General guidance - Innovate UK


What happens after you have submitted your application

How your application is assessed

The assessment process listed here is the standard approach. Some assessments may vary, but this will be made clear in the specific competition guidance.

After the competition has closed your application will be reviewed by one of our competition managers to make sure it meets the eligibility criteria stated in the specific competition guidance.

They will check:

  • you are a registered UK business or are in the process of setting up as a registered UK business
  • if collaborative, your collaboration meets the competition’s consortium requirements
  • your total eligible project costs or grant request is within the competition’s limits
  • your project duration is within the competition’s limits
  • the number of times you have submitted the same or similar application and whether this adheres to the competition’s eligibility criteria
  • your answers are of sufficient quality and length
  • whether you’ve received funding previously for the same project

If your application meets the competition’s eligibility criteria, it will then be reviewed by the Innovation Lead responsible for the competition. They will check the application fits the scope of the competition. This is solely done by reviewing the answer to the scope question.

All applications that fit the competition scope will then be sent through for assessment, this includes those the Innovation Lead feels are on the edge of meeting the scope requirements. As the Innovation Lead owns the scope of a competition their decision is final and cannot be questioned.

The assessors are experts from across business and academia. They are allocated based on their skills and expertise relevant to your project.

Watch our video showing how our assessors assess your application.

If your application does not meet the eligibility criteria or is not in scope, you will be made ineligible. We will email you with the reasons why.

Standard assessment process

The standard assessment process applied to most full stage applications is as follows:

  1. Applications are allocated to assessors in a secure and confidential manner, taking into account their expertise and any conflicts of interest they may have already declared to us.
    Assessors are not able to see or access any scoring or feedback that you may have received for a previous application.
  2. Your application may be assessed by five, three or one assessor depending on the competition criteria stated in the specific brief.
    Assessors complete their assessment independently and are bound by a non-disclosure agreement as part of their contract. If you have submitted an application for a second time, we cannot guarantee the same assessors will assess your application.
  3. Each assessor submits a score for each scored question. They will also provide comments which form your application feedback. Assessors are not able to see each other’s scores or feedback.
  4. Once we have received all assessments in the competition you applied into, a report is run to show a ranked order of all applications based on the average assessor score of each application. This is known as the panel sheet.
  5. The panel sheet is reviewed by the Innovation Lead responsible for the competition and moderated by the Competition Manager. This is dependent on the assessment process stated in your specific competition brief.
  6. The highest ranking applications (subject to meeting a minimum quality threshold and any portfolio approach) are recommended to Innovate UK for funding.
  7. The final recommended panel list is presented to the Innovate UK Funder’s Panel to obtain final approval for funding. The funders panel is made of Innovate UK domain experts and operational staff to ensure the smooth transition through project setup.

Watch our video showing how successful applications are selected for funding.

While Innovate UK engages assessors to act on its behalf, we retain the right to make any decision on whether a proposal is in or out of scope or eligible for funding. Projects considered out of scope or ineligible will not be funded.

The portfolio approach

Innovate UK reserves the right to apply a ‘portfolio’ approach in certain competitions. The portfolio can be spread across a range of:

The ‘portfolio approach’ is used to fit the spend profile of the competition. The Innovation Lead or Challenge Director responsible for the competition will make sure that funds are allocated across the strategic areas identified in the scope of the competition. This may mean that a proposal that scores less than yours is successful.

Standard interview process

The standard interview process applied to most full stage applications is as follows:

  1. A shortlist of applications are selected and invited to interview. They are selected based on the following criteria:
    • score achieved from the initial written assessment
    • fit against the portfolio of projects
  2. The panel is selected, expertise verified, and availability confirmed.
  3. Once the shortlist is agreed the projects are invited via email to attend an interview. The email invite will state the exact date, time, duration, location (if applicable) and how many attendees are allowed at the interview.
  4. Interviews can rarely be rescheduled once allocated, so make sure you are available on the dates published within the specific competition brief.
  5. Your interview will consist of your presentation followed by a question and answer session led by the panel.
  6. Your presentation should outline anything you want to explain further in support of your application or answer the assessor feedback.
  7. You will be asked to provide a copy of your presentation slides and response to assessor feedback two weeks before your interview. This will allow the panel time to review your application and the additional information.
  8. The panel are provided with a copy of your original application and appendices, feedback from the written assessment, your response to feedback (if provided) and presentation slides.
  9. You must not bring any additional materials to your interview to share with the panel. This will not be allowed, unless specifically asked for within the invite.
  10. If you overrun on your presentation, you will be allowed to finish your sentence and then asked to stop to ensure all applicants have the same time allocated to them.
  11. All applicants are given the same amount of time to present and for the panel to ask questions as stated in your specific competition brief.
  12. Once the interview is over the panel will discuss your application, and independently score it based on the information you have provided in the presentation. Individual scores will remain anonymous and will not be moderated.
  13. The interview score will override your initial written score unless stated otherwise in the competition brief.
  14. After all the interviews have finished, Innovate UK will collate the scores and re-rank the projects into order from top to bottom. If stated in the competition brief the Innovation lead may take a portfolio of projects that best support the objectives of the competition.
  15. You will be provided with a copy of your interview feedback after you have been notified of the outcome of your project.

UKRI Challenge Fund competition assessment process

  1. UKRI Challenge Fund competitions managed by Innovate UK, will follow the standard Innovate UK written assessment process. In addition to the standard process, we may include a request for you to present to an interview panel. The UKRI Challenge Fund interview process will be explained in the competition guidance.
  2. Projects will be reviewed by a panel of industry experts against the portfolio criteria set out in the competition The panel will make written recommendations of which projects to fund, to the UKRI Challenge Fund Challenge Director. The outcomes of the competition will be confirmed by UK Research and Innovation senior management through the agreed UKRI Challenge Fund approvals process or government ministers.

Decisions and feedback

Once the decisions have been agreed, you are informed of the final decision on your application by email. This decision is final and there is no right of appeal.

Assessor feedback is provided to successful and unsuccessful applicants and is made up of the comments supporting the scores given by assessors. Your notification email will state when feedback will be available. Feedback is published on your Innovation Funding Service dashboard.

The assessor feedback is intended to be constructive. Contradiction in your feedback may suggest that your proposal could be clearer or better justified, as well as reflecting the different views of assessors.

Your feedback may contain points or comments that you may disagree with. The comments provided will be based on the individual assessors’ interpretation of your project idea and may vary considerably.

No additional feedback will be provided and addressing feedback with Innovate UK or the assessors in question is not permitted.

You may wish to address assessor feedback in a resubmitted application should you be eligible.

Addressing assessor feedback in a previously submitted application does not guarantee success. The onus is on you to determine whether acting upon feedback will strengthen a decision to resubmit an application.

There is no right of appeal against the feedback provided. Innovate UK will not enter any discussions or complaints regarding the scientific or technical decision made regarding your application.

Assessor quality monitoring and feedback

We work with all of our assessors to provide support and guidance on our expectations of behaviours and assessment on all competitions. This is to ensure all assessors are carrying out assessments in a fair and transparent manner and in accordance with the assessor scoring matrix and competition guidelines.

Assessor confidentiality and potential conflicts of interest

All assessors have to sign confidentiality agreements and declare any potential conflicts of interest on the applications they are assigned. They must treat applications in the strictest of confidence and adhere to information protection rules.

Assessors working for Innovate UK are engaged as individuals, not as representatives of their employment. They must carry out an assessment of the applications themselves. They cannot ask anyone else to review an application in their place nor ask anyone to give another opinion of their assessment.

All assessors will be briefed on each competition by Innovate UK to undertake assessments according to our requirements.

Innovate UK preserves the anonymity of the assessors and their names will not be provided under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Last updated: 12 July 2024

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