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SpeechKit secures Innovate UK Smart Grant to develop custom AI voices

SpeechKit secures Innovate UK Smart Grant to develop custom AI voices

Last year, after hearing of the success of other businesses, we decided to make an application for an Innovate UK Smart Grant, to support the development of custom AI voices.

We’re pleased to announce successful funding!

What is the Innovate UK Smart Grant?

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), drives economic growth by supporting research and development at companies that show potential for considerable economic impact. The Smart Grant program awards government backing to “game-changing”, disruptive ideas that can provide evidence for future profitability.

Our funding goals

Our application focused on the development of a voice cloning system that allows us to quickly and efficiently develop and deploy custom text-to-speech voices. These voices allow publishers of any size, from bloggers and institutions to global companies, to transform and enrich their text content using audio.

Our mission at SpeechKit is to build the best text-to-speech tools for our customers, putting audio on every article, every story, every report...every readable piece of content on the internet. For this to happen, publishers and companies need to control what they sound like. Furthermore, custom voices, tuned to the ears of a particular audience, resonate more deeply.

Additionally, for AI voices to become ubiquitous throughout online publishing, we need to make this technology affordable for customers large and small. Grant funding allows us to develop more efficient training models, requiring less data at a smaller cost.

The application process

For founders looking into Innovate UK funding, here are some insights into our experience.

In general, we’ve been really impressed with the Innovate UK process. We were required to give more detail than we originally anticipated, but bureaucracy has been minimal so far. We used a consultant, Grantify, to help us draft the application.

The initial application process took approximately 20 hours, spent getting the plan on paper (within the word limit) and doing the required market research, technical documentation, budgeting, risk analysis, and work package plan. This required the four project participants to work together, remotely, iterating the plan.

Despite being tedious at times, it was a really worthwhile exercise, and not just for the purpose of winning funding: it helped us articulate a vision for AI voices we were yet to put on paper. The questions in the grant also helped us to build our plans for our seed raise, which also benefited from the Innovate UK stamp of approval.

Screenshot of Innovate UK's response to our application, reads: This is an excellent application. The team have the capabilities and experience to deliver the project. The project plan is realistic and has been well thought out. The funding should represent excellent value to the tax payer.
A UK Innovate judge's response to our application

Success!

Our application was marked successful on 5 February, subject to thorough financial checks which took another two to three months. We were appointed a Monitoring Officer, who we’re to report to every quarter for the duration of the 12-month project, and who reports to Innovate UK, confirming our progress as we submit it.

Innovate UK reimburses 50% of costs related to the project as they’re reported. These are exclusively R&D-related: marketing, sales, and other technical costs are not covered. We’re only permitted to employ workers in the UK, or who are employed through PAYE.

Our team are massively grateful to be supported by Innovate UK and the UK government. We’re excited to reinforce our business with the investment and push custom voices to the next level.

Interested in developing a custom AI voice with SpeechKit?

Our article-to-audio technology makes large-scale audio publishing simple and affordable, and we can develop custom AI voices that truly speak to your audience. Email [email protected] to learn more.

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