Innovation funding


There are a number of challenge, innovation and government grant programmes aimed at driving innovation across the UK in universities and businesses, many focus on improving the links between universities and business. Below are descriptions and links for some of the major programmes:

CREATE - enterprise and innovation skills development content

CREATE - enterprise and innovation skills development

CREATE - enterprise and innovation skills development

CREATE is an initiative developed at Inverness College which now works closely with the Knowledge Exchange teams across the university.

It's aim is to inspire, encourage and support students, staff and the business community to develop the knowledge, skills and motivation needed to realise their potential through enterprise.

CREATE directs events, competitions, start-up support services and skills development programmes to encourage and support innovation and business skills.

View the full range of support services, competitions and up-coming events on the CREATE website.

Enterprise Roadshow content

Enterprise Roadshow

Enterprise Roadshow

Every year the UHI Knowledge Exchange team organise an enterprise roadshow to explain and encourage participation across the partnership in the various enterprise competitions.

Read the latest information on the Enterprise Roadshow page

Innovation vouchers content

Innovation vouchers

Innovation vouchers

The SFC innovation voucher scheme is aimed at building a relationship between a company and a university or further education college in Scotland. The scheme is administered for the SFC by Interface - read a summary of Interface services.

In particular the vouchers aim to encourage a longer, sustained relationship between companies and academic institutions rather than just offset the costs of the business purchasing a service. Standard innovation vouchers applications are accepted on an on-going basis. Projects must commence within 4 weeks of approval and generally should be completed 3 months after start date.

There are now 2 types of Standard Innovation Vouchers:

1. Product/Process/Service Innovation Voucher

The purpose of this Innovation Voucher is to encourage new first-time partnerships between a company and a university or further education (FE) college to support innovation to develop a new product, process or service for the company. If a partnership between the company and the academic partner already exists this scheme would not be suitable. The lead academic partner from Higher education/Further education (HE/FE) is responsible for checking with the company before the application is submitted whether any funding has been granted previously for a Standard Innovation Voucher or whether a commercial relationship has been established.

2. Workforce Innovation Voucher

The purpose of this Innovation Voucher is to encourage new first-time partnerships between a company and a college or university to support innovation to develop the company’s workforce (New/Enhanced Workplace Business Processes/Innovation Workplace Practices/Innovative Business Expertise). If a partnership, (or funded commercial relationship between the company and the academic partner already exists to support workforce innovation), this scheme would not be suitable. The academic partner from HE/FE is responsible for checking with the company before the application is submitted whether any funding for Workforce Innovation has been granted previously.

If in doubt a pre-submission form should be completed and sent to

This means:

A company can only receive one Product/Process/Service Innovation Voucher. However, It is possible now to also apply for a Workforce Innovation Voucher (i.e. one with a university and one with a college) as long as these two projects are clearly distinct and not a continuation or duplication of original IV project.

Making an application

Innovation Voucher (IV) applications are accepted on an on-going basis, with a 3 week review target. For general guidance and for administration once an application is accepted, your UHI contact is You can find details and documentation required to complete an application direct from the Interface website.

Advanced Innovation Vouchers

Formally called the follow-on Voucher Scheme, the purpose of an Advanced Innovation Voucher award is aimed at building sustained relationships between small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) and universities or Further Education (FE) colleges in Scotland who may have previously collaborated together or for those companies who are beginning their collaborative journey with a HEI / FE college partner.

The innovation voucher programme will draw on a number of funders including Scottish Funding Council, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise.

The Advanced Innovation Voucher will work on a sliding scale basis with a minimum cash contribution required from the company. A full description of the perameters of the scheme is available from the Interface FAQ document for Advance IV.

There are set deadlines throughout the year for applications, noted on the AIV page on the Interface website. However, should you wish to apply for the Advanced Innovation Voucher at any time please contact to discuss.

If the Advance IV is not thought suitable a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) might be viable - see the KTP webpage for a summary of this scheme, or contact:

Student Placement Innovation Vouchers

Another university to business collaborative scheme which is aimed at building on existing relationships between SMEs and HEIs in Scotland to continue the development of an SFC standard Innovation Voucher award. Only SMEs that have had a successful SFC standard innovation voucher award are eligible to apply and the company must contribute an equal value in cash or in kind (such as staff time, materials or equipment) or a combination of both. A PhD/Masters student will be placed within the company to continue this development and work on a clearly defined project/timeframe with the intention that the outputs of the project can be adopted by the business and offer valuable business skills/experience to the student.

Key documents and contacts

For technical or strategic information on SFC Innovation Vouchers or Advance IV's your main contact is He can help in the preparations for making an application, preparing the application and general technical information regarding both schemes to help ensure your application is accepted.

Your contact to submit an application, general guidance and for administration once an application is accepted is

Innovate UK also offer their own Innovation Vouchers - these are separate from the SFC vouchers and are based around specific sector or technology based calls. For details see the Innovate UK website.


Global funding calls database content

Global funding calls database

Global funding calls database

One of the most effective way to keep up to date with funding opportunities in your research area is by regularly checking, or setting up personal alerts based on your area of interest, on Research Professional. The Research Office subscribes to this web-based database on behalf of UHI researchers - it allows you to search for research funding and opportunities relevant to you, and you can also keep up to date with research News, Sponsors or Jobs.

You can create and save personalised searches and mark them as alerts so you automatically get an email when new funding calls matching your criteria emerge.

Add your own specialist search terms and completely customize your account according to your particular interests, from very small funds within a particular area to programmes from the likes of ESPRC, RCUK, EU Wellcome and so on. The database also has details of funding streams availbel to UK researchers from across the world.

UKRI Industrial Strategy Challenge Funds; GCRF and SIPF content

UKRI Industrial Strategy Challenge Funds; GCRF and SIPF

UKRI Industrial Strategy Challenge Funds; GCRF and SIPF

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is the body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. UKRI aims to maximise the contribution of each of their component parts, working individually and collectively.

Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UKRI brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England. UKRI's aim is to deliver research and innovation for economic growth and societal impact, driving innovation and maximise the impact of research investments to develop new ways of living, doing business and growing economies.

UKRI two main funding streams

Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF); a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. View Open calls.

Strength in Places Fund (SIPF); a new competitive funding scheme that takes a place-based approach to research and innovation funding. Funding will be allocated in waves to fund collaborative bids from consortia of publicly-funded research organisations, businesses, and local leadership. Successful projects will undertake a flexible range of research and innovation interventions that will have a demonstrable impact on local economic growth. Objectives of the fund and open calls.

Your UHI contact if you are interested in applying for ISCF funding

If you are interested in any of the opportunities, developing a bid idea or contributing towards developing a bid or require further information contact Lynn Thrower, UHI’s ISCF officer

An internal fund is available for travel and subsidies to support you - please download an application form (UIF ISCF travel funding application) and forward to

A major activity for UKRI is the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund which aims to bring together the UK’s world-leading research with business to meet the major industrial and societal challenges of our time.

Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) in detail

What is the current UK Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund?

The UK’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) is part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy set out in their white paper,  ‘Building a Britain fit for the future’, published in November 2017. The ISCF is part of a £4.7bn R&D investment over 4/5 years and aims to stimulate collaborative research to strengthen UK science and business innovation and take on the biggest challenges that society and industry face today.

The ISCF focuses on four grand challenge areas:-

  1. Artificial Intelligence and Data Driven Intelligence
  2. Clean Growth
  3. Ageing Society
  4. Future of Mobility

These priority areas will define the research opportunities. As published in “Forging Our Future. Industrial Strategy - The Story So Far”, to date 602 different projects have already received £652m in funding support from the ISCF. The Industrial Strategy is explicit about the central role Universities have to play alongside the public and private sector to drive innovation in business.

What are the current funding opportunities?

The funding is released in waves, the current wave of ISCF is worth £725 million of funding from BEIS and spans 2018-2019. This wave (Wave 2) focuses on eight priorities falling under the four Grand Challenge areas: Transforming construction, Data to early diagnosis and precision medicine, transforming food production, Next generation services, Energy revolution, Healthy ageing, Audience of the future, Quantum technology.

Wave 3 challenge areas to be supported by the fund are shortlisted as:

  • Accelerating detection of disease
  • Commercialising quantum
  • Digital security by design
  • Driving the electric revolution
  • Future flight
  • Industrial decarbonisation
  • Manufacturing made smarter
  • Sustainable plastic packaging
  • Transforming foundation industries

Full details on these shortlisted items are found on the Innovate UK blog

Wave 3 calls are due to be announced soon and open calls can be found on GOV.UK Innovation Competition page

Horizon 2020 SME Engagement Scheme content

Horizon 2020 SME Engagement Scheme

Horizon 2020 SME Engagement Scheme

The Horizon 2020 SME Engagement Scheme is aimed at supporting Scottish based SMEs (Small to Medium sized Enterprises) to explore the opportunities of Horizon 2020 funding and apply for particular schemes or calls under it, with the assistance of a Scottish Higher Education Institute (HEI).

Key principals

The purpose of the scheme is to encourage SMEs to engage more effectively with European Funding, under H2020. Academics or European officers within HEIs can offer expertise and experience to advise and facilitate appropriate consortium building and support towards full H2020 application for the SME. The award will be paid to the HEI on submission of a completed final report and HEI costs will be reimbursed by the SFC (Note: the grant will not be paid to the SME or any in-kind costs reimbursed.) Applications to the scheme should be submitted as early as possible in advance of calls.

How to Apply: The call for applications is currently open with deadlines of the first Monday of each month and the application must be submitted by the HEI partner - key documents in the section below.

Key documents and contacts

For technical or strategic information or general enquiries on H2020 SME Engagement applications your main contact is She can help preparations for any application, technical information, and will coordinate cross-partner bids.

Converge Challenge content

Converge Challenge

Converge Challenge

The Converge Challenge is a high profile pan-Scotland business competition and entrepreneurship development programme for staff, students, recent graduates and a non-trading or trading company (for less than 6 months and with a turnover less than £50K with University support) of Scottish Universities and Research Institutes aimed at creating a new generation of entrepreneurs in Scotland.

They work with any industry sector, product or service-based ideas at any stage of the development. Over the last four years, the programme has attracted 260 applications, engaged with 120 projects, from which around 30% went on to create companies. 4 out of 5 of these businesses have secured follow-on funding which currently stands at £9million.

Participants are generally technology companies with significant growth potential so by engaging with Converge UHI has a chance to be associated with the most exciting, innovative projects coming out of the Scottish research base and with one of the key initiatives within Scotland's entrepreneurial community. The competition runs annually, usually opening around February and closing around June.

Want to develop your idea for a new business, product or process?

Do you have an idea for a new commercial enterprise, product or process or would you simply want to learn more about what support is out there (in case you have an idea in the future)? Contact the KE team to discuss how to get involved with the Converge Challenge at UHI.

Entrepreneurship and postgraduate students - supporting your business idea

Do you have the desire and ambition to start your own business? Postgraduate research students who are looking for support to develop a business idea should make contact with (Head of Knowledge Exchange) in the first instance.

As a taster of the type of schemes available to support your business ideas, links on our graduate school pages will provide some background information, but there are many avenues to explore, so please speak to Joe for guidance once you are familiar with some of the available options.

Converge Challenge-UHI Case Study:

Anna Renouf, an Environmental Science student from UHI and founder of Orrin Equestrian, was awarded the Converge Challenge 2016 Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for demonstrating drive, focus and determination throughout the Converge process. Anna was shortlisted as part of the Converge Challenge Top 30 for her pioneering new saddle that offers superior fit and improvements for horse welfare. Read the full case study.




SMART: SCOTLAND is an initiative from Scottish Enterprise to provide grants to Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) based in Scotland.

The grant is intended to help undertake technical feasibility studies and research and development (R&D) projects that have a commercial endpoint.

A selection of case studies are provided to give a flavour of the type of ideas and projects that have benefited from the initiative so far.

A two page leaflet describing the process of applying to the programme is available as a 1Mb pdf - SMART : SCOTLAND Guide - and full information is available on the SMART : SCOTLAND website.

Contact (Head of Knowledge Exchange) is your contact in the first instance to discuss any ideas you think might benefit (and qualify) for SMART funding.

Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) content

Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE)

Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE)

The Scottish Institute for Enterprise works nationally to promote and support enterprise and entrepreneurship in Scotland’s students, creating opportunities for students to be innovative.

SIE works with local institutions to champion enterprise education and help their students start new innovative businesses and social enterprises. SIE provides free one-to-one advice, enterprise workshops and national competitions.

More information on up-coming compititions and grant calls on the SIE website.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) content

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE)

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE)

The Royal Society of Edinburgh contributes to the social, cultural, and economic wellbeing of Scotland through the advancement of learning and useful knowledge. Established in 1783, the RSE draws upon the considerable strengths and varied expertise of their Fellows.

The RSE’s funding programmes aim to attract and retain those with outstanding potential to establish their STEM and Arts & Humanities in Scotland; encourage enterprise, innovation and the commercialisation of technology-based ideas coming from academic research; and develop international collaboration and enable participation in international research programmes.

RSE-UHI Case Studies

Two UHI-based entrepreneurs were announced as the inaugural RSE Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellows in June 2018 (the national quota was 20).

One was Rachael Bews with her project ALICAS: Ali’s Coats and Shoes Ltd. hosted by CREATE, the Centre for Enterprise and Innovation at Inverness College UHI part of the University of the Highlands and Islands. ALICAS is a survivor-led social venture that gifts bespoke clothing parcels to women who have fled abusive relationships.

The other was Anna Renouf, project Orrin Equestrian. Hosted by CREATE, the Centre for Enterprise and Innovation at Inverness College UHI part of the University of the Highlands and Islands. Pioneering new saddle produced from composite materials that offers superior fit and improvements for horse welfare.


If you would like to discuss any of the above initiatives or other options you think are suitable for your project, please get in touch with the team using the link below;