Spotlight On: Innovate UK

Company Profile | Financial Services | Funding | Interview
Tim Sawyer CBE

BLM talks to Tim Sawyer CBE – Chief Investment Officer of Innovate UK about how businesses can use grants for growth.

Can you explain more about Innovate UK?

It is the innovation arm of the UK government and is now part of UK research and innovation, which was recently formed. It’s all about supporting the UK’s high-growth businesses and also ensuring that the good work being done at universities ends up creating real jobs in the real economy.

We operate a network of support sites called catapults that can provide businesses with the support and information they need. We also work with private equity firms to match grants and provide businesses with funding. We have also recently launched a new business loan programme.

Regarding the grants you offer businesses – how much is available?

There isn’t an exact amount of grant funding that we are pegged to. Instead it’s about the demand that is there and understanding how we can meet this. In 2017/18 so far, we have invested £177m to 2,465 businesses.

What is the criteria for this funding?

Historically? We have offered funding for manufacturing businesses but in the last couple of years we have pivoted to a more open structure and if it is a high-growth business, with a good idea we will look to offer support where we can. If it’s worthy, we’ll help.

This will range from pre-university spin outs to established businesses. Having said that, if a business is forecasting good future revenues then a loan may be more relevant. An individual business can borrow between £100,000 and £1m.

Can you give some examples of businesses you have helped?

Lightfoot is a good recent example. The business is a pioneer in connected car technology and it was the first to secure a £1m loan from Innovate UK to support its growth.

How would you currently assess the current state of the UK economy?

There is growth within the UK economy and in the latest official figures, GDP is up. But of course, Brexit remains a worry for some investors. Having said that we have seen record levels of investment from overseas companies into the UK – buying and investing in companies. This is partly due to the weak pound but also there has been a major government drive to position the UK economy as a global driver.

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