Grant Opportunities

Innovate UK Smart Grants

Innovate UK Smart Grants


Deadline: 22 April 2020

Opportunity to apply for a share of up to £25 million to deliver ambitious or disruptive R&D innovations that can make a significant impact on the UK economy. Smart is the new name for Innovate UK’s ‘Open grant funding’ programme.

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Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £25 million in the best game-changing and commercially viable innovative or disruptive ideas. All proposals must be business focused.


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Applications can come from any area of technology and be applied to any part of the economy, such as but not exclusively:

The arts, design and media;
Creative industries;
Science or engineering.
Your proposal must demonstrate:

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A clear game-changing, innovative and/or disruptive and ambitious idea leading to new products, processes or services;
An idea that is significantly ahead of others in the field, set for rapid commercialisation;
A strong and deliverable business plan that addresses (and documents) market potential and needs;
A clear, evidence based plan to deliver significant economic impact, return on investment (ROI) and growth through commercialisation, as soon as possible after project completion;
A team, business arrangement or working structure with the necessary skills and experience to run and complete the project successfully and on time;
Sound, practical financial plans and timelines;
Awareness of all the main risks the project will face (including contractor or equipment failure, recruitment delays, etc) with realistic management, mitigation and impact minimisation plans for each risk;
Clear, considerable potential to significantly impact the UK economy and/or productivity in a positive way;
Good value for money, which will always be a consideration in Innovate UK funding decisions.
Funding Information

Duration between 6 and 18 months and total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £500,000: can be single or collaborative. Duration between 19 and 36 months and total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £2 million: must be collaborative.

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Projects Innovate UK will not fund

Innovate UK will not fund proposals that do not:

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Meet the competition eligibility or scope;
Address the size, potential and access to market for the innovation;
Evidence the potential for their idea or concept to lead to significant return on investment (ROI), positive economic impact, growth and scale-up of the business.
Specific Themes

Innovate UK give preference to applications that demonstrate realistic, significant potential for global markets;
Proposals from innovation-based businesses with significant ambition and potential for growth or scale-up are welcome;
Where possible, projects should take customer and user needs into account to deliver more desirable and useful solutions.
Research Categories

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Innovate UK will fund innovative research and development (R&D) projects across a variety of technologies, markets and research categories, including:
Feasibility, including market research;
Industrial research;
Experimental development;
Projects can be at different levels of technological maturity, up to but not including commercialisation.
Eligibility Criteria

Any UK business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time Innovate UK confirm you will be awarded funding. If you are unsure please take legal advice;
Lead organisation
To lead a project you must:
Be a UK based business of any size or a research and technology organisation (RTO);
Carry out your R&D project activity in the UK;
Intend to commercially exploit the project results from or in the UK;
Be an SME if you want to work alone;
Include at least one SME if you are a large business or RTO and wish to collaborate with other businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities;
Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone;
Single applicants must claim funding. If the project is collaborative, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding and enter your costs as part of the application.
Project team
To collaborate with the lead organisation you must:
Be a UK based business, academic organisation, charity, public sector organisation or RTO;
Carry out your R&D project activity in the UK;
Intend to commercially exploit the project results from or in the UK;
Be invited to take part by the lead applicant;
Enter your costs in the Innovation Funding Service.
Partners with no funding
Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs but they will not count as collaborators.
Multiple applications
UK registered businesses or RTOs can only lead on one application in each competition round;
If more than one application is submitted with the same lead, only the first application will be considered for assessment;
All partners can collaborate on any number of applications.
Research and technology organisations (RTOs)
If you are an RTO then the following rules apply:
To lead you must have 2 or more business collaborators (one SME, and one other business of any size);
There must be a credible route to market for the output of the project, and since the purpose of RTOs is to speed up the progress of those using their services, this is expected to be through the partners, rather than through the RTO itself;
If you are a project partner, you can participate as either a research organisation, and receive 100% grant, or as a business entity, and be reimbursed a percentage of your eligible costs, depending upon your size and the nature of the work;
If participating as a business, you must show that the match funding you are providing comes from entirely private sector sources, across all projects you are involved in. You must also be able to show how you will exploit the results of the project to grow the wider sector.
How to Apply

If you want to submit a project between 19 months and 36 months with total project costs between £2 million and £3 million as a permitted exception, you must submit projects electronically by email.
You must give full justification at least 10 days before the competition closes. Do not submit your application until Innovate UK write to approve your request.
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