What is Innovate Social Tech?
Innovate Social Tech is a new grant programme from Social Tech Trust that supports innovative ventures to transform lives with tech.
Innovate Social Tech builds on a decade of our pioneering grant funding, nurturing social tech ventures to realise their potential in a supportive ecosystem. At Social Tech Trust, we recognise the game-changing potential of grant funding and flexible support for early-stage innovation, enabling ventures to grow, attract further investment and scale their social impact.
We offer bespoke technical assistance alongside our grant funding, delivered by a team with extensive specialist experience – and great networks too.
Focused on the theme of ‘Tech to Unite Us’, Innovate Social Tech’s first round will open on Monday 2nd July 2018.
What is Tech to Unite Us?
Tech to Unite Us is the inaugural £0.5m grant fund of our Innovate Social Tech programme. It aims to demonstrate how tech can reach its transformative potential when it’s driven by one of the greatest opportunities of our time – equality. Eligible ventures can apply for a grant of up to £45K over a 9-12-month funding period. Technical assistance is provided to accelerate venture growth.
Eligibility criteria for Tech to Unite Us
Which social challenges could Tech to Unite Us include?
The Stage 1 application asks “what problem are you trying to solve?” and “what is your solution to this problem?”. Any venture applying to Tech to Unite Us should be able to articulate how the problem they are trying to solve promotes equality.
This could be in many ways, for example increasing access, opportunity or quality of outcomes in terms of wealth, health, education, political participation, community engagement, social justice and so forth. We encourage your interpretation of the theme and believe that unity is a foundational step to addressing inequality, so if you’re using tech to bring people together in a way that values their diverse contributions and you meet the criteria, you should apply!
Preference will be given to ventures with a social mission and an innovative approach which is potentially transformative – that is, it reimagines how we address the social challenge. If you want just to add tech to existing services to make them more efficient or cost-effective, then Tech to Unite Us is not the fund for you.
Tell me more about the application criteria...
1. A social mission
- To be eligible for our grant, you should have a social mission written into your organisation’s governance or be open to do so. We want your venture to be sustainable but to also maintain a social focus throughout.
2. Potential for transformative social impact at scale
- Your team is working towards an ambitious vision of transformational social change, driving your venture to achieve it.
- Your team has a deep understanding of the social challenge, who is affected and how.
- The social challenge that drives your venture is recognised as critical (for example, through the Global Goals or UK government and civil society priorities).
- Your venture is addressing the root causes of the challenge or transforming the current approach to it.
- You understand where your venture fits into complex systems and markets, including the importance of context, unintended consequences, and feedback loops.
- Your venture’s ambition is to scale – reaching as many people as possible, maximising your social impact.
- You have plans to access further funding and investment to facilitate growth alongside this grant.
- You can accept a grant with participation rights.
3. An innovative approach
- Your desire for social transformation is driving new technological approaches to a social challenge.
- Your approach is different from (or builds upon) existing work in this area – this could be through a creative business model, by harnessing emerging tech, or using existing tech in a new and transformative way.
- You know who your competitors and collaborators are. There may even be an opportunity for your venture to influence the development of the tech that you’re using so that social value becomes deeply embedded in its design from the outset.
4. A working product or service; in the ‘demonstration stage’
- Your team has a working product or service that you will still be testing and improving through continued user testing and increasingly rigorous social impact evaluation.
- If you are still at a concept or paper prototype phase, or if you have an established product or service that has already received significant investment and is self-sustaining , then your venture is not at the right stage for Innovate Social Tech.
5. Evidence of your potential to create user, social and financial value
- Your venture has validated demand – you can evidence that people want your product and are able to use it.
- You will be improving your product with input from selected users gathered through observation, analytics, baseline survey, feedback, etc.
- You have identified some indicators that will enable you to measure and communicate the social impact of your product.
- You have a theory of change that you can start testing.
- You can articulate a clear and testable Business Model hypothesis- including a clear value proposition.
- You have prospective partnerships or routes to market. You are exploring possibilities for additional funding (e.g. grants, crowdfunding, angel investment, etc.).
6. The right team
- Your venture has a core skilled team with capacity to deliver, values and commitment necessary to achieve your vision. In-house tech skills is mandatory for Tech to Unite Us.
- You are growing your network of partners and advisors.
7. Registration as a UK-based organisation and the potential for social impact in the UK
- Your venture is (or is part of) a registered company, social enterprise, charity, local authority, or cooperative in the UK.
- Your venture has the potential for social impact in the UK, even if your current programmes or users are outside of the UK.
I'm not sure if my venture is at 'demonstration stage'. Explain more...
Here are some guidelines that should help you decide if your venture is at the ‘demonstration stage’.
- You are developing a working product – you will still be testing, improving and fixing your product over the next year, but it will be available for people to use outside of your organisation e.g. as a Beta release
- You have a vision – you will have assembled a core team with the skills, values and commitment necessary to achieve your vision. You are working on growing your network of partners and advisors.
- User Value
- You are working on validating demand – evidence that people want to and can use your product.
- You have done some user testing and you are committed to developing and improving your product through feedback, with input from selected users gathered through observation, analytics, baseline surveys etc.
- Social Value
- You have identified social KPIs – the indicators that will enable you to measure and communicate the social impact of your product
- You have a theory of change that you can articulate and start testing
- Financial Value
- You can articulate a clear and testable business model hypothesis – including a clear value proposition
- You are working towards securing additional funding (e.g. grants, crowdfunding, angel investment, etc.) beyond this grant
After the 9-12 month funding period, with our support and technical assistance, we expect our ventures to be at the ‘develop stage’:
- You will be bringing your working product to first release – a social tech product that is stable, scalable and refined through continuous user testing.
- You will be poised to develop your team including key functions such as finance, sales and in-house tech
- You will be establishing expert advisors and networks
- Your team will be ready to transition from testing and developing to delivering and maintaining ongoing service provision
- User Value
- You will have the metrics in place to capture evidence of traction and growth, including user numbers, retention, conversion rates, etc.
- You will start gathering positive user feedback and recommendations, product champions and advocates
- Social Value
- You will be able to present increasingly robust evidence of social value e.g. distance-travelled by users measured through pre- and post-quantitative testing
- You will have a Social Impact Framework – including evidence of impact that can be shared with partners and investors (quantitative and qualitative)
- Financial Value
- You are engaging routes to market
- You are poised to secure investment and early revenue generation
- You are ready to test your Business Hypotheses – including metrics such as cost per acquisition and customer lifetime value
- You are gathering evidence of growing and sustainable revenue
How much funding can we apply for?
You should apply for the amount of funding needed to deliver the phase of development that is described in your application, taking into consideration the availability of match funding and other sources of support.
However, each of our investment programmes specify a maximum grant size that will be considered; please refer to the details of the investment programme to which you are applying for this information.
Any top tips for submitting our application?
You can start your application, save it, and come back to it as many times as you like before submitting. The Stage 1 application is designed to take your core team members a few hours to pull together and submit.
The 90 second video is a chance for your team to “pitch” your innovation, and for us to get to know your team, so please make sure your team appears in it (as opposed to an animation, for example). The video doesn’t need to be professional quality (a phone video is fine) – it’s the quality of the pitch that matters. Please send us your video via a YouTube or Vimeo link and ensure that is not private, or if it is that you include your password.
How can we track our application’s progress?
You can check the status of your application at any time by logging into your My Account area on our website.
All application forms received are acknowledged by an automated email. We aim to respond by email to Stage 1 Applications around two weeks after the deadline date. If your Stage 1 application is accepted, we will invite you to submit a detailed and costed Stage 2 application.
You will be notified of the outcome of your Stage 2 application via email.
We’re unable to provide detailed feedback on each application at Stage 1, however at Stage 2 you will receive an email indicating the key factors in determining the outcome of your application.
If you have any queries about the progress of your application, you can contact us on 01865 334000 or email: email@example.com
What is a grant with participation rights?
Grant funding with participation rights is a grant where the grant funder has the option to participate in a subsequent funding round, when the venture is looking to raise further investment.
Social Tech Trust will provide grant funding with participation rights. This will mean that as part of this grant we will have the option to invest in your next two qualifying funding rounds, up to a total of 5% equity in your company where applicable, at a discounted rate.
Our aim is to work with all our ventures to maximise reach and impact through sustainably scaling. Granting with participation rights is one way of doing this and allows you to continue a relationship with a trusted partner who understands fully your ambition for growth, sustainability and your social impact at scale.
Not all ventures we fund will be able to offer participation rights (for example charities) so please review the governance you have in place. In these scenarios our funding will remain as a grant for the period we have agreed.
For all our ventures, whether we participate in an investment round or not, our ambition is to ensure that you grow and scale your social impact and attract further investment whatever form that may take.
All this will be covered in the terms and conditions of our agreement with you. If you would like to discuss this further then please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you only fund UK-based ventures?
The legally registered organisation which is the recipient of the funds should be based in the UK. However, we will consider applications from UK-registered entities which have social impact beyond the UK, for example, ventures operating in multiple regions.
Do you fund hardware, software or connectivity costs?
We will give consideration to funding requests to cover hardware, software or connectivity costs – but only if they are fundamental to successful project delivery. In this case, any hardware, software or connectivity costs should form only a small percentage of the overall investment, and your applications should provide transparent details on all such costs. Hardware or infrastructure procurement projects will not be considered.
Do you fund staff and other core costs?
We will fund the costs of staff directly involved in delivering your venture e.g. project managers, designers, developers or marketeers. We do not provide funding to cover organisational running costs e.g. rent, utilities.
What is technical assistance?
‘Technical assistance’ is a package of non-financial support tailored to meet your venture’s needs. Our team will work with you to understand the areas where you need support and connect you with advice and guidance from mentors and experts to support the development and growth of your venture. Throughout the funding period we’ll also host opportunities for collective learning and networking.
Will we receive all of the funding we have applied for?
Not necessarily. The level of investment awarded is sometimes different from that requested. This can be for a number of reasons. For example, you may have included items in your budget (e.g. hardware or organisational overheads) that we do not fund; we may think there are opportunities to deliver your project more cost effectively; or we may feel that you could seek match-funding for some of the costs.
Where we feel the amount of investment needs to be reconsidered, one of our team will get in touch to discuss your application and review the alternative options available.
What is your approach to Intellectual Property (IP)?
The Intellectual Property (IP) rests and remains with the applicant for ventures supported by Social Tech Trust. This includes IP generated with Social Tech Trust funding. The only restrictions we have around IP are part of our funding agreement and state that ventures we support are bound not to infringe the copyright or other intellectual property rights of any third party as part of their work.
Monitoring and evaluation
If we are successful in our application, what kind of monitoring and reporting should we expect to do?
When we refer to monitoring, we mean how you collect information about what is happening in your venture and report to us on your progress.
There are two main reasons we monitor your progress:
- We invested in you because we believe in your team and we want to see you succeed. We understand the need for flexibility for early-stage innovation, and we can provide you with the best support if we have structured opportunities for reflection, and honest discussions about what is and isn’t working and why.
- We also need to articulate and evidence the activities and impact that our investments make in the world. This is essential to achieving our vision: we can’t demonstrate tech’s transformative potential without the evidence.
We’ll work together from the beginning of the funding to make sure that the monitoring and reporting you do for us helps you to improve and refine your proposition, deliver the best value (user, social and financial) and build your case for further support.
We have a standard Monitoring Form, which you will be asked to complete online at regular intervals during your funding period (e.g. quarterly). It is a mix of qualitative reporting against your project plan (which can be updated to accommodate necessary changes) and quantitative reporting – for example, your growing number of users. We also ask for updated budgets so we can keep track of the investment.
What do you mean by evaluation?
Evaluation has two main goals. Firstly, to help understand and demonstrate the difference your work has made to people lives (i.e. outcomes and impact). Secondly, to generate useful insights, identify good practice key lessons learned e.g. what works for whom under what circumstances?
Social Tech Trust believes that in order to make a positive difference in people’s lives, it is important to develop mission-led organisations that are financially viable, and engaged with the people they serve. Therefore, evaluation has to be holistic i.e. whilst the main focus is the difference made to people’s lives (social value), it is also important to evaluate your organisation’s social business model (financial value) and its ability to meet people’s needs and behaviours (user value). To help do this the Trust has created resources for social tech organisations, such as the Social Tech Trust Canvas and worked in partnership with Shift Design to produce http://progressively.org.uk/
What happens if we don’t meet our project objectives?
We know early-innovation carries risk and can require changes in plans (pivots) based on user testing. That said, if you are at risk of not meeting your objectives, or if your objectives change, we need to be informed as soon as possible. We will always try to offer the necessary support to help you mitigate risks. However, there are sanctions for non-delivery in our Funding Agreement, which we could invoke if necessary (e.g. the team is not transparent about not meeting objectives).
What types of ventures does Social Tech Trust fund?
We’ve invested in hundreds of ventures using tech to address social challenges: from Open Bionics’ work developing 3D printed bionic hands, to Night Zookeeper’s creative digital platform using machine learning to provide early diagnosis of dyslexia in children.
Our portfolio shows the breadth of ventures we have funded previously, as well as those we are still supporting.
Our current theme is ‘Tech to Unite Us’ and is open for applications on Monday 2nd July 2018.
What is Social Tech Trust's vision?
Our vision is for a world where social transformation is the driving force behind tech.
Tech can open up opportunities previously out of reach, creating inspirational change. Our experience shows that when social transformation is the driving force behind tech, it has the greatest potential to improve lives. This is why we want a world where people’s needs inform and shape tech from the outset, to deliver the best return for everyone.
How can I work with Social Tech Trust?
Only by working together can we build a future where social transformation is the driving force behind tech.
Beyond our direct grants and investments, we’re expanding our network to create a global community. If you share our vision of a world in which positive and equitable social impact is ‘baked into’ tech design and development, and want to join a growing network of partners to leverage shared skills, insight and capital, then get in touch.