Digital user experience driving Digital Innovation Funding Service success

The digitisation of the Government’s Innovation Funding Service (IFS) is helping to transform the UK economy and support business growth further through improved accessibility and usability.

The UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK developed its large-scale, end-to-end online grants application and processing service with its design led by strategic UX agency, Nomensa. Innovate UK has already supported over 7,600 businesses and helped to create 55,000 jobs through facilitating over £500m per year of innovation funding.  The new system has allowed users to benefit from increased functionality, improved collaboration, increased visibility of applications and improved the calibre of applications.

SMEs make up 99.9% of all businesses in the UK and with low levels of innovation being cited as one of the key factors holding the UK economy back, improving accessibility and usability of the IFS through exemplar digital transformation was more important than ever.

Sarah Vodden, service manager, Innovate UK, said “Innovation has always proved challenging, particularly for smaller SMEs due to limited resources and access to investment and funding. By digitising our service and improving how businesses can access funding, we have made it easier for UK businesses of all sizes to develop innovative ideas into real opportunities for growth, ultimately helping to boost the UK economy.”

Previously, all applications for funding were paper-based and it was difficult for applicants to understand what type of grant or how to apply.  Not only were there risks associated with this, but the time taken to process applications meant considerably increased waiting times to get new innovations to market.

Sarah continues, “One of our long term goals is to drive the next generation of industrial strategy to stimulate innovation in the UK.  To do this we needed a platform that was fit for purpose that could serve our ‘always on economy’ in the digital world we are living in. So one of the first things we looked at was getting a team with the right skills to help us look at how we could make it as easy as possible for businesses to apply and access funding using the Government’s digital design framework (GDS).”

Nomensa used an agile methodology to deliver the online service focusing on the user and utilising customer feedback to adapt the service continuously throughout the design process. Delivered through iterative work cycles, agile allowed for the effective management of a multidisciplinary team, delivering on time and on budget.

Sally Lincoln, managing director of Nomensa, said:  “Our work with Innovate UK has created a legacy we are proud of. The project, which took two years to complete, was all about the team coming together to deliver exceptional user experiences through the delivery of digital design excellence.  We introduced a user-focused way of thinking, putting people at the heart of the design process, so working with them to introduce the GDS design framework and testing every part of the development cycle to.

“Taking a collaborative approach has been instrumental to the success of this project.  Our delivery manager led a multidisciplinary, multivendor team of more than 50 people across five agencies helping to share best practice, deliver multiple work streams at speed, plug any knowledge gaps for the client and deliver UX and design excellence in line with the GDS design framework.”

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