Innovation & Enterprise


UCL advises London SMEs tackling new societal needs following COVID-19

26 November 2020

UCL Innovation & Enterprise will be doubling its support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) this year with the help of additional funding from Innovate UK.

Group talking at an entrepreneurship event at BaseKX

UCL is receiving £1.4 million government funding to support London SMEs to adapt their businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The extra funding will enable UCL to give expert advice to up to 360 businesses over a two-year period. This advice will focus on helping SMEs tackle emerging societal and industrial needs.

This extra funding recognises the building and nurturing expertise of Innovation & Enterprise’s Global Innovation team.

Businesses receiving support

The SMEs currently supported by the team cover a range of sectors. They’re tackling challenges including protecting the vulnerable, supporting retailers and facilitating healthcare provider training.

Examples of SMEs being supported by UCL’s Global Innovation team to pivot, include:


Karely is a free-to-use technology platform that turns goodwill into engagement and action. It connects people in need to friends, neighbours and colleagues, directing support where it’s most helpful. 

Jonathan Grinbaud, UCL’s Global Innovation Business Advisor, worked with Karely’s founder Karim Chrobog to help Karely rethink their technology. The UCL team also helped them apply for grants including the UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) Rapid Response COVID-19 call.


Oslr is a UCL-based digital startup that’s repurposing its digital health platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The platform was developed by Dr Adam Pennycuick, Oslr’s CEO and Clinical Training Fellow at UCL, to train hospital doctors. The technology has now been adapted for use by staff in care homes and social care workers in the community. 

Oslr received advice from the Global Innovation team on pivoting their business to support social care during the pandemic. 

Expert advice and support from UCL

UCL is responding directly to the UK Government strategy to deliver innovation and business growth support programmes. 

The funding will provide specialist services to help hundreds of high-growth London SMEs as they navigate the pandemic. 

Support will include advice on how to repurpose technologies to tackle emerging societal or industry needs. They’ll be supported to commercialise R&D and take new technologies to market, as well as find international partners to achieve these goals. 

Since April 2020, UCL Innovation & Enterprise has facilitated contracts and grants totalling £2.2 million for London SMEs, as well as forging international collaborations. It’s brokered R&D partnership deals with Germany, Greece, Turkey, Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania and France.

Dr Celia Caulcott, Vice-Provost (Enterprise), UCL said: “UCL works with Innovate UK to support businesses through the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). Our team of experts have been advising London SMEs on how to pivot their businesses to tackle emerging societal and industry needs in the drive to reflate the economy.” 

Dr Martin Davies, Director of Innovation Partnerships, UCL Innovation & Enterprise, said: “Many small and medium-sized enterprises have been hardest hit as a result of the pandemic and the lockdown now threatens their survival. SMEs account for three fifths of employment and around half of turnover in the UK private sector. Importantly SMEs can be agile and adapt their business operations more easily than larger companies. This is a key factor for an economy looking to fast-track revival. 

“The Innovate UK support package means UCL can help even more London SMEs to connect with the university and use innovation and creativity to adapt, grow, and emerge stronger from the pandemic crisis. UCL is well placed to support high-growth SMEs in London and we are passionate about the contribution they make economically in London, the UK and internationally.” 


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