Smart grants: catalysing high impact innovation and market share

Welcoming handshake

Smart grants support and propel groundbreaking, world class projects from UK business designed for commercial success, market impact and UK economic growth.

The Smart grants programme is part of Innovate UK’s diverse business and innovation support ecosystem. It is designed to propel high-impact innovations from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and their collaboration partners where appropriate, into the marketplace.

These grants are more than just funding opportunities. They are a pivotal catalyst for companies with projects that promise to make a substantial difference in their respective industries. Or completely new opportunities that have not been addressed before but can validate a sizeable market and need.

This initiative aligns with the UK’s strategic objectives to foster technological leadership and drive sustainable economic growth. By targeting SMEs, Smart grants help unleash the potential of a broad spectrum of innovators, empowering them to turn visionary ideas into market-leading solutions. With an emphasis on inclusive growth, these grants also support diversity in innovation, enabling a wider range of businesses to contribute to the UK’s competitive advantage on the global stage.

Strategic support for ground-breaking projects

Smart grants are reserved for projects that present completely new solutions with the capacity to significantly alter industry landscapes or create new markets. These projects should demonstrate readiness for rapid, successful market entry, underpinned by a solid business plan and capacity to deliver.

Criteria for success

Innovation excellence

Your project must offer a completely new solution, capable of establishing new benchmarks in the industry and/or pioneering new markets.

Commercialisation readiness

We prioritise projects on the brink of entering the market, showcasing strong business models and the potential for swift commercial success.

Team strength

The expertise and capability of your team are critical. In collaborations, the synergy between partners should markedly enhance the project’s success prospects.

Economic impact on the UK

Applications must clearly demonstrate how the innovation will contribute to the UK’s economic growth, including job creation, market expansion, and overall economic prosperity.

More than just funding: comprehensive support for success

Innovate UK’s holistic approach to supporting UK’s innovation business and ecosystem provides not just financial support but also strategic advice, industry insights, access to research facilities, and connections with investors. With the Smart grants programme, this comprehensive support is designed to address the multifaceted challenges of commercialisation. A key element of this is the programme’s structured working arrangement with Innovate UK Business Growth.

Application guidance

Only consider an application if you are sure your project aligns with Smart grants’ emphasis on:

  • completely new and groundbreaking solutions designed for swift commercialisation following project completion
  • evidence-based considerable potential for economic returns, growth and market share

Read and carefully consider the latest competition brief online for detailed information on eligibility and application procedures.

Consider other factors that differentiate this programme from alternatives that may be more aligned to your vision. The ‘Applicants’ Briefing’ webinar (date and time shown on the competition page online) helps to provide more detail.

Is your innovation and project proposal a fit?

These grants are for projects that can demonstrate considerable potential for market success and economic return in the UK. To qualify, your innovation should not only be new and way ahead of anything similar on the market, but also align with key industry and market trends as well as validated consumer needs. Your innovation should embody a forward-thinking approach, poised to set new industry standards or create new markets.

Project maturity and market potential coupled with robust business plan for success

Your project should be at a stage where it’s ready to make a market impact. We support innovations from research and development through to the creation of real-world demonstrators. However, projects should have a clearly defined path to the market. The ideal project for Smart grants should be more than just a concept; it should be on the cusp of market viability.

Team capacity to deliver

The expertise and capability of your team are crucial. For collaborative projects, it’s important to highlight how each partner contributes to the project’s success and addresses any skill gaps. A successful Smart grant application showcases a well-rounded team that combines the highest levels of technical prowess with equal business acumen.

Justifying the need for public funding

Any application for funding should clearly articulate how public investment will enable breakthroughs that would not be feasible otherwise. It should detail how the grant will help overcome specific challenges or capital constraints, leading to outcomes that benefit not just your business but also the wider UK economy.

Envisioning success

Success in Smart grants is measured by real and tangible, innovation-specific increases in turnover, job creation, expansion into global markets and impactful commercialisation of new products and services.

Highlighting success: Fidel API

The success story of Fidel API from a ground-breaking fintech innovation to a global market leader underscores the transformative impact of targeted support. Benefitting from grants, the company quickly moved its technology to market, demonstrating the profound influence such backing has on innovation and the UK economy.

Creative team at work

Credit: Drazen Zigic, iStock, Getty Images Plus, via Getty Images

Concluding reflections

Innovate UK’s Smart grants programme has a clear and defined focus.

Whilst the Smart grants programme represents one of many exceptional opportunities offered by Innovate UK, submitting an application is far more than just attempting to secure funding. It represents being able to contribute systematically and proactively not only to your own success but also to the UK’s backing for forward-thinkers and market leaders. Successful applicants will not only benefit from financial support but also get the chance to gain recognition as pioneers in their field.

What we need is your realistic, evidentially deliverable intent to contribute to the UK’s reputation as a hub of technological advancement and business innovation. In return, we offer serious and exceptional support for your outstanding proposal, your business and your team’s technological and financial success. We are committed to nurturing ideas that can shape the future of industries and drive sustainable economic progress in the UK.

However, it’s important to assess whether your venture is at the right stage, and within the defined scope, for Smart grants. They might not be right for you if:

  • you’re still in the early phases of shaping your idea
  • your project is not yet positioned for substantial market impact
  • you are not at the necessary readiness stage of your business journey for successful commercialisation and scaleup

If this is the case, there may be other Innovate UK offerings, products or services better suited to your current needs. This isn’t a setback but rather an opportunity to develop your project and market readiness further with necessary resources as appropriate, using the most suitable mechanisms for your vision.

Further information

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