Innovate UK is a government initiative, under the umbrella of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). As described on their homepage, UKRI operates… across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and a new organisation, Research England.

Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Awards are open to” inspiring female founders, co-founders or senior decision-makers with ideas for making government’s modern Industrial Strategy a reality.”

Eligibility criteria for Innovation awards:

  • Your business has been up and running for at least one year.
  • The focus of your innovative work must be within one of the Industrial Strategy’s four ‘Grand Challenges’ categories: AI and big data, ageing society, clean growth, future mobility.

In addition to this, the judging panel are looking for women who can be role models for future female entrepreneurs. This is because a lack of role models has been identified as a main reason why women don’t apply for grant funding.

The Commercial Director of DPS Design, Fanzi Down, won a ‘Women in Innovation’ award in 2016. As reported in Business Matters, she encourages other women to apply: “So many women – myself included – don’t self-identify as innovative, preventing them from stepping forward for transformative opportunities like this. I’d challenge any woman with a vision to apply, to discover what reaching their full potential could really mean for them.”

What type of projects have been led by previous winners?

Other impressive former winners include Shakar Jafari and Elena Dieckmann. Shakar is a medical physicist and has created a cheaper way to measure radiation using glass beads. Elena is the co-founder of Aeropowder, a company that uses waste feathers to make other materials. She was also on the Forbes ’30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs’ list.

What do you win?

There are two winners in each of the four ‘Grand Challenges’ categories, each winning a £50,000 grant and a year of business support. This package is tailored to each individual’s business and includes coaching and mentoring.

If you fit the criteria your application must be in by midday on October 3rd 2018. After all the applications are assessed, if you are successful, you will be invited to a panel interview in December. The winners are announced in December and your bespoke package of business support starts in April 2019.

If you are a woman involved R&D in any of the four areas, not only should you be claiming your R&D Tax Credits, but you should get your ‘Women in Innovation Awards’ application started – you’ve only got until October to apply. Good luck!


Jamie Smith