+44 (0)1509 261182
innovation brainstorm

Innovate UK Smart Grants: April 2019


Opportunity to apply for a share of up to £25million to deliver ambitious or disruptive R&D innovations with significant potential for impact on the UK economy.

Smart is the new name for Innovate UK’s ‘Open grant funding’ programme.

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £25m in the best game-changing, innovative or disruptive ideas with a view to commercialisation.

All proposals must be business focused, rather than pure research. Applications can come from any area of technology (including arts, design, media or creative industries), science or engineering and be applied to any part of the economy.

While Innovate UK welcome projects that overlap with the grand challenge areas, they are also keen to support projects that are entirely outside these. Working in these areas is not a requirement to be eligible.

Open Date:


Close Date:


This competition provides funding for innovative research and development (R&D) from feasibility (including market research), through to technology or prototype testing and development stages up to (but not including) commercialisation.

Your proposal must demonstrate:

  • 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 and so on) with realistic management, mitigation and impact minimisation plans for each
  • 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

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

Innovate UK are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, technological maturities and research categories.

Projects can focus on:

  • Feasibility studies, which may include market research
  • Industrial research
  • Experimental development, if appropriate for the challenge identified and proposed solution
  1. All applications must include at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)
  2. Project durations between 6 and 18 months must have total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £500,000. They can be single or collaborative projects.
  3. Innovate UK will not accept projects with a duration below 6 months and/or costs below £25,000.
  4. Project durations between 19 months and 3 years must have total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £2million. They must be collaborative projects.
  5. Projects must start by 6 January 2020 and end no later than 6 January 2023.

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 the UK
  • Be an SME if you want to work alone
  • Include at least one SME if you want to collaborate with others (businesses, research organisations and/or charities)

An academic institution cannot lead on an application or work alone.

Single applicants must claim funding. If the project is collaborative, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding.

To collaborate on a project you must fulfil the criteria above and include an SME. Collaborators can be UK-based businesses, academic organisations, charities, public sector organisations or RTOs.

Projects can include partners that do not receive any funding (for example, non-UK businesses). Their costs will count towards the total project costs but they will not count as collaborators.

Innovate UK will not fund proposals that:

  • Do not meet the competition scope
  • Do not address the size, potential and access to market for the innovation
  • Do not 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

Innovate UK have allocated up to £25million to fund a number of innovation projects in this competition.

The knowledge providers or research organisations in your consortium can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum is shared between them. For feasibility studies and industrial research, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • Up to 70% if you are a small business
  • Up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • Up to 50% if you are a large business

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 small business
  • Up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • Up to 25% if you are a large business

Cresco Innovation works with companies to develop and implement innovation strategies. We help client companies identify opportunities to develop new products and services, and then create a package of support to ensure that the idea is turned into a commercial reality.

Our services include securing grants (as a team we have raised around £40million over three years), business planning, IP advice, access to finance and funders, project management and IP commercialisation support.

We regularly act as the interface with the funding bodies and help clients ensure that their projects are properly managed to ensure the best outcome for all.

Call to find out more

If you’d like to know more about this competition, please give us a call on 01509 261182 and one of our team will be delighted to help you access this funding opportunity for your business.