13 Nov 2019

SMART Grants – What are the chances of success?

Bethan Roullier
Head of BD Grants

The Innovate UK SMART Grants Programme is open to all and funds disruptive innovations with high growth potential across any industry or sector. Through requesting information from UKRI, I have examined the statistics provided, regarding the success of previous rounds and discovered some interesting insights!

Over the last five rounds – three rounds of the Open competition and the first two revamped SMART competitions – Innovate UK has funded 364 projects with over £100m in grant funds awarded. However, the increasing popularity of the scheme has seen the overall success rate fall from 15% to 7% at its lowest.

With the update of the Open programme to the SMART programme the total budget allocation was increased from £10m per round to £25m per round. Whilst this injection of funds is great news for SMEs with innovative ideas, it has also driven up the number of applicants.

The SMART competition rounds have seen double the number of applications compared to the preceding Open competition rounds, with an average 1000 applications per round. Thus, the success rate of the SMART Grants: April competition (which closed in July) sat at just under 10%.

However, these top-level statistics do not reveal the full picture.

These competitions are split into two strands. The first is for projects of up to 18 months and up to £500,000 in total costs. These can be collaborative or led by a sole applicant. The second, is for larger collaborative bids, running up to 3 years in length and costing up to £2m.

Innovate UK divide their spending between these two strands. There is no set split between the two strands, as Innovate UK always look to fund the best and most promising projects, however, information from the past five rounds indicates an average preferential spend on the <18 month projects by 70:30.

Over the rounds 321 strand 1 projects have been supported with an average grant value of £210,000, compared to 43 strand 2 projects with an average grant value of £785,000.

Strand 1 is also more popular with applicants, receiving, on average, 3.5 times more applications than for larger strand 2 projects.

For the SMART Grants: April competition the success rates for each strand was: Strand 1 10.17%, Strand 2 5.37%.

These look like low odds of success however, if we dig further, we can examine this in more detail.

To even be considered for funding an application must score 70. In the first SMART competition, for Strand 1, over 65% failed to reach this mark. The next round saw a small improvement, with 59% of applicants scoring <70. In general, Strand 2 applications performed better with a steady 33% falling below the threshold.

As this scheme is popular and over-subscribed the actual minimum pass-mark for funding sits much higher. The score required for success in strand 1 has fluctuated between 79.8-80.2 for the past three rounds, whilst the score required for strand 2 is currently around 85.5.

Achieving such high scores requires a well-crafted, fully thought through project, within an application which clearly and succinctly addresses every application question.

Whilst working with TBAT cannot guarantee success, the average score of our applications into these past five rounds is 80.5.

For applications which score over 75, Strand 1 sees a 50% success rate and for Strand 2 – 10.5%.

With the SMART competitions being so competitive, we cannot highlight strongly enough, that the writing of your application is crucial to securing a score over 70; and this is where TBAT come in.

Our team of expert consultants take the time to fully understand your project, immersing themselves in your technology, in order to write a technically sound and robust application which showcases your innovation in the format required by Innovate UK assessors.

Want to know more about how we can support your Innovate UK SMART application? We’d be happy to talk through your project ideas and discuss our Grant Funding support options with you – simply get in touch!

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