Innovate UK Smart Grants explained

Innovate UK’s Smart Grants program is investing up to £25 million in game-changing, world leading ideas that have a fast commercialisation potential and economic return for the UK economy. 

Genuinely new and novel ideas will get access to grant funding to accelerate their development and rapid commercialisation in the form of an innovative project.

All projects must be business focused, with deliverable, realistic, adequately resourced plans to achieve return on investment, growth and market share following project completion.

New applications for Smart Grant funding can come from any area of technology and be applied to any part of the economy.

Is my business eligible for Innovate UK's Smart Grant?

To be eligible for an innovation grant, there are a number of requirements you’ll need to meet. Firstly, your project idea must be new and game changing with rapid economic and commercialisation potential for the UK economy. Your project must also start and finish within the specified project timescales. Projects usually last between 6 – 18 months or 19 – 36 months and have different funding levels. 

You must include at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) as the lead or a collaborative grant claiming partner, and finally, all project work must be carried out in the UK, and all intended outcomes from the project to be deployed from or in the UK.

Not after innovation funding? Find out more about other types of business grants you may be eligible for.

How Swoop can help

Step number 1

Identify grants

At Swoop we will work to understand your business and aspirations so that we can best match your project to the most suitable grant funds. Your chance of securing grant funding improves the more precisely your project fits with the scope of the relevant grant fund.

Step number 1
Identify grants
Match you with a grant writer
Step number 2

Match you with a grant writer

If you need some help with your application or just some finishing touches, we will match you to the best grant writers who will use their experience to deliver and submit the grant application as well as helping negotiate due diligence and any future grant funding needs.

Match you with a grant writer
Step number 3

Prepare application

Our grant writers will save you hours of time and energy in writing an application that is as strong as possible while keeping in regular contact with you to update you on the application progress.

Step number 3
Prepare application
Continued support
Step number 4

Continued support

Ensure you get the maximum value out of your grant funding through continued support and advice on best use of your grant.

Continued support
Andrea Reynolds, CEO & Founder
Andrea Reynolds
CEO & Founder

A word from Andrea

The Innovate UK Smart Grant exists as a way to fund novel, game changing ideas with clear commercialisation and economic benefit for the UK, using public funding in the form of grants. If your business focuses on research and development, this may be the right option for you.

Tips for applying​

Timing. Ensure you are applying at an appropriate stage and have a clear opportunity to take advantage of.

Clearly define the need or challenge you are seeking to address.

Write with a sense of urgency whilst staying relevant to your problem. Innovate UK needs to know why they should fund you now.

Back up all assumptions you make with secondary research (primary too if possible).

Be clear on your project outcomes and ensure they are measurable if possible.

Outline a timeline and projections of progress expected to be achieved as these will be monitored closely if you are successful.

Looking for other types of business grants?

The Swoop platform has over 100 business grant options for UK SMEs of different sizes and sectors – check your eligibility and apply quickly and easily.

Matt Vamplew

Page reviewed by, Matt Vamplew, Copywriter, on November 16, 2022 10:23 am

What is an Innovate UK Smart Grant?

The Innovate UK Smart Grant exists as a way to fund novel, game changing ideas with clear commercialisation and economic benefit for the UK, using public funding in the form of grants. 

Innovate UK funds projects that have a heavy focus on research and development (R&D).

How do Smart Grants work?

A grant is not a loan. Innovate UK does not invest in your business in return for a part of your business. You also do not need to pay the money back, provided you deliver on the project you set out to do.

The Smart Grant has a clear application process where you will need to answer a number of questions about what challenge or need you are addressing, what your Innovative solution is and how you will use public funding to deliver your project.

What can I use the funds for?

Innovate UK is very clear on what grant funding can and cannot be spent on.  All project costs must be spent in the UK with costs split into the following categories: 

  • Labour costs associated with paying employees to be on the project

  • Overhead costs related to indirect administration or direct overheads.

  • Material costs used directly on your project if they are purchased from third parties. Software is included in this.
  • Capital usage i.e. purchase of physical assets. You will need to consider depreciation here too.
  • Subcontract costs where all subcontractors  are based in the UK for the duration of the project and their portion of the project work must be carried out in the UK.
  • Travel and subsistence for those individuals identified in the labour costs.
  • Other costs which are not covered in the other categories.

Who is eligible for a Smart Grant?

To be eligible for an Innovate UK Smart Grant, there are a number of requirements you’ll need to meet:

  • Your project idea must be genuinely new and novel with rapid economic and commercialisation potential for the UK economy.
  • Your project must start and finish within the specified project timescales. Projects usually last between 6 – 18 months or 19 – 36 months and have different funding levels.
  • You must include at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) as the lead or a collaborative grant claiming partner.
  • All project work must be carried out in the UK and all intended outcomes from the project to be deployed from or in the UK.

How much funding could my business receive?

This will depend on your project duration and what research category you wish your project to fall under.

Innovate UK have two main categories they fund:

1) Experimental development 

These projects are focussed upon developing new or improved products, processes or services and may consist of prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real life operating conditions.

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 35% if you are a medium sized organisation
  • up to 25% if you are a large organisation

2) Feasibility study

These projects focussed on the analysis and evaluation of a project’s potential, aimed at supporting the process of decision making. 

This is achieved by uncovering the proposed solution and project strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as well as identifying the resources needed to deliver and the prospects for success.

These are more research intensive projects.

For feasibility studies and industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 60% if you are a medium sized organisation
  • up to 50% if you are a large organisation

For projects 6 to 18 months in duration:

  • must have total project costs between £100,000 and £500,000 
  • can be single or collaborative

For projects 19 to 36 months in duration:

  • have total project costs between £100,000 and £2 million 
  • be collaborative

For more information see UKRI’s research category definitions 

Do I have to repay an Innovate UK Smart Grant?

No you do not have to repay a Smart Grant, provided you deliver on the project you set out to do and meet the terms and conditions.

Who are Innovate UK?

Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency and is part of UK Research and Innovation.

 

According to their website, they “help UK businesses to grow through the development and commercialisation of new products, processes and services, supported by an outstanding innovation ecosystem that is agile, inclusive and easy to navigate.”

Who are UKRI?

United Kingdom Research and Innovation, UKRI for short, launched in 2018. UKRI is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

UKRI bring together the seven disciplinary research councils, Research England, which is responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in England, and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

Their vision is “for an outstanding research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit, enriching lives locally, nationally and internationally.”

What kind of projects won’t be funded?

Innovate UK will not fund projects that do not meet the eligibility requirements or scope.

They will also not fund projects where the technology is available or used in another sector, does not address the size, potential and access to market for their innovation and has no evidence for the potential for their idea to lead to significant return on investment (ROI), positive economic impact, growth and scale-up of the business.

Projects that do not provide clear and realistic plans to commercialise their innovation as soon as possible post-project completion will be rejected.

They will also not fund commercialisation activities such as marketing and sales. These innovative projects must be R&D focussed with commercialisation happening post project completion at your own expense.

When are the results announced?

Results are usually announced around 6-8 weeks after the submission date.

How does Innovate UK announce Smart Grant results?

Results are sent via email letting you know if you are successful or not. You can also log into your Innovate UK portal and review your application.

What are the success rates?

UK Smart grants are very competitive and have a successful rate of about 10%.

What will happen if I’m successful?

If you are successful, you will need to login into your Innovate UK portal and begin the next steps.

Where can I find further information?

More information about Innovate UK and funding opportunities can be found here: https://www.ukri.org/councils/innovate-uk/

How do I apply?

Innovate UK list all their open grant funding competitions here: https://apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/search

Simply search “Smart Grant” in the keywords box or look through yourself.

Written by

Matt Vamplew

Matthew is Co-Founder and CEO of Paranimo, an Innovate UK grant-funded mental health company. He spent his career working in innovation management and uses that experience, combined with being CEO of Paranimo, to advise innovative start-ups on taking their ideas to market – with a particular interest in grant funding.

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