VocTech Specialist: Guidelines

Information to help your application succeed

VocTech Specialist 2019 call is open for applications from 12 March to 05 April (17:00)

For this funding call Ufi is adopting a new approach. Please make sure you read the guidelines carefully so that you can understand how this is different from our VocTech Seed and VocTech Impact open calls. 

What's different?

  • This is a Challenge Led call – Applicants need to think about how their idea addresses the challenges Ufi is trying to address. Details are set out in the Funding Criteria tab
  • Different Types of Approaches and Funding – We are looking applications from organisations who have either early stage ideas which need to be tested (up to £50,000 funding) or a well-developed concept which can be scaled up and delivered to large numbers of learners over the life of the project (£150-300,000 funding).  
  • Funded Discovery Phase - We have introduced a funded Discovery Phase at Stage 1 (up to £20,000) to help projects to crystalize thinking on the right way forward for their product. We are looking for applications from organisations who would benefit from and are willing to engage in a genuine discovery phase. 

Preparing your application

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. Please look at our funding strategy (Learning Without Walls), the specific criteria for this funding round and our detailed FAQs to understand what we are looking for and to guide your application.

As this funding call is adopting a new approach, we strongly encourage you to attend a workshop or join a webinar to hear more and ask any questions you might have. Information about these is on our Events page where you can also register to attend. You can email us with general questions about the fund at info@ufi.co.uk. Workshops also 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.

How to apply

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 and Ufi’s aim is to fund all projects which meet our criteria.

Stage 1 requires you to complete a short form outlining details of your organisation, your project and the funding requested. You will need to explain how your project will benefit from having a Discovery Phase and what that will help you to achieve. 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.  This will be informed by what you have learned in the Discovery Phase. As part of your application, you will need to provide additional information in the form of a project plan, budget and a detailed description of the product/service in development. 

Dates and deadlines

  • The deadline for submission of Stage 1 applications is 17:00 on 5 April 2019.
  • 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 info@ufi.co.uk. 
  • Stage 1 applicants will be advised at the beginning of May whether they have been successful and will be invited to start the Discovery Phase. 
  • The Discovery phase will run from May – September 2019. During this time applicants can choose whether to apply for Stage 2 funding for the continuation of their projects. Stage 2 applications can be started at any point from 1 August 2019. 
  • The deadline for submission of Stage 2 applications is 17:00 on 13 September 2019. 
  • Ufi’s Board of Trustees will reach final decisions on funding by 31 October 2019.  

Success at Stage 1 - a funded Discovery Phase

If you are successful, you will be allocated a Project Account Manager to work with you to deliver a Discovery Phase Project Initiation Document (PID). This sets out how the discovery phase will be delivered and the milestones which need to be achieved for funding to be drawn down. Read more about what to expect if your application is successful at Stage 1

Success at Stage 2 

If you are successful, you will be allocated a Project Account Manager to work with you to deliver a full Project Initiation Document (PID), 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.

    For this funding call Ufi is adopting a new approach. Please make sure you read the guidelines carefully so that you can understand how this is different from our VocTech Seed and VocTech Impact open calls.  

    What's the focus of the VocTech Specialist call 2019?  

    This is a ‘challenge led’ funding call which aims to support innovation in adult vocational skills provision to directly tackle the issues which result from the changing nature of work. It is focused on how digital tech can help bridge the gap between the skills that employers want and the skills that employees possess. 

    We are particularly interested in sectors where market and/or technology change is shifting the structure and nature of the jobs and skills necessary for the future. We want to see projects responding to situations where employers and individuals need to think very differently about the skills that they need to survive in a changing landscape – and how those skills are to be acquired.  

    We are interested in projects which are focused on tackling identified needs of employers and that show a collaborative approach between employers and learners. 

    Tackling the structural and multi-layered problems that result in a mismatch between the skills needed and the skills of the workforce, is an area where disruptive approaches are likely to be necessary to achieve the sustainable, transformational change Ufi is seeking. This call will support projects with innovative ideas for solving real, practical problems in UK vocational learning. 

    Changing how vocational learning happens

    Ufi believes that digital technology should play a greater role in enabling adults to get the skills needed for work in the 21st century.  Our aim is to see digital tech being used to significantly improve how UK vocational learning is developed and delivered; and to ‘scale up’ this effect to make learning for work better, more accessible and more affordable.   

    Our funding supports projects that show potential to have real impact in the world of vocational learning by making a difference to how people learn, to the number of people gaining new skills and to business efficiency.  

    High quality solutions 

    Quicker, better learning is only possible if the development process and the end-product are really high quality.  This requires a recognition of the learning pedagogies specific to the digital world, and the specific challenges of developing digital learning.  We expect our projects to include consultation and testing with users – providers, employers and learners - and to see how their feedback has been incorporated into product development. 

    We have introduced a funded Discovery Phase at Stage 1 to support the development of high-quality solutions. We a particularly keen to support projects that are not fully ready to apply to our other open calls and need time to engage with employers and learners to understand their real needs and test out alternative approaches before deciding on the best way forward. 

    What type of projects are we looking for?

    You can apply for either of our funding types: 

    • VocTech Seed - Early Stage Ideas Up to £50,000 up to 12 months in duration

    Projects with early stage ideas that can prototype and demonstrate novel approaches to employer-led vocational learning. We are keen to support genuinely innovative ideas that involve small groups of learners and employers in their development and testing. 

    • VocTech Impact - delivery at Scale £150k- £300 up to 24 months in duration 

    Projects that can deliver to many learners and make a significant difference to reskilling the UK workforce and the number of people gaining new skills.  These projects will have already proved the concept and have completed some prototype work and require larger scale user testing and support to scale the product or service. 

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

    What will VocTech Specialist 2019 fund? 

    We will be seeking innovative projects which use digital vocational technology to: 

    • Support employers to upskill or reskill the workforce to meet identified industry / sector needs
    • Help tackle the persistence of low skill: low wage employment 
    • Work with employers and learners to prepare people for the kind of jobs they never thought they could do – or didn’t even know existed
    • Support groups of individuals who are most at risk / disproportionally impacted by the widening gap between the skills employers need and the skills individuals have 

    Projects must do one of the following: 

    • Reskill adults who are in work to ensure the skills they have are relevant to meet changing needs of the sector / industry
    • Reskill adults who are in work to enable them to transition into new sectors / industries
    • Provide a route into work  

    For this call we are NOT looking for:  

    • Generic access to employment training that is not directly related to specific job opportunities and employer needs
    • Careers Information Advice & Guidance projects in isolation - but this could be part of a larger process
    • Learning management systems  

    For more information on what Ufi does not fund please read our FAQ.  

    The Discovery Phase 

    We have introduced a funded Discovery Phase at Stage 1 to help projects to crystalize thinking on the right way forward for their product. It will support projects to:  

    • Engage with employers to really understand the problem they are trying to solve, the real needs of the learners and the market for the product
    • Develop a deeper understanding of how to approach the development of the idea – incorporating learning design / pedagogy, product development and how to approach scaling
    • Build the relationships (with partners, stakeholders, contractors etc) required to test out how viable the idea is and whether to take it forward to the next stage of development  

    The findings of the discovery phase will inform the Stage 2 application, should the project wish to progress the idea.  

    Projects must: 

    • Focus on vocational learning
    • Provide an innovative digital solution to a defined learning issue
    • Offer new learning tools, not just new learning content
    • Understand who the users and the customers will be and the likely route to market
    • Have ambition for the future growth of the project and a vision for how it could be scaled
    • Be willing to enter a discovery phase, to learn and shape their thinking as a result.   

    What kinds of organisations can apply? 

    The call 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.   

    For this call we are particularly interested in applications from organisations who don’t necessarily have a track record in developing and delivering digital learning products in the vocational market. We are keen to support applications from organisations who have a strong understanding of and good connections to their target market. 

    All organisations who apply should be willing to enter a discovery phase, to learn and shape their thinking as a result.  The discovery phase is intended to provide the time to help projects to determine whether to proceed with their original product proposals or to adapt their path; and needs applicants who are sufficiently flexible and open-minded to undertake this process.  

    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. 

    Our approach to collaborations 

    We know that applications can be strengthened by demonstrating a collaborative approach, especially where employers and digital learning specialists are working together. We are flexible about how collaborative activities are structured, and details of how this will work should be set out in the application.

    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. 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. 

    To help you understand what Ufi is likely to fund, here are some sources of further information and guidance.

    Help for applicants 


    Events to help - join us at a workshop 

    Sign up for a webinar with our CEO


    We are looking for projects which have a new digital solution for a vocational learning need. Successful applicants have projects which bring both the technology and the route to learners.

    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 info@ufi.co.uk.  

    Frequently Asked Questions

    For more information about the application process and more technical advice regarding what is needed,
    please visit our Frequently Asked Questions