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Open Calls: Finding Funding for Innovation


Funding platforms typically host a variety of competitions, ranging from incredibly specific or niche funding for a set topic, theme, or challenge, to ongoing open calls that allow any innovation to be submitted. These open calls allow businesses to take advantage of funding, regardless of what their innovation is.

Some funds may specify an innovation should take advantage of technologies in a particular industry, whilst others are open to completely new ideas.

The funds highlighted below are some of the currently available open calls.


Innovate UK Smart Grant

The Smart Grant is an incredibly competitive, very well-known fund. It typically runs on a quarterly basis and offers businesses the opportunity to submit any idea for consideration. With a generous match funding component (up to 70% for SMEs) and a frequency of availability, it’s a good option for businesses looking to grant fund their innovation. Examples of funded projects include:

  • AI-controlled adaptive fitting device for prosthetics and wearable technologies;
  • Development of a physical gill to enable humans to breathe underwater for longer;
  • High speed weld inspection system for Electric Vehicle battery manufacture; and,
  • A high performance, environmentally sustainable, gypsum plasterboard alternative.

The next round closes on 5th January 2022 at 11am. Applications must demonstrate a clear, game-changing, innovative, disruptive, and ambitious idea for a new product, process, or service. More information and how to apply can be found: here.


European Space Agency (ESA) Call for Proposals

The ESA’s Business Applications’ Call for Proposals is the always open general funding call, for businesses looking to develop a new commercial service that utilises one or more space assets. Assets can include (but are not limited to) satellite communications, earth observation, satellite navigation or human space flight technologies. This fund is classed as a ‘Direct Negotiation’ and is a three-step tendering process. Initially, businesses must register on the ESA-Star: a tendering portal for potential bidders. Following this, the business will submit an Activity Pitch Questionnaire, and (if approved to proceed) an Outline Proposal and then a Full Proposal.

Responses to the call can be submitted at any time and projects can receive up to 50% funding (or up to 80% for SMEs) for projects up to EUR500,000. All Full Proposals must be accompanied by a letter of authorisation from the National Delegation, contacts details for which can be found here. More information on how to apply for this fund can be found here.


Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) Open Call for Innovation

The DASA Open Call for Innovation is a funding competition that allows bidders the opportunity to present their ideas to defence and security stakeholders at any time, without waiting for a themed competition on a specific topic. The purpose of the open call is to support innovative ideas that aim to improve the defence and/or security of the UK. Ideas could be concepts, technologies, or services and in reflection of this there are three categories in the call: Emerging Innovations (for earlier TRL projects), and two Rapid Impact categories (Defence Rapid Impact and Security Rapid Impact) for more developed innovations. Emerging Innovations projects can have costs between £50,000-100,000 and can last between 3 and 10 months. Rapid Impacts projects can have costs between £100,000-350,000 and must end before March 2024. Suppliers funded from the Security Rapid Impact competition can also access a range of services designed to help suppliers exploit that project outputs as fully as possible, including business mentoring, business to business brokering and pitch training. The next competition cycle closing dates are 20th October, 5th January 2022 and 2nd March 2022, and more information on how to apply can be found  here.


Horizon Europe: European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator

The EIC Accelerator fund is designed to support SMEs, and in particular, start-ups and spinout companies, to develop and scaleup game-changing innovations. The Accelerator fund is open to applications at any time within a designated cycle. The funding is a two-step process, with applications being assessed by a panel of experts and those that meet the criteria invited for interview. Applications that are positively assessed but do not meet the interview stage will be award a Seal of Excellence to help businesses secure funding for alternative sources (the seal also allows access to support from the EIC Business Acceleration Services). The Accelerator is split into two categories: open and challenge. Open funding is for any breakthrough, whilst the challenge applications must target breakthroughs with major impacts on one of the following:

  • Strategic Digital and Health technologies
  • Green Deal innovations for the economic recovery.

UK businesses can still apply for this funding and up to EUR2.5m of is available for innovation development costs. Whilst the cut off dates for 2021 have now passed, the following application cut off dates for 2022 have been recently announced: 12th January, 6th April, 15th June, and 5th October, allowing ample time for businesses to develop proposals. More information on the application process can be found here.

If you’d like more information on any of the funds, or support with an application, reach out to your advisor today.

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