Innovation funding, coupled with a package of tailored support to be awarded to businesswomen in the UK who have enterprising ideas and the potential to become leaders in innovation and deliver economic growth.

Funding body: Innovate UK (IUK)
Maximum value: £ 50,000
Application deadline: 14/10/2020

This competition is administered by Innovate UK (IUK); the UK’s innovation agency. IUK works with people, companies and partner organisations to de-risk, enable and support innovation, and promote UK economic growth. IUK is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – a non-departmental public body, funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government through the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

IUK launched Women in Innovation in 2016, after research revealed that just one in seven applications for Innovate UK support came from women. IUK believes that boosting the number of female entrepreneurs could deliver £180 billion to the economy.

Objectives of Fund
The Women in Innovation Awards aim to fund and support women with innovative ideas and ambitious plans that will inspire others. The awards are for female founders, co-founders or senior decision makers working in UK businesses that have been operating for at least one year.

Applicants must be confident, with the support of an award, that they can make a significant contribution to a pressing societal, environmental and/or economic challenge through projects across a variety of innovation areas.

Value Notes
IUK has allocated up to £500,000 for 10 awards at £50,000 each. The funding will be paid in three increments:

50% (£25,000) upfront (April 2021).
40% (£20,000) at the mid-point (October 2021).
10% (£5,000) at the end of the project on receipt of a completed statement of expenditure.
In addition to the grant funding, all award holders will receive a package of mentoring, coaching and business support tailored to their needs. Access to relevant facilities and equipment will be also be provided where this is appropriate.

Projects must start on 1 April 2021 and be of 12 months’ duration.

Who Can Apply
To be eligible for an award, the applicant must be a female founder, co-founder or senior decision maker within a UK registered micro or SME business which has been operating for at least 12 months. Anyone who self-identifies as a woman is eligible to apply.

Applicants must be available to attend an online interview panel during the week beginning 7 December 2020 and two bootcamps over one and a half days during the week beginning 18 April 2021 and in November 2021.

Applications from UK-based social enterprises operating economically will be eligible if they meet all other criteria.

United Kingdom.

IUK is not funding projects that:

  • Do not intend to use the full package of support on offer.
  • Have a negative impact on the environment or society.
  • Have a detrimental effect on equality, diversity and inclusion.
  • Do not involve any research and development or innovation, for example, the creation of information-only websites.
  • Do not meet the competition eligibility or scope.
  • Involve exports or imports.
  • Involve purchasing within road freight transport sector.
  • Involve primary production in fishery and aquaculture.
  • Involve primary production in agriculture.
  • Are not allowed under de minimis regulation restrictions
  • IUK provides research, development and innovation funding opportunities within the agriculture and fisheries sectors through other forms of aid. However, it will not fund the following through de minimis:
    • Aid subsidising any primary production within fishery and aquaculture sectors.
    • Aid subsidising any primary production of agricultural products.
    • Aid partially or wholly subsidising any primary producers involved in the marketing and processing of agricultural products (for instance, a farm producing and marketing meat).
    • De minimis aid cannot be used for costs associated with:
      • Export-related activities towards third countries or member states, namely aid directly linked to the quantities exported, to the establishment and operation of a distribution network or to other current expenditure linked to the export activity.
      • Activities that favour domestic goods over imports.
      • Activities related to purchasing of road freight transport. For any other activity which involves hire or reward in the road freight transport sector, aid is limited to €100,000 over three fiscal years.

Eligible Expenditure
Proposals must identify clearly evidenced pressing societal, environmental and/or economic challenge(s), and how the project and innovation can help solve them.

Applications can come from any area of innovation (where innovation is defined as the commercially successful exploitation of ideas) and be applied to any part of the economy, such as but not exclusively:

  • The arts, design and media.
  • Creative industries.
  • Science or engineering.
  • IUK wants to support women who are at a critical stage with their business, where an award will enable them to take an important step forward. The funding should help them make a real difference to innovation in the UK including in and beyond their sector or innovation area.

Employee Notes

How To Apply
Competition dates:

Open: 1 September 2020
Competition closing date: 14 October 2020 (11:00 BST)
Applicants are encouraged to read the general guidance for applicants to help their chances of submitting a quality application.

Those requiring more information should contact the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email

Useful Links
Innovate UK (IUK)
Women in Innovation Awards 2020/21

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