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Innovate UK funding data

This is a data exploration

ODI Leeds welcomes the publishing of more and better data by UK Institutions. As Tom Forth head of Data here at ODI Leeds says, the best way to understand data is to use it. So we are taking our own advice. This time with a relatively recent data publication from Innovate UK.

This blogpost is an exploration of the data with some pointers to interesting stories that we or other people may want to follow up on.

Spending over time

Innovate UK is the UKs innovation agency. They provide government-backed funding to enterprises for R&D, innovation, and collaborative projects. They have recently released data detailing all research grants and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships that have been awarded by them since 2004.

The data is well formatted, containing a range of fields with some project details, applicant information, and location data. In order to explore the funding data we imported the XLSX document into PowerBI.

Each grant in the data is assigned to a competition year. Looking at the change in total funding over time (Figure 1 - barchart) we can see a jump in spending from 2011, after which the total amount awarded has remained roughly similar year-on-year. One striking anomaly is 2018/19, where a total of almost £2.5bn in grants were awarded. Interestingly, this does not correspond with a large increase in the overall number of funded grants (shown by the line chart in Figure 1). This reached a maximum in 2014/15 where there were around 4,500 successful applications.

Figure 1: Variation of Innovate UK grant funding over time.
Credit: ODI Leeds

This suggests that Innovate UK funds a range of different project sizes, and as such we would expect that several high-value projects took place in the period 2018/19. Indeed, if we look at the top 10 funded projects from 2018/19 there are several projects with grants of around £100 million (see Figure 2). Interestingly, these are all based around the field of manufacturing.

Figure 2: The 10 Innovate UK projects awarded the largest grants in 2018/19.
Credit: ODI Leeds

Grants by sector

We are able to look further at the funding of different fields as each project is assigned to a specific sector in the data (see Figure 3). Here, we see that Manufacturing, Materials and Mobility account for a large majority of the total funding offered. In fact, the total of over £5bn in manufacturing project funding represents nearly half (48.5%) of all the funding paid out.

Figure 3: Funding of different sectors by Innovate UK projects.
Credit: ODI Leeds

Breaking down yearly funding values by sector (see Figure 4) shows that manufacturing has always accounted for a large proportion of Innovate UKs project funding. In recent years there has also been an increasing interest in projects related to clean growth and ageing society.

Figure 4: Year on year funding of Innovate UK projects broken down by sector.
Credit: ODI Leeds

Grants by applicant

Since 2004 over 17,000 different applicants have received project funding from Innovate UK. The applicant with the most funding awarded is Rolls-Royce PLC, with a total of £663 million worth of grants awarded across nearly 200 projects.

Figure 5: The 10 organisations receiving the most Innovate UK funding, with the total split by sectors.
Credit: ODI Leeds

Of the top 10 awarded organisations most projects were based around the advanced manufacturing sector (see Figure 5). Projects relating to ageing society and clean growth are also represented. These organisations represent a range of different enterprise types including large multinational companies, Catapults and academic institutions.

Funding by enterprise size

We can also examine how grant funding varies across different enterprise sizes. In terms of the value of grants awarded; large enterprises, Catapults and academic institutions receive the most funding (see the bar chart in Figure 6).

Figure 6: Variation of Innovate UK grant funding by size of enterprise.
Credit: ODI Leeds

Small and micro enterprises account for a large number of grants (see line graph in Figure 6), but do not represent a large proportion of total funding awarded.

Of interesting note are Catapults which have been awarded over £2.5bn in grants for a relatively small number of projects. This shows that they tend to deal with a relatively small number of large, high-value projects.

Funding by location

Examining the location of applicants reveals regional differences in both the number of grants and total funding received (see Figure 7). London and the South East receive more funding than other regions. In comparison Wales and Northern Ireland appear significantly underrepresented. A number of projects based outside the UK are also funded.

Figure 7: Variation of Innovate UK funding across UK regions.
Credit: ODI Leeds

Of course, London and the South East have much larger populations than other regions of the UK. To get a truer picture of spending differences between locations we can use regional population data to look at the per capita grant funding (see Figure 8). Once the funding data is normalised by population the North East receives the highest amount of funding, followed by London and the West Midlands. Once again Wales and Northern Ireland receive proportionally less funding than other regions. However, the North West of England receives the least amount of grant funding on a per capita basis.

Figure 8: Variation of Innovate UK funding per capita across UK regions.
Credit: ODI Leeds

Looking at the funding across different Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) reveals a similar result (see Figure 9). In fact, organisations within the London LEP have received over twice as much grant funding overall as the next LEP. Other LEPs receiving significant funding are Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and the West of England.

Figure 9: Variation of Innovate UK funding across different LEPs
Credit: ODI Leeds

However, delving into the data a bit further reveals that we should be a little careful about assigning project value to a particular geographical area. If we take the highest funded organisation Rolls-Royce PLC as an example and look at their 15 projects with the largest grants awarded, we see that all but two of the projects are assigned to the London region (Figure 10). The other two are listed as being situated in the East Midlands. Significantly, all of these projects relate to the advanced manufacturing sector.

Figure 10: Details of the 15 projects involving Rolls-Royce PLC with the highest grants received.
Credit: ODI Leeds

Looking at the Companies house register tells us that the registered office of Rolls-Royce PLC is situated in London. Rolls-Royce also has a large facility in Derby, East Midlands. As such, we could sensibly assume that many of these manufacturing based project work would be carried out at locations situated in the East Midlands. It appears that in the data the project funding has been assigned to the location of the organisation's head office, rather than production spaces where the actual research and development work is more likely to be completed.


Analysis of the open data on Innovate UK grant funding has allowed us to uncover some interesting findings. Innovate UK funds a wide range of projects, both big and small. A significant majority of projects are based around the manufacturing sector. Additionally, it appears that a large amount of the funding is awarded to enterprises based in the London and South East regions of the UK. However, there are some indications in the data that the funding for organisations may often be assigned to the location of the applicants head office. Use of other data sets detailing an organisation's premises may allow some more accurate assigning of funding to particular localities.