Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £25million in the best game-changing and commercially viable innovative or disruptive ideas. All proposals must be business focused.
Applications can come from any area of technology and be applied to any part of the economy, such as, but not exclusively:
- The arts, design and media
- Creative industries
- Science or engineering
While Innovate UK welcome projects that overlap with the grand challenge areas, this is not a requirement, as Innovate UK are also keen to support projects in other areas.
Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) considerations are highly encouraged where appropriate in your proposal. You are prompted to consider EDI as part of the application process.
Applications will continue to be assessed on their innovation merit, where innovation is defined as the potential for commercially successful exploitation of ideas.
In applying to this competition, you are entering into a highly competitive process where your chance of success in securing funding will depend on the number and quality of applications submitted.
The eligibility criteria for this competition are different from previous rounds of the Innovate UK Smart grant.
Projects of 6 to 18 months must have total eligible project costs between £100,000 and £500,000 and can be single or collaborative. Projects of 19 to 36 months must have total eligible project costs between £100,000 and £2million and must be collaborative.
Your proposal must demonstrate:
- A clear game-changing, innovative, 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
- Awareness of all the main risks the project will face (including contractor or equipment failure, recruitment delays, etc) with realistic management, mitigation and impact minimisation plans for each risk
- Clear, considerable potential to significantly impact either or both, the UK economy and productivity in a positive way
- Sound, practical financial plans and timelines that represent good value for money, which will always be a consideration in Innovate UK funding decisions
Your project should:
- Demonstrate realistic, significant potential for global markets
- Take customer and user needs into account to deliver more desirable and useful solutions
Proposals from innovation-based businesses with significant ambition and potential for growth or scale up are welcome.
Innovate UK will fund innovative research and development (R&D) projects across a variety of technologies, markets and research categories, including:
- Feasibility projects
- Industrial research projects
- Experimental development projects
As defined in the guidance on categories of research.
Your project must:
- Include at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) as the lead or a collaborative grant claiming partner
- Start by 1 July 2022
- End by 30 June 2025
- Follow specific rules dependent on its duration
If your project’s duration is 6 to 18 months it:
- Must have total eligible project costs between £100,000 and £500,000
- Can be single or collaborative
If your project’s duration is 19 to 36 months, it must:
- Have total eligible project costs between £100,000 and £2 million
- Be collaborative
To lead a project, your organisation must:
- Be an SME if you want to work alone
- Be a UK-registered business of any size or a research and technology organisation (RTO) if collaborative
- Include at least one SME if you are a large business or RTO and wish to collaborate with other UK-registered businesses, research organisations, academic organisations, public sector organisations or charities
- Claim grant funding
- Carry out all your project work in the UK
- Intend to commercially exploit the results from or in the UK
Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.
To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:
- Academic institution
- Public sector organisation
- Research and technology organisation (RTO)
You must carry out all your project work in the UK and intend to commercially exploit the results from or in the UK.
Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.
If collaborative, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application.
Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs, but they will not count as collaborators.
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.
Innovate UK expect subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. Without meeting these criteria, subcontractor’s contribution would be deemed ineligible.
Number of applications
Businesses or RTOs can only lead on one application. Any subsequent applications submitted with the same lead will not be forwarded for assessment.
All partners can collaborate on any number of applications.
Research and technology organisations (RTOs)
If you are an RTO, then the following rules apply:
- To lead you must have two or more business collaborators (one SME, and one other business of any size).
- There must be a credible route to market for the output of the project, and since the purpose of RTOs is to speed up the progress of those using their services, this is expected to be through the partners, rather than through the RTO itself.
- If you are a project partner, you can participate as either a research organisation, and receive 100% grant, or as a business entity, and be reimbursed a percentage of your eligible costs, depending upon your size and the nature of the work.
- If participating as a business, you must show that the match funding you are providing comes from entirely private sector sources, across all projects you are involved in. You must also be able to show how you will exploit the results of the project to grow the wider sector.
You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.
You can make a maximum of two submissions to Innovate UK with any given proposal. If Innovate UK judges that your proposal is not materially different from your previous proposal, it will be counted towards this maximum.
If your application goes through to assessment and is deemed unsuccessful, you can reapply with the same proposal once more, taking into account the feedback received from the assessors.
Innovate UK will not award you funding if you have:
- Failed to exploit a previously funded project
- An overdue independent accountant’s report
- Failed to comply with grant terms and conditions
Subsidy control (and State aid where applicable)
This competition provides funding in line with the UK’s obligations and commitments to Subsidy Control. Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent guidance from the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. Innovate UK will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.
EU State aid rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see the general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.
If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, you should take independent legal advice. Innovate UK are unable to advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.
You must make sure at all times that the funding awarded to you is compliant with all current Subsidy Control legislation applicable in the United Kingdom.
This aims to regulate any advantage granted by a public sector body which threatens to or actually distorts competition in the United Kingdom or any other country or countries.
If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean Innovate UK need to change the terms of this competition, they will tell you as soon as possible.
Innovate UK have allocated up to £25million to fund innovation projects in this competition.
If the majority of 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.
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
If you are applying for an award funded under State aid Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.
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 eligible project costs if you are an RTO, charity, non-profit organisation or public sector organisation
Innovate UK are not funding projects that:
- Do not meet the competition eligibility or 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
- 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
- Are 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
Innovate UK will not fund commercialisation activities.
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.