29 September 2021
Invest NI have announced the latest call for applications for the Innovation Voucher Programme.
Businesses can apply for a £5,000 Innovation Voucher to work with a public sector knowledge provider, such as a university, college, technology institute or research organisation, on an innovation project for their business.
The voucher enables business to access the skills and expertise of these providers to help them create or improve products or services.
Applications opened on Monday 13 September 2021 and will close at 15:00 on Friday 1 October 2021.
How does an Innovation Voucher work?
An innovation voucher is worth up to £5,000 (or euro equivalent) and allows small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to access skills and expertise from one of the registered Knowledge Providers throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The aim is to improve the innovation capabilities of eligible businesses, while simultaneously enabling business to build links with public sector Knowledge Providers, such as universities, colleges or research organisations.
A list of approved Knowledge Providers can be found here.
SMEs which would like help with an innovation project, such as developing innovative products, processes or services, can apply for an Innovation Voucher to access specialist expertise, technology or facilities which might not otherwise be available to them.
Medium sized businesses (with 50 or more employees) are not eligible for an Innovation Voucher if they have previously received assistance from Invest NI’s Grant for R&D programme in the last 5 years.
Once awarded with a voucher, eligible business will have nine months from the date of issue to complete their project with the Knowledge Provider. On completion of the project, you will receive a final report from the Knowledge Partner and will pay 20% VAT direct to the Knowledge Provider. Invest NI will pay the Knowledge Provider directly, up to a maximum of £5,000.
Innovation Vouchers are non-transferrable and must be used for the project detailed in the approved application.
Innovation vouchers are open to Northern Ireland based SMEs, social enterprises and third sector organisations. This includes sole traders, partnerships, limited companies, new start-ups and pre-trading entities including individuals/potential entrepreneurs with a project which could be commercialised.
You can apply for an Innovation Voucher if:
- You are a small enterprise, social enterprise or third sector organisation with less than 50 employees and either an annual turnover or annual balance sheet not exceeding €10 million.
- You are a medium enterprise, social enterprise or third sector organisation with more than 50 employees but less than 250 employees, and either an annual turnover not exceeding €50 million or an annual balance sheet not exceeding €43 million.
- You must not have received assistance through Invest NI’s Grant for R&D programme in the past 5 years.
What can I use an Innovation Voucher for?
Innovation is all about doing things differently to make your business better. An Innovation Voucher can help you take a creative approach to tackling specific business issues.
Typical innovative projects include:
- Help to develop new or improved products, processes and services
- Access to information and expertise on new materials
- Tapping into research and scientific expertise
- Exploring new technologies
- Exploring new business models
What can’t I use an Innovation Voucher for?
Where an existing solution is readily available in the private sector, it is unlikely that an Innovation Voucher will be awarded.
Projects which Invest NI will not support through an Innovation Voucher include:
- Standard mobile apps.
- General sales activities.
- Standard business advice.
- Buying training for your business.
- Buying equipment for our business.
- Website development and online optimisation.
- Internships for students from knowledge institutions.
- Achieving compliance with statutory regulations or legislation.
- Testing products which are not within the ownership of your business.
- Project costs incurred prior to the issue date of the Innovation Voucher.
How can I apply?
Applications can be made on the Invest NI website.
Before you can access the Innovation Voucher application form, you will need to answer a few preliminary questions regarding eligibility. If you meet the criteria, you will be redirected to your MyINI portal page to complete your application.
If you do not have a portal account, you will need to register using a valid email address and a password. You will then be able to complete the online application. Applications can be saved and returned to at any stage.
Applications closes at 15:00 on Friday 1 October 2021. For more information on the programme, eligibility requirements and how to apply, please do not hesitate to contact us.