BIG Open Innovation Voucher scheme FAQs

The BIG Open Innovation Voucher scheme aims to provide opportunities for SMEs, start-ups and third sector organisations to collaborate with local universities and colleges to innovate, tackle business challenges and develop new opportunities. The voucher is designed to unlock access to the knowledge, talent and facilities within the BIG partnership.

By teaming up with a local university or college, participating organisations can improve and develop their innovation capabilities to create new products, services, and business models to help them flourish and grow. The scheme is also designed to facilitate long term collaboration with universities and colleges stimulating R&D investment, access to new networks and supply chains and creating new employment opportunities for the region.

What is the voucher worth?

The voucher is a non-monetary award of up to £5,000 to collaborate with a BIG partner university Kingston University, London South Bank University, Roehampton University, University of the Arts or Sussex Innovation Centre, Croydon.

Who should apply?

Any SME, start-up, sole trader or third sector organisation with their main operation based in one of the participating boroughs of Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond or Sutton can apply for a voucher. Organisations based outside of the five participating boroughs are not eligible.

Organisations from all sectors are eligible to apply.

What can I use my voucher for?

Organisations can apply for a BIG voucher to explore and test new ideas, concepts, technologies and processes or you might also want to adapt or develop a new business model.  Examples of projects include:

  • developing a new/improved product, process or service
  • tap into research and scientific expertise
  • exploring new technologies or business models
  • complex market feasibility and research for a new idea
  • undertake industrial research and/or experimental development

Are there restrictions on what I can use my voucher for?

The scheme does not offer monetary award or cash to purchase equipment, materials or spend on staff time. The voucher is designed to give you access to university knowledge, expertise, specialist equipment and student talent to the value of £5,000.

The voucher is not designed to fund consultancy which is easily accessible on the commercial market.

Other non-eligible activities include:

  • website development and online optimisation
  • purchase of equipment and software by either party
  • ‘business as usual’ activity including marketing and administration
  • work experience for students

How can I work with a university?

There are many exciting ways your organisation can partner with a university such as:

  • accessing skills and expertise from a range of academic experts
  • using student talent to support you in the development of a new project
  • undertake a collaborative research and development project
  • using specialist university facilities, equipment and data

Which universities can I work with?

You can work with any of the BIG partner universities listed below:

  • Kingston University,
  • London South Bank University,
  • Roehampton University,
  • St Mary’s University, Twickenham,
  • Wimbledon College of Arts (University of the Arts),
  • Sussex Innovation Centre, Croydon

Do I need to have be in contact with a university to apply?

We encourage you where possible to discuss your project with one of our partner universities as this will significantly speed up the application process and strengthen your collaboration. However, we will help you source the right expertise after you submit your EOI if your idea is eligible. To find out more about BIG university partner expertise and who to contact, visit our Working With a University page.

What match funding and other commitments do I need to make?

We expect you to make a full commitment to the development and delivery of your project which includes a 50% match funding contribution against the value of your voucher (i.e. £2,500 for a £5,000 voucher). Your match funding contribution can take the form of staff time in developing the project, attendance at meetings, time collaborating with a university and input into reporting. Other match funding could be additional resources such as provision of equipment or other materials for use on the project.

Other important notes to consider before making you application

It is expected that your project directly contributes to the development of new activity which grows and develops your organisation. We anticipate a range of positive outcomes from your project including the roll out of a new product or service, further development activity, joint funding applications, new employment opportunities and a longer-term relationship with your university partner. Whilst we do not anticipate every project to be 100% successful it is important that you are committed to supporting these longer-term outcomes.

What happens after I submit my EOI?

Your expression of interest will be assessed against the following criteria:

  1. Your main business operation and address reside within the SLP boroughs of Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond and Sutton
  2. You are an SME, start -up, sole trader or third sector organisation
  3. Your idea leads to organisational growth such as a new product, service or business process
  4. Idea requires university expertise and resources which are not easily available elsewhere

If your idea is eligible and you already have a university partner you can move forward to the project development and application stage. If you do not have a university partner, we will work with you to source the right collaborator for your project.

The application stage will open from early April 2021. (further details available shortly)

The final deadlines for applications will be 28th May 2021.

See what each university has to offer.