27 Nov 2023

Innovate UK Smart Grant – A guide to successful application answers

Matt Symonds

Innovate UK Smart Grant – A guide to successful application answers


TBAT is a leading consultancy with over 20 years’ experience working with technology/research and development organisations all over the UK; helping them to innovate. We believe that our funding services are crucial to helping companies enable their R&D projects.

Some Innovate UK funding competitions have a success rate of under 10%. With that in mind, we believe that knowledge is power, so we have written this document as a how-to guide when it comes to writing a high-scoring Innovate UK application. We have addressed some key areas individually with a few top tips for the questions along the way!

Section 1: Project details (not scored)

This section provides background for your application and is not scored.

It looks at your application team, application details, research category, project summary, public description and scope.

Section 2: Application Questions

Question 1: Application location (not scored)

You must provide the full name and registered address of your organization along with those of any partners or subcontractors involved in your project.
This information is gathered to ascertain the geographical locations of all applicants involved. Your answer can be up to 400 words.

Question 2: Your Idea and Innovation

This question asks you to consider and explain the idea and innovation you are looking to develop and why it is game changing. You are asked to explain the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity that is the main motivation of the project. This may seem obvious, but it is crucial that this part of your application clearly outlines that your project and the reason behind it falls into the competition scope.

You must also detail the nearest comparative state-of-the-art and its limitations as well as how your solution exceeds or overcomes these, along with any work you have already performed to respond to the need and the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural and/or political challenges that are influential in creating the opportunity. The response to this question sets up the whole application.

If this part of the application doesn’t make it crystal clear that your innovation is game-changing and has a strong commercial potential, then regardless of how strong the rest of the application is you will get off on the wrong foot. Don’t leave anything to guesswork for the assessors. Remember to use the available appendix to support your answer, providing imagery and supportive evidence to augment your answer.

TOP TIP: Use clear language, substantiate all your claims, and remember that the assessors may not be experts in your sector, so avoid using acronyms and highly technical language where possible.

Question 3: Justification for Funding

The assessors want to know what impact the public funding will have on the project. Ideally, your application answers so far will have already told a compelling case as to why your project should be funded but the assessors are looking for an answer that explains why you are applying for the funding and why you are ready for funding at this point in time. They want to know whether the project could go ahead without funding, and the difference the funding will make e.g. faster to market, reduced risk. 

Highlight what impact the project will have on the businesses involved and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful.  

TOP TIP: They want to see that by funding this project, it will significantly increase the industrial partners’ R&D spend during the project and afterwards. 

Question 4: The potential Market

To answer this question, you need to show you understand the potential market for your project. You need to describe the markets you will be targeting in depth, with details such as the size of target markets specifically for your project outcomes (preferably backed up with references where available), and the dynamics of the market e.g. is it growing? How fast and what trends affect it?

You need to identify the current UK position in targeting these markets and any barriers to entry that exist. The Innovate UK Smart grant aims to support applicants and projects with a high chance of successful commercialisation. To demonstrate likelihood you must detail the conversations, relationships and any letters of interest or support you have gathered from potential customers, end users or even the supply chain. Evidence your market research and detail the return on investment forecast.

TOP TIP: Don’t claim too much! The assessors are aware of what is possible, and they want to see that investing public money in this project is going to be value for money. Consider if there is any early revenue potential which de-risks the bigger picture.

Question 5: Impact and Benefits

In this question you are addressing the benefits for the project partners, and further impacts outside of the project. The assessor needs to see how you are going to grow your business and increase productivity long-term as a result of the project. You must also consider the economic, social, environmental and regional impacts, both negative and positive, with evidence. Explain whether the project will lead to the creation of jobs, changes in regulation, health and safety, changes in quality of life for those that will use the end result? Make sure you consider the equality, diversity and inclusion of you innovation. 

This answer needs to appear credible to the assessor. Your projections for growth and market share must be robust and on a realistic timescale – they are trying to establish whether the project is likely to succeed. Be clear about the further steps needed to achieve commercialisation, including the immediate opportunities after completing the project successfully. 

TOP TIP: The assessor needs to see that you have measured the potential negative impacts. They should be described and fully mitigated where appropriate. If you don’t, it will negatively impact your scoring. 

Question 6: Delivering your project

Who is in the project team, why do you have the right skills and experience to succeed, and how will you successfully deliver your project? You need to include a bio of each person within the project team, their role, skills and experience that are relevant to the approach you are taking. You also need to detail the resources, project management tools, equipment and facilities you need for the project, how you will access them and any subcontractors you need to work with to make the project successful.  

If you have project partners, you need to include details on the current relationships and how these will change as a result of the project.  

The assessors need to know that the consortium is likely to work well and are well placed to carry out the project and exploit the results. You are asked to explain the post-project stages and commitments to commercialise. In addition this question has two appendices for the Project Plan and Risk Register, make sure these are detailed and comprehensive to utilise the space provided effectively. 

TOP TIP: The assessors are looking to ensure that the partners and people involved in the project have all of the required skills and resources to deliver  and commercialise the project. 

Question 7: Value for money

This is where to include a full breakdown of all the project costs, how much you need and how it represents value for money. You need to provide full detail behind large costs so the assessors can see that these are justified. Most competitions do not provide 100% project costs, so you need to clearly define where the match funding is coming from for the balance of the project. The assessors are looking for value for money, if the proposed project costs are right for the complexity and size of the project and justification of all costs. 

TOP TIP: Make sure your resource allocation and costs in the project plan match the labour costs, and don’t be vague with descriptions of costs. 

Section 3: Finances

Each organisation involved in your project is required to individually fill out their project costs, organisation information, and funding details within the application.

Section 4: Project Impact (not scored)

This section is intended to provide background for your project. Each partner within the project must complete the Project Impact questions before you are able to submit your application.


With all the information that is required you must bear in mind that each question only allows for an answer within a limited word count – getting the large amount of information needed into such a short answer is a skill that our grant writing consultants have mastered!

That skill along with our technological backgrounds and extensive knowledge of what the Innovate UK assessors are looking for is what makes our grant service so unique and successful. Our grant funding services range from full bid writing to review of applications before submission and re-submission, along with consultancy to assist with any research needed to fill in knowledge gaps before an application is written.

Our bid writing success rate over the last 12 months is 77%, showing that our expertise goes a long way to helping organisations be successfully awarded funding! If you are interested in using any of our services to increase your chances of being successfully awarded Innovate UK funding, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

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