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

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 (the grant from this fund can only cover a maximum of 70% of your total project costs). If your project’s total eligible costs fall outside of the standard £30,000 eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to support@innovateuk.ukri.org at least 10 working days before the competition closes. Innovate UK will decide whether to approve your request.

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.

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

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).

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.

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.

Innovate UK 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.

If you would like to find a partner to apply with, contact KTN’s Global team.