Public grants are a popular route for companies to get funding to develop products or services. Development of own IP can sometimes be challenging to fund, particularly during the early stages before you can prove the potential of your idea. Public grants are often the best way to find that early stage funding.
An important consideration when applying for a public grant should be that grant funds have a greater reason for existing than just to benefit your company. Often that purpose is to generate economic growth either through job creation, or through technology innovation.
This article is going to look at technology innovation grants, and what types of projects they are designed for.
Grants for technology innovation can often be substantial amounts of money, sometimes up to £100k, but often higher up to £250k and in some cases into the millions. In the UK, these grants are mainly available through InnovateUK (Technology Strategy Board) and the EU Horizon 2020 program.
So, what is technology innovation and how does it apply to games?
Technology innovation is defined as the research and development of new or improved technology, developed for widespread use. What this means in practice is that:
1. You need to be developing technology, not a game and not content.
Some examples of what this might be are a new game engine, a Unity plugin that you will sell on the asset store, a specific algorithm, or a standalone tool for part of the production pipeline, for example animation or lighting.
2. You can develop this technology as part of a bigger project.
For example, you may develop the tool during the production of your game as part of the process. In fact, this is a good thing because the game enables you to prototype and proves that the technology works. The funding is only available however to cover the time spent on technology development, but if part of that is developing a prototype game to prove it, you may be able to get some funding for part of that too.
3. The technology you are developing does not exist.
You cannot recreate something that already exists. Whatever you are doing must be new, or a significant step forward based on some existing technology.
4.It must be something that will benefit your industry (or others) as a whole and not just your company.
So you must be intending to, and demonstrate commercial potential, to be able to sell this technology to other companies, to help them as well as help yourself. What this means is that if you are developing something that you only plan to use in-house, to make your games better than your competitors, you will not be able to get technology innovation funding because you are not creating something that can have widespread use.
5.You need to be developing the technology innovation yourself.
Essentially, you cannot be outsourcing or contracting the development of the technology. You need to show that you have the skills in-house to create the technology; otherwise, it will be perceived that it’s not your team that should be getting the funding, as you are not the ones with the skills to create it.
6.You should be able to demonstrate why this technology is relevant right now.
Being able to show that there is a need for this technology in your target industry right now is crucial. This usually means that there is a step change in your industry that gives your technology significant potential value, or a problem that your industry has been struggling with for a long time.
7.There must be significant technical uncertainty that you can deliver the project.
This is the complete opposite of most types of funding, but if you know exactly how you are going to developing the technology and it is just a matter of doing it, then you will not be eligible for technology innovation funding. There needs to be a significant element of research & development, with key risks that may stop you from succeeding. You must have a plan to mitigate those risks, but those risks and unknowns must exist.
8.Many technology innovation grants are not about getting to market, they are about proving the technology.
This does not apply to all technology innovation funding, however many including InnovateUK Smart Grants (one of the most popular grants for technology innovation) are specifically not funding you to get your technology to market. They are funding the R&D of the technology, after which you can then look to turn it into a full product to take to market.
If your project does have technology innovation, then you should consider applying for grant funding from InnovateUK or Horizon 2020, although be aware that there are other criteria to meet, such as being able to cashflow the project, being able to match fund and proving that you have the team in place to effectively project manage the process.
If you are looking to raise grant funding for technology innovation projects, then you can either write the grant application yourself, or work with a company such as Tenshi Grants who will write the application for you.
Technology innovation grants are not suitable for everyone, many games companies now use third-party technologies such as game engines or tools to enable them to focus on building games and content as efficiently as possible. However, some companies focus on building technology and others find that they come across a problem that cannot be solved with existing technology so have to build it themselves. In those scenarios, you are potentially eligible for significant grant funding and should consider this as a way to fund your company growth.
[Ella Romanos is a consultant on commercial development, design and production for games, and commercial director of Strike Gamelabs.