University Enterprise Zones: RED Fund call for University Enterprise Zones (UEZ)

Time limited funding call.  Closing date 11 April 12:00

For proposals of between £500k and £1.5m

Overarching government priorities for UEZs

Universities today have a critical role to play supporting local and regional economies - disseminating knowledge, sharing innovation with industry, supporting entrepreneurs and providing communities with the skilled workforces they need.

Many of our universities already do this well, but we want to support more universities to follow this path by establishing new UEZs focused on generating and commercialising innovation and delivering skills that best serve the key sectors in their local and regional economy.

UEZs provide a focal point where universities and businesses work together in a business-friendly environment. We expect universities to demonstrate strong support from the private sector in their application and detail how their proposals support the strengths of the local and/or regional economy. We want UEZs to operate in a way that will leverage innovation from universities into the private sector and establish or expand existing specialisms of real benefit to those businesses. Successful proposals should demonstrate strong local partnerships.

Recognising the tailored nature of the proposals that are likely to be submitted, there is a range of support that can be offered including capital funding to support the creation of UEZs, where universities can successfully make the case for these.


BIS invested £15 million of capital funding in 2015 to establish four pilot UEZs, in Nottingham, Liverpool, Bradford and Bristol.

UEZs are specific geographical sites where universities and business work together to increase local growth and innovation.

The zones in the pilot aimed to:

  • encourage universities to strengthen their roles as strategic partners in local growth to engage with LEPs, building on existing capabilities and partnerships
  • stimulate development of incubator or ‘grow-on’ space for small businesses in locations that encourage businesses to interact with universities and to innovate.

Details of the UEZ call

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have provided Research England with an additional £5 million to advance the UEZ programme. Research England will allocate up to £5 million additional funding from the RED Fund, making up to a total of £10 million available to support projects in response to this call, subject to the quality of proposals. We expect to make up to ten awards.

We wish to support a high quality portfolio of projects that advance the Government’s UEZ programme, contribute to successful university delivery of business incubation and further good practice. To achieve this, we are seeking proposals where the academic strengths of the university align with the sector strengths of the local/regional area. These innovative proposals should leverage R&D and expertise stemming from the university and industry, generating partnerships to drive local growth. We would particularly encourage applications from those institutions who have not previously benefited from significant public funding for local university-business collaborations.

We are seeking to support projects to be completed by August 2020 linked to incubation, although in exceptional cases we may consider proposals for modest extensions beyond that deadline.

Funds are available to support capital and/or recurrent expenditures. Capital projects might include refurbishments or additional equipment for existing incubators. Recurrent projects might address pump priming of innovative approaches to enterprise support for an incubator and its tenants and/or facilitating links between the incubator and its tenants with the academic offer of the university. They may also include costs of planning and development of a new incubator, though this must make a significant step toward delivery, so that there is a significant output at end of grant. Collaboration with local partners will be a very important aspect in proposing the development of a new incubator and we expect universities to take advantage of the support and flexibilities provided by local authorities. For example, it may be appropriate to consider the use of simplified planning processes through the use of a Local Development Order or other suitable mechanism.

Proposals should provide a description of the existing incubator, if appropriate, or infrastructure that the project will develop, so we can understand how additional funding will add value. This includes details such as its scale and nature, tenant policies and enterprise and academic support offered and its funding sources. We are compiling evidence on the current state of university incubation and acceleration to inform future policy and funding, and details from RED Fund proposals will help inform this.

Assessment criteria

Successful proposals will:

  • demonstrate that they further the goals of UEZs, expanding the programme and providing innovative approaches to achieve its objectives
  • have a strong relationship or partnership with key local businesses and/or LEPs and other relevant local partners
  • align the academic strengths of the university with the sector strengths of their local/regional area
  • show significant additional leverage, particularly from private and local sources
  • develop and share best practice on business incubation and have insights on likely impacts
  • contribute to evidence for longer term policy and investment
  • be near or at delivery by the end of the funding award period for their proposed project
  • represent value for money by evidencing:
    • a demonstrably innovative approach
    • additionality on top of existing provision/activity
    • prospects of sustainability. 

We also expect to see evidence of co-operation from the relevant local planning authority regarding consideration of appropriate proposals in collaboration with the relevant authority or authorities that will deliver simplified planning procedures within the zone, for example by means of a local development order, a local development corporation or similar delivery body or other suitable mechanism. Alternatively, present a compelling explanation as to why this is not appropriate.

Please include a map with your proposal to show the location of the UEZ.

How to apply

Details about our Research England Development (RED) Fund, its purposes, guidance and priorities are available on our website.

We set out in our guidance on the fund that, on occasion, we will announce calls for proposals in response to specific policy priorities. This is our first competitive call, for bids to advance the Government’s University Enterprise Zones programme. It is part of our RED Fund priority “Delivering Industrial Strategy through knowledge exchange” with reference to “addressing challenges and opportunities in university commercialisation policy and practice”.

This is a time limited call. To submit a proposal, institutions should review the general RED Fund guidance and specific details on the UEZs set out in this document. The RED Fund guidance includes details on eligibility and approvals process.

Proposals using the RED Fund bid template on our website should be emailed to UEZ by noon on 11 April 2019.

Time table for applicants

Closing date

11 April 2019

Awards approved

By end of June 2019

Projects commence

From 1 August 2019