Funding competition Innovate UK Smart Grants: April 2019

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

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections

Description

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 £25 million 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.

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

We may share application details with other public sector co-funders if this is appropriate.

We may consider eligible project costs over £2 million (but not exceeding £3 million), subject to the process set out under ‘Eligibility’.

This competition closes at midday 12:00pm UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type

Grant

Project size

Duration between 6 and 18 months: total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £500,000 (single company or collaboration). Duration between 19 and 36 months: total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £2 million (collaboration only).

Who can apply

State aid

Any UK business requesting funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time we confirm you will be awarded funding. If you are unsure please take legal advice. For further information please see our general guidance.

Your project

  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. We 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 £2 million. They must be collaborative projects.
  5. If you want to submit a project between 19 months and 3 years with total project costs between £2 million and £3 million as a permitted exception, you must email support@innovateuk.ukri.org with full justification at least 10 days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request.
  6. Projects must start by 6 January 2020 and end no later than 6 January 2023.

Lead applicant

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.

Collaborators

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.

Partners with no funding

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.

Multiple applications

Any one business or RTO can only lead one project application per competition round. If more than one application is submitted with the same lead, only the first application will be considered for assessment.

You can collaborate on as many applications as you wish.

An academic institution cannot lead but can be a collaborator in any number of applications.

Research and Technology organisations (RTOs)

If you are an RTO then the following rules apply:

  1. To lead you must have 2 or more business collaborators (one SME, and one other business of any size).
  2. 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.
  3. If you are a project partner, you can participate as either a knowledge provider, 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.
  4. 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.

Previous applications

Resubmissions

You can make a maximum of 2 submissions in total to Innovate UK with any given proposal.

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
  • reapply into another round of this competition or another competition

If Innovate UK judges that your proposal is not materially different from your previous proposal, it will be classed as a resubmission.

Failure to exploit

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole company and were awarded funding by Innovate UK or UK Research and Innovation, but did not make a substantial effort to exploit that award, we will award no more funding to you, in this or any other competition. You will not be able to contest our decision. We will:

  • assess your efforts in the previous competition against your exploitation plan for that project
  • review the monitoring officers’ reports and any other relevant sources for evidence
  • document our decision, which will be made by 3 team members, and communicate it to you in writing

Previous projects

Under the terms of Innovate UK funding, you are required to submit an independent accountant’s report (IAR) with your final claim. If you or any organisation in your consortium failed to submit an IAR on a previous project, we will not award funding to you in this or any other competition until we have received the documents.

Funding

Innovate UK have allocated up to £25 million 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
This competition provides state aid funding under article 25 ‘Aid for R&D projects’, of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Your proposal

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

We 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

We 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

Please see the general guidance to help you decide which category your project fits in.

Projects we will not fund

We 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

26 April 2019
Competition opens
2 May 2019
Applicant briefing
24 July 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
3 October 2019 11:02am
Applicants notified

Before you start

Please read the general guidance for applicants. It will help your chances of submitting a quality application.

When you start an application you will be prompted to create an account as the lead applicant or sign in as a representative of your organisation. You will need an account to track the progress of your application.

As the lead applicant you will be responsible for:

  • collecting the information for your application
  • representing your organisation in leading the project if your application is successful

You will be able to invite:

  • colleagues to make contributions
  • other organisations to collaborate with you

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.
  3. Finances.

1. Project Details

This section is not scored.

Application team

Invite colleagues to contribute to your application and other organisations to collaborate on your project.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration. Is the application a resubmission?

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly, and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will not be eligible for funding. We will give you feedback on why. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers to these questions. You will receive feedback from them for each question.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.

Question 1. Need or challenge

What is the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity behind your innovation?

Describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • the nearest current state-of-the-art, including those near market or in development, and its limitations
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project is focused on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations, using our Horizons tool if appropriate

Question 2. Approach and innovation

What approach will you take and where will the focus of the innovation be?

Describe or explain:

  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • whether the innovation will focus on the application of existing technologies in new areas, the development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
  • how it will make you more competitive
  • the nature of the outputs you expect from the project (for example, report, demonstrator, know-how, new process, product or service design) and how these will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 3. Team and resources

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?

Describe or explain:

  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
  • the details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • if your project is collaborative the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • any gaps in the team you will need to fill

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4. Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

Describe or explain:

  • the markets (domestic, international or both) you will be targeting in the project and any other potential markets
  • the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by references where available
  • the structure and dynamics of the target markets, including customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
  • the target markets’ main supply or value chains and business models, and any barriers to entry that exist
  • the current UK position in targeting these markets
  • the size and main features of any other markets not already listed

If your project is highly innovative, where the market may be unexplored, describe or explain:

  • what the market’s size might to be
  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential

Question 5. Outcomes and route to market

How are you going to grow your business and increase your productivity into the long term as a result of the project?

Describe or explain:

  • your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • your target customers or end users, and the value to them, for example, why they would use or buy your product
  • your route to market
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation, including increased revenues or cost reduction
  • how the innovation will affect your productivity and growth, in both the short and the long term
  • how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, patenting, designs or changes to your business model
  • your strategy for targeting the other markets you have identified during or after the project

If there is any research organisation activity in the project, describe:

  • your plans to spread the project’s research outputs over a reasonable timescale
  • how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities

Question 6. Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Describe, and where possible measure:

  • the economic benefits from the project to external parties, including customers, others in the supply chain, broader industry and the UK economy, such as productivity increases and import substitution
  • any expected impact on government priorities
  • any expected environmental impacts, either positive or negative
  • any expected regional impacts of the project

Describe any expected social impacts, either positive or negative on, for example:

  • quality of life
  • social inclusion or exclusion
  • jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
  • education
  • public empowerment
  • health and safety
  • regulations
  • diversity

Question 7. Project management

How will you manage the project effectively?

Describe or explain:

  • the main work packages of the project, indicating the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms you will use to get a successful and innovative project outcome
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones

You can submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 8. Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

Describe or explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks, providing a risk register if appropriate
  • how you will mitigate these risks
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise, data sets
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how will you manage this?

You can submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9. Added value

What impact would an injection of public funding have on the businesses involved?

Describe or explain:

  • if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as a faster route to market, more partners or reduced risk
  • the likely impact of the project on the businesses of the partners involved
  • why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding, and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful
  • how this project would change the nature of R&D activity the partners would undertake, and the related spend

Question 10. Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?

Describe or explain:

  • the total eligible project costs and the grant you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how the partners will finance their contributions to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academics will need to complete and upload a Je-S form. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

Extra help

If you want help to find a project collaborator, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

If you need more information, email us at support@innovateuk.ukri.org or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357.

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