What types of projects will the fund support

Applications for the Foundational Economy Innovation Fund are now closed, successful projects will be announced Spring 2023

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 per cent 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: 

  • Health and social care 
  • Early education and childcare (0-5 years)  
  • Retail and personal services 
  • Hospitality and leisure 

You are eligible for the fund 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? 

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

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 we are interested in projects that are able to support outcomes for residents across Greater Manchester who experience inequalities, improving the lives of people with protected characteristics, as well as people experiencing or at risk of socio-economic disadvantage, including those with lower income or carers, ex-offenders and armed forces veterans. 

Further details are below, as well as some examples of projects that would be eligible.  

There is also a list of “Ineligible Project Activity” listed below. Any application which includes proposed activity listed as "Ineligible Project Activity” as per the list below will not pass “Stage 1 – Gateway Criteria” of the judging process and will be removed from the judging process 

The wording of the challenges has been clarified following the Expression of Interest phase. 

Localising supply chains 

Innovations that support local, sustainable and circular supply chains. Circular supply chains being those that share, lease, reuse, repair, refurbish, and recycle existing materials and products for as long as possible 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 

Low carbon and net-zero 

Innovations that reduce or manage energy consumption and costs for businesses, helping to decrease carbon emissions. Low carbon and net-zero - innovations that reduce or manage energy consumption and carbon emissions, including via the development and testing of new technology, as well as new systems and initiatives to use and share resources more efficiently or reduce the use of resources. 

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 

More effective services and products  

Innovations that help create or integrate new ways of delivering your current services or products to a higher standard by doing things more efficiently and effectively. This could include re-thinking your approach to resourcing, organising work, and the adoption or development of technology. This is not about expanding or fundamentally changing the services or products you provide, but instead doing what you do already, better. 

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 

Supporting the workforce 

Innovations that help with developing, recruiting and retaining staff. This could include new ways of upskilling the workforce, improving progression routes or providing greater flexibility of working patterns and security of hours worked. This could also include finding new ways to connect employers and potential employees, including the self-employed and those who have struggled to find stable work, particularly individuals experiencing inequalities. This does not include using funds to subsidise staff to conduct business as usual activity, the use of monetary incentives, or the purchasing of wellbeing services. 

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 


Ineligible project activity  

  • Subsidising standard industry training or wellbeing support 
  • Subsidising business as usual activity including the hiring of new staff to do existing roles or functions to expand the size of an organisation 
  • Subsidising consumer prices or providing vouchers   
  • Advertising or the promotion of existing products and services 
  • Providing bonuses, finical incentives or sponsorship monies for staff 
  • Upgrading tills, EOPS systems, booking systems or other business ICT which is already commonly used in the sector 
  • The purchase of readily available energy efficiency solutions (e.g., solar panels, insulation, or ground source heat pumps) on the marketplace unless it can be justified that the use of this would be innovative or contribute to further development and learning regarding this solution 
  • Upgrading, expanding, or adding new physical structures to your premises, or purchasing a new premises, unless this activity is one aspect of an innovation to address one of the challenges