VocTech Challenge FAQs

These are questions specific to the VT Challenge which have been asked in our Grant Funding workshops. They are in addition to our standard FAQs and should be read alongside these and our standard Terms & Conditions of Grant.

Application process

Essentially Q1 wants you to explain what your project is and how it relates to Confidence in a skills, work or vocational context.

The Challenge is around learner Confidence. That can take a variety of forms, and you should explain what aspects of Confidence your project will develop. Take a look at our White Paper and the Guidance for the Challenge which will give you more context. It is NOT the 5 themes in the Green Paper that you are responding to – we used those to engage the community and decide on where we should focus the Challenge.

VocTech Activate – Early-stage ideas with potential to scale that require tech development and proof of concept testing in order to be able to scale quickly once Ufi funding has ended. This might be to a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) stage or something similar.

VocTech Impact - Funding to roll-out an idea where the tech has been tested already to MVP stage.  Networks and relationships already reasonably well established so that large numbers of learners can benefit during the funding period and beyond.

There is a question in the application form where you can explain how this project forms part of your longer term aims and ambitions and fits with your organisational strategy.

We are looking to support projects that have the potential to scale so that large numbers of learners can benefit. To do this we believe that projects need to be part of a strong network of committed partners / stakeholders.

It is up to you to determine how you manage relationships with your stakeholders and partners. Ufi does not take a view on whether formal agreements or contracts need to be put in place. It is for applicants to take their own legal advice on these matters.

Yes. However, we will only contract with one organisation.

Yes - but one good application is better than several mediocre ones.

How well projects meet the criteria.

This call is for projects which can deliver as part of the ‘Making Change Now’ pillar of our strategy, so we are looking for projects which can address the VocTech Challenge within the timetable for a VocTech Seed project (4-12 months) or a VocTech Impact project (12- 18 months).

Whilst there is no need to have formal partnerships in place by the application deadline you need to be able to show us that you can deliver.

We want projects to use the Define phase to better understand the the needs of the target audience for the proposed solution. Great if you already have a plan - you could use this time to deepen and expand what you already know. See https://ufi.co.uk/grant-funding/voctech-challenge/design-stage-gateway/

A key part of any Ufi funded project is the creation of a sustainability plan so you have a clear plan for continuing once Ufi funding ends. Getting funding in one funding round is no guarantee of being awarded funding in a future round. Ufi's funding plans for 2022 are not finalised.

Activate projects are intended to deliver ideas up to MVP (minimum viable product), and Impact projects to build on MVP to take the idea out to scale. If you are not yet at MVP, then Activate would be the right choice for you. You can use the Define stage to look at how you might scale up afterwards and how you could fund that next stage. It is not possible to switch between project types after contracting.

We would not move them in the assessment stage but the outcomes of the Define phase should clarify whether a project is in fact an Activate or Impact projec

It is unlikely that projects applying for Activate would be suggested for Impact funding, as the application process requires you to explain how you would use the funding, and that would have been geared to the £50k available. It may be possible for applicants that had described an Impact project to be offered Activate if we see there is a great idea there, but it is not clear that there is a strong MVP already in place to build out to scale.

In the application you should make it clear which you are applying for. You need to describe what you will use the funding for, so that will be different depending on what stage of development your idea is at.

If your project costs £75K and you are providing match funding of £25K and requesting grant funding of £50K then that is an Activate project.

It will depend entirely on aims of the project and the size of the target audience you are aiming to achieve. Please check the guidance

In principle, yes, but it will make it much stronger if you can have all your partners on board from the start. You need to evidence that you have already have good contact with users and/or that you have all the technology expertise you need already identified.

The breakout groups in the Grant Funding Workshops are your opportunity to discuss your project with a member of the Ufi team. If you have further questions please email info@ufi.co.uk

There is no downloadable version. You will need to register with MyUfi to access the application form.

You can include quotes in your application to demonstrate the strength of your proposition. We don't accept separate documents.

A key element of this project is being in contact with the group of learners and already having those contacts and networks established. Whilst there is no requirement to have formal partnerships in place by the application deadline you need to be able to show us that you can deliver and have all the resources planned to do so.

What we fund

In our VocTech Challenge Green Paper is a view of the ‘VocTech Landscape’ in a series of problem statements / opportunities, and one of the key insights was around confidence.

We recommend you join one of our workshops and read our Green Paper to find out more.

Ufi has used design thinking in specifying this challenge and we want to continue to apply the principles right through the process.

More details can be found in the VocTech Challenge fund guidelines here.

We have introduced a funded ‘Define Phase’ at the point at which a conditional offer is made. This will be a ‘stage gateway’ to ensure that the idea has:

- Clear user design and learning design where appropriate, focused on our target users.

- A technical approach that will deliver either an MVP or full roll-out of the chosen VocTech solution.

- A clear understanding of the opportunities to scale up and how those can be achieved.

More details can be found in the VocTech Challenge fund guidelines .

We are looking for both types of approaches as they will provide a pipeline of VocTech tools to showcase how VocTech can help create lasting change and have a real impact on vocational learning.

We know that in this Challenge, we may receive applications from organisations that are deeply embedded and have the trust of the target user groups. That may mean you currently only work with a small local group. What we are looking for is the ambition to grow and take your idea beyond that initial group. We don’t just want you to offer a local service, however excellent that might be for your small number of customers. We want you to have a service that stretches out across the UK and links up with lots of other organisations to amplify your reach. And we will help you to develop plans to do that, based on what we know works well. If growth isn’t something you’re comfortable with then unfortunately our funding isn’t suitable for you. Impact projects will need to show us from the start that they have thought through how to grow. Activate projects can be thinking about how to scale up throughout the project so they leave with a strong plan to make it happen.

For this funding call, we are taking MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to mean an early technical demonstration prototype that you can use to show people how your idea could be scaled up. This is the simplest version of the service / product, developed and released in order to get the reactions and feedback of users/customers. This helps the organisation get feedback to bring the final product to the market. For Activate, you will reach MVP by the end of your project and have a strong plan to develop it to scale and sustainability. For Impact, you will be at MVP when you start, and you will use the project to start to scale it up once you have made any necessary improvements.

A decision will be made about whether the project will proceed to delivery.

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.

Projects can be B2C. You will need to explain how they address the VocTech Challenge and what evidence you have that there is a scalable market for the solution.

Yes. You will need to explain what vocational learning issue your project is addressing and how you will access and retain your learners.

We will these fund 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. See hardware, software, and connectivity.

Projects aimed at improving the general 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, specific skills needed to improve the vocational skills of the workforce.

Yes - the principle is that the beneficiaries must be in the UK.

An innovative way of improving the learner experience of assessing learners (and thereby improving take up/targeting of courses) is eligible.

No. But the manner of its deployment should be. You could use existing technology to target new audiences, or new sectors or delivering learning in a new way. See also https://ufi.co.uk/faqs/#faq-20

For Ufi adults are 16+. There is no officially upper limit but our focus is on learning for work-related skills, so there needs to be a rationale for how your group needs to develop vocational skills.

In your application you will need to explain why this is a good solution for your learners and how it will build confidence and motivation for those furthest from learning. The resources that you need to deliver your project will depend on their vocational learning needs. Remember that we do not fund HE level projects.

Make sure you explain why your users need this support and how you build trust with them. Look at the guidance

Projects for ex-offenders are eligible - see the projects directory for other projects we have already funded in this area. We don't believe there is only one solution to a problem. In your application explain why your proposed approach is different and suitable for your group of learners.

The right kind of accreditation can be very powerful in the right circumstances. In your application you will need to explain what advantages accreditation brings and how it will help boost confidence and motivation to learn vocational skills. But it is not compulsory and your solution should meet the needs of your learners.

We do not fund projects which are solely about basic digital skills. You would need to show how any digital skills provision linked to vocational skills. But yes, you can include digital skills development in your project if there is no current provision available to meet their needs.

This Challenge is focused on adults impacted by the digital divide and furthest away from learning, so they can gain the confidence they need to get skills for work. In your application you would need to explain how students/recent grads met that criterion.

The purpose of the Challenge Fund is to help people furthest from learning gain vocational skills and overcome confidence and motivational barriers. We do not fund enterprise and entrepreneurship as there are many existing apps and services which provide such incubator-style services. Developing skills to enter employment could be eligible, but not to set up and run a business.

Yes ESOL is in scope.

A project which addressed the specific barriers which people with mental health issues such as psychosis or depression faced in gaining vocational skills could be eligible. What we don’t fund are generic 'wellness' projects which have no vocational skills context.

The grant can cover staff costs directly related to the project. We don't cover organisational costs. Attracting and retaining your users and marketing your solution is a key part of success and these costs are eligible.

A key element of this project is being in contact with the group of learners and already having those contacts and networks established. If you are only intending to start identifying your learners during the Define stage then this will be too late.

Yes. In your application you will need to explain how your project will be different from other online training programmes and why your learners will use it.

It could be all of those things! You know your learners best and you are best placed to describe how funding for your project will produce beneficial outcomes for them and for our wider society. We want to fund projects which improve confidence and motivation so that learners are able to take action to get the skills they need for work. See our CEO's blog on why we are running the Challenge Fund.

You will need to explain how they meet the criteria and in particular in the numbers of potential learners.

We do not provide funding to buy places on existing training courses. Our funding focuses on creating new learning experiences for users. Training may take place within the project, but normally it would not include paying a third party provider for that training.

Yes – open to all types of organisations. Individuals need to have a recognised company or charity to be able to apply.

How much Challenge funding is available?

This funding call is part of the ‘Making Change Now’ pillar in our Strategy. There is less focus on tech development as we are looking for near market solutions that can scale and have an impact.

If your organisation is ‘for profit’ or has access to large cash reserves, we will be looking for match funding to demonstrate a shared commitment to the project.

We are looking to fund between 12 – 15 VocTech Challenge projects.

We are looking to fund around 10 - 12 VocTech Activate projects and 3 or 4 VocTech Impact projects.

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.

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.

Yes, applications from organisations that are not charities are required to provide some match funding. Details are in the criteria.

Match funding can be cash or in kind. Tell us on your application what resources you will bring and what you need from us. We are looking for match funding to ensure the risk and commitment is shared between Ufi and the project.

Please refer to our terms and conditions for clarification.

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 clause only covers IP created by the project - not IP brought in from elsewhere. See Terms and Conditions

We request match funding because in our experience projects are more likely to be successful if the risk and commitment are shared between Ufi and the project organisations. While some type of match funding is obligatory for non charitable organisations, we will also query if larger not- for- profits with extensive resources are not offering any match funding.

No. The VocTech Challenge has a design-led element which all projects need to undertake before Ufi will confirm the full grant offer.

We acknowledge that funding is difficult to access. In the application you can tell us why you are not funding it yourselves, or why you can only fund to a certain point.

The Define phase is a fully funded phase (£10K). Match funding (whether cash or kind) should be used for the main delivery phase.