Funding Social Enterprise

Oxford University Innovation will continually be seeking out new opportunities to fund social or environmental impact projects at all stages beyond research. All funding will be targeted at enabling the project to become self-sustaining as quickly as possible. We continue to build our network within the social investment community. We also work closely with the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship in the Saïd Business School who also have funding opportunities in this area.

The current funding opportunities are listed below:


Humanities Innovation Challenge Competition

The 2019 Humanities Innovation Challenge Competition has finished and the next one will happen next April – May. It’s £1000 for the winner, find out more here.


Social Impact Translational Funding

GCRF Sustainable Impact Fund


Many University of Oxford research outputs have the potential to solve social, environmental or cultural problems. To complement the toolkits and associated support services Oxford University Innovation (OUI) provides for social enterprise we launched a pilot translational fund for social impact projects – the OUI SE2020 Fund. We’re delighted to say on the back of the pilot we are opening another call with funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

The Fund aims to support ideas and inventions emerging from University research, which seek to address development issues with  approaches to develop and implement products, processes, services and technologies in a development context. These can be relevant to any development challenge and can be aimed at the public and/or private sector.


This call for GCRF Sustainable Impact Fund is supported by the University’s Global Challenges Research Fund. Consequently, to qualify for this call, the project must promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries (DAC List of ODA recipients) as its primary objective.

  • Activities that may be supported include, but are not limited to:
  • Proof of / feasibility studies to establish the viability of an approach
  • Prototyping or demonstrators
  • Scale-up testing and development work
  • Generation of additional data to demonstrate the credibility of a technology or methodology (but not further research into the development of that technology or methodology)
  •  Access to resources or proprietary IP from an industry partner without the need to compromise ownership or control over University IP.

Proposed projects should provide evidence that outcomes will further develop a technology, concept or approach towards self-sustainability. The steps envisaged to reach self-sustainability should be clearly provided, along with information on what barriers or challenges the project will seek to overcome.

Eligibility and Costs

Funding is open to researchers from all divisions.  PIs must be University employees holding a contract of employment and may be hosted by any department of the University. Researchers holding honorary or visiting positions are not eligible to apply.

Awards will be made for direct costs only and will not cover overheads. Third party costs may be included but these project costings must include VAT where appropriate. The funding will not support bridging funding, PhD studentships or continuation of normal research grants. Please also note that PI or co-applicant salary is not an eligible cost.

If your proposed project does not meet the remit or eligibility criteria, please contact to inform future calls.

There is no limit on the size of applications to the fund but it is expected that awards will be between £15,000 and £50,000, and the projects to be around 9 months in duration.Applicants should get in touch with the GCRF team if projects are likely to extend to 12 months.


Terms and Conditions for GCRF Remit Projects

  • Must be Official Development Assistance (ODA) compliant by clearly demonstrating that their primary focus is to aid the development of a country or countries on the DAC list.
  • Must have a realistic start date that facilitates completion by 31 July 2020.
  • No extensions are possible.

If you have any queries on whether your project fits the remit for GCRF projects please contact



All applicants must discuss their proposal with Oxford University Innovation well in advance of submission. Applicants will be paired with a sponsor from OUI to assist with applications and develop outline sustainability models. There is an Expression of Interest form to complete which is a page long and can be downloaded here, the deadline for which is 12 August 2019.

A full application will be approximately 4 pages long and will describe the project in layman’s terms, the anticipated social impact that the project will lead to and the path to sustainability. The deadline for full applications is 16 September 2019.

The Steering Committee will assess full applications as soon as possible afterwards. As we anticipate demand to be strong, there may be a need for some applicants to attend a meeting in mid-October. The Steering Committee expects to be in a position to make awards by 31 October 2019.

Assessment Criteria (in no particular order)

·         Potential for social impact to be generated

·         Likely scale of the social impact e.g. number of people affected

·         Likelihood of impact

·         Timescale to impact – will this project reduce the lead time to impact?

·         Clarity of the plan to achieve project aims

·         Risk involved in the project – high risk is not necessarily a negative if the potential impact is large

·         Value for money

·         GCRF-remit projects will be asked to declare which of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals the project seeks to address – this may be more than one

·         Clarity of the plan for sustainability.

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