Rolls-Royce top of the pile for innovation funding, new data reveals

New research has revealed that Rolls-Royce received the most innovation funding of any UK company over the last 18 years.

The Derby manufacturer was awarded £689m in funding by Innovate UK – equivalent to £38.2m a year – according to data compiled by R&D tax credit company GovGrant.

The figure is more than four times the amount any other company received for their innovation projects, and accounts for 7% of all funding awarded by Innovate UK.

Airbus Operations received the second largest amount at just over £162m, while GKN Aerospace came in third with £113.6m.

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

Overall, businesses in the East Midlands have attracted 6.83% of funding from Innovation UK since 2004, worth over £400m.

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, added: “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.”