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Top 10 funding innovations you should know

Funding and investment for social innovation

There is rising investment in social innovation coming from both public, private and third-sector organisations. In particular, philanthropic and larger foundations are increasing their investment, but also aligning their strategic focus to ensure investment and funding achieves the maximum social impact. Below, we have listed 10 different  examples of different kinds of funding initiatives that are supporting social innovation across Europe. Of course there  are several more, which we will be featuring over the coming months….



Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation - The foundation's work focuses on fostering knowledge and raising the quality of life of persons throughout the fields of the arts, charity, science and education. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is a Portuguese private institution of public utility, located in Lisbon, which was created by its founder’s will, Calouste Sakis Gulbenkian. The Foundation develops a wide range of activities in Portugal and abroad, namely African Portuguese Speaking Countries and East Timor, within the framework of its statutory aims: Arts, Health and Human Development, Science and Education. The Gulbenkian Foundation has an orchestra and a choir, two museums, a science research institute, a delegation in London – the UK Branch and the Calouste Gulbenkian Cultural Centre, in Paris. Facing the XXI century challenges that Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation aims to find innovative solutions to the major social issues.

Lankelly Chase, UK - Lankelly Chase are moving away from traditional grant making (where money is the main and sometimes only consideration) towards a place where they work closely together with their partners to develop their individual and collective theory and practice. With this, they aim to ensure that effective support truly reaches those in society who need it most.

Robert Bosch Foundation - Their projects and programs tackle social challenges in order to develop solutions and bring about change. They also support third-party projects that are submitted and that correspond with funding goals. They are active in 5 areas of support: Science, Health, International Relations, Education, Society. The Robert Bosch Stiftung takes on social discussions and problems as early as possible in order to illustrate exemplary solutions and generate impetus that can be harnessed by others. Cooperative agreements with their partners – other foundations and state and private institutions – promote the exchange of experiences and a practical approach. They also increase the amount of financial support for projects. Depending on the issue and the associated strategic direction, the foundation will decide whether to implement a project themselves or whether to seek cooperation with a partner organization.

Comic Relief - In 2016, Comic Relief launched a new grants strategy. The strategy marks a change in how they work with grantees, with the aim to be more proactive and agile in grant making. They give details on their website or all initiatives open for applications in the UK and around the world.

Nesta - They support a small number of exceptional ideas that meet Nesta’s aims as a charity, and if they can't help they point out who can. Nesta have three different ways that they can support new initiatives - through grant funding, direct investment or challenge prizes.


Public sector

European Commission - Here, individuals and projects can find open and upcoming calls for funding proposals, get background information on funding processes and programmes, and apply online. They can also learn about the tendering process and opportunities for doing business with the European Commission.


Crowd funding

Crowdfunder websites such as crowdcube UK, Fundedbyme Sweden, Ulule France - These examples are funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people. Crowdfunding is a form of crowdsourcing and of alternative finance. In 2015, it was estimated that worldwide over US$34 billion was raised this way.


Prizes and competitions

European social innovation competition - This is an annual competition awarded by the European Commission. Participants present projects aimed at tackling social challenges around a particular theme, and three winners are selected to each receive 50,000 Euros in order to realise their projects.


Early stage project funding

UnLtd - UnLtd provides support to social entrepreneurs in the UK and offers the largest such network in the world. UnLtd resources hundreds of individuals each year through its core Awards programme. UnLtd operates a unique model by investing directly in individuals and offering a complete package of resources; from awards of funding to ongoing advice, networking and practical support.


Research Funding

European research council - The ERC's mission is to encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding and to support investigator-driven frontier research across all fields, on the basis of scientific excellence. The ERC complements other funding activities in Europe such as those of the national research funding agencies, and is a flagship component of Horizon 2020, the European Union's Research Framework Programme for 2014 to 2020.


Other helpful resources:

Directory of social change - The Directory of Social Change (DSC) produces a number of guides and directories for those seeking funding.

Welcome Europe - directory Welcome Europe database is an information service of available funding and grants from the European Commission. All type of organisations from public to non profit, as well as private companies and sectors are eligible throughout Europe and worldwide.  

Start-Up Europe: The One Stop Shop - Here you will find a central meeting point for startups in Europe to access all the information they need to grow and thrive in Europe.