December 9, 2021  /  News

“Innovate UK is only won by Londoners. It’s not worth the effort.” 

This is, as Northern-based grant writers, a statement we often hear. We wanted to see whether there was some truth in it, and what the regional differences in terms of securing Innovate UK funding actually were. 

We have analysed the numbers over the last 3 years and found some interesting differences, bringing some nuance to the statement (and hope to other regions!). 

Number of grants per region

Over the last 3 years, London and the South East have indeed systematically secured the highest number of grants from Innovate UK.

AreaTotal number of winning applications 2018-2021
South East1070
East of England676
South West636
North West495
West Midlands468
East Midlands422
Yorkshire and Humber379
North East253
Northern Ireland218

Both top-two regions have been winning, on average, 23.6% more Innovate UK competitions than the Northern Powerhouse combined (North East, North West, and Yorkshire).  

Northern Ireland and Wales are consistently in the bottom 3 from 2018 to 2021. 

Amount of grant per region

Looking at this in terms of the amount of grant funding secured per region over the last 3 years, most regions are quite stable, 

Looking closer (taking out London and the South East), we can see some interesting outliers: 

As examples, in 2018/2019: 

  • West Midlands secured a much higher amount of funding than the following two years (£218m) – making this region third in terms of amount of funding secured that year. This is explained by £82m allocated to Catapult projects, and the obtaining of £75m from the “Establishing a Core Innovation Hub” competition aiming at transforming UK construction.
  • North East secured £95m in funding – which is more than the following years; £75m of which were for Catapult projects. 
  • Wales secured slightly more than the following years with £63m; with £51m for Catapult projects.

Most regions received less funding for 2019/2020; London only secured ⅓ of the previous year’s amount. East Midlands, however, peaked and secured £91m funding – 3.7 times more than the year before – with £70m going to Rolls-Royce (winning 6 aerospace projects and 1 low cost nuclear project). 

The 2019/2020 reduction is probably linked to the pandemic, as during that year there were fewer Innovate UK calls: 

  • 237 – 2018/2019
  • 164 – 2019/2020
  • 210 – 2020/2021

It also seems that the funding was better distributed that year (with the South East being timidly first).

Average grant per region, per competition 

Using the amount of grant funding secured over those 3 years, we can estimate the average grant an applicant in any region would have applied for. This gives an interesting perspective, with London applicants having the only average above £1m. 

Interestingly, the North East, usually below North West and Yorkshire regarding the number of applications won, is above the other Northern Powerhouse regions in terms of the average grant received (£271k for the North East against £165k for the North West and £162 for Yorkshire). 

Northern Ireland and Wales are once again at the bottom of the table. 

AreaAverage grant
South East£968,242
West Midlands£460,982
East of England£385,351
South West£335,310
East Midlands£308,107
North East£271,677
North West£165,746
Yorkshire and Humber£162,939
Northern Ireland£83,536

Amount of grant per capita

Comparing the amount of grant funding per capita allows us to gain another perspective. Of course, London and the South East have much larger populations than other UK regions but using the regional population data from the 2011 Census (2021 Census data published May 2022) it gives a chance to normalise the data. 

This makes an interesting case for some regions; Wales, even though not securing many applications, has an average grant funding of £58.41 per capita, giving it 4th position. East Midlands is very close contented for the South East with respectively £66.67 and £69.91 per capita funding. The South West, even though quite high in terms of the number of winning applications and average grant amount, only shows £19.23 per capita, the lowest score. 

Number of grants compared to business density

As much as London and the South East have the largest population, they are also the top two contenders in terms of business density, which can explain the higher amount of winning grants. 

Please note that the number of businesses may include businesses that are not necessarily eligible for an innovation grant and that the same business can apply to multiple funding calls! 

AreaTotal number of winning applications 2018-2021Number of VAT and/or PAYE based businessesBusiness density scoreNumber of business/number of winning applications’ ratio
South East1070413,0004781/386
East of England676269,0004441/398
South West636234,0004421/368
North West495267,0003781/539
West Midlands468216,0003851/461
East Midlands422181,0003991/387
Yorkshire and Humber379186,0003521/490
North East25370,0002691/277
Northern Ireland21874,0002411/339

Some interesting statistics come from the above table. It compares the number of applications, number of businesses, business density score, and the ratio of number of businesses per number of applications.

Firstly, Wales has the lowest number of applications but is 8th in terms of business density. This also shows that only 1 in every 514 wins an Innovate UK application, one of the lowest ratios.  

The North West, even though winning 495 calls, has quite a high number of businesses showing that only 1 in every 539 businesses in the North West has secured funding through Innovate UK, the lowest ratio. 

Finally, the North East has the lowest number of businesses and second-lowest business density. However, given the number of applications, 1 in every 277 North East businesses wins an Innovate UK funding, which is impressive when compared to London – the region with the highest ratioshowing a 1 in every 278 ratio. 

In conclusion 

London and the South East were top-two during all 3 years in terms of the number of grants and amount secured – South East overtaking London in the amount secured in 2019/2020. That year, even though fewer calls were available, the funds were better distributed throughout the regions. 

It is interesting to compare the Northern Powerhouse regions in terms of the average grant amount secured per competition. The North East has a higher average (£271k) than the North West (£165k) and Yorkshire (£162k) even though the North East systematically ranks lower in terms of the number of grants and grant amount secured. Comparatively, London is however still first (with £1.3m) and South East second (with £968k). 

Comparing the amount of grant funding secured per capita, Wales makes a surprising leap. Although recurrently at the bottom of the rankings, when analysing per capita Wales is in 4th position (£58.41/capita). London is still first (at £101/per capita) and South East second (at £69.91/capita), but the East Midlands make a very close contender at £66.68/capita. Interestingly, the South West, usually around 4th position in other rankings, scores last at £19.23/capita. 

Taking business density into account, Northern Ireland has the lowest business density but is 4th when comparing the number of businesses per number of winning applications; a 1/335 ratio. North East is 2nd when comparing that ratio (1/277), which is even more surprising when comparing to London’s 1/228 ratio and knowing that the North East has the lowest number of businesses and the lowest business density in the UK. 

Therefore, London and the South East seemingly secure more funding and Northern Ireland, the North East and Wales secure the least. However, Wales secures more grant funding per capita than 67% of the other regions, East Midlands is almost second in terms of funding per capita, and the North East has roughly won as many Innovate UK applications per number of businesses than London. 

By Lavinia Malo, Innovation Consultant, DRIAD