Key features

  • Uses the power of government procurement to drive innovation

  • Lets companies engage with the public sector to solve problems

  • 100% of the funding is provided through a contract not a grant


The SBRI programme uses the power of government procurement to drive innovation. It provides opportunities for innovative companies to engage with the public sector to solve specific problems.

Competitions for new technologies and ideas are run on specific topics and aim to engage a broad range of organisations.
SBRI enables the public sector to engage with industry during the early stages of development, supporting projects through the stages of feasibility and prototyping.
The Government announced its intention in the 2013 Budget to expand the use of SBRI among key departments five-fold. The value of contracts made available through this route will increase from £40 million in 2012-13 to over £100 million in 2013-14, and over £200 million in 2014-15.

Overview of SBRI

It can be hard for companies to access government departments, or for the public sector to discover businesses with the most innovative products and ideas. We champion the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) which matches business ideas to government challenges through a simple procurement process.
SBRI brings innovative solutions to specific public sector needs, by engaging a broad range of companies in competitions for ideas that result in development contracts.

SBRI was a really easy and quick process to gain funding for cutting-edge innovation. - Neil Garner, CEO, Proxama

The business gets finance to develop its ideas, and the public sector gets more innovative solutions to its needs. SBRI encourages public sector organisations to take the lead customer role helping to develop and de-risk innovative solutions for which it might be the potential future customer.
The process starts with a government department or other public body identifying a specific challenge.  This is then turned into an open competition for new technologies and ideas that is open to the broad business community. We support all competitions and help with the outreach to innovative businesses.
Companies with potentially interesting technologies and ideas submit an application, either through the Technology Strategy Board or direct to the department, depending on the competition.

Gaining an SBRI contract has allowed us to raise capital to move offices and the company has expanded threefold. It has given us massive, massive credibility, particularly the engagement with the NHS. - Paul Murphy, Chief Executive, Eykona Technologies

All submitted ideas are assessed, and those judged to be the most promising are awarded development contracts.
This first feasibility phase lasts generally 2 to 6 months, with contracts typically being up to a maximum of £100k.
Following a second assessment stage, a subset of these ideas may be awarded a second phase contract which can be for up to 2 years and a maximum of £1M. These contract values and durations are dependent on the challenge being addressed. This second phase will generally be for the development of a prototype or demonstrator.
After completion of the second phase, companies are expected to commercialise the resulting product or service which is taken to market and open to competitive procurement.

Who is eligible?

Any organisation can submit an application, although it is expected that SBRI opportunities will be particularly attractive for SMEs. SBRI is aimed at organisations working on the development of an innovative process, material, device, product or service.
Successful applications will be those whose technology best addresses the specific needs identified, with the potential to make a measurable improvement to currently available products, processes materials, devices or services. Development contracts will be awarded only to individual organisations.
However, organisations may also wish to demonstrate that successful collaboration will enhance their overall development. Work may be subcontracted but this is the responsibility of the main contractor.
Pre-startups may apply, however the contracts can only be awarded to legal entities.  Universities may apply but must demonstrate a route to market i.e. the application must include a plan to commercialise the results.  Registered charities are equally eligible to enter SBRI competitions via their trading company limited by guarantee.
Please view our frequently asked questions for more information.

How do I find out more or get involved?

Benefits of SBRI

Benefits of SBRI

SBRI is a scheme that benefits both the public body that is running the competition and the businesses that have the opportunity of obtaining a development contract. 

Benefits to business

Benefits to businesses of engaging with SBRI include the following:
  • Any intellectual property will remain with your company
  • 100% of the funding is provided through a contract not a grant
  • It provides a route to engaging the public sector as a customer
  • It provides a route to market
  • As the lead customer, the public sector body will be the research and development partner and part of testing the solution and providing input to the  solution requirements
  • Successful contracts will provide seed funding and credibility for later investment rounds

Benefits to government

The SBRI programme provides government departments and agencies with the following benefits:
  • Access to new suppliers in the form of particular SMEs
  • The ability to outreach to organisations from a wide range of different sectors
  • A route to seek innovative companies not previously known
  • The potential to act as the lead customer – managing contracts to:
  • Enable early access to new technologies
  • Shape solutions to specific needs
  • Proven ability to deliver a major improvement in meeting operational or policy objectives
  • A simple, quick and recognised process, supporting the public sector in procuring the development of new technical solutions and accelerating technology adoption
  • Managing the risk associated with innovation through a phased development programme running a portfolio of the most promising projects

Previous SBRI competition briefs