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Calls for applications to the UK Games Fund will go live in early January 2020. Before the festive break our Founding Director, Paul Durrant, wanted to share some insights into the way our 2020 funding will work to give you a head start in thinking about how to approach the application.

Our approach to supporting applicants has been refined over five funding rounds. One of the key things we’ve learned has been the need to engage with applicants several times before we make a decision and we’ve been increasing the level of our interaction with funded companies pre-decision steadily over the past couple of years. That increased interaction has meant we ultimately funded all seventeen of our short-listed applicants from Round 5 because we knew them better than we did earlier at the application stage. We need to have the extended contact to best understand how the proposition of our grant and other support represents an input that will help deliver a sustainable business.

As guardians of public money we need to ensure that our funding won’t be wasted in a short life company. Of course, the failure rate amongst early stage businesses is high. We do recognise the risks and challenges that our applicants face. We don’t expect overnight success. However, we do try and de-risk our investment somewhat by ensuring that the businesses we fund survive for a reasonable period post-funding so that they have a decent number of attempts at success. These attempts will not be confined to our financial and other support. We expect companies to be “bootstrapping” their finances through a variety of measures like contract work, income from other sales, or personal investment. Success might come from a different route to us, but our support will be part of the jigsaw of things that help to make it happen. We expect all of your ideas in that regard to be part of a coherent plan that you provide us with at application stage, so that we can discuss it with you during the process. One of the primary success factors we’ve identified has been where supported companies have had a clear vision of how they are going to achieve success.

The example we often give is that of Hutch who we funded in our predecessor project. They had their sights set on “making the best racing games for mobile”. That sounds seductively simple, but what it meant for them was recruiting the most talented team of developers who shared their vision. That meant that any engagement they had with a funder or investor allowed anyone in the team to be able to impart that vision with passion, enthusiasm and knowledge of how they would get there. They also released early titles to audiences quickly and learned from the feedback and analytics. The resulting knowledge flow meant that the team could base design decisions on evidence, and that confidence further reinforced the positive impression the team could give to funders. They secured early income and bootstrapped until investment came. A huge chunk of what drives fundability, publishing deals and investment is the people. That’s really what seals the deal in many cases. So when you come to apply, make sure that you articulate your vision, the evidence that underpins it and the people strengths that will deliver it.

The higher levels of engagement with applicants mentioned above has included the notion of providing ¬£5k and consumer show exposure as an expression of confidence whilst teams work to develop their proposition. We’ll be continuing that approach in the next funding round.

Part of the application process for 2020 will include sections on Business Sustainability and Growth plans. In summary, you’ll need to tell us:

  • One or more likely positive outcomes as a result of our funding and the impact those outcomes are likely to have to your journey
  • How you plan to reach a sustainable on-going business either as an end point or by securing an opportunity from our funds to build towards it
  • The journey, past present and future (even if the past is in a different entity, tell us what you learned that’s relevant)
  • What might change with our involvement?

Applications to the UK Games Fund will open early in the new year. The UK Games Fund team will be available for any questions applicants may have when the details go live. For those attending PocketGamer Connects in London next month, representatives from the UK Games Fund team will be at the event.

Application Support Webinars will take place on Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th January (register here). The webinars will not be recorded.

For the latest news and updates about the forthcoming round of funding, follow us on Twitter.