What You Need To Know About Innovate UK Smart Grants

Innovate UK Smart Grants are government grants designed to help innovative SMEs expand their operations and seize new opportunities—these grants fund research, development, and innovation in various sectors, from healthcare to energy. 

If you're an entrepreneur focused on growth, consider applying for an Innovate UK Smart Grant. In this blog post, we will look at what this grant is all about and how you can apply for one. 

What Are Innovate UK Smart Grants, And What Do They Fund?

Innovate UK Smart Grants fund research and development projects focusing on five strategic themes, including future economy, growth at scale, global opportunities, innovation ecosystem, and government levers, and six strong foundations, such as science and research, design, responsible innovation, innovation talent and skills, equality, diversity, and inclusion.

The aim is to support the growth of businesses that can develop disruptive innovations and see world-leading ideas come to fruition through funding research and development activities that will help them become highly competitive and move valuable in their respective markets. Aside from funding, an Innovate UK-funded project will also receive access to expert advice and guidance from leading industry experts and support with developing ideas into commercial successes. 

Who Is Eligible To Apply For A Grant?

Innovative projects can qualify for Innovate UK Smart Grants

In order to be eligible for an Innovate UK Smart Grant, applicants must meet certain criteria.

To ensure your project has the greatest possible impact, it must be a revolutionary concept with the potential to bring about economic benefits quickly and efficiently for the UK economy. In addition, the research and outcomes of the project must take place in the UK, with all results being immediately available for use within its borders.

Projects ranging from 6 to 18 months of completion may qualify if the endeavour costs between £100,000 to £500,000 - either as a single or collaborative venture. For example, if the project takes 19-36 months, the total cost to be eligible should be between £100,000 and £2 million. It should also be a collaborative venture to qualify for the Smart Grant.

The UK government has focused eligibility criteria on ensuring equitable opportunity and innovation across different sectors and enterprise sizes. For projects to qualify, one micro, small, or medium-sized enterprise must be included as either the lead grant-claiming partner or a combined entity.

What Are The Types Of Projects Not Supported By Innovate UK Smart Grants?

Innovate UK Smart Grants have a wide range of criteria for projects it will fund, but there are some specific areas where funding cannot be extended. Aside from those that don't satisfy the eligibility requirements, the following projects will not qualify for the grant: 

  • Fail to define the size, potential, and accessibility of the market to their innovation.
  • Be sure to prove that their project will lead to a significant ROI, positively impact the economy, or have the capacity to grow and be scaled up.
  • Don't provide realistic and measurable plans to commercialise their projects after completion.
  • Dependent on export performance for their ROI
  • Heavily depends on domestic input usage. 

Smart Grant funding from Innovate UK is also not meant to fund marketing and sales projects. 

How Much Money Can You Receive From An Innovate UK Smart Grant?

Innovate UK Smart Grants can cover up to 70% of the project cost

Innovate UK Smart Grants continue to help organisations achieve success in their projects by providing funding support. Depending on the length of your project and the research category you wish to pursue, they can offer tailored assistance that meets specific needs - with four major avenues for potential initiatives: Fundamental Research, Feasibility Studies, Industrial Research, and Experimental Development Projects.

Fundamental Research

Fundamental research pertains to the generation of new knowledge and understanding in a particular field, without any immediate practical application or usage. Such research is often carried out by specialised research organisations, and its primary objective is to broaden the existing knowledge base rather than developing new technologies or products.

Fundamental research efforts involved in non-economic activities as part of the project can receive up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If there are multiple research organisations engaged in non-economic activity within the consortium, this maximum amount is divided among them. Out of this 30%, the eligible project costs can receive funding of up to 80% of the full economic costs (FEC) if the institution is registered under Je-S, such as an academic institution. Alternatively, if the organisation is an RTO, charity, non-profit organisation, public sector organisation, or a research organisation, they may receive 100% funding of the project costs.

Feasibility Studies

Feasibility studies are used to evaluate a project's potential and inform decisions about its development. They examine the project's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, as well as identify the necessary resources and likelihood of success. These studies can also help determine if collaboration with others is necessary or if the project can be pursued independently. Feasibility studies often serve as a precursor to a larger project.
Funding for eligible project costs for feasibility studies is available through the UK Smart Grant. The amount of funding available varies based on the size of the organisation. If your organisation is a micro or small organisation, you could receive up to 70% of eligible project costs. For medium-sized organisations, the funding can cover up to 60% of eligible project costs, and for large organisations, up to 50% of eligible project costs can be covered.

Industrial Research

Industrial research is a form of research that focuses on the development of new knowledge or skills that can be utilised in the creation of products, processes, or services. The primary objective of industrial research is to generate innovative ideas and solutions that can lead to the development of new products or improve existing ones. This type of research is usually conducted by companies, universities or research institutions, and can involve various stages of experimentation, testing and evaluation. It often involves the creation of prototypes, the design and testing of component parts, or the development of new processes or techniques.
The UK Smart Grant offers funding for eligible project costs associated with industrial studies, which is similar to the funding available for feasibility studies. The specific amount of funding available for industrial studies is determined based on the size of the organisation. For micro or small organisations, funding may cover up to 70% of eligible project costs, whereas medium-sized organisations can receive funding for up to 60% of eligible project costs, and large organisations can receive funding for up to 50% of eligible project costs. 

Experimental Development Projects

Experimental development is a research and development process that utilises existing scientific, technical, or business knowledge to create new or improved products, processes, or services. This type of development involves a range of activities, including conceptualization, planning, documentation, prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing, and validating new or improved products, processes, or services. Its primary objective is to convert scientific knowledge into practical applications that can be used to enhance existing products or create new ones. This process is typically carried out by businesses, research institutions, or universities, and may involve extensive testing and experimentation to ensure the feasibility and effectiveness of the new or improved product, process, or service.

Lastly, for experimental development projects, the amount of funding available for experimental development projects is determined based on the size of the organisation. For micro or small organisations, funding may cover up to 45% of eligible project costs. For medium-sized organisations, funding can cover up to 35% of eligible project costs, while large organisations can receive funding for up to 25% of eligible project costs.

However, it is important to note that funding amounts and eligibility criteria can vary depending on the competition or call being applied for. Therefore, it is advisable to review the specific guidelines for each competition before submitting a grant application.

How Should The Funding Be Used When Granted?

Innovate UK has strict guidelines regarding what expenditures are allowed when it comes to grant funding. Eligible costs must be incurred and paid for in the United Kingdom, with payable items falling into the following categories: 

  • Labour associated with employing individuals for project work;
  • Overhead expenses that may include indirect administrative tasks or direct overheads;
  • Materials necessary directly related to the project purchased from a third party (including software); 
  • Capital purchases resulting in physical assets where depreciation needs to be taken into consideration; 
  • Subcontractor fees only if they have been residents in the UK while carrying out their portion of the task at hand;
  • Travel & subsistence charges specifically attributed to personnel identified as part of labour costs.

How Do You Apply For A Smart Grant And What Is The Process Like?

Innovate UK Smart Grants have strict requirements that you should comply with

Before submitting your application, you must ensure that all information provided in the proposal meets eligibility and scope criteria. Furthermore, you must ensure each section of your submission has been marked complete; if collaborating with a partner – both parties must have accepted any terms and conditions as well. If changes need to be made after submission, you can reopen the application until the competition deadline but must resubmit it by then.

The application form is split into three sections: Project details, application questions, and finances.

Project details

This part of your application is designed to paint a picture and provide essential context. The evaluator can use it to gain adequate insight into your business, making it an invaluable component for forming their opinion about your candidacy. Therefore, this part is not scored.

The team members, project title, project start date and duration, type of research, scope and project summary, and public description should be included in this section of the grant application.

Application questions

The answer to the questions in this section regarding your proposal will be scored by the assessor. Here are some of the questions that should be answered in your application:

  1. What is the idea behind the project and related innovation?
  2. Why do you need funding for your project?
  3. What is the target market for your project and your strategy to secure it?
  4. What is the impact of the project on your organisation and the national economy?
  5. How will you deliver the project? Does your team have the right skills and experience to complete the project?
  6. How do you plan to spend the grant funding? 


Every organisation working on your project must submit its own set of financials, organisational information, and funding details when applying. 

Generally, you can expect announcements within 6-8 weeks of submitting an application. With UK Smart Grants, it is important to know when results will be available so you can plan ahead. 

Unfortunately, the competition for these grants is steep, with an average success rate of just 10%. However, Grant Up is proud to have helped our clients achieve a higher success rate. With Grant Up's assistance, our clients have been able to significantly increase their chances of success in securing grant funding.

What Happens If Your Application Unsuccessful?

If your application is unsuccessful at first, don't give up hope! Plenty of other funding sources are available through alternative channels such as crowdfunding or venture capital firms. It's always wise to keep looking for other options if your initial application isn't accepted immediately—you never know when you might find something better suited to your needs!  

Alternatively, you could consider applying again with an improved version of your original proposal – this could significantly increase your chances of success! For this, make sure you tap into our grant writing services.

Increase Your Chances Of Winning Grant Funding With Grant Up

GrantUp has years of grant writing experience. We help small and large organisations bolster their chances of success by providing a range of services tailored to the specific requirements of each application. Our track record speaks for itself - many projects have been funded as a result!

Gain a competitive edge in grant funding with our comprehensive services. Our experienced team has decades of success under their belts, having secured a vast scope of government grants to benefit organisations large and small, across a wide range of sectors. From software & hardware to machine learning, artificial intelligence, healthcare, fintech and beyond - we have your needs covered! 

Get started and take advantage today for higher chances at winning the necessary funds for making an impactful change!