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Derby's Rolls-Royce leads the way for UK innovation funding, with £689 million

Derby's Rolls-Royce leads the way for UK innovation funding, with £689 million

Data reveals that Derby’s Rolls-Royce PLC has been awarded the most innovation funding of any UK company over the last 18 years. 

The research – conducted by intellectual property services and R&D tax credit experts GovGrant – analysed publicly available Innovate UK data. The global aerospace manufacturing giant has been awarded £689 million in funding by ‘the UK's national innovation agency’ Innovate UK*, equivalent to £38.2 million each year.

This is over four times more than any other company has received for their innovation projects, and accounts for 7% of all funding awarded by Innovate UK. 

Rolls-Royce helps to drive Derby’s thriving manufacturing economy — the city has over double the national average of people employed in the manufacturing sector, with almost 20% of employees**. The company employs about 9,000 people in Derby and has approximately 20,000 employees across the UK.

A fresh injection of Innovate UK funding recently led to Rolls-Royce creating an extra 200 apprenticeships each year, for at least the next 10 years, at the new Nuclear Skills Academy***.

Top five commercial recipients of Innovate UK funding

Rank Name Sector Location No. of fundings w/value Total value of funding (award offered)
1 ROLLS-ROYCE PLC C | Aerospace - Space East Midlands 214 £ 688,544,903.68
2 AIRBUS OPERATIONS LIMITED C | Aerospace - Space South West 58 £ 162,089,411.51
3 GKN AEROSPACE SERVICES LIMITED C | Aerospace - Space South East 47 £ 113,648,171.74
4 JAGUAR LAND ROVER LIMITED C | Machinery West Midlands 87 £ 75,317,582.97
5 AIRBUS UK LIMITED C | Aerospace - Space South West 43 £ 48,784,356.00


Overall, businesses in the East Midlands region have attracted 6.83% of funding from Innovation UK since 2004, worth over £400 million. This is the 6th highest figure from the UK’s 12 regions, ranking above Scotland (5.22%), the North West (5.17%), and Yorkshire and The Humber (4.09%).

Another East Midlands-based company to feature in the top 50 best-funded businesses for innovation is computer hardware makers Intelligent Energy Ltd. With £30 million of funding, it comes 11th on the list. Engineering consultant HORIBA MIRA Ltd also features, winning £17 million from Innovate UK since 2004.
Luke Hamm, CEO at GovGrant, said:

“Rolls-Royce is a compelling success story and it highlights the vital role that innovation funding plays in supporting local economies, and could contribute to the wider ‘levelling up’ agenda if targeted correctly. Innovation awards for Rolls-Royce are clearly contributing to the wider UK economy by financing training academies, filling the country’s talent pool with highly skilled people.

“It’s extraordinary that Rolls-Royce PLC has received 11.73% of all Innovate UK funding to commercial entities, which is a huge sum to be awarded to one company. This either underlines the importance of collaboration and the role large organisations play in our innovation economy, or brings into question whether the funding process is a level playing field for smaller businesses. However, I’m sure there are instances of SMEs local to Rolls-Royce locations – and collaborators across the UK – who experience a trickle-down effect from this funding.”

Neil Fraser, Director of Defence & Space Programmes at NSSLGlobal:

“The UK space industry supports over 45,000 jobs and brings in more than £15bn to the economy. Innovation funding is critical to help generate new technology and support ideas in this vital industry. The UK Space Agency, Innovate UK and the industry work together to make best use of public funding, which is usually “matched” by companies. Investment also helps the UK play important roles within international space agencies, including NASA and the European Space Agency.

“Innovation and collaboration is critical in several key areas. For example, Rolls Royce are partnered with Reaction Engines, who are developing high-speed aircraft propulsion systems, including for spacecraft. While programmes primed by innovation funding, such as UK Launch – with spaceports in Cornwall and Scotland – are bringing a whole new capability and much investment to the UK.

“It is vital that the UK continues to invest across multiple aerospace companies in key sectors – to support national security and critical services, whilst enabling economic growth and contributing to net zero targets.”

* The Commercial Data Set — removing the ‘non-commercial’ entities funded by Innovate UK, including Charities, Academic Institutions, RTOs, Catapults, Public Sector Research Establishments and Public Sector Organisations from the All Funding Data Set. This data set relates to £5,871,745,836.03 worth of funding, from 29,336 successful applications, associated with 14,043 entities.

** According to 


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