General Advice for the Innovate UK Smart Grant

  • In the Innovate UK Smart Grant, and most grants generally, you apply for funding of a ‘project’.
  • A project is researching and/or developing a product/service for rapid commercialisation.
  • Some kind of technological innovation must underpin your application; however, using existing technology in a novel way is also eligible.
  • A common misconception is this must be hard-tech, biotech, etc. However, Innovate are just as likely to fund food, design, SaaS, amongst many others.
  • Financial services and other service-based businesses with innovative business plans and tech underlying it are also funded.
  • When setting up your allocation, you should set the project start date to be four months after the submission deadline. If you pester Innovate, this can be reduced to four. To be on the safe side assume five though.
  • Funding of up to £2-3m can be applied for. However, these higher grants are for multiple businesses collaborating as a single application, increasing bureaucracy, and the success rate is lower.
  • Innovate back people they’ve backed before so, for a first application, we recommend applying for a max £415,000 project
    • This is the threshold for a single applicant and the success rates are significantly lower past this value.
    • If you have past success with Innovate and a natural collaborator it is worth considering these higher grants and you should discuss this with Grantify.
  • Innovate classify projects based upon the type of work you will be doing in the project.
  • These are:
    • Fundamental research: R&D on fundamental scientific principles.
    • Feasibility Studies: Deciding whether a project is worth pursuing.
    • Industrial Research: Creating innovative technology.
    • Experimental Design: Creating innovative products.
  • We strongly recommend for the Innovate Smart Grant that you ensure that the majority of your project is industrial research.
  • This is because industrial research is most on brief for the grant and has the most lucrative funding (i.e. experimental development is also on brief but requires substantially more match-funding from you).
  • I.e., you need to make sure the majority of your project is allocated to researching and developing the underlying technology, not the product itself or feasibility.
  • A project consisting of 5% feasibility, 60% industrial research and 35% experimental development will still be classified as industrial research.
  • The project must be between 6-18 months in duration for a solo application without collaborators.
  • Select a project length that maximises your labour costs (paid monthly) but also allows your deliverables to be produced in good time from your business’ point of view (you can always apply for another grant).
  • Yes, especially if you are already a profitable business. 
  • Post-PAYE, the salary you receive from Innovate is yours to do with as you wish and overheads don’t require invoices – they are allocated automatically as cash.
  • As you would have paid your overheads and your own salary regardless, you could reallocate your own labour costs (post-PAYE) and all overheads to cover the match-funding if needed for cashflow.
Innovate UK offers a transformative amount of money that, unlike private investment, you never need to pay back and loses you no equity. Innovate UK are going to give away £125 million to UK businesses this year – we make sure one of them is you. Our value proposition to you is that if you’re eligible for a grant of £315,000 for your business, applying is a no-brainer. The only question that remains is how long will it take you and what are your chances of success. This is where we pay for ourselves many times over. Deploying two senior members of staff to write out a grant application for two months could cost your business 10’s of thousands in both direct and opportunity costs. We offer a smart way of doing the application. We use an online platform to gather all the info we need – asking direct, simple questions, providing model answers to copy, paste and edit according to your business alongside expert guidance from our experience with Innovate UK. We take care of all the repetition, tables, graphs and thousands of words that we can write on your behalf. Our customers complete in 2-3 days, not 2 months, and we have a 57% success rate (8x more successful than writing your application on your own). We ask for two payments of £1250: one on contract sign and one prior to our in-depth pre-submission review – saving you thousands in direct and opportunity costs. After you’re done, an expert reviewer and a copyeditor ensure you have hit every important point and that your application is written as convincingly as possible. Our commission is 3.5% when successful (0% otherwise). We offer a 100% money back guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied up until submission and we don’t give up – we’ll apply again at no further cost – so it’s a risk free investment.
If eligible, applying for £315,000+ of free money is a must for any business. It’s a grant so you don’t need to repay it and it costs you no equity. Research by Beauhurst even has shown SMEs backed by Innovate go on to raise on average 20-25% at next funding round and have double the chances of exiting. Whilst going solo involves no upfront payment, it actually results in substantial and marked costs, usually tens of thousands of pounds, due to the amount of time the application will take you and a colleague to submit to the required standard. Grantify was started by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, to drastically shorten the application process from 2 months to 2-3 days – meaning you can focus on growing your business, not writing grant applications. Grantify takes care of all the repetition, graphs, tables, Innovate criteria and almost ten thousand words so you can just input your business data and we’ll take care of the rest. We have a 57% success rate so far, offer a 100% money back guarantee if you’re not happy for any reason up until submission and we don’t give up, we’ll apply again if we need to at no further cost – so, unlike applying solo, it’s a low-risk investment. After you’ve inputted your business data, we have a copy-editor and an expert reviewer go through the entire application to make sure it’s outstanding – and then send it back to you for submission.
  • It’s paid to you based upon the invoices you send to Innovate and often with a one to four months’ delay.
  • We recommend having cashflow to cover the initial quarter-third of the project.
  • Then, when you start getting invoices paid by Innovate, you can use this cash to finance the latter two thirds/three quarters of the project.
  • As this grant pays an extraordinary £7 for every £10 you spend, whilst you must be realistic, you will not find a better opportunity to fund your business. Therefore, it’s worth getting a good cashflow forecast together (not required for application), considering all your financing options, to make sure you can finance the maximum grant possible up to a £500k project.
  • Business loans or private/F&F funding, for instance, will likely give you much better than normal terms – as the Innovate UK money is essentially guaranteed – so it’s worth exploring this.
  • Remember that VAT is excluded.
  • Almost all grants are match funded. 
  • Generously, this is set at 30% for industrial research:
    • I.e. for a £500,000 project you will get £350,000 in free grant money.
    • See below as your contribution can be less.