Funding competition Global cooperation feasibility studies

UK registered SME businesses can apply for a share of up to £1.5 million to carry out international feasibility studies. This funding is from Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £1.5 million to support innovative micro, small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to carry out international feasibility studies.

The aim of this competition is to increase the international engagement of innovative UK registered SMEs. It will support them in looking to establish or strengthen international research and innovation partnerships and networks and aid them to grow and scale up.

Your proposed study must:

  • seek to develop strong innovative ideas
  • build new international networks
  • explore opportunities from international partnerships and access to new markets through collaboration in research and innovation

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 between £15,000 and £30,000.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • start by 1 January 2022
  • end by 31 March 2022,
  • last up to 3 months

We expect your total eligible project costs to be between £15,000 and £30,000.

We may allow projects with total eligible projects costs above £30,000 but your total grant will be limited to a maximum of £21,000.

If your project’s total eligible costs fall outside of our standard £30,000 eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to at least 10 working days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request. If you have not requested approval or your request has not been approved by us you will be made ineligible and your application will not be sent for assessment.

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must be a UK registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME).

Project team

To collaborate with the lead and be eligible to claim grant funding, your organisation must be a UK registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME).

Each partner SME must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

If collaborating, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example, large or non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition to a maximum of 20% of the total project grant.

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 your application as to why you are not using suppliers from the UK.

We expect all subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs.

Number of applications

An SME can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in a further 2 applications.

If an SME is not leading any application, it can collaborate in any number of applications.

A non-grant claiming partner can collaborate in any number of applications.

Previous applications

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

We will not award you funding if you have:

Subsidy control (and State aid where applicable)

This competition provides funding in line with the UK's obligations and commitments to Subsidy Control. Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent guidance from the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. We will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.

EU State aid rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see our general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.

Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, you should take independent legal advice. We are unable to advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.

You must make sure at all times that the funding awarded to you is compliant with all current Subsidy Control legislation applicable in the United Kingdom.
This aims to regulate any advantage granted by a public sector body which threatens to or actually distorts competition in the United Kingdom or any other country or countries.

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 £1.5 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

If the majority of your organisation’s work on the project is commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.

For feasibility studies, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

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

Large businesses and other organisations are not eligible for funding.

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 State aid.

If you are applying for an award funded under State aid Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.

Research participation

Any research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project are not eligible as grant claiming partners.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to fund innovative UK SMEs to carry out feasibility studies that help increase their international cooperation.

It will support SMEs to build international research and innovation partnerships and networks, to engage effectively in collaborative research and innovation across borders. Collaboration will help speed up the commercialisation of innovative ideas in fast-growing global markets.

The purpose of these feasibility studies is not to implement projects. It is to enable businesses to take initial steps in exploring international opportunities to further an innovative idea, through identifying and engaging with overseas businesses, networks and other stakeholders, for example, research organisations, customers and end users.

Your proposal must:

  • demonstrate the development potential of a strong innovative idea
  • tell us which country or countries you want to focus on and justify why, setting out the objectives of your study
  • tell us how international engagement fits within your business’s research and development, innovation or growth plans
  • illustrate identified opportunities available from international partnerships and access to markets in your focus country or countries
  • detail the follow-on activities expected from the study, and the potential impacts on your idea and your business

Funded activities can include for example:

  • meetings with partners in the UK and other countries
  • due diligence work on partners and markets
  • staff time for developing project ideas and proof of market or concept work
  • subcontracting services (up to 20% of grant)

Subject to current the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s and other countries’ travel guidelines, your activities can involve travelling abroad to meet partners, attend brokerage or exhibition events and gain a better understanding of market opportunities and user or customer needs.

You must produce a report at the end of the study and share it with Innovate UK. This report needs to detail the activities undertaken during the study, and the outputs and outcomes achieved, compared to the original study objectives. The report must also set out the additionality of what the study has enabled you to achieve when compared to not receiving the funding.

We may wish to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies and countries.

Each successful SME applicant will also be linked with an Innovate UK EDGE innovation and growth specialist. They will offer guidance and provide connections to partners and resources, supporting your project to develop the outcomes of your study.

Specific themes

Your project can focus on any country outside of the UK. Your project can focus on more than one country, where your reasons can be justified.

There can be a link between the studies and market-focused innovation projects with private or public funding. For example, Horizon Europe programmes, focused on funding new solutions to major global challenges.

Research categories

We will only fund feasibility study projects, as defined in the guidance on categories of research.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that:

  • are not led by a UK registered SME
  • have not identified a focus country or countries outside of the UK
  • focus on non-civilian applications, or innovations with potential for military or dual-use applications
  • are claiming grant of more than £21,000
  • are dependent on export performance – for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it exports a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • are dependent on domestic inputs usage- for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it uses 50% UK flour in their product

10 August 2021
Competition opens
13 August 2021
Online briefing event: watch the recording
3 September 2021 11:00am
Competition closes
1 October 2021 11:19am
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.

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.

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.

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

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.

All participants must complete this EDI survey and the lead applicant must 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 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 not be eligible for funding.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers to questions 3 to 6, question 1 and 2 are not scored. You will receive feedback for each scored question.

You must answer all questions. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Question 1. Applicant location (not scored)

You must state the name of your organisation along with your full registered address.

If you are working in collaboration, you must also state the name and full registered address of all your partners.

We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all participants of a project.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long.

Question 2. Focus country (not scored)

Which country or countries will your feasibility study focus on?

Tell us which country or countries you will focus your feasibility study on.

Your answer can be up to 200 words long.

Question 3. Your idea and approach

Why do you want to undertake a feasibility study and how does that fit with your business plan?

Describe or explain:

  • how you consider your business or idea to be innovative
  • the emerging opportunity you want to pursue through the feasibility study for example, why you want to engage with the focus country or countries
  • why you have selected the particular focus country or countries and how engagement with it fits within your research and development, innovation or growth plans
  • the size of the market opportunities that subsequent development of the study might open up

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 4. Outcomes and Impacts

What are the proposed outcomes and impacts of the feasibility study and what follow-on activities do you foresee?

Describe or explain:

  • the expected outcomes of the study and the anticipated impact on your business
  • the potential follow-on activities that you predict and how you plan to deliver the impact
  • wider support you may need during or after the project that you do not currently have access to, for example, partnerships, private finance, export advice

Funded projects will be expected to submit a final written report as part of project closure.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 5. Workplan, costs, delivery and risks

What are you offering to do in the study and what are the costs? Which other organisations or individuals do you intend to work or engage with?

Describe or explain:

  • the project work plan including main work packages and specific milestones
  • the risks and how will you manage them
  • the total eligible project costs and the grant you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • any subcontractor costs and why they are critical to the project
  • the details of any organisation(s), networks, stakeholders, customers or end users you have identified to work or engage with as part of your feasibility study
  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking

Your answer can be up to 700 words long.

You must submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

You must also submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF, can be up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 6. Added value and value for money

What do the businesses involved expect to gain from this funding, and how does it represent value for money?

Describe or explain:

  • whether 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
  • 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 the partners would undertake, and the related spend
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer

Your answer can be up to 500 words long.

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

Project set up

Innovate UK is only able to offer funding for this competition until the end of financial year 21-22. This means there will be a tight turnaround between being notified by Innovate UK of a potential award and the project start date.

If your application is successful, you will be expected to cooperate with the Innovate UK delivery team to submit all relevant project set up documentation as soon as possible. You must ensure that you provide a finance contact, project manager and bank account details as part of your project set up on the Innovation Funding Service when your notification is received.

Advice related to foreign countries

We advise that you read the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s foreign travel advice relating to the country or countries that you are intending to focus on. This typically contains information and advice on Coronavirus, safety and security, terrorism, local laws and customs, entry requirements, health, money and other aspects such as natural disasters. This information is useful when considering overall engagement with a country, not just travel to it.

Further information and advice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender foreign travel is also available from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. A series of links to organisations providing more detailed information on LGBT rights, legal, socio-cultural and workplace conditions in different countries are available there.

Market advice

Whilst this competition is not about export support, the Department for International Trade (DIT) has published a set of country guides to help prepare for business with new markets.


UK Research and Innovation condemns all forms of harm and abuse, including bullying and harassment.

We take a zero tolerance approach to harm and abuse to any individual employed through or associated with our programmes in all contexts. This applies in humanitarian or fragile and conflict-affected settings, in other field contexts, or within the international or UK R&D community which we fund.

We expect business and other institutions to promote the highest standards in organisational culture, and have in place the systems and procedures required to prevent and tackle all incidents of harm and abuse.

Finding a project partner

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

Support for SMEs from Innovate UK EDGE

If you receive an award, you will be contacted about working with an innovation and growth specialist at Innovate UK EDGE. This service forms part of our funded offer to you.

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.

We encourage you to engage with EDGE, delivered by a knowledgeable and objective specialist near you.

Contact us

If you need more information about how to apply or you want to submit your application in Welsh, 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.

Need help with this service? Contact us