While the landscape of grant funding might appear daunting at first glance, especially to SMEs and scaling businesses, it’s a realm rich with untapped potential. Grants, often perceived as the domain of larger entities, are actually accessible to a wide range of businesses—if approached with the right strategy and understanding. You can read our top tips on approaching grant funding here.

With a staggering £172 billion of grant funding allocated by the government in recent years, the opportunities are vast and varied. This is particularly true if you are seeking finance to deliver innovation or social impact, with funds set up to support R&D for medical, educational or green applications, and purpose-led organisations like charities and CICs. In this round-up, we’ll delve into a curated selection of grants available across these sectors, including some that transcend industry boundaries. 


The Fairness Innovation Challenge (closes 13/12/2023)  

Funding for reducing systemic bias and discrimination in AI.

What is it? The Fairness Innovation Challenge, led by Innovate UK in collaboration with the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, is a pioneering initiative proposed to reduce the risk of artificial intelligence bias.  With a substantial investment of up to £130,000, this challenge invites UK registered businesses, academic institutions, and purpose-led organisations to develop innovative solutions targeting bias and discrimination in AI systems.

Who is it for? Proposals must confront bias in either healthcare or an open use case, ensuring compliance with UK legislation and the adoption of a socio-technical approach considering both positivist and interpretivist epistemologies.  The challenge represents a unique opportunity for organisations across various sectors to contribute to shaping AI’s ethical landscape, striving for fairness in the future of this rapidly evolving technology.

National Lottery Awards for All England (rolling deadline)

Funding for organisations to support community activities.

What is it? The National Lottery Awards for All England program aims to empower community-driven initiatives, offering grants ranging from £300 to £20,000 for projects lasting up to two years. This programme is dedicated to nurturing social connections and enhancing community activities, recognising their vital role in fostering a healthier, happier society. The funding is accessible to a diverse array of community and voluntary organisations, including charities, CICs, schools, and local authorities, with a particular focus on supporting smaller income groups.

Who is it for? Projects eligible for funding should contribute in one or more of the following ways: strengthening community bonds, enhancing communal spaces, aiding individuals in reaching their potential from an early stage, or providing relief amidst the cost-of-living crisis. This flexible funding can cover various needs, from running costs and staff expenses to small-scale land projects. The National Lottery Awards for All England is an excellent opportunity for grassroots projects striving to make a tangible difference in their localities. 

Innovate UK Fast Start Net Zero Living Digital (closes 24/01/2024) 

Funding for digital solutions to reduce carbon footprint.

What is it? The Innovate UK Fast Start Net Zero Living Digital grant offers an exciting opportunity for UK registered small and micro businesses to spearhead innovative digital solutions in the pursuit of net zero objectives.  The £2m grant pool is divided into two segments. £1.5 million is allocated for projects under the Net Zero Living Digital Fast Start initiative, encouraging businesses to develop software or data-driven solutions that address net zero challenges in areas including power, heat, mobility, and product manufacture and usage.  The remaining £500,000 is dedicated to the Telecoms Technology Missions Fund, aimed at innovations in the telecommunications domain delivering network-driven net zero solutions.

Who is it for? Businesses are invited to apply for grants ranging from £25,000 to £50,000, covering total project costs lasting between 3 and 6 months, starting by the 1st of April 2024.  Alongside a grant, successful applicants will receive tailored business support from Innovate UK EDGE. 

VocTech Activate Grant Fund (closes 31/01/2024) 

Funding for innovation in vocational education.

What is it? The VocTech Activate Grant Fund provides a nurturing ground for early-stage, innovative ideas aimed at solving practical problems in vocational education. The fund supports the design, development, and early-stage testing of digital tools, helping these initiatives to progress from prototypes to market-ready solutions. 

Who is it for? With grants ranging from £30,000 to £60,000 for projects with a duration of up to 12 months, this programme invites purpose-led organisations and private companies to present ideas that are not only innovative but also carry an element of risk—daring to venture beyond conventional education models. With an emphasis on creating opportunities for learners who are often neglected, VocTech Activate aligns perfectly with the ethos of businesses seeking to make a real difference through technology and innovation.  


If you’re seeking finance for your innovation, the Sussex Innovation research and insight team can help. Get in touch to find out more about how we can prepare a tailored report on the grant funding available to support your business scenario.