ESRC and Innovate UK invite applications to establish two dedicated innovation adoption accelerators with one accelerator for each of the following two sectors:
- professional services: legal and accountancy
- financial services: focus on insurance, lending, advisory, and payment and transaction systems.
ESRC and Innovate UK will fund two accelerators across the sectors, taking a portfolio approach.
Aims of the investment
The aims of the adoption accelerators are to:
- enable research-led organisations to support businesses in these sectors by designing and delivering a targeted and ambitious innovation adoption programme that will work with and support firms directly, enabling collaborative working
- unlock the potential of the social sciences to better support firms to innovate, including building capabilities for business impact
- build on existing experience and success of collaborating and supporting businesses to adopt innovation
- act as centres of expertise and support to firms in the targeted sectors to help them:
- be more knowledgeable, confident and skilled in becoming greater adopters of innovation and new, specifically digital, technologies
- drive their own innovation, research and development
- provide evidence of what works to help UKRI, other researchers, policymakers and the industry understand the barriers, opportunities and solutions in innovation within these sectors.
You are expected to indicate which sectors you are primarily applying to support. There is flexibility where it is evidenced it is needed (for example, where service innovation in professional services crosses over into financial services or where specific financial services providers operate in a way more similar to a professional services firm).
You must understand the challenges to innovation adoption within the professional or financial services sectors, specifically demand-led services, and evidence of experience of working with and supporting them.
You are also expected to have strong existing connections to businesses and relevant industry bodies in the professional or financial services, a collaborative mindset, excellent research and impact leadership and management abilities.
You should propose your own operating delivery model to meet the aims of the programme above. Proposals are required to achieve the following.
Address barriers to adoption of digital technologies
You are expected to:
- design programmes to support firms in the professional and financial services sector facing challenges to adopt new technologies. This should address human behavioural barriers and cover relevant aspects of technological barriers to adoption
- develop suitable delivery plans for an ambitious programme. Delivery should aim at creating lasting change in the businesses that go through the accelerator and building their capabilities to engage with innovation
- bring a co-design and delivery approach by working with relevant businesses within the target sectors
- ensure activities address and support diversity and inclusion. You should outline as part of this how you are committed to underserved and excluded individuals, communities and businesses ensure the inclusion of appropriate social science expertise in the design and delivery of the accelerator activities, including any research methods, and use and development of appropriate models of collaborations.
Provide skills development to demand-led service businesses
Accelerators should focus on supporting professionals with building skills that enable them to engage with innovation and to adopt technological solutions. This should be embedded as part of the activities and, for example, may be offered through a training or mentoring programme.
Skills covered may include but are not limited to:
- using research and evidence to inform business decisions
- the application of advanced digital technologies within these services
- designing processes and organisation structures to become more innovative
- cultural barriers to innovation and how to overcome them
- business model design
- managerial skills required to develop and adopt innovation
- building collaborations.
Engage key stakeholders and beneficiaries
Accelerator leads are expected to:
- engage and collaborate with businesses and other industry experts in the design of the programme to ensure the programme benefits businesses in the targeted sectors. This may include business partnerships, research technology organisations, Catapult centres, trade and industry bodies, government or third sector. You should evidence collaborating with different partners to bring in appropriate capability
- have a plan for engagement with potential beneficiaries in place. Plans for engagement should also reflect awareness of timeframes, commitment, incentives and commercial sensitivities
- work with the other accelerator lead and other funded investments in the five workstreams to ensure exchange of insights throughout the funded programme
- work closely with ESRC and Innovate UK to share insights and learnings
- embed the development and implementation of a strategy in the accelerator activities in order to become self-sustaining after the initial funding period.
Focus on impact
You will need to ensure you have an effective approach to tracking and evidencing impact and effectiveness of your support interventions for beneficiaries, and evidence the commitment to learning from activities, including successes and failures, and sharing insights.
Have support from your research organisation
Support from the host organisation will be essential in ensuring the success of the accelerator. As such, we require a letter of support from a named senior contact supporting the application and outlining how the institution will be providing support to the applicant to ensure its success.
Provide appropriate branding for the accelerator
The branding of each accelerator must include reference to ESRC and Innovate UK.
The full economic cost of each accelerator can be up to £1,875,000. ESRC and Innovate UK will fund 80% of the full economic cost.
Project partner contributions are treated as additional to the full economic cost of the proposal submitted to ESRC. Project partners have an integral role in a grant and provide specified cash or in-kind contributions.
For more information on project partners, see the ESRC research funding guide.
Costing should be justified according to the different aspects of delivery. This includes, but is not limited to:
- principal investigator and co-investigator time
- the management of the programme and administrative support: a sufficient level of administrative support should be requested to ensure the coordination, management and smooth running of the programme. Reasonable costs for monitoring and dissemination of the programme’s outputs can also be included
- knowledge exchange and communication activities
- programme of activities: you are encouraged to think creatively about the range of activities that could support the delivery of the innovation adoption accelerator aims
- directly incurred costs, for example delivery activities, travel and subsistence, arranging workshops and meetings.
Accelerators are expected to start by 1 May 2023 and funded activities are expected to be completed by 30 September 2025.
A webinar to support applicants will be held on 17 October at 13:00 UK time.
Register to join the webinar (Zoom)