VocTech Seed: Guidelines
VocTech Seed 2020 call is open for applications from 21 January to 13 February (17:00).
Ufi uses an online application process. Once you have registered on the Ufi website and created an account, you can log-in, access the application form, save your draft and return to it at any time while the funding round is open. There is information and guidance on our website. Please look at our funding strategy (Learning Without Walls: Beyond 2020), the specific criteria for the funding round and our detailed FAQs to understand what we are looking for and to guide your application.
Events to help you
You can attend a workshop or join a webinar to hear more and ask questions - sign up on our Events page. There are workshops in:
- Belfast 4th December 2019 - Register for Belfast
- Cambridge 22nd January 2020 - Register for Cambridge
- Glasgow 28th January 2020 - Register for Glasgow
- London 4th February 2020 - Register for London
- We are also running a series of webinars - sign up on our Events page
You can also email us with general questions about the fund at firstname.lastname@example.org. Workshops offer the opportunity of a face-to-face discussion with members of the Ufi team about your specific project idea, but please note that we cannot discuss your specific project in detail during a webinar or by email.
Ufi has a two-stage application process. Access to Stage 2 is by invitation only, following success at Stage 1. Evaluation at each stage is undertaken by an expert panel, selected to represent the experience and expertise relevant to the fund. Final funding decisions are made by the Ufi Board of Trustees. The total size of the budget for the call is confidential.
- Stage 1 requires you to complete a short form outlining details of your organisation, your project and the funding requested. Applications are assessed on how well the project fits with Ufi’s overall mission and the specific objectives of the funding call.
- Stage 2 requires you to complete a more detailed application with more information on the technology, route to market and deliverability of the project. As part of your application, you will need to provide additional information in the form of a project plan and budget.
Dates and deadlines
- The deadline for submission of Stage 1 applications is 17:00 on 13 February 2020.
- We do not accept late applications. If you experience technical problems while completing or submitting your application, you must tell us as soon as possible via email@example.com.
- Stage 1 applicants will be advised in March 2020 whether they have been successful. Successful applicants will be invited to proceed to Stage 2 which opens on 19 March 2020.
- The deadline for submission of Stage 2 applications is 17:00 on 9 April 2020.
- Ufi’s Board of Trustees will reach final decisions on funding by end May 2020.
If you are successful, you will be allocated a Project Account Manager to work with you to deliver a Project Plan which sets out how the project will be delivered and the milestones which need to be achieved for funding to be drawn down. Each project is unique and we will work with you to agree what is best and most reasonable for your project. It is for you to determine how your project is best delivered and to work with your Project Account Manager to agree a monitoring plan. The funding milestones will be set as part of this process.
Other Ufi funding opportunities
To keep informed about funding rounds, please register with Ufi if you haven’t already signed up for our mailing list.
To find out more about our Ufi Ventures investment fund, please visit our Ventures page.
VocTech Seed Funding Criteria: improving UK skills through digital vocational learning
This call will support projects with innovative ideas for solving real, practical problems in UK 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.
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 for 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.
In particular this year we are looking to support projects with ideas for how emerging tech can have a positive impact on these kinds of opportunities and problems in vocational learning. For example,
- Reducing time taken to mark work, enabling learners to access feedback and content tailored to them, when they need it
- Making it easier and cheaper for trainers and teachers to develop their own high quality, interactive e-learning content for vocational learners
- Understanding how the soft skills that employers state they need can be developed with voctech, how learner progress is measured and competence demonstrated
- Identity tracking, credentialing and creating ecosystems with relevant employers and learning organisations to create new ways for people to validate their skills and create career pathways
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 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 series to delivery 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.
Further information and events to help your application
To help you understand what Ufi is likely to fund, here are some sources of further information and guidance.
Help for applicants
- Top 10 tips for your application
- Technology considerations on scaling up - guidance
- Join us at a workshop or webinar
- Our five year funding strategy, 'Learning Without Walls: Beyond 2020'
For inspiration, look at other projects we have funded. We do not think there is only one solution to the big challenges posed by increasing digital vocational learning, so do not be deterred if a past project seems to cover similar ground. Successful projects demonstate a novel use of technology and a clear route to market for the proposed product/service.
Please review our general FAQs which should answer most of your questions. Specific FAQs from the workshops and webinars will be published on this page as they arise. If you have a question which is not included please email firstname.lastname@example.org.