Innovate UK Smart grants: April 2024

Key Features

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £25 million for game-changing and commercially viable R&D innovations that can significantly impact the UK economy. This funding is from Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £25 million

Opens: 25th Apr 2024

Closes: 24th Jul 2024

Overview

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £25 million in the best game-changing and world-leading ideas, designed for swift, successful commercialisation.

Scope

The Innovate UK Smart grant supports micro, small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and their partners develop the best game-changing and world-leading innovative R&D projects. It offers funding where other opportunities are not available or appropriate, and where timing is key to ensure swift and successful commercialisation post-project completion.

To be in scope your proposal must demonstrate:

  • a ground-breaking and innovative idea for brand new products, processes or services
  • an idea that is significantly different from already available products, processes or services globally
  • an idea that is set for rapid commercialisation following project completion
  • clear potential to positively impact the UK’s position, productivity and competitiveness within the global economy
  • a clear, evidence-based business plan to deliver significant economic impact, return on investment (ROI) and growth through commercialisation, as soon as possible after project completion
  • why Smart funding is the right potential funding for your project, and the journey you have already been on to reach the point of application
  • a team with the necessary skills and expertise to deliver the project successfully and on time, and to achieve rapid commercialisation
  • awareness of all the main risks the project will face with realistic management, mitigation and impact minimisation plans for each risk
  • sound, practical financial plans and timelines that represent good value for money, including the funding of post-project activities

Specific themes

Your project must focus on:

  • taking customer and user needs into account to deliver more desirable and useful solutions
  • identifying who is ready to buy your innovation
  • being developed, planned and resourced beyond the end of the Innovate UK funded project, taking into account the focus of any project partners and their existing commitments
  • fitting in with and complementing your ongoing business planning and development, product offerings and organisational structure to maximise chances of success

Eligibility

If your project does not meet the eligibility criteria for this competition it will not be sent for assessment.

Your project must:

  • start by 1 January 2025
  • end by 31 December 2026
  • include at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) as the lead or a collaborative grant claiming partner
  • follow specific rules depending on its duration
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

The end by date is the latest date by which all funding for this round of the competition must end. Your contracted end date will not be extended.

Projects must always start on the first of the month and this must be stated within your application. Your project start date will be reflected in your grant offer letter if you are successful.

If your project’s duration is 6 to 18 months, it must:

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

If your project’s duration is 19 to 24 months, it must:

  • have total eligible project costs between £100,000 and £1 million
  • be collaborative

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian or Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered SME if you wish to work alone
  • be a UK registered business of any size, or a research and technology organisation (RTO) if your proposal is collaborative
  • include at least one grant claiming SME if you are a large business or research and technology organisations and wish to collaborate with other UK registered businesses, RTOs, academic organisations, public sector organisations or charities
  • claim grant funding

More information on the different types of organisation can be found in our Funding rules.

If the lead organisation is an RTO it must collaborate with at least two businesses (one SME and one business of any size) and there must be a credible route to market for the output of the project. Since the purpose of RTOs is to speed up the process of those using their services this is expected to be through the other project partners, rather than the RTO itself.

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service (IFS) by the lead to collaborate on a project. They will then appear on your application as collaboration partners. Once partners have accepted the invitation, they will be asked to login or to create an account in IFS. They are responsible for entering their own project costs and completing their Project Impact questions in the application.

To be an eligible collaboration, the lead and at least one other organisation must apply for funding when entering their costs into the application.

Including collaboration partners within your question responses is not sufficient for an application to be considered collaborative. You must follow the above instructions to meet the eligibility requirement for collaborative proposals.

Non-funded partners

Your project can include UK partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding. Their costs will count towards the total project costs.

Subcontractors

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors must be based in the UK for the duration of the project and their portion of the project work must be carried out in the UK. Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

For the purposes of this competition the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are crown dependencies and not classed as part of the UK. Subcontractors located there would be ineligible.

Subcontractors are not considered collaboration partners.

Number of applications

A business or research and technology organisation (RTO) can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in two further applications.

This limit extends to current owners, directors and persons of significant interest, prohibiting them from leading multiple submissions through different entities. Any subsequent applications submitted with the same lead will be ineligible and will not be forwarded for assessment.

All project partners can collaborate on any number of applications.

Use of animals in research and innovation

Innovate UK expects and supports the provision and safeguarding of welfare standards for animals used in research and innovation, according to best practice and up to date guidance.

Any projects selected for funding which involve animals will be asked to provide additional information on welfare and ethical considerations, as well as compliance with any relevant legislation as part of the project start-up process. This information will be reviewed before an award is made.

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

Exclusions

Innovate UK are not funding projects:

  • that do not meet the competition scope or eligibility criteria
  • where the technology is already available
  • that do not address the size, potential and access to market for their innovation
  • that do not evidence the potential for their idea to lead to significant return on investment (ROI), positive economic impact, growth and scale-up of the business
  • that do not provide clear and realistic plans to commercialise their innovation as soon as possible, post-project completion
  • where other Innovate UK funding support is available and more appropriate

Innovate UK will not fund commercialisation activities such as marketing and sales.

Innovate UK cannot fund projects that are:

  • dependent on export performance, for example, giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it exports a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example, giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it uses 50% UK flour in their product

Funding Costs

Up to £25 million is available to fund innovation projects in this competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

If your organisation’s work on the project is commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

The balance between your total project costs and the amount of grant awarded must be funded by the organisation receiving the grant.

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 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

Research participation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them. Of that 30% you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-S registered institution such as an academic
  • 100% of your project costs if you are an RTO, charity, not for profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation

Interested in applying for this competition?

Book an appointment to speak to one of our advisors to discuss your eligibility to apply for this Grant Funding opportunity.