to solve through your innovation and what is the expected impact?

Describe or explain:

  • the overall societal, environmental or economic challenge(s) you are focussing on
  • the expected impacts on society, the economy and the environment
  • what potential negative impacts have you considered and how you plan to mitigate them
  • any equality, diversity or inclusion challenges if appropriate
  • any links to current government priorities where relevant, including the Government’s Innovation Strategy.

This question is worth 17% of the total score.

Question 8: Your idea or business opportunity

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

Describe or explain:

  • the new idea or business opportunity and why this is important
  • how your new idea or business opportunity will respond to the challenge identified in question 7
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • the dynamics of the market you are targeting and any other potential markets.
  • how you will improve on 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
  • 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 it will make you more competitive
  • how you will consider equality, diversity and inclusion in the development of your innovation (for example, unintended exclusion of minority groups, recognising bias)

This question is worth 17% of the total score.

Question 9: Plan for the award

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

Explain fully how you plan to use the non-grant package of support to add value to your work and to develop yourself as a leader in innovation. Refer to the information on the package of support in the funding section of Eligibility. 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.

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 subcontractors
  • 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

You must upload a risk register as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 10MB and up to 1 A4 page long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

You can also upload a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 10MB and up to 1 A4 page long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

This question is worth 16% of the total score.

Question 10: 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

You can submit details of any public or private support received to date and graphics to illustrate the vision as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF, up to one A4 page and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

This question is worth 16% of the total score.

Text update [17 August 2021]: we have added question 11 to clarify project start date eligibility.

Question 11: Project start date (not scored)

Can you confirm that you are able to start your project on 1 April 2022?

You must be able to start your project on the 1st April 2022 to apply for this competition or your application will be made ineligible.

Please select yes to confirm you are able to start your project on this date. If you select no, your application will be made ineligible and not sent for assessment.

3. Finances

You must complete your project costs entering £50,000 only, organisation details and funding details in the application.

To complete the finances section in your application, you must only enter £50,000 under labour costs. This does not mean your award can only be spent on labour costs. This section is simply a mandatory part of the application that needs to be completed. For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

Innovate UK launched Women in Innovation in 2016, after research revealed that just 1 in 7 applications for Innovate UK support came from women. Boosting the number of female entrepreneurs could deliver £180 billion to the economy.

The overall aim was to get more women with excellent ideas innovating within 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, 2018 and 2020 have had a huge impact so far. The number of women applying to Innovate UK’s funding and support has increased by 71%. The Women in Innovation Awards 2021/22 will build on this success.

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


The Women in Innovation bootcamps will be held at the start and mid-point of your award.

The bootcamps are an opportunity to engage and network with both those providing the expert support available and other peers in your cohort, including your innovation advisor.

We expect you to agree your action plan at the first bootcamp.


Visit the Women in Innovation programme page on the KTN website to:

  • read frequently asked questions from previous applicants
  • register for support workshops for completing your application
  • register for expert advice sessions
  • register for future networking events
  • read stories from previous Women in Innovation award holders
  • join the Women in Innovation community

Contact us

If you need more information, email us at or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 between 9 am and 11:30 am or 2 pm and 4.30 pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Innovate UK is committed to making the support we have accessible to all. We can provide assistance to applicants that face barriers in making an application (for example, as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or any other accessibility issue). If you need additional support, it is important that you contact us as early as possible so we can discuss your needs and work together on a solution.

Innovate UK EDGE

Upon award, you will be allocated an Innovation & Growth Specialist from Innovate UK EDGE, acting on behalf of Innovate UK. They will offer bespoke business support to help you maximise your project and business potential. It will be a requirement that you engage with your Innovation & Growth Specialist throughout your project.

These specialists focus on growing innovative businesses and ensuring that projects contribute to their growth. Working one-to-one, they can help you to identify your best strategy and harness world-class resources to grow and achieve scale.

Need help with this service? Contact us