Innovate UK Smart Grants

An Introduction to Innovate UK Smart Grants

In the ever-evolving landscape of technological progress and business transformation, maintaining a leading position in innovation is essential for companies aiming not just to survive but to thrive. Innovate UK Smart Grants serve as a guiding light for enterprises in search of financial backing to turn their ground-breaking concepts into tangible realities.

Managed by Innovate UK, the UK government’s innovation agency, the Smart Grants initiative aims to foster innovation across various industries, providing a vital lifeline for businesses committed to pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

To qualify for these grants, your business must present either:

  1. An innovative idea for a completely new product, service, or process.
  2. A novel application or an unprecedented use for an existing product, service, or process that elevates it beyond current offerings.

Importantly, the scope is not confined to any particular industry or technology sector. If successful, the proposed idea should be something in demand, compelling people to use it and willing to pay for its benefits.

These grants target projects that signify a significant leap in innovation compared to existing solutions, holding strong potential for commercialisation both within the UK and on the global stage.

Focusing on Innovate UK Smart Projects

While a dataset encompassing all funded projects by Innovate UK is accessible, its comprehensiveness is restricted, presenting limitations in the depth of available information. TBAT Innovation consistently make freedom of information (FOI) requests post Smart competitions, seeking additional insights into the distribution of funds.

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The Smart award funding is of particular interest due to being open to all innovation types and its inherently competitive nature. Examining the period from January 2020 to September 2022, the average success rates reveal a competitive landscape, with stream 1 (feasibility studies) at 6.3% and stream 2 (development projects, closer to market) at 7%.

Focusing on stream 1 between January 2020 and September 2022 only, 648 projects were awarded. The yearly breakdown illustrates a fluctuating pattern, with 190 projects in 2020, a rise to 249 in 2021, followed by a dip to 209 in 2022. Notably, the average grant value has increased over this time frame, from £252,836 in November 2020 to £317,379 in October 2022.


Success in these applications demands a high score, with the average lowest scoring funded project achieving 83.4%. Stream 2 is equally competitive, with an average of 84.7%. Looking deeper into the project costs in the stream 1 October 2022 applications, the majority (51%) of applicants apply for project costs between £400-500k. This band is also where the most successful applicants (60.5%) are funded.


Total Project Cost (£) Number of Applicants Number of successful Applicants
£0-£100,000 0 0
£100,001 – £200,000 135 8
£200,001 – £300,000 160 8
£300, 001 – £400,000 164 12
£400, 001 – £500,000 475 43


Stream 2 witnessed a lower number of applicants (71) compared to the substantial 714 in stream 1, seeking funds within the range of £200,000 to £2,000,000. Unlike stream 1, the distribution of project costs in stream 2 is more varied, with 49% between £600,000 to £1,200,000 in value and 18% between £1.9 and £2 million. The majority of funded projects (83%) were in the £600,000 and £1.2 million bracket.


Total Project Cost (£) Number of Applicants Number of successful Applicants
£200,001 – £400,000 3 0
£400,001 – £600,000 3 0
£600,001 – £800,000 12 1
£800,001 – £1,000,000 11 2
£1,000,001 – £1,200,000 12 2
£1,200,001 – £1,400,000 8 0
£1,400,001 – £1,600,000 5 0
£1,600,001 – £1,800,000 4 0
£1,900,001 – £2,000,000 13 1


An analysis was conducted on project categories and the number of projects funded in the period from January 2020 to October 2022. The findings show that projects developing technology under “digital technology” consistently make up the highest number of funded Smart projects. “Digital Industry” and “diagnostics, medical technology and devices” also exhibit strong performance in terms of funding.


Projects Funded January 2020 October 2021 October 2022
1st Digital technology (17) Digital technology (7)
Creative industries (7)
Digital technology (7)
2nd Digital technology (16) Biosciences (5)
3rd Diagnostics, medical technology, and devices (11) Diagnostics, medical technology, and devices (5) Digital Industries (4)


In conclusion, Innovate UK Smart Grants emerge as a crucial catalyst for businesses navigating the dynamic intersection of innovation, technology, and market competitiveness. Understanding the nuances of successful applications, including high scoring requirements and optimal project costs, is paramount for businesses navigating the landscape of Innovate UK Smart Grants.

As these grants continue to fuel innovation, the collaborative efforts of businesses and Innovate UK contribute to shaping a future where ground-breaking ideas become the driving force behind economic growth and technological evolution. Companies that are awarded with Innovate UK Smart grants follow a long line of businesses that have achieved success through financial backing. Notable examples include Swiftkey, the predictive keyboard app acquired by Microsoft in a significant deal valued at around $250 million, as well as Photocentric, a manufacturer specialising in 3D printers and resins.

How can TBAT Innovation help?

Our Grant Funding team is well-equipped to support Smart grant applications, offering expertise in the application process, strategic planning in line with Smart objectives, budgeting assistance, score maximisation, incorporating feedback from previous applications, project focus refinement, support with project monitoring and reporting and much more.

If you are considering an application for Innovate UK Smart funding, reach out to us today. We are keen to discuss how we can contribute to the success of your business.


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Further Information

Get in touch with
Clare Fairfield