Fund criteria

What kind of ideas are we looking for?

This targeted grant call is looking for projects that use technology in ways that support learner confidence. There are a number of current and emerging technologies that could be developed or deployed to improve accessibility, create a supportive learning environment, offer increased personalisation and motivation to start or keep on learning.

We are open to ideas that use digital tools and approaches in new ways to directly improve the confidence and motivation of learners to engage with vocational learning and help people get the skills they need for work.

Confidence has many aspects in relation to vocational learning.  Our Green and White Papers explore the issues that we uncovered during our Discovery. We found that confidence was a barrier to starting to learn, sticking with the learning, and successfully completing learning and moving into work or on to better paid work.

Key Criteria

Projects must have an impact on learners disproportionately affected by the digital divide and further exposed by the pandemic and be able to evidence their choice of user group on that basis.

To do this, projects must have already done some initial discovery thinking to build relationships with a group or groups of learners that can be evidenced to be experiencing digital disadvantage and have clear issues of lack of confidence at some point in the journey into work.  They must use digital vocational technology do one or more of the following:

  1. Support learners who are not engaged in any vocational learning to take steps to develop their skills by overcoming confidence and motivational barriers.
  2. Build learner confidence and motivation to access and make progress in their vocational learning.
  3. Build learner confidence and skills to become more independent learners and support a culture of lifelong learning.
  4. Target known user barriers to learning, offering new pathways and bridges into learning.

    We are also open to the fact that:

  5. the idea may be part of a blended / hybrid solution, where digital tools and approaches can enhance face to face delivery
  6. ideas may also address the confidence of teachers / trainers in deploying VocTech in order to ensure the learner journey is the best possible.
  7. the idea isn’t a separate ‘product’ or commercial service. The innovation may well be something that can be embedded or retrofitted into existing offers or changes to practice in order to improve outcomes, catalysing longer term systems change.
  8. whilst this call is not focused on digital skills development, there may be a need to address digital skills as an entry point to the vocational skills that projects are seeking to build.

User-centred approaches to learning design will be important. We will prioritise projects that are committed to our design thinking approach in being open to the real lived experiences of users – our view is that designing well for learners with a variety of needs improves the universal offer.

We are not looking for...

  • Projects that focus solely on the confidence to get online in response to the pandemic or digital skills development without additional vocational context
  • Projects working with user groups who are already well served by mainstream provision – you need to show that this is new to the market
  • Speculative technologies developed in isolation of the user group – your users will be an integral part of the application
  • Ideas with no potential for scale or transformational change in the sector
  • Generic ‘coaching’ or motivational tools.
  • Generic mental health support solutions

Explore a list of what Ufi does not fund.


Who should apply?
Groups already engaged with our target learner groups so you can move quickly to scale up

What is the focus?
How digital tools can build learner confidence to engage, progress and succeed

What’s new?
The ‘Define’ Stage to crystallise user insights before starting to deliver

How much funding? 
Between £15k and £150k, with additional £10k funding for the Define Stage

Apply between 29 June and 29 July 2021

On the MyUfi portal

What will Ufi pay for?

The Define Stage

  • £10k towards the costs of committing time to the ‘Define stage gateway’.  Activities typically included in this deep dive Stage are listed here: Design Stage Gateway.

Activate: Up to £50k 4-12 months

  • Refinement of basic prototype and extension of early proof of concept work
  • Design and development using user-centred approaches
  • Development of an MVP with user engagement
  • Development of a strategy to scale and sustain the product / service
  • Evaluation of how far / whether the project has achieved its objectives – and Ufi’s

Impact: £100k - £150k 12-18 months

  • Larger scale testing and delivery to users
  • Refine, re-design and development, ready for immediate roll-out
  • Strategies for rapid marketing and promotion
  • Development of a sustainable model to scale and sustain the product or service after Ufi funding
  • Evaluation of how far / whether the project has achieved its objectives – and Ufi’s

For more information on eligible costs, VAT, and how you get paid please see our Standard Grant Funding FAQs.

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.  We also need to see evidence of some match funding from organisations with significant resources.

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.

Who can apply?

We are open to applications from all types of organisations for this call.

We think this call will be best suited to:

  • Organisations with a shared passion for Ufi’s mission
  • Organisations and teams that are open to design thinking
  • Organisations who are able to commit to engaging with Ufi’s package of enrichment support and to make the most of the opportunities created by being part of an active project cohort
  • Collaborative groups of organisations and employers (with a lead applicant) where at least one partner has a strong track-record in working with the target community of learners and at least one has a strong tech or learning design background
  • Individual organisations with a strong track-record in working with the community of learners and which have a clear understanding of how to commission the technical solutions they may need

This call is probably not suitable for start-ups as we need applicants to have experience with the target group of learners and strong networks already in place.

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.

Return to the fund overview

Continue reading about the VocTech Challenge Grant Fund.

Alternatively, you can download the detailed fund guidance as a pdf.