Innovation & Enterprise


Innovation networks funding

If you want to engage with multiple external stakeholders to nurture partnerships and form an interdisciplinary community you could get funding to scope or establish an innovation network.

What are innovation networks?

Innovation networks can help you bring together multiple parties from industry, government and third-sector to: 

  • provide a forum for knowledge exchange on problem-oriented topics, innovative solutions and thought leadership in a pre-competitive or collaborative environment 
  • share and discuss industry and technological challenges and opportunities, to surface critical research topics, raise public awareness, create a market or help shape policy 
  • foster and develop collaboration between industry and UCL  
  • develop readiness and confidence to build joint research-based projects and solutions  

Innovation networks provide a broad range of knowledge exchange among diverse groups focused on a particular technological market segment or problem-oriented topic. 

Find out more about innovation networks.

Who it’s for

All UCL staff can apply, including academic, research and professional services staff from any department.

What could qualify

You can apply for funding for either an initial scoping exercise, or to establish a new network.

Your proposal will need to:

  • engage with non-academic users or collaborators, such as businesses, public sector services, charities or the wider public  
  • show how you'll bring their input or expertise back into the network and UCL  
  • show how your network will contribute to society or the economy and the impact you'll be generating   
  • show how your project builds on your work at UCL  
  • demonstrate how the network will develop an appropriate governance structure 
  • include a clear strategic plan for on-going development of the network and long-term sustainability, beyond the end of the funded period 

Networks may include a range of activities, such as:   

  • running networking events 
  • designing and delivering workshops, roundtables, panels or working groups
  • creating videos, podcasts or case studies
  • developing a database of members
  • producing academic papers or policy white papers
  • developing a framework for training activities
  • informing public policy 

Further details on eligibility requirements can be found in our innovation networks funding guide (Word).

How much you can apply for

Funds are available for either an initial scoping exercise or establishing a network.  

Scoping an innovation network 

You can apply for up to £7,000 to do preliminary work to scope your innovation network.

The result of your scoping activity should be a strategic plan to build, establish and sustain your innovation network.

Scoping your network in advance allows you to clearly identify and define:

  • the problem your network is intending to solve
  • network purpose, aims and objectives
  • partners who will be active in running the network
  • other target members
  • governance structure
  • plans for network operations
  • metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to evaluate network success 
  • activities the network will perform 
  • ongoing funding plans 

Activities may include:

  • polling the market to identify key issues for the network to address
  • testing engagement from potential members
  • forming an advisory board
  • producing reports and the strategic plan

Tools you may want to consider include surveys, workshops and individual interviews.  

Establishing an innovation network 

You can apply for up to £30,000 to establish and run your network.

If your network has already been scoped or you already have developed a plan for your network, you can apply for funds to set up and run your innovation network.

Funds are typically used to cover costs of a network coordinator and PI engagement in the network, as well as delivering planned activities of the network.

When your project can start

If you applied in the last call, the earliest you can start is:

  • 21 May 2024 for IAA-funded projects
  • 1 August 2024 for HEIF-funded projects

For EPSRC IAA projects, funds must be spent fully by 31 March 2025. Projects be can of any length, so long as they end by 31 March 2025.

For HEIF and ESRC IAA projects, funding can cover up to 12 months of activity.

When to apply

Applications are currently closed.

If you applied in the last call, you’ll find out if you’re successful by Friday, 26 April.

Submissions received outside published call dates will not be considered.

How to apply

We'd encourage you to speak to the Innovation Networks team (inetworks@ucl.ac.uk) for advice on shaping your application and its eligibility. We strongly encourage you to do so at the earliest opportunity, irrespective of the stage of development of your project.

  1. Read our innovation networks funding guide (Word) for advice on completing your application and details of the documents we’ll need to see.
  2. Read our guide to using the web application form (Word), and what information you'll need to have to hand before starting.
  3. Fill in the web application form on our online portal. (You'll need your UCL login. Only one person can access the form. You can save and return to the form at any time.) 

You can use the application template (Word) to share information with co-investigators or other colleagues if this is helpful. But applications must be submitted via the web application form (emailed applications will not be accepted).

After you apply

  1. Your proposal will be assessed by the Knowledge Exchange team to assess its eligibility and make sure it matches the funding criteria. 
  2. If it does, at least three members of innovation-engaged UCL staff will review it. Your application will be assessed on its suitability for the scheme, feasibility, and potential for impact.
  3. For applications over £20,000, the UCL Innovation & Enterprise Funding Committee will consider the application and make a recommendation to the Executive Director, UCL Innovation & Enterprise on whether to award or decline. They’ll make the final decision. For applications up to £20,000, the Knowledge Exchange team will make the final decision. The same criteria are applied in both cases.

Funding sources

  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) 2022-25
  • Economics and Social Sciences Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) 2023-28
  • Research England, Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF)