Criteria for VocTech Seed 2021
Improving UK skills through digital vocational learning
This call will support projects with innovative ideas for solving real, practical problems in UK adult vocational learning.
To create a world where vocational skills are celebrated and valued by all as the engine upon which the UK economy is built and where development of those skills is made possible by the best technology solutions, providing easier access, greater opportunity and better outcomes for all.
Ufi supports the development of digital technologies that help us all obtain the vocational skills we need to get more out of our working lives. We do this by:
- Providing funding, expertise and commitment to innovators in vocational technology (VocTech).
- Building an active VocTech community of educators, developers, designers, employers, investors and policy makers – sparking discussion and debate amongst them.
- Using our funding to catalyse change in attitude, focus and investment in VocTech in the UK.
We believe we have a particular role in supporting sectors, locations, skill levels and individuals that are not well served by the mainstream.
What is the purpose of VocTech Seed?
This is our test bed where the first spark of an idea can be scoped and tested in the supportive environment that Ufi funding provides.
We encourage ideas which have the potential to transform how vocational learning happens, rooted in a real-world understanding of the problems, issues and opportunities in the vocational sector. Projects will need to show us how the idea is novel – show us that you understand the market you are looking at and why this is better than anything that has been thought of before.
We can support ideas for new tech, new markets, new communities of learners and we’re happy to welcome new project teams. The emphasis here is on the ‘new’. VocTech Seed has been designed to support innovation and we are ok with risk. This is about sharing that risk in order to encourage the development of new digital vocational learning tools, enabling organisations to test new ideas and work out the next steps necessary to plan a route to market and long-term success.
Funding is to support the development of early stage ideas, small scale testing, proof of concept work and the development of strategies to scale once Ufi funding has ended.
How much funding is available?
Between £15,000 to £50,000 is available for projects of between 3 and 12 months duration.
The funding offered for any individual project depends on the problem being addressed, and the nature and scale of the proposed solution. Each is considered on its merits and the costs assessed against the proposed work plan and timetable.
What is VocTech Seed looking for?
We want to see innovative digital vocational learning ideas which are:
- Genuinely innovative in their overall approach, their technology, or the sector or community of learners to which they will be applied.
- Ideas where people are really thinking differently about how to use technology to deliver effective vocational learning at scale.
- Projects that look 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.
- Projects targeted at extending learning provision to sectors, industries and communities of learners that currently lack good access to vocational learning due to factors including market/sectoral structures, cost, time, distance or language.
What will VocTech Seed fund?
The design, development and early stage testing of novel approaches to digital vocational learning; helping to take those ideas through basic prototyping to the next stage of 'seeding the market' by delivering a first proof of concept prototype and planning a route to market.
- Focus on adult vocational learning in the UK (be aimed at adults (16+))
- Offer new learning tools, not just new learning content
- Show real innovation and risk to justify Ufi funding
- Show a clear understanding of the vocational learning market, have evidence of a defined learning need and describe how they expect the tech will improve outcomes for learners, in addition to the technical advances.
- Show real innovation and risk to achieve a step change beyond normal business development to justify Ufi funding.
- Have plans for testing with relevant learners/trainers/employers and for incorporating feedback from testing into product development.
- Show ambition and vision for how the project could get to market and be eventually scaled up to reach a large number of learners, if the proof of concept proves successful.
Ufi does not fund:
- Training places for individuals – we focus on the potential for long term impact for many.
- Standard ‘content’ projects, for example a project purely to address coding or entrepreneurship skills. If you are teaching a digital skill it isn't enough to assume that this would be a project Ufi would fund. We are interested in how the innovation in the approach, using digital tools, improves outcomes for learners
- Basic digital skills – using Office, getting online.
- Schools. Sometimes there are spill over benefits for 14 -16 yo, but this must not be the focus of the project
- Routine business or product development where there is no public benefit case for charitable funding
- Research projects
- Degrees / degree level studies
- Projects for beneficiaries outside the UK
- Generic employability skills such as CV building or time management
- Enterprise or entrepreneurship
What kinds of organisations can apply?
The VocTech Seed funding is particularly suitable for early stage businesses, smaller digital innovators and other organisations looking to test new digital approaches on a small scale. It is also suitable for 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 the VocTech market.
However, it is open to all organisations, including charities, trade bodies, existing learning providers and employers who would like to test new approaches to using digital technology for vocational learning. Applications can be strengthened by demonstrating a collaborative approach, especially where employers and digital learning specialists are working together.
The majority of organisations we fund are UK-based. We will consider applications from outside the UK if they can clearly demonstrate how they will address vocational learning challenges faced in the UK. We only fund projects that can demonstrate their impact in the UK.
If your organisation is not a charity:
Ufi funds projects involving charities, private companies, community interest companies and other not for profit organisations. As a charity itself, Ufi must ensure that any grant given to any organisation that is not also a charity demonstrates public benefit.
This means being able to see evidence of how the proposed approach will benefit learners, how the community of learners has been defined and the total size of the group the project could reach. Projects must always explain clearly why they need Ufi funding to support their project and how Ufi’s charitable funding will make a difference. Finally, we need to make sure that our funding is not more than is necessary to deliver the project and is not replacing private funding. The questions we ask in our application forms help us understand how your proposal can have a beneficial public outcome, both immediately and in the longer term.
Contact a member of the team for help using the MyUfi portal to submit your application.