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Social Incubator Fund

Supporting social incubators to provide investment and intensive support to early stage social ventures
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Funding size:
£50,000 - £1.5 million
Application deadline:
This programme is now closed for applications

What's it all about?

2 women painting

The £10 million Social Incubator Fund is being delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of the Office for Civil Society (OCS). It aims to help drive a robust pipeline of start-up social ventures into the social investment market, by increasing focus on incubation support, and attracting new incubators into the market. This is not funding for frontline social ventures; the Social Incubator Fund provides grants to social incubators, a portion of which forms an investment book which must be invested in social ventures using non-grant financial structures.

The first round of the Social Incubator Fund launched in July 2012, and was aimed at established social incubators based and operating primarily in England. You can read more here The second round, which was also open to newer social incubators, launched in May 2013. The Social Incubator Fund is currently closed to applications, as all of the initial £10 million allocated to the programme has now been committed. OCS is assessing the impact of the current awards before deciding whether to run a third round.

Round one saw four organisations receive funding totalling almost £5 million in early 2013. Just over £6 million was awarded to a further six organisations in March 2014. You can read more about all ten social incubators, which between them represent a wide variety of geographic and thematic coverage, here:

What are we looking for?

The Social Incubator Fund will increase the finance available at early stages of enterprise where the financial return is too low and/or the financial risk is too high for Big Society Capital and other investors. We wanted to fund projects that would bring about the following programme outcomes:

  • Improved quality and quantity of early stage social ventures going on to seek financial support from the Investment and Contract Readiness Fund and/or social investment intermediaries;
  • Improved signposting between social investment intermediaries for early stage social ventures, particularly to enable them to secure further investment if appropriate; and
  • Increased numbers of social investors making investments into early stage social ventures.
To be eligible for the Social Incubator Fund, applicants needed to meet our definition of a social incubator in the guidance and be able to offer all four of the following services:
  • provision of non-grant seed capital
  • business model development
  • access to expertise
  • access to space.

We expected social incubators to offer a portfolio of intensive support over a time-limited period and to each have the capacity to help at least 50 social ventures over the life of the project.