Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF)

About the SIF

The Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) is an internal fund which was approved by the University Council in July 2019. It aims to accelerate the pace with which strategic research and innovation projects are developed into investable proposals. It is a time-limited, one-off investment that focuses on identifying and developing high-impact, flexible and highly innovative or creative project concepts. It enhances the chances of excellent research having material and far-reaching impact, typically through attracting substantial external funding, or significantly advancing research translation and commercialisation. 

It is aligned to the following priorities in the University’s Strategic Plan 2018-23:

  • 12: ‘Continue to broaden and invest in our innovation activities and foster the entrepreneurial environment for staff and students’
  • 19: ‘Expansion of the innovation districts in and around Oxford, including at Begbroke Science Park and Osney Mead’ 

The fund is worth up to a maximum of £2.5 million per year, and awards from the fund are expected to be no more than £100,000 per project. The SIF is funded from annual surplus returns from research commercialisation activities, which Council has agreed will be shared with the Strategic Research Fund.

Aims and objectives

The SIF aims to increase the University's innovation activity through: 

  • accelerating the development of ideas and concepts into investable, externally-funded propositions
  • improving the chances of success in securing significant funding from a variety of sources (including government, industry and philanthropy)
  • increasing visibility and coordination, and developing a pipeline of short and long term projects that can be aligned to the University’s own plans, as well as to regional strategic planning such as the Oxfordshire Local Industrial Strategy or the Oxford-Cambridge ARC
  • promoting more coordination and University-wide collaboration, between divisions and disciplines, to effectively promote larger innovation projects
  • establishing strategic actions that respond to institutional imperatives (for example the Research Excellence Framework, Knowledge Exchange Concordat and Knowledge Exchange Framework) which promote a thriving and inclusive innovation environment at Oxford

FAQs

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The SIF is a flexible fund and applicants from any discipline can apply. Projects which could benefit from the SIF include: 

Innovation Infrastructure Projects (IIPs): These are large, government funded projects that enable innovation for regional and national growth, and they are assessed using the HMG Green Book methodology. The SIF may fund the technical skills that may be required to demonstrate that the project meets the Green Book requirements, for example Gross Value Add (GVA), Cost Benefit Ration (CBR), or Value For Money (VFM).

Multi-partner Innovation Collaborations (MICs): These include programmes and activities that enable knowledge exchange, innovation, commercialisation, and collaborations between a number of collaborative partners. These projects can be funded by schemes such as the Research England Development (RED) Fund or Innovate UK. 

Strategic Innovation Collaboration Partnerships (ICPs): These projects are highly attuned to the requirements of a commercial partner, private or philanthropic funders, and they are often highly confidential and sensitive. 

Enabling projects: These are unique and independent projects that enable the further development of innovation activities across the University, such as sectoral analysis or initiatives aligned to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Innovation)'s strategic objectives. 

 

The SIF supports direct costs associated with project development activities such as:  

  • developing strategic high impact and high value partnerships
  • assessments of economic value of projects, including developing models to project the impacts and outcomes of projects, for example Value for Money (VFM), Cost Benefit Ratio (CBR), Gross Value Added (GVA), Social Impact Assessment, or modelling jobs created over time
  • training-related costs such as specialist skills required to complete a full business case, for example project costings, quantifying environmental, archaeological, social or economic impact of the project 
  • activities that may strengthen partnerships involved in the project, for example enabling cultivation of complex or specialist partnership with an SME who may not have resources or with an international partner
  • preliminary enabling, piloting or preparatory activities, for example a short-term survey that will strengthen the case being made, or engagement of certain key participants to the projects

 

The SIF is a one-off and time-limited fund for developing new projects. It does not fund: 

  • implementation of actual projects, except enabling or pilot projects
  • ongoing costs of existing projects 
     

 

Prospective applicants are encouraged engage with the process early and to maintain ongoing engagement as follows: 

  1. Contact your departmental head to notify them of your intention to apply to the SIF. This is an opportunity for you to discuss and get some feedback on your idea, and to address any departmental issues that may arise. If the decision to apply to the SIF is acceptable, your department will need to confirm their approval of the project by the deadlines set in IRAMS.  
  2. Contact Thandiwe Hara in Research Services by emailing sif@admin.ox.ac.uk to discuss whether your project concept is suited to the SIF, and if an application should be submitted. 
  3. Submit your application in IRAMS by the advertised deadline.

Where appropriate, applicants may be connected to further bid development support or they may be directed to other funding channels such as the IAA, Strategic Research Fund or Knowledge Exchange Seed fund. 

Calls for applications will be announced via departmental channels when they are ready, but applicants can make an enquiry to Research Services at any time. Application to advertised rounds must be made using the application form available on advertised links in IRAMS

 

Decisions on whether the application is successful will be made by the SIF Panel, which includes: 

  • the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Innovation) 
  • the associate head of innovation (or delegate) from each division 
  • secretariat – Research Services 
     

 

The SIF responds to the following priorities in the University’s Strategic Plan 2018-23:

  • Priority 12: ‘Continue to broaden and invest in our innovation activities and foster the entrepreneurial environment for staff and students’
  • Priority 19: ‘Expansion of the innovation districts in and around Oxford, including at Begbroke Science Park and Osney Mead’ 

In addition, applications need to be in line with the strategic priorities in applicants' own departments and divisions, so applications must obtain departmental and divisional approval before submitting an application.

The key priority is to support the development of new strategic innovation projects that will enable excellent research to have material and far-reaching impact including ‘enabling projects’ that enhance the University’s innovation activities.

The SIF also supports research projects that have a high potential for aiding the development and interaction of the UK's higher education research and knowledge exchange (KE) activity in line with government and UKRI priorities. 

 

The SIF is open to all divisions and disciplines across the University. Successful projects are expected to meet most of the following criteria:

  • good alignment to the objectives of the SIF (see above)
  • supportive of the University’s research and innovation priorities, including creativity (see also strategic alignment below)
  • could enable larger opportunities (for example the size of external investment sought, or the breadth of the impact on the innovation environment in Oxfordshire and beyond)
  • a named academic and/or a professional services lead
  • can demonstrate potential for significant and quantifiable economic or social benefits 
  • well aligned to key societal challenges or national agendas, for example net-zero, levelling up, equality and social inclusion 
  • clear on SIF outputs and the potential outcomes that could be enabled by the SIF funding
  • built on strong partnerships
  • evidence of departmental and divisional support
  • where relevant, have developed cross-divisional awareness
     

 

Yes. All applications will need to prove that they have departmental and divisional approval. Departments and divisions will approve applications as part of the application process in IRAMS. 

 

The next deadline is Friday 18 February 2022.

The panel will meet to make decisions on this round on 22 February 2022. Applicants will be advised the outcome of their applications soon after. Applicants should ensure that they have obtained prior permission from their department before submitting their applications. 

 

To discuss your intention to apply to the SIF in your division, please send an email to the following: 

 

If you have a general queries about the SIF please contact:

Documents


Next deadline


18 February 2022

 

IRAMS