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Finally! New InnovateUK Delivery plan 2016/2017

Eagerly awaited, we now have the deliver plan from InnovateUK. Things will be different but not worse. Short summary: opportunity for photonics companies to apply into four £15 Mio competitions. Two of them are specifically for emerging/enabling technologies and two of them are completely open. This is probably good news. Even though more will apply for these calls, if the proposals for photonics are better, more money could go to photonics technology development.

Here is a little bit more detail, but I urge to read through the delivery plan because there will be many other opportunities to apply for that target end-user sectors.

The Enabling/Emerging technologies will receive £86m, but this money includes money earmarked for catapults and other Innovate facilities and activities. The real figure is less and more in the range of £40m.

Photonics is part of the enabling technologies. Other areas are

  1. Enabling
    •  Electronics
    • Sensors
    • Robotics and Autonomous systems
    • Cyber security
    • Data (what ever this means)
    • Satellite Earth Observation

What is interesting is, that ICT or software seems to be completely missing

  1.  Emerging
  • high priority to Innovate (my opinion but that may be wrong)
    • quantum technologies (has its own funding of £9m, call opens in April)
    • synthetic biology
    • non animal techniques (this means, developing technologies that allow testing drugs without using animal testing. This could mean for example 3 D tissue models and means of measuring growth and health of cells…)
  • also mentioned, but will only provide exploratory support to these:
    • emerging imaging
    • graphene
    • energy harvesting
    • biofilms


Photonics will obtain most direct funding through two broadly defined Emerging and Enabling technologies competitions of £15Mio. There will be two of them, one October 2017 and one in March 2017. 

Relevant to photonics is of course Quantum Technology. Many quantum technologies require photonics or optical elements/systems. The plan mentions this April and is providing around £9m. We will keep you updated on this.

Further, there will be two open call where everyone can apply too. They will have no specific themes and are there to help with collaboration, transition to market, bridging some financial gaps, helping to get ready for private investment and so on. Both calls have a maximum budget of  £14m. and will open in June 2016 and December 2016.

How the calls will be handled, will be different to previous ones. From current understanding - and the text of the delivery plan supports this, companies will  not have to decide for which of the type of funding tools they need to apply for. They simply submit, what they would need funding for and the Innovate UK will evaluate and then allocate which tool may best fits the proposal. Of course, there still needs to be very good justification, why funding cannot be obtained somewhere else and that the money received will help significant business growth for the company in the UK and addresses market needs. Further, I have not yet seen the model which shows loans (may be I have just missed it by quickly scanning through the document - wanting to write this blog had higher priority). But there are hints that they will staged in later and may be they are the "new innovative financing products" that are mentioned in the document.

So, please do not just take my words. I strongly advice you to read the document and form your own opinions.

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