What is the Prototype Fund?
Abertay University's business support office is providing grants of up to £25,000 for small companies (based anywhere in the UK) that are developing their own games or other forms of interactive digital content. Our aim is to foster economic growth, facilitate job creation, and improve skills development in the sector. Abertay University does not take ownership of any IP or equity created during the project.
How do I apply to the fund?
There are two ways to apply to the fund.
The first is via the direct route of application, via http://prototypefund.abertay.ac.uk/
as and when rounds are open. Applicants are invited to submit their proposal without a set brief. The criteria against which proposals are assessed can be found below.
If you are unsure about the eligibility of your project, please send a one-page summary of your idea to Prototypefund@abertay.ac.uk
before submitting a proposal. The Prototype Team will do their utmost to come back to you but a review response does not guarantee success with the full application. Please make sure you have read these FAQ fully first.
Applicants are asked to submit an application form (available as download on the site) via email to Prototypefund@abertay.ac.uk
The second route of application to the fund is via contests. More information on the contests can be found in question section 21.
How long does the application process last?
On average, from a round opening to a company beginning work on their project can last 3-4 months.
- Round open - 6-8 weeks
- Eligibility filter - 1 week
- Formal review - 3-4 weeks
- Face-to-face pitches - 1 week
- Final selection - 1 week
After each stage applicants will be informed of progress.
Companies have 3 months from the issue of the offer letter to begin the project. Most companies take at least 4-8 weeks to get going. The Prototype Team will support you in setting up your project, but final decisions lie with you.
How often are rounds open?
Rounds are now open approximately every 2-3 months. For more information on exact dates visit our website
, or join our LinkedIn group
What are the criteria of the Prototype Fund?
There are weighted criteria to ensure alignment with the following fund objectives:
- Economic impact through downstream employment
- Company growth around original owned IP
- Company creation leading to sustainable businesses
- Skills development/graduate work experience for UK graduates
We only support projects that are commercial.
Applications will be subject to a formal review and a shortlisted group will be invited to pitch at a regional location (to be advised). At that stage, successful applicants will then enter into a final negotiation prior to issue of an offer of grant.
The criteria under consideration will be:
- The planned route to market
- Commercial viability
- Potential for success
- Business scalability and capacity
We may introduce round-specific criteria from time to time. More information on the definition of each of these criteria can be found in the Application Overview document
If I've previously applied but been unsuccessful, am I allowed to reapply?
Yes. Be aware that if you're submitting a proposal for the same idea then you are unlikely to be successful. Where requested, the Prototype Team will try to come back to you with feedback. However, this cannot be guaranteed and is subject to workload.
Am I allowed to submit more than one project per round?
No. If you do submit more than one application the Prototype Team will either ask you to select one, or we will be unable to review any of your applications.
What is "interactive digital IP"?
Generally, by "interactive digital IP", we're looking for projects that make use of games technology, with programming, realtime interactive graphics and mathematics all being used in production of the prototype.
If you're thinking of applying to the fund with an app or website idea, please bear this in mind.
The key test is that the project is creating some new content-based IP, and in turn building a sustainable business, so we recommend thinking about how your application could meet that.
How long can my prototype project last?
This is entirely dependent on how you spend the grant. Typically, most companies run their project for 3-6 months. The more people you have on the team, the shorter the project will be and the quicker you'll go through the money. Successful applicants are entitled to use funding from other sources to extend the project or use a larger team if needed.
When can a project start?
The Prototype Team will not slow you down or rush you through the project. However, we do ask that companies who do accept an offer letter start work on their project within three months of receipt. This requirement may become tighter towards the end of our funding.
Projects that have not started within three months could potentially have their funding withdrawn. This is so that we can maintain an efficient portfolio.
What platforms can we work on?
We will consider any platform, but keep in mind the answer to question 7. Successful applicants will likely need to provide their own devices or development kits if they plan to work on mobile or console projects.
How many team members can work on the project?
On average, we see prototype teams being made up of 4-6 members. The Prototype Fund will not dictate how many team members you should have but we do not accept one-person teams. Be sensible when projecting how many people you'll need; the more you have, the quicker you'll go through the money. As mentioned in answer to question 8, successful applicants are entitled to use funding from other sources to extend the project or use a larger team if needed.
What is meant by "60 days' working capital"?
As the grant is paid in arrears we ask that companies have funds available to cover up to 60 days of work (approximately 8 weeks).
This is because work must be carried out and paid for before being claimed, and the minimum claim period is 4 weeks.
Claims are paid as quickly as possible, but could take up to 4 weeks to process.
When submitting a grant claim, companies are asked to produce proof of payment (PAYE slips, bank statements, signed contractor receipts). This process is quick to set up but in the interest of protecting company finances we do ask that 60 days' working capital be available. See question 14 for more information on the grant claim process.
What does the Grant Repayment mechanism look like?
Grant recipients don't repay it unless your project is successful in normal commercial terms or you breach grant conditions.
- Companies themselves can define the mechanism used so that it suits their particular project and business.
- Typically we see mechanisms whereby the company has earned enough to develop their next title before they start to pay back (a trigger point), and then they pay a percentage of revenue until the grant amount plus some value is returned.
- Companies often also include the option to make a lump sum payment instead, to cover the case of them receiving a publishing deal (or if they want to sell the IP to some other company) - typically this is grant value plus 20%.
The purpose of the repayment mechanism is purely to enable the Prototype Fund to sustain its own funding so that we can keep on supporting companies.
What is the grant claim process?
Grant claims are paid against costs that you have already incurred, so when you are ready to make a claim, you will need to fill out a Sample Claim Form
When you submit a claim, we will review it against both financial and project criteria.
With your grant claim form, you will need to provide the following evidence:
- For Salaries, we need to see Pay Slips and Bank Statements showing payment.
- For National Insurance, we will need a Bank Statement showing the payment to HMRC.
- For Contractors, we will need an Invoice, a Receipt from the Contractor, and a Bank Statement showing the payment.
- Note: If you are VAT registered you cannot claim input VAT. If you are not registered then you can.
So that we may track the project's progress, you will normally be expected to submit a build of the game that demonstrates the work being claimed for.
We may accept other forms of project evidence where necessary.
Don't worry, if you are successfully awarded funding by the Prototype Fund, we will support you in bringing together the above requirements. You will be provided with a paper copy of the claim form, but a digital version can be provided upon request.
What costs are eligible under the fund?
Labour costs only. We don't fund capital expenses, but we do offer the opportunity to companies throughout the UK to make use of the Prototyping Studio at Abertay University if they wish. This is an industry standard open-plan studio equipped with both standard software and hardware needs.
Does Abertay University take a share of equity?
Does Abertay University own any IP created in the project?
If my team is made up of graduates only, am I still eligible to apply?
Yes. If your team is a graduate team, you should ensure that every effort is made in your application to prove that the team's experience is sufficient enough to make the project a success. Be careful not to overdo it though, our reviewers will quickly identify that! However, if you're looking to apply with the aim to have a team made up entirely of the Talent Pool that is not permissible.
Does my company have to be established before I apply to the fund?
No. However, if you are successful your company does have to be registered with Companies House
before work to be funded by the grant can begin.
What about de minimis state aid?
Our funding is classified as de minimis state aid. The maximum de minimis funding any single recipient can receive is Euros 200,000 over a rolling, three fiscal year period. If you have received grant funding from other UK public or European funded sources you need to be sure you're not going over the limit.
For more information, visit State Aid
What about payments to directors who are part of the development team?
We do recognise that small start-ups often need the directors to be hands-on content creators for the funded project. However, in order to be eligible you have to treat the directors as regular employees for PAYE purposes and deduct tax and NI etc. normally (as opposed to accounting rules that allow directors to account for tax and NI annually and use dividends and directors loan accounts for drawings). Your accountant will be able to make any necessary adjustments later. If you need to claim grant funding against director's costs this is the only way we can operate.
What are commissioning contests?
From time to time we may develop funding contests with third parties who can bring benefits to SME games developers. In these instances we will ring fence awards from the fund for a specific purpose, provided it benefits UK interactive digital content developers. We have already run contests with the TSB's IC Tomorrow, EMI, National Geographic, Turbulenz and Antix Laboratories as partners looking to develop a games-related application for their content/platform.
What exactly is the Talent Pool?
As part of the Prototype Fund, we have created a pool of talented students and graduates (from Abertay and other UK universities) with relevant skills to be able to support successfully funded projects (where suitable matches and availability can be found).
How does the Talent Pool work?
The Talent Pool has been put together to help funded projects fill skill gaps in the team. It's a win-win situation when the Talent Pool can help move a project forward as it benefits not only the project owner, but the experience given the student or graduate is invaluable. This is a key aspect of the aim of the Prototype Fund; to develop up-and-coming talent as well as to provide support to interactive IP development.
When used, Talent Pool members will be paid via Abertay University at a rate equivalent to the minimum hourly rate. Students or graduates will be required to assign all IP created in the project as they will be involved in the project on a work-for-hire basis.
Alternatively, if a company wanted to pay any Talent Pool team member more than the statutory minimum wage they are able to pay them directly.
What is the rate of pay for the Talent Pool?
The standard rate of pay is minimum wage (currently set to £6.08 per hour, £6.19 for over 21's). However, as employees the Talent Pool are entitled to holiday pay and the project owner should consider NI contributions. We advise successful applicants to project hourly rates of £8 p/h to include these costs. As mentioned in answer to question 24, if a company wanted to pay any Talent Pool team member more than the statutory minimum wage they are able to pay them directly.
Do Talent Pool team members get paid more if the project is London-based?
Due to higher living costs in London, we encourage companies to forecast a higher rate of pay for any team members, including any from the Talent Pool. A suggested rate of £10 p/h is advised. If this is suitable for your project, you would pay the Talent pool team member(s) directly. As such, you will be responsible for personnel and finance duties.
How do I access the Talent Pool?
Be as clear as you can in your application what it is you're looking for. We'll do our best to help you fill the gaps, but ultimately
the responsibility of recruitment for those roles lies with you. Any candidate that we put forward to you is subject to your
approval process. Although the Talent Pool is made up of eager and skilled students and graduates, the resources we can offer
to you are finite and there is no guarantee of finding a match.
If you have a preference for any graduates that you know aren't in the Talent Pool, if eligible they may join and be allocated to
Although Abertay University will provide personnel and payroll support to any Talent Pool members placed on project teams, it
is the responsibility of the project owner to act as manager.
Must I use Abertay University graduates?
No, absolutely not. We are doing this to support graduates from any university with the appropriate skills and eligibility for UK work.
Is preference given to teams who use Abertay University graduates?
Is the Talent Pool strictly for teams who are successful in applying to the Prototype Fund?
Can I get access to students for non-prototype projects?
If my application is successful, must my project be based in Scotland?
No. The Prototype Fund is a UK-wide project. Depending on the applicant's preferences, projects will either be located in the prototyping studio at Abertay University (where equipment and software will be provided) or alternatively at other partner University locations around the UK.
Where possible or preferable projects may also be located at the SME's own premises. We recommend that development is carried out on a single site to facilitate communication and foster skills development for the graduate or student team members.
As such, applicants wishing to use their own premises may have to provide additional desks, equipment, and software for any Talent Pool team members.
Companies are welcome to use the Prototyping Studio at Abertay University. Networking opportunities and advice will be available from our own staff, other companies using the studio, and local businesses. These opportunities may be expanded upon with other shared resources as we continue to foster a creative development environment for all involved.
Must my company be located in the UK?
Yes, you must be both based and operating within the UK.
Is preference given to Scottish companies?
What funds make up the Prototype Fund project?
Abertay University has invested over £1m from reserves and combined this with grants from the European Regional Development Fund administered by the Scottish Government and UK Government funding administered by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.
What is your definition of an SME?
What about confidentiality?
The University will not sign NDAs where requested to do so, although we do of course treat any communication, information, or application in confidence within the support team and evaluators and advisers. We encourage applicants and grant recipients to be open about their projects as we believe true commercial value comes from the mix of unique talents of the development team combined with the idea and business model and as such is difficult to replicate.
Does the Fund only support software development or hardware development too?
The Fund only supports labour costs of software development.
Can I speak to someone directly?
Yes. Before putting you in touch with someone directly we ask that you check the rest of this FAQ and website to see if your question is already answered, or if you have a specific question relating to your project then we ask that you submit a onepage summary of your proposal to Prototypefund@abertay.ac.uk