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:


The next Humanities Innovation Challenge Competition: for Humanities and Social Sciences, call will open on 25th March 2019.


Social Impact Translational Funding – the SE2020 Fund


Many University of Oxford research outputs have the potential to solve social problems. In recognition of this, Oxford University Innovation (OUI) is launching a toolkit and associated support services specifically for social enterprise – an activity or business which has an embedded social or environmental mission. To complement this offering, we are also launching a pilot translational fund for social impact projects – the OUI SE2020 Fund.

The Fund aims to support ideas and inventions emerging from University research, which seek to address social issues, in a way that gives them the best chance of delivering social impact and becoming self-sustaining after the initial grant period.


This initial call for the new SE2020 Fund is supported by the University’s EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account and Global Challenges Research Fund. Consequently, to qualify for this call, the project must either:

  • Fall within EPSRC’s research areas and involve the development or refinement of existing research outputs and help to accelerate the impact (beyond academia) from past, current or future research;


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

SE2020 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. 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 a total of £550,000 available for this call. There is no limit on the size of applications to the SE2020 Fund but it is expected that awards will be between £15,000 and £50,000, and the projects to be around 12 months in duration.

Terms and Conditions for EPSRC Remit Projects

If you have any queries on whether your project fits the remit for EPSRC IAA project please contact

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 August 2019.
  • No extensions are possible.

If you have any queries on whether your project fits the remit for GCRF project 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.

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 5 November 2018.

The SE2020 Steering Committee will assess full applications to be in a position to make awards by 12 November 2018.

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.

Please note that preference will be given to projects which are able to start quickly and have a team in place.


There are clearly many ways in which funding can go into the company, and the company doesn’t necessarily have to be a CIC to obtain it.

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