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Is your technology ready?

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When looking into grant funding it’s not unusual to become very confused very quickly. What stream of funding should you apply for in relation to the R&D that you want to do? Are you going to be conducting industrial research or experimental development? Can you do both in the same project? Questions about where your plans fit in funders’ frameworks are important to answer accurately, after all it can dramatically affect not only the amount you can apply for, but also the reimbursement rate you are entitled to claim.

The language used by funding bodies to talk about your development cycle may not feel like it accurately describes your plans, but it’s worth remembering that it has to capture the development stages of industries as diverse and different as software, medical devices and new drugs, manufacturing processes or space technologies. While software might have a shorter development cycle where MVP or beta tests allow developers to have a product in the market enabling steps to be missed entirely, medical device development has clearly defined steps that lead to certification allowing for a less fluid development cycle.

When considering where your project fits, it’s worth thinking about the base framework on which most funding is based. Technology Readiness Levels (TRL). Originally developed by Nasa in the 80’s this 9-stage framework has become the basis for Innovation funding bodies. The European Commission has adopted it as their framework for all the H2020 steams and topics and Innovate UK are increasingly using it as a reference for their own development descriptions.  

Depending on the topic and the type of action, H2020 funding will generally fund development of technology that is already at TRL 6. Streams such as the SME Instrument Phase 2 and Fast Track to Innovation are examples of funding specifically designed for individual SMEs or SME led consortia respectively. Other streams such as the SME Instrument Phase 1 are for projects that are earlier in the development cycle, but as the focus is on market analysis and development, the funding can be applied for with technology that might be later in the TRL framework already developed. For Research Actions, Research and Innovation Actions each topic defines the expected TRL of the technology development it will be supporting.

Innovate UK has recently simplified their support framework and is primarily focused on supporting innovations that are already at TRL 4-7. The new funding framework allows for projects to mix R&D outputs categorised as: feasibility studies, industrial research and experimental development. There is still the opportunity to conduct market or fundamental research through the Open funding competition, but the sector specific competitions are likely to follow the lead of the Manufacturing and Materials competition in only supporting technical development.

Our innovation grant experts will be happy to discuss how your R&D fits into the landscape and help you ensure that you are applying for both the most financially efficient stream and the one that is going to accelerate your product to market the quickest.

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