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Blog: April 2022 changes to Innovate UK Smart Grants

The newest round of Innovate UK Smart Grants funding applications opened yesterday, Monday 25th April 2022, with a few changes announced to the application process.

What are Smart Grants?

UK registered organisations are able to apply for a share of £25 million of government funding for commercially viable research and development innovation through Smart Grants, but the application process is extensive. To help, we launched an application support service last year, but it’s important for anyone wanting to access this type of funding to fully understand the eligibility, scope, and information required before embarking on a grant bid.

What has changed?

Crucially for this new round, the application questions have been updated to reflect how important it is that the innovation project being submitted has real economic benefit. Although applications can come from any area of technology and be applied to any part of the economy, now, they have to have strong commercial viability to ensure the best return on investment for taxpayers.

Innovate UK and all government R&D funding is there to put innovation at the heart of economic growth, so this isn’t a surprise.

Key question differences

Section Question Previous round wording Key changes for April 2022
1: Project details Subsidy basis
Will the project, including any related activities you want Innovate UK to fund, affect trade between Northern Ireland and the EU?

All participants must complete this section. You and all your project partners must complete this question before you can submit your application.

Will the project, including any related activities you want Innovate UK to fund, affect trade between Northern Ireland and the EU?

You and all your project partners must respond and mark this question as complete, before you can submit your application.

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.

Describe your project briefly and be clear about what makes it innovative and how it fits with the scope of the competition.

This section will set the scene for assessors.

Public description Your answer can be up to 400 words long. We will also use this section to assign the right experts to assess your application.

Your answer can be up to 300 words long.

Scope
Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope, it will not be eligible for funding.
MPA says: Scope has been removed from the project details section for April 2022 and is now included in the Project Summary section instead.

2. Application questions

MPA says: Each question now has a different word count – 400 no longer applies to every question.
Question 2.
Need or challenge

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

Your idea and innovation

What is your idea and innovation, and why is it game-changing?

MPA says: Almost every bullet point within this question has been updated to focus more heavily on explaining who the innovation will benefit, whether it’s new for existing purposes or a disruptive idea, and how the innovation is strong enough to be exploited in or from the UK with potential to achieve significant market share.

More guidance on what assessors are looking for has been provided, and the word count has been increased from 400 to 600 words.

Guidance on this section also stresses the need for a full proposal to be submitted, that demonstrates evidenced understanding of the sector and opportunity identified.

Question 3. Approach and innovation
MPA says: Question three no longer focuses on the approach and focus of the innovation, and has instead been replaced by a section called Justification for funding.

Approach – which asks applicants to detail how the innovation will make you more competitive, how it will improve on what is currently available and what needs, challenges or opportunities have been identified – are now spread across other questions.

The new question 3 – Justification for funding – is explicitly about explaining why Smart funding is needed for success.

Applicants now need to explain the journey they’ve been on with the project so far, any other investment routes that have been explored, what will happen to the project if Smart funding is not received, who else you might approach for funding if you don’t succeed in the application and what advantages Smart funding will give you that other types may not.

This final point will be difficult for many applicants to answer without support from an innovation funding expert.

Question 4.  Team and resources
MPA says: this information is now covered in question 6: Delivering your project.

The roles, skills, expertise, and experience of team members still need to be described as before, but in much more detail.

For April 2022, the key change is the requirement to explain your capability to deliver the project within the required timescale alongside any existing business activities or constraints, because no extensions or delays are possible for Smart-funded projects.

Also new for this round, you are required to describe your approach to project management for the duration of the project, and how the team will continue to deliver impact beyond the life of the project – including how you will commercialise the innovation following the project completion.

Project plans and risk registers are also required to be submitted in April 2022 applications.

Question 5 and 6. Market awareness and Outcomes and route to market The potential market
MPA says: Again, question numbering has shifted so Market awareness – previously question 5 – is now question 4, and it has combined some of the questions also previously covered in number 6.

The new question 4 requires similar details but requires more information on exactly who will buy the innovation and how you’ll ensure significant return on investment, evidenced by user or market research.

A full route to market and commercialisation plan is necessary for the completion of this question.

Question 10 and 11. Added value and Costs and value for money Value for money (now question 7) 
MPA says: This is where we see the most significant change of tone in application details required.

Previously you were required to describe how Smart funding would help you accelerate or enhance the development of the project towards commercialisation; now, you need to explain in more depth how giving you the funding represents good value for money for the taxpayer, as the ability to commercialise your project is a pre-requisite.

The new value for money section requires evidence of solid financial planning, and for that reason, we recommend seeking advice if you’re not comfortable with developing these kinds of calculations.

 

The above breakdown gives you a good idea of how and why Innovate UK has updated the questions, however, as you can see, the changes can’t be 100% compared to previous years so you should read the how to apply section before starting an application.

The new focus on commercialisation has driven questions to become more business planning orientated than before, so if you need support in preparing or completing an application get in touch with our Smart Grants experts today.

 

 

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