SMEs Transforming food production: Series A Investor Partnership round 2 UK registered SMEs transforming food production towards net zero can apply for a share of up to £5 million in grant support. This must align with a series A investment. The grant funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Eligibility This competition is open to single applicants only. To apply your organisation must: be a UK registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) carry out its project work in the UK be seeking equity financing of at least twice the amount of the grant requested Opening soon Opens: 18 October 2021 Closes: 17 November 2021

Programme: Innovate Uk


Opens: 18 October 2021

Closes: 17 November 2021


Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £5 million to fund innovation projects in this competition. The grant funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Transforming Food Production challenge.

We will be working with a selected pool of investor partners, who have demonstrated that they have the credibility, capability, capacity, and appetite to invest in innovative, technology-led businesses to align with our objectives in this challenge.

This aim of this competition is to support UK registered micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to transform food production through experimental development projects that are closer to market.

To be offered grant funding your project must:

  • be assessed as eligible for grant funding
  • be successful in demonstrating how your project meets the overall aims of the ISCF Transforming Food Production Challenge
  • have secured aligned investment with a lead investor from the pool

You can view the areas of expertise and investment preferences for the investors.

You can apply for this competition before you speak to an investor.

In addition to investment, the lead investors in the pool can provide you with commercial acumen in, for example:

  • leadership
  • market access
  • skills
  • resources

Successful UK registered SME’s will receive:

  • grant funding from Innovate UK
  • aligned investment funding from the programme’s pool of lead investors

In applying you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £1 million and £3 million.

Who can apply

Text update 6 October 2021: the project end date has been changed to allow for an 18 month project duration.

Innovate UK are seeking SMEs with high growth potential that aspire to transform food production towards net zero emissions by 2040. To secure grant funding you must also secure investment of at least twice the amount of grant through one of the lead investors associated with this programme.

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £1 million and £3 million
  • start by 1 August 2022
  • end by 31 January 2024
  • last 18 months
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

If your project’s total eligible costs or duration falls outside of our eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to at least 10 working days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request. If you have not requested approval or your request has not been approved by us, you will be made ineligible, and your application will not be sent for assessment.

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.
You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must also provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you.

We expect all subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

Number of applications

A business can only lead on one application to this competition.

Previous applications

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

We will not award you funding if you have:

Subsidy control (and State aid where applicable)

This competition provides funding in line with the UK's obligations and commitments to Subsidy Control. Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent guidance from the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. We will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.

EU State aid rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see our general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.

Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, you should take independent legal advice. We are unable to advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.

You must make sure at all times that the funding awarded to you is compliant with all current Subsidy Control legislation applicable in the United Kingdom.
This aims to regulate any advantage granted by a public sector body which threatens to or actually distorts competition in the United Kingdom or any other country or countries.

If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean we need to change the terms of this competition, we will tell you as soon as possible.


Your proposal must be assessed by Innovate UK as eligible for grant funding. Projects that meet the quality threshold will be invited to attend the investor showcase event which enables you to meet the investors from our pool.

The aligned private investment must be at least twice the amount of the grant funding.

Grant funding

Innovate UK have allocated up to £5 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

If your organisation’s work on the project is mostly commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get grant funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized organisation

For more information on company sizes, please refer to the company accounts guidance. This is a change from the EU definition unless you are applying under State aid.

If you are applying for an award funded under State aid Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.

Aligned private investment

You must agree the private investment through a lead investor and reach heads of terms by 29 March 2022.

The aligned private investment:

  • must provide you with suitable capital to complete your project and grow and scale
  • can be directed for use in your company, whereas the grant is to support the project only
  • can be used to fund additional costs typically ineligible for support by Innovate UK
  • must be provided under commercial terms negotiated with the lead investor and not Innovate UK
  • The investment can be in the form of either direct equity investment or a convertible loan. It must come from a single lead investor from the pool of investors associated with this programme. The lead investor may decide to syndicate with other investors from within or outside of the pool.

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