The funding provided is often correlated to a theme, sector, or industry trend such as carbon reduction or “smart city” ideas. It is the intersection between capital, innovation, and economic impact that makes the Innovate UK mission unique. “We give out government grants to support innovation for creative or collaborative R&D across the UK”, Ward continued. “So it has become our responsibility to provide systems that make these transactions easier for both our customers and our employees. That’s what led us to the cloud.”
Tracing the Link Between Innovation And Funding
On a daily basis, the Innovate UK Team received hundreds of paper applications from businesses eager to get their creative research funded. The standard pathway to acquiring the grants was two-fold: the application process (pre-customer signature) and the grants management process (post-customer signature). “Both pathways were traditionally very paper based and each was supported by a different system,” recalled Ward. “This meant that once the grant was distributed, there was no way to track the innovation outcome. We also didn’t have a repository for our monitoring offices to store this kind of information in one single place.”
It was the goal of Innovate UK to eliminate the paper from the process and have a consistent user journey internally and externally. In order to enhance the customer experience, paper applications were converted to a GDS-compliant frontend on the Innovate UK website -- making them searchable, accessible, and capable of being electronically submitted. Meanwhile for backend support, the team began scoping out the design for a digital, collaborative post-award grants management system. This would enable communication between multiple parties; and ensure project milestones could be met and monitored throughout the application lifecycle.
“Initially we just looked at how we would effectively log the progress of a project. For example, key points of contact, award amount, and project status. Then we wanted this information linked to a case or a claim that could be queried,” said Ward. The Innovate UK team had already begun utilizing Service Cloud to support their contact center and customer service operations, but sought to expand the scope to be more inclusive of tracking project outcomes. “That's when we decided to leverage where we already had Service Cloud, and extend its scope to linking the case and the project by using the Lightning platform to translate the core management of our backend processes”.