28 June 2016

Two ways to fund tech innovation

Collaborative R&D projects can result in long-term partnerships and the working capital required to further innovation. How might this benefit your firm?

International Festival for Business 2016

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Small UK technology firms may face challenges when attempting to fund new innovation, but there are several viable investment models and funding sources across Britain worth investigating.

Rich Walker is managing director at The Shadow Robot Company, known in the consumer space as a developer of anthropomorphic mechanical hands. It is an independent company that relies heavily on grants and partnerships to fund ongoing R&D projects.

Ahead of IFB2016, Walker explains how collaborative grant funding has played a central role in the firm's strategic plan to lower the risk of new propositions, while propelling the business forward.

Walker highlights two potential R&D funding routes your company may wish to apply for collaboratively, and offers insights that could improve your chances of a successful application.

1. Government grants from Innovate UK

Walker suggests approaching Innovate UK for assisted business development. He reveals that the organisation's approval criteria include how close to market your projects are, the size of your firm and more.

Ticking the right boxes could see your firm awarded more than two thirds of your funding requirements, he reveals.

Additionally, Walker stresses that it is preferable to first apply for core R&D funding with partners who have previously won grants, as this does not need to be paid back. "It is much easier to structure the bid, the agreement between partners, the project plan and know how to run the project," he adds.

2. EU Funding

Each year Europe invests great amounts to develop a broad range of research and development, from basic science to supporting projects that are close to market. Walker notes that UK science and technology firms have a strong track record of securing funds from EU coffers.

He adds that successfully obtaining EU funding for innovation often depends on being placed within the right consortiums. His firm Shadow Robot associates itself with several existing networks and those of its partners. It is also regularly approached to join such groups.

Walker highlights Enterprise Europe Network as a group which helps firms progress their innovations from concept to market. He recommends that firms can sign up to receive information and guidance, and to put forward your company's USP to help raise your profile within the funding arena.

"We look sexy because we build robots, but we are competing with other shiny, high tech companies. So, think about what you are going to do that is different or novel," Walker adds.

We look sexy because we build robots, but we are competing with other shiny, high tech companies. So, think about what you are going to do that is different or novel.

Rich Walker, Managing Director, The Shadow Robot Company

Key takeaways

  1. Government grants de-risk R&D work and are easier to source in collaboration with experienced business partners.
  2. Tech companies can secure most and even all funding for bringing inventions to market.
  3. Identify a unique selling point to help you attract the right partners in a busy funding environment.

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