About the innovation fund


The "foundational economy" supplies essential goods and services, ensuring that Greater Manchester can function effectively.

It includes key workers, essential supply chains and infrastructure, culturally important goods and services (like hairdressing and beauty) and it underpins places, other parts of the economy, and well-being.

It’s the “everyday economy”, or the “essential economy” – the businesses we all rely on for our daily needs.

The foundational economy accounts for over 42% of jobs in the city-region and it is made up of more than 60,000 businesses.

It has a big effect on the levels of innovation and business sustainability, employment practices, the quality of work available, and income levels across Greater Manchester.

The true value of many of our foundational economy sectors has never been more apparent than during the pandemic response, when our key workers and industries kept us going through the emergency response and beyond.

Who is the innovation fund for?

We’re starting with four sectors:

  • adult social care
  • early education and childcare
  • retail
  • hospitality, leisure and tourism

The fund is for you, if you:

  • own or run a business, social enterprise or cooperative in these sectors
  • support or represent a cluster of businesses in one of these sectors
  • can provide technology and / or innovative solutions or new ideas that could be used in one of these sectors

What are the challenges and opportunities?

We want to support projects that test new and emerging ideas to address one or more of the following challenges and opportunities.

How your project addresses these challenges is up to you!

Funding can be used to further develop ideas and innovations, or to test these ideas in a practical setting.

Across all the challenge and opportunity areas we are interested in projects that are able to support outcomes for residents across Greater Manchester with protected characteristics, improving the lives of people across all our neighbourhoods, regardless of age, background, gender, culture or beliefs. 

Further details are below, as well as some examples of projects that would and would not be eligible.

Expression of Interest Form - closing December 15

Please note these are just examples to guide you, please tell us about your idea even if you are unsure if it is eligible.  

Keeping it local

Innovations that support local and sustainable supply chains within Greater Manchester.

Examples of eligible projects

  • Testing the creation of a circular economy model relating to a particular food production system via sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible
  • Projects that make it easier for local buyers and suppliers to connect with each other in new ways
  • Directly developing localised supply chains by developing new products from materials produced in GM

Examples of projects that would not be eligible

  • Using grant funding to subsidise supply chain cost

Greener, cheaper and more resilient

This covers innovations that reduce or manage energy consumption and costs for businesses, helping to decrease carbon emissions.

Examples of eligible projects

  • Developing a platform for hospitality or retail businesses to optimise stock deliveries to reduce carbon emissions
  • Activity to spread knowledge and encourage foundational economy businesses to reduce their carbon emissions
  • Implementing new technology to reduce the carbon emissions of food and drink production on site at a hospitality venue

Examples of projects that would not be eligible

  • Insulating a building premises

New ways of working

Innovations that help create or integrate new ways of delivering your current services or products more efficiently, productively or to a higher standard for workers or customers, including by re-thinking your approach to resourcing, staffing and the adoption or development of technology.

Examples of eligible projects

  • Creating a digital portal to simplify process for market traders applying for licences across multiple local authority areas
  • Using smart home technologies to explore if data can be used to improve effectiveness and efficiency of domiciliary care
  • Creating shared back-office functions for early education providers

Examples of projects that would not be eligible

  • Upgrading tills or other business ICT which use is already common in the sector
  • Hiring more staff into existing types of roles to expand the size of a business

Supporting the workforce

This area covers innovations that help with the recruitment and retention of staff, including new ways of delivering in work training, upskilling the workforce, and engaging with freelancers and the self-employed.

Examples of eligible projects

  • Creating micro enterprises or umbrella structures to create different ways for residents to connect with and get support from local care organisations
  • Developing ways to trade skills and staff time through a time banking system
  • Developing new service models to increase the stability of seasonal workers
  • Creating a bank or agency of early education practitioners who can provide cover for absent staff in settings across one or multiple local authority areas

Examples of projects that would not be eligible

  • Subsidising standard industry training

Foundational Economy Challenge home page

What you need to know