Government guarantee means now is a great time to apply for Horizon 2020 funding

Thousands of British organisations will be pleased to learn that the government has confirmed it will guarantee to fulfil funds due on any Horizon 2020 grants won before the UK leaves the European Union.

This statement will provide a degree of reassurance to businesses at what has become a very uncertain time for the UK economic landscape. Following the announcement of the referendum results many businesses have been reluctant to embark on European funding bids as it was unclear how they would be effected once the exit process began. For this reason, applications from UK companies are likely to have fallen giving the latest applicants the best chance of making the cut.

This commitment gives businesses the opportunity to continue accessing this valuable resource for research and innovation funding. It is particularly good news for small companies who can apply for SME instrument grant of up to €2.5million for early stage proof of concept through to bringing products to market. We encourage all tech companies to take advantage of this opportunity while it is still accessible and would be happy to chat to anyone wanting to know more information about the opportunities available. Get in touch with us at

Horizon 2020 2016-17 Programme Announced

This week the second work programme of Horizon 2020 has been announced, which details the grants that are available through 2016-2017.

As with the 2014-15 work programme, the ‘Open Disruptive Innovation’ topic is the most likely avenue for games/digital/creative companies to apply through, as this has a broad scope.

Full details on the 2016-2017 SME instrument (section of H2020 relevant to SMEs) are available here.


 The ‘Open Disruptive Innovation’ topic has €126m allocated for the next two years. This topic has the largest budget allocated to it, from the total €739m available for the SME Instrument in 2016-17.

Submission dates

Phase 1:

24 Feb 2016

03 May 2016

07 Sep 2016

09 Nov 2016

15 Feb 2017

03 May 2017

Phase 2:

03 Feb 2016

14 Apr 2016

15 Jun 2016

13 Oct 2016

18 Jan 2017

06 Apr 2017

01 Jun 2017

18 Oct 2017

Projects Funded to date

Horizon 2020 has released details of all grants awarded to date, include the company and amount of funding awarded. Under the ‘Open Disruptive Innovation’ topic, which is where most digital/creative/games companies would look to apply, there have been 210 grants awarded in 2014-2015. Of these, 171 were phase 1 €50k feasibility study grants, and the remaining 39 were phase 2 innovation projects (€500k-€2.5m).

Some of the projects include:

‘Advanced Back end of a Service Engine’

A framework providing back end functionality for mobile app developers. More details here.

This Phase 1 grant (€50k) was awarded to Italian company Apps Builder in September 2014.

‘Big Data using Second Screen and Content Recognition’

A tool to help TV broadcasters to gather data on their users and personalise the experience accordingly. More details here.

This Phase 1 grant (€50k) was awarded to Spanish company Bridge Mediatech in December 2014.

‘Automatic creation of interactive video to double video advertising revenues whilst decreasing inconvenience for viewers‘

A solution that creates interactive video to enhance advertising monetisation. More details here.

This Phase 2 grant (€946k) was awarded to French company Adways in October 2014

Platform Universal Self Hosting, a hybrid-cloud Platform as a Service reducing web application development cost by 40% for SMEs ‘PLUSH’

Next generation self-hosted Platform as a Service, which can run multiple applications, in multiple languages using multiple data backends on a hybrid-cloud infrastructure.

This Phase 2 grant (€1.9m) was awarded to French company Commerce Guys in October 2014.

Full listing of all grants awarded is available here.



Funding for SMEs (startups, small and medium size businesses)

This is a list of funding opportunities for UK games and digital projects; this does not include grants, they are covered in our post on grant funding in the UK . We have lightly touched on equity investment options, but only where they are project focused, government supported, or offer equity investment as part of a broader offering.

There are many funding opportunities aside from grants available to UK companies. Where grant funding requires match funding, sometimes these funding options can be used as that match, and many companies access multiple different sources of finance for their business growth or specific projects.

We try to make this list as comprehensive and up to date as possible, if we have missed any please contribute and contact us .



Tesseract Fund and Kuju Startups: These both offer project financing using SEIS. SEIS is the UK Government’s Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme that offers tax relief to investors who invest in startup, higher risk companies. Whilst SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) is for equity investment, SEIS funds have been setup as project financing, where a Special Purpose Vehicle company is setup to hold the project and it’s IP, and it is in this entity that the SEIS fund and the company owners take equity. SEIS has a limit of £150k, most funds take an admin charge from this, so funding tends to be around £120k-140k.

Standfast Interactive: Project financing for games, larger amounts available compared to Tesseract or Kuju Startups.

Games tax relief: UK Government tax relief against games production. Companies and their projects must pass the ‘cultural test’, which looks at whether the game is primarily being produced in the UK, and if it has other cultural relevance. Companies can get 25% of eligible expenditure back, and can claim during production, they do not have to wait until the project is complete. For more info see UKIE’s guide to UK Games Tax Relief

R&D tax credits: UK Government tax relief against technology R&D. In many cases games companies now use games tax relief as offers more relief against more of production, however for specific technology research and development, this tax relief is still useful.

UK Government startup loans: The UK Government does offer startup loans; however, these are personal loans, not business loans. Up to £25k available, not interest free.

Banks: Can be an option, but often require established companies or a lot of security. Overdrafts, loans, credit cards and invoice finance (where they advance you the money on an invoice you have already sent out) are the most common. High-street and online banks both offer various options.

Enterprise Finance Guarantee: This scheme, run by the British Business Bank, and aimed at helping companies to get business loans, particularly where they have been turned down due to lack of security.



Finance Wales: Provides funding in the form of micro-loans, loans and equity investment. From £1k to £2m.

S4C Digital & Commercial (Wales): Invests up to £150k in companies in return for equity, but they as well as investing in projects that have primarily commercial potential, they also invest in projects with public value and those that assist with their digital strategy.

Finance Birmingham.

Have various funds for Birmingham based businesses including:

Birmingham City Council Loan Fund: From £100k to £1m loans for businesses to grow and create jobs.

Various Equity Funds: For different stages from early stage tech companies to larger established businesses.

North East Finance Microloan Fund: Offers various funding from loans to equity investment, including loans from £1k to £25k to new or existing businesses in the north east.

Screen Yorkshire’s Yorkshire Content Fund: Can match private investment with equity or loans.

 Creative England business loans: currently closed but another round may open. Interest free loans over 3 years, up to £200k. This Option is not available for companies in the South East.

Scottish Enterprise

Runs several programs, including:

Scottish Venture Fund and Co-Investment Funds: where they invest in companies alongside private investment partners, providing up to 50% of the funding.

 Scottish Loan Fund: Providing loans from £250k to £5m to Scottish companies.



 Defined as the use of small amounts of capital from a large number of individuals to finance a new business venture, Crowd funding has become increasingly popular with game concepts like Star citizen raising $70+million and Pillars of Eternity reaching nearly $4million from 73,986 backers. Although crowd funding can be very effective, it is by no means an easier option. Most crowdfunding is investment in a project, but some is equity investment into a business.




 Accelerators are typically 2–6 month program aimed at preparing your startup for investment. There is some funding available through accelerators but the real focus is on mentoring, support and networking during and after the program. Most of these programs have access to extremely experienced mentors and an extensive network of investors and publishers.

Grant Funds for SMEs (startups, small and medium size businesses)

Grant Funds for SMEs (startups, small and medium size businesses)

This is a list of current grant funding opportunities for UK games and digital businesses.

There are many different grant-funding opportunities available for small to medium size UK businesses in the games and digital space. However, all have specific things they are looking for, all come with various requirements and many require match funding, so the funds you consider applying for should be carefully selected.

We try to make this list as comprehensive and up to date as possible, if we have missed any please contribute and contact us.

National Funding

InnovateUK (previously Technology Strategy Board – TSB)

Currently runs several schemes, the most relevant of which are listed:

IC tomorrow: runs contests throughout the year on specific topics, with around £35k awarded to winners who work with a large company to develop their digital solution.

SMART: Supports tech R&D projects, through Proof of Market (up to £25k), Proof of Concept (up to £100k) and Development of Prototype (up to £250k). Match funding up to 60%.

Innovation Vouchers: Up to £5k to pay for an external expert to help your business grow.

Launchpad initiative: Up to £100k to turn an innovative idea into a commercial project. Run in different areas around the UK 3 times a year.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP): Up to £80k to work with a university, which covers part of the cost of a graduate working in your company n a specific innovation project, as well as getting support from university researchers. To apply for this, you should contact a university and organise it with them.

Horizon 2020: A large EU Research and Innovation program, with a section for small to medium businesses, and a focus on technical innovation. Suitable for projects that are fairly advance in prototyping, have piloted their technology and want to take it to market.

Creative England: Run various funding competitions from £25k – £150k, mostly regional but covers many regions. Match funding usually minimum 50%, and usually judged on job creation or safeguarding.

Creative Europe: This fund covers all types of media with specific calls, including calls for video games. The amount of funding varies, but is often between €10k – €150k, 50% match funded.

Regional funding

Scottish Enterprise Runs various schemes for Scottish companies or those who will have an impact on Scottish employment. The most relevant are:

Regional Selective Assistance (RSA): Up to 35% of operating costs, for projects that will directly result in creation or safeguarding of jobs in Scotland.

R&D grant: for development of new projects to improve competitiveness and benefit Scottish economy.

SMART: SCOTLAND: Support both feasibility studies (60-70% match funding) up to £100k, and R&D projects (35% match funding, up to £600k).

Creative Scotland Has various funds that support projects including:

Open Project Funding: From £1k to £150k.

Targeted Funding: Specific funding calls that run across the year, including those run by partners of Creative Scotland.

Regular Funding: Minimum £150k funding over 3 years.

Northern Ireland Screen ‘Project Development’ Fund: Between £10k-£200k for project development. Between 50%-90% match funding.

UKTI: Provides support for export, including part funding for attending events and marketing materials. UKTI funding is run regionally; contact your local UKTI representative, they will be able to help you find out what you might eligible for, it may vary depending upon you location.

Welsh Government’s Digital Development Fund: This fund will 50% match fund a project for companies based in Wales, up to £50k.

Birmingham Post Growth Fund: in Partnership with Bournville College, Funds from £10k – £100k, providing 25% match funding, for projects that will create new jobs and help businesses grow. Its available for companies in Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull. The current round of funding closes on Friday 11th September 2015.

Let’s Grow North East / Let’s Grow North East & East Yorkshire: Funded by the Regional Growth Fund, this grant varies slightly in the two regions, but can provide £25k+ in funding, which can be between 10-30% of total project costs.