Through InnovateUK’s “Innovation Vouchers” scheme SMEs can get up to £5k to pay for expert advice on innovation: This specifically includes product design and engineering. Panchromos qualifies both as Design Advisor and as Technical Consultancy, which makes this scheme suitable for kicking off a product development project with new clients.
At the start of a product development project there are a number of big questions that need to be answered: What is the main problem we’re trying to solve? What will the solution roughly look like? What are the main technical or project risks we’re facing? What is the project plan—resources, timing and deliverables?
We can work with clients to answer these questions—usually within a few weeks. Clients find these Project Scoping Exercises very useful in understanding the road ahead, and in securing further private or public funding for their product development efforts. SMEs can only get an Innovation Voucher once, and need to use it with an expert they have not worked with in the past.
The application process and eligibility criteria are straightforward – just a short web-based form with three qualification questions. Unlike other funding instruments, applications for the Innovation Vouchers scheme are not evaluated or ranked, it is not a competition: All eligible applications are entered into a draw with chance determining which ones get funded. A source at InnovateUK told me that about 1 in 2 applications gets funded, which I think are pretty good odds.
This means that the objective when filling in the form is not to establish your project is superior, but to leave no doubt that it is eligible. The three questions on the form are:
- What is the idea or opportunity you need help with? You need to show that the challenge you’re facing is real and substantial. Developing a new product idea usually is.
- How will an external expert be able to help you develop your idea? You need to make it clear what expertise you need, and how the expert is going to deliver this to you.
- What impact could this idea have on your business? You need to show that the expert input will provide a significant step towards implementation of your idea. This again is usually not a problem if you’re looking to develop a new product.
Avoid any reference to training, regular business advice, marketing or branding elements as these are specifically excluded.
Draws are quarterly, and if you’re not successful at first you can resubmit in the next round. Deadline for the upcoming draw is October 20th, 12pm. Please contact me if you’re interested in using this scheme to work with us.