Get smart on the new Smart Grants

A new call for Innovate UK’s flagship Smart programme has recently been launched with some big changes both in the focus of the scheme and in the structure of the application. In this article we will share some of the main updates to this open programme with insight as to how PNO are planning to position new submissions to the programme ahead of the next deadline on the 27th July 2022.

As with previous calls, Smart continues to support game-changing and commercially focussed R&D innovations with projects ranging from 6-36 months and between £100K and £2M in overall cost. The £25M allocation per round also remains the same. However, the immediate noticeable changes include:

An increased focus on project commercialisation and scale-up

Applications will need to clearly demonstrate post-project developments, detail the funding & resource for post-project activities and a timeframe to commercialisation.  We also sense a greater focus under this new call on established companies in a given market where a target customer base may already be secured or in the case of start-ups where a comprehensive level of end user engagement has already been performed. As with all Innovate UK competitions, user centred design needs to lie at the heart of any development, and this clearly needs to be articulated in all submissions.

Justification for Smart funding

It has always been important to include justifications for public funding in Smart applications, understandably so, and assessors will be looking for even more evidence in this new round.  The application includes a new question which asks applicants to explain their journey prior to applying for this competition to ensure they are ready for Smart funding, why Smart funding is the right competition for the project and organisation (or consortium) and the clear advantage that public funding offers their project that other routes would not.

The customer and market must be at the forefront of all innovations

In our previous article on Smart (Only the top 3.13% survive – insight into getting smarter about Smart | PNO Consultants UK), we flagged that failure to define the addressable market and failure to understand the target customers are two areas where applicants often fail in Smart bids. The updated Smart guidance places even more emphasis on customer and target market(s) than before; answering these questions well continues to make a big difference to failure or success in the Smart competition.

Wider eligibility and scope requirements are unchanged

Projects still need to include at least one SME and all project work has to be carried out in the UK, with results exploited from or in the UK.  Funding is available for feasibility studies and industrial research projects, as well as experimental development projects, with differing funding rates available. Project teams must have the necessary expertise, skills, and resources to make the project a success and ideas must be innovative, disruptive, and ambitious and lead to new products, processes or services.

What do these changes mean?

Ultimately, Innovate UK are looking to fund projects with the potential to give a high return on investment. Innovations must be truly disruptive, with the potential to win and grow market share. Applicants will have to be 100% confident in the justifications for, and journey to, Smart funding, their project team, their target customer and market, and their post-project commercialisation.

How we can help

PNO has a strong track record in securing funding through the Smart programme, and we already include many of the factors listed above in our clients’ applications.  To date, we have an extremely high success rate in this highly competitive scheme.  We would welcome the opportunity to share our knowledge of Smart in further detail with you and qualify any project ideas for this exciting new round!

For further information or to discuss a project ideas, contact us

Next Smart deadline 27th July 2022.