NEW COMPETITION - £5,000 Innovation Grants for eligible food businesses

Springboard your small food & drink business with a Food Innovation Network Innovation Voucher.


What is it?

The Food Innovation Network (FIN) is launching a one-off competition to connect food business and academia to develop innovative ideas to help stimulate productivity and support business growth.


Who can apply?

The competition is aimed at micro, small and medium sized food companies. It is also aimed at larger companies who collaborate with micro businesses or SMEs and/or academic partners to help these businesses improve their systems and processes to make them more cost effective and deliver better products and services. Proposals should be business-led and clearly present the benefits to business.


What could you win?

A grant of up to £5,000 will be awarded to at least 10 successful applicants who can either match the grant themselves (or with an existing collaborator), or develop a new collaboration by affiliating with a partner identified by the FIN and who has agreed to match the grant in kind or in cash.

The grants are provided to support the rapid development of an innovative idea/business opportunity that is capable of demonstrating its practical feasibility in the food and drink sector. Primary production is in scope where it impacts on post farm gate activity e.g. in food processing, manufacturing, retail sectors. This competition is open to businesscollaborations to stimulate their development of new ideas that could provide solutions to industry-identified challenges in the food sector.

This is an open, fast-stream competition and we are seeking proposals for up to six months projects based on one of the following match funding mechanisms:

  • Company X providing £5,000 in-kind support
  • Company Y providing £5,000 cash
  • Company A wishes to use a service provided by Company Z (as put forward by the FIN) to the value of £5,000.


How to apply

The competition will open w/c 27 November 2017 and a video and application form must be submitted by 31 January 2018.

The competition is being run as a single stage competition with the following requirements:

  • The business must join the FIN by signing up at
  • A video pitch (maximum of 2 minutes in duration) which explains and outlines the applicant’s proposal
  • An accompanying one page proforma written submission supporting the applicant’s video application that expands on the key issues being addressed
  • Applicants with successful short-listed proposals will be asked to present their idea for 10 minutes to a small group of industry experts and government representatives (‘Dragons-den’ format)

If you have any queries about the technical scope of the competition or the application process, please contact the Food Innovation Network on 07931 511641 or email


Key dates*

Competition opens 27 November 2017
Application form and video submission deadline Midnight 31 January 2018
Decision to applicants February/March  2018 (TBC)
Grants issued End of project by August 2018

*The proposed timetable is only a guideline. The FIN reserves the right to make any changes it deems necessary to the proposed timetable.


General rules and criteria

  • Defra have allocated funding for innovative feasibility collaborative studies that meet departmental objective to boost productivity in food and drink businesses through innovation and R&D.
  • Projects will be funded up to a maximum value of £5,000 with match-funding (in kind or cash) of similar value by business proposers or collaborative partners. Funding will be awarded as grants to the most promising proposals and will operate under de minimis state aid rules (EC regulation). In order to qualify, applicants must be eligible to receive grant funding under de minimis regulations. The FIN Innovation grants will be counted as de minimis aid so the Food Innovation Network will apply the rules and regulations when awarding these Innovation grants. Industrial partners must ensure they are not in breach of de minimis aid rules by accepting the innovation grants.
  • Businesses that are solely engaged in primary production i.e. the cultivation of crops and husbandry of livestock, are ineligible for this grant support under de minimis regulations. Applicants must therefore be able to demonstrate A: Evidence
    of commercial activity outside of primary production and B: Capacity to undertake qualifying R&D activity with a view to wider commercial exploitation within the Agri-food sector. It is the responsibility of all participants to keep records of public funds received under de minimis state aid regulations to ensure that they do not exceed the state aid thresholds for this type of funding. Further information on state aid rules and De minimis aid can be found here:
  • The competition is only open to UK registered micro, small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). Projects may be undertaken by a single SME business or in collaboration with a maximum of one other SME business entity.
  • SMEs typically comprise no more than 250 employees: full definitions can be found at: .
  • Projects must have a duration of between 3 and 6 months.
  • The competition will open 27 November 2017 and close at midnight on 31 January 2018
  • The projects are expected to start from March 2018
  • You can only submit one proposal.
  • The grant will be paid by Defra on completion of the project.

Further information about this competition can be found here.


Criteria for evaluation

  • Video pitches should not exceed two minutes. A panel of independent assessors will only review the first two minutes of each submission.
  • The assessors will be looking for submissions that: (i) meet the scope stated above (ii) are creative and innovative (iii) clearly provide a business opportunity (iv) explain why Government investment is needed to make it happen and therefore, provide value for money
  • Assessors will score the written and video submission
  • Only the top submissions will be awarded a maximum grant of up to £5,000
  • The match-funded industry contribution can be in kind

Submissions should demonstrate

  • Evidence of new and existing partnerships and expected impact of knowledge and expertise gained through this collaboration
  • Translational potential
  • Impact on wider food sector
  • Articulation of challenge to be addressed
  • Risk and novelty

All applications will be assessed on individual merit in accordance with the assessment process outlined in the Q&A for applicants.


Project outputs - What you will need to do if successful

  • Upon award of the project funding you will be expected to demonstrate progress towards implementation of your new business idea. Where applicable, the output may also be in the form of a demonstrator e.g. a practical demonstration (including use of video) of what has been achieved through the project.
  • Each project will require the delivery of a project evaluation (by way of a short report or video clip). This will describe, for example, the challenges identified, the work undertaken, the progress made, whether the project was successful, what changes resulted to your company’s business plan, how/if the funding enabled the business to enter new markets or develop new ones, lessons learned and next steps.

For more information please contact 

Competition Helpline: 07931 511641




Defra and the Food Innovation Network/KTN will publicise the results of the competition and this includes engagement with the media. Winning applicants will be asked to provide an agreed form of words for use in publicity material.

Contact Defra Press Office with any queries relating to this scheme or the Food Innovation Network on 0208 225 7626.



The Food Innovation Network helps the agri-food sector innovate by connecting businesses to research and joining up the landscape so that information, expertise, funding, demonstration facilities are easier to access (especially by SMEs). Accessing these opportunities can help businesses develop innovative ideas and create new business opportunities.


About the competition

This competition will support at least 10 innovative feasibility studies with a grant of up to £5,000 each. The competition process will involve the submission of a 2-minute video pitch to present the innovative idea/business opportunity, accompanied by a simple one-page application form.

Video entries should clearly articulate:


  • The challenge or opportunity being tackled
  • Why it is important
  • The collaborative approach that will be taken to develop the idea
  • How the idea will be applied in practice
  • What impact the idea could have if successful in your business and its potential for wider commercial application and uptake
  • Future plans that will follow on from this project (eg further funding/partnership/innovation)
  • Who you would like to work with
  • Why Government investment is needed to make it happen

The videos and forms will be used by the FIN for the initial assessment to shortlist stage winners through to a ‘Dragon’s Den’ type event. Senior industry experts will be challenging the businesses projects and selecting the grant winners, who will be announced in the New Year.

By way of grants, we will fund up to 50% of the project cost (with a maximum grant of £5,000 per project) with the remainder match-funded through one of the match-funding mechanisms stated above). The competition will operate under European Commission de minimis rules and you will need to confirm your compliance by signing a grants award letter incorporating standard T & C’s.


Competition scope

The Food Innovation Network is working to support innovation in food and drink production, processing and manufacture. Primary production is in scope where it impacts directly on these sectors. The FIN connects industry sectors, business to business and academia to develop common solutions to industry-identified problems. Through these connections the FIN seeks to facilitate the development of innovative ideas, concepts or technologies that will maintain and improve the sector’s competitiveness and productivity.

Eligible UK registered businesses/applicants must explain how the proposed idea is innovative, novel and realistic, with a strong practical focus to support SMEs or knowledge transfer between academia and industry. The approach used is flexible; from application of a simple idea to addressing more complex challenges. Projects should have relevance and show value across the food and drink supply chain, with clearly identified impact on the food processing and manufacturing industries. The funding can be used to facilitate access to expertise and knowhow, testing out ideas (including access to kit/facilities) or building partnerships.

We are interested in any innovative approach to the specific challenge you identify. For example:

  • Improving the efficiency in food production, processing and management systems by minimising costs leading to the provision of better products to market
  • Designing a product/process for re-use, remanufacture, recycling to optimise the use of materials
  • Increasing resource use efficiency (such as energy and water) and inputs required (including labour) to produce food, food products or deliver a service to the user (including through use of underpinning technologies)
  • Improving storage, handling, packaging and distribution systems across the supply chain (including retail and food service)
  • Converting a product into a service to provide added value.

All ideas must demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Requirement for expertise/support via collaboration with other businesses and/or academia* in the area
  • The value that our investment would bring
  • Innovation in the proposed solution
  • Commercial application(s) and the exploitation path
  • A credible route to market for the technology or process and detail of the market size.

*The FIN has identified several organisations who wish to work with businesses on innovative ideas – these can be found here.

Projects must be aimed at establishing technical feasibility, either preparatory to industrial research or preparatory to experimental development. The use of IP lawyers to establish a patent or freedom to operate in an area is applicable but we would be seeking to judge the innovative concept.


Apply now

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