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Innovate UK

Innovate UK

Innovate UK, part of UKRI, connects businesses to partners, customers and investors to help turn ideas into commercially successful products, processes and services. Funding is available through Innovate UK for business–academic partnerships that undertake research and development to accelerate innovation. Academics can apply for Innovate UK funding either as a collaborator to a business lead, or in some instances, can lead an application with a business partner as a collaborator. However, the majority of Innovate UK calls are business led. To access the competitions that Innovate UK run, academics can find live funding calls through the UKRI’s Innovation Funding Service webpage which can be found here.

Plan for Action for UK Business Innovation

On 19th November 2021 Innovate UK published their Plan for Action for UK Business Innovation which details how they plan to deliver on the UK Government’s 2021 Innovation Strategy. This document sets out a vision for the UK to become a global hub for innovation by 2035 and focuses on four Future Economy areas:

  • net zero (zero carbon emissions and tackling wider adverse environmental impacts)
  • health and wellbeing (sustaining healthy human life, including nutrition and healthcare)
  • technologies (creating and benefiting from advances in technology)
  • horizon scanning and foresight (continually looking ahead).

These areas will form the focus of all future Innovate UK funding. You can read more about Innovate UK’s Plan for Action for UK Business Innovation and the Future Economy areas here.

Royal Holloway is keen for its academics to engage further with businesses and apply for Innovate UK funding. To support this, the College has opened up a competition to enable collaborative partnerships with businesses through networking and research and development projects - see below for internal competition details. You can also find out below about our 2021 Innovate UK awarded projects, discover how to find a business partner and read about the training programmes offered by Innovate UK to help academics commercialise their own innovations.


1. Innovate UK projects awarded to RHUL academics in 2021

In 2021, Royal Holloway academics from across College applied to Innovate UK with their respective business partners and were successful awarded grants to carry out research and development projects. Here are five such awarded projects with a brief project description:

  • Innovate UK: Dinosaurs and Robots. RHUL PI Prof Mark Lycett (Business and Management)

The project explores how immersive technologies can be used to engage audiences of all ages with dinosaurs and robots in new ways and create a range of valuable learning and entertainment experiences. Find out more about the project here        

Professor Lycett has previously been awarded another Innovate UK grant. Find out more about his HYPHEN project here.

  • Innovate UK:  Tudors Augmented *AR. RHUL PI Dr Hannah Platts (History)

The project introduces, for the first time, an Augmented Reality (AR) physical trail clue game for chosen heritage sites which incorporates multiple sensory experiences and to develop understanding of the impact of multisensory experience on visitors to these locations.

  • Innovate UK:  Demeter -Subsea autonomous systems: next generation technologies. RHUL PI Prof Sara Bernardini (Computer Science)

Demeter uses energy-harvesting, uncrewed, intelligent vehicles to provide a persistent, autonomous, infrastructure independent subsea sensor data retrieval and analysis service to enable more cost effective predictive maintenance of subsea assets, such as renewable and non-renewable offshore resources.

  • Innovate UK: Squads of Adaptive Robots (SoAR). RHUL PI Prof Sara Bernardini (Computer Science)

There is an increasing need to sustainably exploit the seabed for a variety of uses. SoAR is focused on delivering a fundamental shift in the use of marine robotics through the networking of heterogeneous fleets of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) and uncrewed surface vehicles overseen by a fleet level autonomy engine capable of adaptive mission planning.

  • Innovate UK: VersaTile – Transforming warehousing and distribution with industry leading AI planning and system controls. RHUL PI Prof Sara Bernardini (Computer Science)

VersaTile will transform and futureproof warehousing and distribution operations through developing a modular and scalable robotic system that can continuously increase volumes and throughput, whilst minimising warehouse space and labour utilisation.

Professor Bernardini has previously been awarded a further 3 Innovate UK grants. Find out more about these project: Prometheus, link here; MIMRee, link here; Connect-R, link here.

2. Win funding to develop an innovative idea - Internal funding competition

Business Partnership and Innovation Competition

RHUL Internal funds are now available to support RHUL academics build partnerships with businesses and develop innovation projects that have the potential to achieve future Innovate UK funding. The competition is open to academics who have existing connections with business partners and would like to develop relationships further with a specific innovation project in mind, or are currently collaborating with business partners and would like to carry out further research and development on an innovation project.


Academics from any discipline are eligible to apply for the funds if they have connections with existing businesses that are interested in undertaking R&D projects. The application project must come under one of the Future Economy areas set out in the Innovate UK Plan for Action for UK Business Innovation document. SME/business partners must show commitment to the partnership and project by providing either matched funding or in-kind contributions for the application.

Funding type and level will come under 3 categories:

  • Networking with UK business partners to develop project ideas (up to £2,500)
  • Networking with international* business partners to explore and develop ideas (up to £5,000)
  • Feasibility studies in collaboration with UK and/or international business partners (up to £10,000)

Business Partnership and Innovation Application form 

3. How to Find a Business Partner

Finding a business partner is often the most difficult part of applying for Innovate UK funding. Here are 2 ways to help you meet and engage with business partners to form those all-important relationships that can go on to apply for Innovate UK funding:

Knowledge Transfer Network

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) is a part of Innovate UK. The KTN run events to bring together academics and business partners with the aim of developing collaborative partnerships that can go on to apply for Innovate UK funding. Events are centred on specific themes, such as agritech, plastics sustainability or quantum technology, and take place regularly throughout the year. To find out more about the partnership events KTN run and upcoming events follow the link here.

Konfer Platform

Konfer is a free platform developed by UKRI and the National Centre for Universities and Business to provide opportunities for academics and businesses to network, collaborate and access funding. Academics can use the Konfer to explore the platform’s business network and find opportunities for research with industry partners. To access and connect with Konfer follow the link here.

4. How to Commercialise Your Own Innovations

Have you developed a product, process or service that has a potential to be commercialised? Innovate UK offers training programmes to help academics to take the next steps to commercialising their own innovations developed in their research laboratories. There are currently three such training programme:

  • Lean Launch programme: Lean Launch provides a 10-week online market discovery programme designed using lean start-up methodology. Lean start-up takes the scientific method (hypothesise, test, evaluate) and applies it to business ideas. Successful applicants will learn how to use this approach to test what potential customers think about your idea, product or service. The programme provides up to £2,500 for market discovery activities, £1,200 towards Business Advisor support and offers a pathway towards a further £30,000 of ICURe funding (see below) plus follow-on funding support. To find out more, follow the link here
  • ICURe Programme: The ICURe training programme trains, funds and supports teams led by university early-career researchers to determine whether there is a market for products or services that utilise their research, science or technology. It is a 6-month full-time online pre-accelerator programme that provides up to £30,000 for researchers to validate their commercially-promising ideas in the marketplace. ICURe teams have unique access to a wide range of follow on interventions from support for Licensing to Investor readiness & Innovate UK grant funding. To find out more, follow the link here.
  • CyberASAP Programme: Now in its fifth year, CyberASAP provides academics with the expertise, knowledge and training needed to convert their research into technologies, products and services in the cyber sector of the global economy. The programme creates a pipeline to move great cyber security ideas out of the university lab and into the commercial market.  A series of highly effective interventions (including bootcamps, workshops, and mentoring) gives participating teams essential insights into the key milestones necessary to commercialise their research. To find out more follow the link here.


Find out more

Research & Innovation's Targeted Initiatives Manager, Dr Hilary Lynch, can provide further information, support and guidance with Innovate UK applications. Please contact Hilary ( if you have research that fits within the Future Economy areas above that could potentially lead to a commercially successful product or service, or require further general information about Innovate UK.