What is the application process?
Details of all funding calls are published on our website as soon as they are announced. Register on our website to keep in touch and receive regular updates. New calls will also be announced on our LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. Information on our main funding rounds and the dates for these can be found on our website.
We have an online application process. You need to register and create an account – then you can save your application and return to it at any time while the funding round is open.
Our application process has two stages. All new applications go into Stage 1. Access to stage 2 is by invitation only, following success at Stage 1. We advise you by email if your application has been successful in being selected to go forward to Stage 2.
All application forms successfully received are acknowledged with an automated email. All complete, eligible applications go forward into our Stage 1 evaluation process. Applicants who are successful at Stage 1 are advised by email and invited to submit a Stage 2 application.
This is further evaluated and submitted to the Ufi Board of Trustees for a final funding decision. You will be advised of the final outcomes as soon as possible after the meeting of the Trustees. The only way to get to Stage 2 is by a successful application to Stage 1 of the process; and not everyone who goes through to Stage 2 will be awarded funding.
The timetable for the process is set out at the outset and applicants will be advised if there are any changes to this.
We encourage applicants to attend an online pre-application workshop and to read the supporting information provided in the 'Grant Funding' section of this website. This will help you better understand our funding priorities, and help you present your project so it has the greatest chance of success.
At Stage 1 our assessment is focused on whether the project is a good fit with the Ufi mission and the objectives of the funding call. Stage 2 requires a more detailed application which looks in more depth at the technology, route to market and deliverability of the project. We expect projects to be clear about the vocational learning problem they are trying to address, and explain why their chosen solution is most likely to succeed.
You need to check the guidelines for the specific funding call you are applying for as requirements vary. Generally, we look for a project to be sufficiently well defined to enable us to understand what it is aiming to do and the outcomes it will achieve. Because we do not generally meet with applicants, our judgement is based upon the evidence which is supplied to us in the application form and you need to consider carefully how to complete the various sections to give your application the best chance of success.
Meetings, presentations etc are not part of our application process. Applicants do have the opportunity to meet members of the Ufi team and discuss project ideas in person at workshops held as part of the application process.
We will accept more than one application from an organisation, provided that the projects are different and discrete.
We will consider an application for a new project, even if you are in receipt of funding for an existing live Ufi project, providing it is looking at a different learning challenge. You will need to demonstrate that your organisation has the capacity to deliver more than one project.
You should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org giving us your account name, the time and date of the issue, a description of the browser and its version number you are using to apply for funding and a description of the issue.
Ufi receives a large number of applications each year and has limited resources for providing feedback on unsuccessful projects. However, we can provide broad feedback to all unsuccessful applicants at Stage 1 and more detailed feedback to our Stage 2 applicants.
What sort of projects do you fund?
Ufi is a UK based charity. It aims to improve UK productivity by making innovative use of digital technology to increase the skills of the UK workforce. Its projects are all intended to demonstrate how digital approaches can bring more learning to more people, more of the time in order to improve the workforce skills available to UK businesses and organisations, and improve outcomes for individuals by enhancing their workplace skills.
We are looking for projects that solve clearly identifiable learning problems. Project proposals must describe the problem they aim to address. This includes explaining who the customers and users will be and why the project approach provides the best solution to the problem. Ufi’s emphasis is on solving practical problems – we do not fund speculative solutions of the ‘build it and they will come’ type. You need to tell us how your project could produce tangible benefits by enabling people to gain skills that are needed in the workplace.
The specific criteria for projects varies between funding calls and is set out in the guidelines for each call. However, there are general criteria which apply to all our projects:
We only fund projects which support the digital delivery of adult vocational learning. This means learning associated with the skills and knowledge that people need for work. Projects must be for adult learners, which we define as over the age of 16 years.
Projects must have the potential to reach large numbers of learners – we are looking for ideas that can make a real difference to how UK vocation learning happens and this can only occur if projects can scale up and be rolled out widely, providing quicker, better learning.
We are interested in projects aimed at any and every aspect of vocational learning, including (but not limited to) design and development of learning tools, new delivery models, evaluation and assessment, accreditation and recording evidence of achievement.
Quicker, better learning is only possible if the development process and the end product is really high quality. This requires a recognition of the learning pedagogies specific to the digital world, and the specific challenges of developing learning for the digital world. We expect our projects to include detailed consultation and testing with users – providers, employers and learners - and incorporate their feedback into product development.
We are particularly keen to support projects focused on areas, sectors or communities where the existing vocational learning system fails to adequately address vocational learning needs and where digital technology could make a difference. This might include:
- areas where geography makes it harder to access learning;
- sectors where industry structure, low productivity/low margins etc makes it difficult for employers to provide training;
- communities of learners who (for social, economic or other reasons) have not engaged with traditional learning approaches earlier in their lives and might be better engaged by new approaches.
Ufi’s focus is on learners aged 16+. We are especially interested in supporting learners or users in sectors and locations that have not been well served by mainstream provision. It is important to show in your application why you believe the learners or users you are targeting have been overlooked.
We do not fund life management skills such as getting online or time management, but we will consider funding soft skills development in a vocational context. Generally we do not look to fund skills that are above level 3 or equivalent.
We are not seeking applications around careers advice or matching. Our focus is on opening up access and opportunity for people to develop vocational skills.
We do not fund projects which address generic ‘access to work’ skills, such as time management, CV building or interview skills training. We don’t fund basic digital skills training aimed at enabling generic digital capability and overcoming digital exclusion, but can fund specific digital skills required in the workplace.
We are not seeking applications around careers advice or matching. Our focus is on opening up access and opportunity for people to develop vocational skills.
Generally we do not look to fund skills that are above level 3 or equivalent.
Projects must represent a step change in how vocational learning happens – it is not sufficient for a project to describe an incremental improvement in vocational learning.
We do not fund standard content development work, that aims, for example, to simply digitise existing content or add further content to an existing platform. We will however fund the development of content where this is necessary to develop, test and demonstrate an innovative approach.
We do not fund projects in HE, but HEIs can be involved in project delivery where the project beneficiaries are adult workplace learners. We do not fund research projects.
We do not fund projects in schools, unless these can demonstrate that they are addressing specific workplace skills provision to those aged over 16, where there is an identifiable employer need.
We do not fund generic enterprise or entrepreneurship skills to support people to set up or run a business.
Projects aimed at improving the mental health or well-being of the workforce are not eligible. Our position is that good mental health and well being are not, for our purposes, vocational skills
We only fund projects which are genuinely innovative and can make a real difference to how vocational learning is delivered or accessed. This might be through their approach, their technology or the sector at which they are aimed. To be successful, applicants need to present innovative projects that bring a practical perspective to the design, delivery or accreditation of digital vocational learning.
This could include:
- Early stage, emerging innovation in the use of digital technology for learning
- Early stage, emerging innovation using tried and tested technology for novel approaches to learning, to replace or complement traditional learning
- Projects which provide working examples of vocational learning innovations to show learners and employers how the idea works in practice
- Large scale, near to market innovations which demonstrate how the use of digital tech can deliver adult vocational learning at significant scale.
Achieving real change in how learning for work happens requires the courage to do things differently and Ufi intends to share the risk inherent in innovative approaches with our projects.
Projects come in all shapes and sizes; with different levels of experience and expertise – and different types of risk. We operate agile project management principles, recognising that projects may need to be flexible. We know things change; and the route to the end goal may need to adapt to emerging user feedback or technological challenge and take this into account in the ongoing dialogue with our projects.
We know that there is never only one solution to a vocational learning problem.
You would need to evidence why you think your proposed project is better than what is already out there and show how it would be beneficial to tackle the problem from a different angle.
Projects can be B2C. You will need to explain how they addressed a vocational learning issue and what evidence you have that there is a scalable market for the solution.
No, but you need to think about how your solution relates to any recognised qualifications and how your learners can demonstrate the skills they have gained.
Our funding calls are about funding projects which meet an already identified vocational learning need.
We don't fund pure research projects. However, if in the course of the project further needs are identified, then we would be interested to hear what steps you intended to take to tackle these.
How much funding is available?
Funding limits vary between our individual calls so you need to check the specific grant fund.
For VocTech Activate £30,000 to £60,000 is available
The level of grant awarded can be different from that requested. You may have included items in your budget that we do not fund (e.g. organisational overheads) or we may consider that your project can be delivered more cost effectively. Where we feel the amount of grant needs to be reconsidered, we will discuss this with you and review the alternative options.
The duration of the project and of our funding is agreed on a project-by-project basis, within the criteria for the specific call. We expect projects to have a realistic plan to sustain their momentum beyond the period of Ufi funding, and place a high value on projects that have a clear view of their route to market and a vision for their future success. Your application should show how you expect to continue to fund the project once our support has ended. Our funding is not expected to be used for a short term ‘quick fix’ but as part of a considered, sustainable plan to bring new learning products to the marketplace.
We will fund the costs of staff directly involved in delivering a project e.g. project managers, trainers, web developers. We do not set a prescribed daily rate - it is up to applicants to set out what they feel is needed to deliver the project objectives, and we will take a view on whether we think the costs are reasonable. Staffing and other organisational running costs unconnected to the project cannot be covered. Our funding must only cover the minimum required to deliver the project and no more.
We will fund these costs where they are necessary for successful project delivery. They need to be fully described and we would expect these costs to be appropriate to the overall scale and nature of the project.
We will consider funding requests to cover website build costs where they are fundamental to successful project delivery. The project application should provide transparent details on all such costs, and the costs must be appropriate to the scale and nature of the project.
There is no formal requirement for match funding. As a charity, we welcome contributions from applicants and partners, whether in cash or in kind. Applications will be strengthened if there are contributions (in cash or in kind) from your own or other organisations which help to demonstrate commitment to the project, its perceived value and long term impact.
Ufi funding will cover the costs of VAT where not recoverable and where this has been included in the original budgets and grant application. Grants are 'outside the scope' of VAT therefore whether VAT is recoverable will be determined by any partial exemption methods applied to your organisation. You should check with your finance department/external advisors if you are not sure of your situation.
The level of funding available is for each call is confidential. As part of our planning cycle we estimate how many projects we aim to fund in any call. We will make this information available as part of the general call information. We would stress that our funding decisions are based on quality, fit with the fund criteria and our aim to ensure that we have a good mix of projects.
We expect all our projects to develop a sustainability plan during the period of our investment, so that they are able to secure their future. We will not provide repeat funding for the same project and you cannot apply for additional funding for project that has already received Ufi funding but has run out of money to complete it.
We will cover all the relevant costs for the life of the project. You will need to consider how your project is sustainable beyond the period of Ufi funding. Ufi aims to be a catalyst for change, and our projects ultimately need to be self- sustaining. If you have completed a Ufi project you are not exempt from applying to a new funding call to develop your project further, as long as the project objectives are distinct from the previous project. Please note that we do not have a 'funding ladder' and a new application would be assessed on own merits.
Ufi funding will pay for towards the cost of buying the equipment and kit that is necessary to deliver the project as well as salaries, project management and so on.
VocTech Activate funding can not be used to pay for capital costs of buildings. When looking at costs we will assess the balance of what you plan to spend in relation to the goals and objectives of your project.
It is up to you to devise your project plan and explain what the essential costs of your project are.
If you proposed paying users to be involved in testing you would need think about how you judged the objectivity of their input.
What are the timescales and deadlines?
Ufi publishes details of the funding calls we plan to deliver in the coming year on our website. Further details eg criteria, how to apply - are announced in advance on our website. New calls are also announced on our LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. You can register on our website for our newsletter to keep in touch and receive regular updates.
The deadlines for each funding round are shown on our website when the fund is launched. We normally allow around three - four weeks for applicants to complete Stage 1 applications. When Stage 1 closes, all eligible applications are assessed and applicants are notified within four to six weeks.
Applicants selected to go forward to Stage 2 have a further two weeks to develop and submit a more detailed application. Following assessment of these, the Ufi Trustees make the final decision on funding and applicants are advised promptly on the outcome of these decisions.
The whole process takes around 4 months from receipt of an initial Stage 1 application to the final decision on funding. Please take this into account when planning your project.
Funding limits vary between our calls so you need to check the specific fund criteria. Within those parameters we work individually with projects to set appropriate timescales and milestones.
The duration of our grant fund is agreed on a project-by-project basis. We place very high value on projects that can demonstrate that they have scale and a sustainability plan that allows them to maintain, or increase, momentum beyond the period of our support. We hope that all projects will continue to be successful in the years that follow our grant fund. Therefore we expect all organisations to identify how their project will scale and become sustainable, if appropriate, beyond the end of our grant fund period.
There is no need to have formal partnerships in place by the application deadline but you should be able to show how you have discussed and planned how best to work together to deliver.
Who can apply to Ufi?
Ufi funding is open to all organisations, including charities, trade bodies, learning providers, employers, private companies, community interest companies and other not for profit organisations.
Where Ufi funds a project where the partner/partners are not charities, we must exercise due diligence to ensure that any private benefit that is generated is no more than incidental to the public benefit. This means that any benefit accruing to a non-charitable organisation does not exceed what is necessary to generate the stated public benefit of the project, in line with Ufi’s charitable objectives.
The questions in our application forms help us to understand whether project proposals from non-charities have a beneficial public outcome, both immediately and in the longer term, and whether the project demonstrates sufficient public benefit to justify charitable funding. This means that we must be able to see evidence of how the project approach will benefit learners, how the community of learners is defined and evidence of the total size of the group the project could reach.
We need to look carefully at both the outputs of the project and the costs. The better you are able to describe these in your project application, the easier it is for us to determine the public benefit. We need to make sure that our funding is sufficient to deliver the project but is not being used to replace private funding. Any private benefit that arises must not be more than is necessary to deliver the public benefit that is the stated purpose of the project. We look carefully at the balance of public and private benefit, including the mix of funding being provided by Ufi and the applicant and the level of business risk.
Some Ufi funding calls are particularly suitable for early stage businesses, smaller digital innovators and other organisations looking to test new digital approaches on a small scale. This includes digital innovators currently working in other markets who can see opportunities to adapt their approach to vocational learning. It may be particularly useful to edtech businesses looking to expand their products and services to deliver to the voctech market.
Ufi is a UK based charity and only funds projects which directly benefit vocational learners in the UK. The majority of applications we fund are UK-based. We will consider applications from organisations based outside the UK if they can clearly demonstrate how they will address vocational learning opportunities in the UK.
We recognise that addressing overseas markets can improve the sustainability of new approaches and projects would not be disadvantaged if this is part of a longer term business plan, but we don't include the assessment of non-UK beneficiaries when we make a funding decision.
We are keen to encourage applications from anywhere within the UK. We deliver pre-application webinars to try to ensure that potential applicants can engage with us, whereever they are based.
We welcome partnership approaches to project delivery. Applications can be strengthened by demonstrating a collaborative approach, especially where employers and digital learning specialists are working together. Collaborative working can help to ensure that your main project idea is addressing a recognised learning need; and can provide a route for early stage testing with learners.
We are flexible about how collaborative projects are structured but expect to see this clearly reflected in the project management arrangements and for all partners to be active project participants. We have no view on who should be the lead partner in projects - we expect partners to reach their own decision on which of them is best suited to lead the project.
We ask for registration numbers so we can do background checks on the organisations we may fund. If you don't have a registration number please input 99999 into the 'Registered number' field. However registration of your organisation as a charity or company would need to be complete before any funding could be received.
What happens if our application is successful?
Ufi is a partnership funder and will maintain an active dialogue with you throughout the project. We will allocate you a project account manager who will be your key point of contact with Ufi.
We run cohorts of projects and encourage cross-pollination between them, particularly between those at different stages of development. Your project account manager will advise you on this and the activities described below encourage contact between projects within cohorts.
Once we have allocated a project account manager to the project, their first step will be to work with you on a Project Initiation Document (PID) that sets out delivery arrangements, project milestones etc. Each project is unique and we’ll work with you to agree what is best and most reasonable for your project. It is for you to determine how your project is best delivered and to work with your project account manager to agree a monitoring plan. The funding milestones and associated payment schedule will be set as part of this process.
We expect you to deliver the project in its entirety, with light-touch support from us. You will be supported to write your PID: the PID underpins your grant funding contract with us and must include an updated plan and budget, which we will review and discuss with you every month.
Yes. The contract will be in two parts: a set of terms and conditions for the award of grant and your Project Initiation Document (PID) which details what your project is going to do.
The schedule of quality criteria and payment gateways set out in your Project Initiation Document (PID) form the basis of your funding agreement with Ufi, and is used by us both to monitor progress of the project. Ufi pays in arrears, and claims will only be paid after we have agreed that the quality criteria have been met.
Partners are not required to submit timesheets to draw down funding. However, they should be able to provide evidence of expenditure should Ufi or the Charities Commission choose to review or audit the project.
If a project can demonstrate a particular need for upfront funding to assist cashflow then this will be considered on a case by case basis through discussion with the project account manager.
Ufi is developing new systems for evaluating the impact of its funded projects, as part of our aim to demonstrate the effectiveness of digital approaches to vocational learning. As part of this, we will be working with each project to define objectives.
The objectives will be specific and relevant to the project and will include a mix of short term outputs and long term outcomes. Outputs will be tailored to measure the project activities; and outcomes will be tailored to reflect the direction and end point of the project.
Impact could include the number of learners benefitting, tackling a specific unmet need in an industry or group of learners or stimulating and supporting long term change in some part of the vocational learning sector that leads to the uptake and adoption of new ways of learning.
The scope and form of objectives and evaluation will be determined between the project and its Ufi project account manager at the outset and set out in the Project Initiation Document (PID) which forms the basis of the funding agreement.
Ufi approaches its role as funder as a partnership process. We expect our projects to reciprocate, and all projects are expected to help to contribute to a pipeline of new ideas for using digital technology to transform vocational learning. This includes:
- Attending the two workshops which support the funding process and our annual Ufi Showcase.
- Becoming active members of a cohort and contributing to Ufi’s aim to create a community of vocational learning developers and providers by active networking and sharing experience with other projects. Our work to date demonstrates that our projects gain significant benefit from engagement with their project cohort, and the Ufi wider network.
- Sharing and championing the Ufi mission to increase the number of people accessing learning and gaining vocational skills through supporting our work to showcase practical examples of digital delivery of vocational learning.
Normally we have no interest in the IP of your project. However, we do want the developments we fund to be used for public benefit. If circumstances are such that the IP is not being used and you have no plans to commercialise or disseminate, then we reserve the right to use the project's IP. Note that this only covers IP created by the project - not IP brought in from elsewhere. Please see our terms and conditions (T&Cs).
Management accounts are usually prepared on a monthly or a quarterly basis to help a business manage their financial performance. They are adapted to the requirements of the organisation and are therefore not a standard format. They typically include a profit and loss statement to date for the financial year compared to the annual budget to date with any significant variances explained. Ideally, they will also include a forecast, which estimates or predicts how the organisation will perform for the remainder of the year taking into account the historical information to date and any known changes to the budgeted position. A cashflow statement may be included if the organisation has low cash balances or pinch points through the year. A balance sheet is helpful to show any liabilities the organisation may have incurred and the current cash held in the bank.
As a minimum for Ufi’s due diligence purposes we would expect to see a profit and loss to date compared to a budget to date for the current financial year with variances explained. If an organisation is just commencing operation and does not have any performance data to date, we would expect to see a budget for the financial year ahead. If the organisation does not have any prior year accounts, we would also expect to see a balance sheet and may require a cash flow statement dependent on the cash circumstances.
We expect all projects to start within 6 months of being offered a grant. If you are not able to start within that time, we reserve the right to withdraw our funding offer.