Prior research has indicated that small ventures are more inclined to pursue collaborative innovation to overcome lack of resources and access to new market with government support. But how government support can facilitate the formation of collaborative innovation by small ventures is less known. Small ventures, many of which are founder led or owned and managed by families, have different goals and less inertia in forming collaborations compared to large corporations. However, less is known about small ventures’ readiness in forming collaborative innovation. Using comparative case study method with polar sampling, we sampled four UK firms forming international collaborative innovation with Chinese organizations under a government funded innovation programme in the UK, a matrix comprising differences in ownership and collaboration status. The inductive analysis unveils the evolvement of collaborative innovation with a process view from the early formative stage throughout the process and the dark side of government support. Thus, this study contributes to the existing literature by providing understanding on the role of government funding at the formative stage of international collaborative innovation and propositions for future research avenues.