2016 has been a year of turbulence, both politically and socially. While it feels like it’s probably worth waiting for at least the next thing to happen before commenting, we feel that there’s sufficient information and insight available to offer a sensible analysis of how all our Innovation funding clients, partners and friends might navigate the immediate future.
After Theresa May was sworn in as the UK’s new Prime Minister on the 13th July, a swingeing cabinet reshuffle not only changed the makeup of the Conservative front bench, but also rearranged some key government departments.
Greg Clark replaces Sajid Javid as Business and Energy Secretary in a new department stripped of its oversight of Further and Higher Education which after a 9 year absence returns to be within the policy remit of Justine Greening’s Department of Education, but with additional policy responsibility for Energy and Industrial Strategy.
UK Innovation Funding
The restructuring has been broadly welcomed although there is currently no evidence to suggest how the “comprehensive industrial strategy” that the new department is charged with delivering will impact on general government support for innovation and R&D.
We will have to wait to understand the impact of the restructure on Innovate UK’s future. There had been rumours for some time concerning a possible merger between Innovate UK and Research UK and the recent Higher Education and Research Bill does indeed pave the way for this to happen, although there are calls for the bill to scrapped and it is unclear how it might be implemented needing cross department coordination. Innovate UK is seemingly preparing for change and alongside the new grant funding framework they are piloting a few new funding models over the year, the first contract-based opportunity is live now.
Innovate UK funding will continue to exist and will continue to be competitive. We strongly recommend allowing plenty of time to prepare an application, especially with the new collaboration requirements for projects over £100k in the sector-specific competitions.
EU Innovation funding
And so. The elephant in the room. UK business’ access to European Commission H2020 funding. We are confident that it is business as usual until we hear otherwise. The European Commission issued a clear statement on 4th July confirming that until the UK legally leaves the EU, businesses are able to participate and receive funding from H2020 actions.
Of course we have no ability to predict when exactly the UK will no longer legally be part of Europe, but we will at least have 2 years’ notice. The H2020 work programme and budget is updated every two years with the 2018-2020 work programme currently in development. It’s either optimistic or encouraging, but the UK has been submitting consultations for the final H2020 work programme as recently as 5th July. This framework indicates UK companies will be welcomed as applicants until at least March 2018.
We have heard rumours and anecdotal evidence of European funding being pulled or put on hold and understand the concern around the issue. Our own research indicates many reports are not making a distinction between ERDF, part of the ESIF, ERC and H2020.
ERDF and the other ESIF funding mechanisms are for long-term infrastructure support. It’s therefore not surprising projects are being put on hold until the withdrawal process is clarified as many upcoming funding agreements are for projects lasting 3 years or over. ERC funding is similarly suffering from frequently being long-term in its scope. With funding sought for multi year projects, it is not surprising that consortia are not keen on including UK researchers who may be unable to participate for the whole project.
As with UK innovation funding, we will keep abreast of all the latest news and pass on any information as soon as we understand the implications. For now, the best advice is to keep applying to the upcoming H2020 streams, with well-developed projects, as they are opportunities that UK business are still emphatically eligible for. For more information on how to kick off the process of applying for a grant, get in touch to have a chat with a government funding expert.