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Future Innovation Fund (Pilot)

Our whole economy is experiencing extraordinary changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. While this is a very challenging time, these changes can also drive innovation, create opportunities, and make businesses stronger and more resilient.

Following consultation with industry representatives, the £3m Future Innovation Fund Pilot programme has been established by the Metro Mayor to support Liverpool City Region’s (LCR) small and medium sized enterprise (SME) community. The Pilot aims to incentivise SMEs to innovate, adapt and diversify in response to or in spite of the challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic and its associated impacts on the economy and society.

The first £1m round of the Future Innovation Fund Pilot was highly competitive with only 5% of applicants successfully securing funding. We anticipate the second round will have a similar success rate.

As a Pilot scheme we can learn from each funding round and subsequent rounds will be adapted based on evidence and feedback. This approach, along with demand for the Pilot fund, strengthens our pitch to Government for more innovation funding for the City Region.

We are committed to operating in an open and transparent way, details of how applications will be assessed, how we are addressing issues such as equality and diversity and how we have adapted the fund based on learnings from the first round are available here.

We ask prospective applicants to carefully consider the eligibility criteria and to consult the Application Guidance and FAQs for detailed information, but an overview of the Pilot follows.


Grant funding to cover eligible costs between £25-£75k on a strictly needs-justified basis.


Funding will be available in £1m rounds or “calls” so that the Pilot programme can be refined on an ongoing basis. The first call closed for applications on 6 July 2020. The second call closed for applications in 19 October 2020. The third call will be released in 2022.


Eligible projects must demonstrate alignment to the following priority areas for the LCR:

  • Delivering a sustainable industrial future: businesses seeking to take advantage of new opportunities in materials, manufacturing and engineering.
  • Open health innovation: business initiatives to enhance health & wellbeing, during and following the pandemic.
  • Global cultural capital: activities to support the resilience of LCR’s cultural vibrancy during and following the pandemic.
  • Zero carbon economy: businesses pioneering sustainable approaches to living, travel and doing business in a post-pandemic world, for example linking to the circular economy, mitigating single-use plastic and non-reusable PPE.
  • Tech for good: businesses that use technology and data to drive growth and improve society, including but not limited to “smart city” applications, high performance computing, data science and AI.
  • Digitalisation: initiatives in any other sector that will yield a clear improvement in business productivity, adaptability and/or diversification.

The fund will support “close to market” product/service or process innovation projects that can clearly demonstrate a commercial market impact within six months.

Who should apply?

Any SME based, or with significant operations, in the Liverpool City Region, who can demonstrate a strategically aligned and viable project plan, capability to deliver, value for money, social impact and a clear need for grant funding. Applicants must satisfy the following eligibility criteria:

  • You were carrying out trading or pre-trading activities / registered as active on Companies House on or before 31 March 2020;
  • You have paid all relevant taxes your company is liable for as at the date of application submission (unless deferred/delayed in line with HMRC’s pandemic support measures);
  • Any grant funding awarded to you will be used to fund activities with demonstrable impact within 6 months from date of the grant award;
  • You shall not use any grant funding for:
    – working capital and other ordinary course business purposes;
    – operating directly or indirectly in the tobacco industry;
    – production of products/services used solely in the defence industry;
    – operating in the gambling or adult entertainment industries;
    – any activities with impact on religious movements;
    – any illegal activity; and
    – any activities with an adverse impact on human or animal rights.
  • Prior to funding being awarded, you will not have received more than £180,000 of public funds in the three years preceding the date of application; and
    (NB if you have received more than this amount then please refer to the State Aid Guidance below to check whether your organisation is still eligible to apply)
  • You agree to participate in:
    – webinars or similar events to showcase the innovation activity funded by the grant and promote future calls under the fund;
    – peer to peer engagement and mentoring activity to other businesses where appropriate; and
    – promotional marketing and communications activity.


Successful applicants from the second round of the pilot can be viewed here.

The third round will open for applications in late spring 2022.


If this fund isn’t suitable for your business, please explore other support available through Growth Platform here.