A few days ago, I spent a fantastic evening among inspiring presenters and an equally inspiring mix of small business owners. The venue was the University of Greenwich and the event Innovation and Sustainability – Key to Business Growth, a networking event organised under the FLASH Innovation program.
The event was packed full of information on how to get ideas off the ground including a presentation by Bryan Forbes from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) on Research and Development Grants and the new SBRI program that partners public sector organisations with businesses that can help them find a solution for a specific problem.
More on Research and Development (R&D) Grants
Research and Development (R&D) grants are available to assist micro, small and medium sized businesses and pre start-ups to deliver successful new products and achieve economic growth. The grants are UK wide and from 4th April 2011, the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) has taken over the R&D grant schemes previously managed by the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), so the TSB supersedes the Regional Development Agency schemes. You can apply for funding for:
- Proof of Market – such as market research and assessing the commercial viability of your idea;
- Proof of Concept – initial feasibility studies and prototyping, testing or demonstrations and investigating productions options;
- Development of Prototype – making pre production prototypes, getting Intellectual Property (IP) protected and for trials and testing including clinical trials plus identifying routes to market.
Applications are taken every two months so you can apply at any time and wait for the next round of applications to be considered. You will need some match funding with the grant funding being between 35% and 60% or in some circumstance 75% of the project costs, depending on the size of your company and which type of funding you are applying for.
Project timelines are also limited to 9 months, 18 months and 24 months respectively for funding types 1. to 3. as listed above.
More on SBRI Competitions
SBRI is a very different type of funding although still firmly focused on innovation. It is led by the needs of government departments – ie there is a public sector body (PSB), such as the Department of Health or the Ministry of Defence or the Ministry of the Environment that has a problem that needs solving. The problems could be anything e.g. the need for more efficient street lighting or a method of treating babies with asthma.
The aim is to facilitate government departments to engage with innovative companies, helping to accelerate technology commercialisation and provide a route to market, by matching the innovative company with a PSB from the outset.
The solutions sought are procured under EU procurement rules for Pre Commercial Procurement and development contracts are 100% R&D funded, against deliverables, with the IP staying with the company.
Solutions are sought through open competitions which are widely advertised by the TSB and on the SRBI website. Risks are mitigated through having a staged approach:
Phase 1 – proof of feasibility, 2 to 9 months, £20 – £100k
Phase 2 – Prototype development can be up to 2 years and £1M (depends on the challenge).
Look out for forthcoming competitions with Ministry of Defence, Health, Home Office, Cabinet Office and Foods Standards Agency requirements.
Just to get the picture straight FLASH Innovation forms part of the Institute for Sustainability’s FLASH program which is part funded by an ERDF grant and the above only covers the first presentation.