Yesterday, Innovate UK (IUK) confirmed that the next round of SMART grant funding is opening on August 28th 2020. There was some speculation in the community as to whether IUK would continue with SMART grants, given the decision to pause the competition earlier in the year. However, it looks as though the SMART competition will run in parallel to IUK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund, which is currently in its second round, with a third round due to open in September 2020.
Winning is never easy
It’s no secret that each SMART grant call is a highly competitive round of funding. During one particular round of applications this year, over 8,000 applications were submitted. This of course throws up certain challenges for applicants. For example, it can raise the threshold required to be funded. In funding rounds that are less contested, your application would be in with a good chance of making the final shortlist with a mark of 70% upwards (or thereabouts).
Earlier in the year, I reviewed a grant for an extremely innovative company, with a very clear approach to a well-defined problem. Their first attempt at a SMART grant ended with a result of ~79%, which is fantastic. However, they were still unsuccessful. For their resubmission, some key alterations were made (some of which are covered below) – they were notified of their success today for an award of £230k. It transpires that the cut off for consideration this time around was 83%.
Act now to be well poised for when SMART re-opens
There is a lot you can do before the 28th August to prepare yourself for the competition.
Prepare ahead of time. Look at previous SMART grant calls, check the application structure and develop a set of bullets for each question that you can then build on over the next few weeks. You’ll be in a good position come opening time.
Secure your innovation – What have you done to secure your intellectual property? Have you started patent searches with an attorney? Have you filed a patent at the Intellectual Property Office or European equivalent?
Finalise your team –Bring a list together of every team member on your project and write a bio for each. If you are going to recruit as part of the project, can you write a role description, identify a person in your network now and include them as a named candidate in the application form? If you can – do it.
Line up your project partners and customers – Get agreement from your project partners now to avoid scrambling around for partners at the last minute. Make sure they’re included on the application form if you can. They don’t have to claim costs but they may want to. Collaborative projects can often look stronger than sole applicants. If you have customers willing to participate in the project (inputting on design/trials etc.) then try your best to secure their agreement too. If you can evidence their willingness to be part of your project, it will only add to your credibility.
Lost? We can help you figure it out.
If you feel as though you’d like some help with your SMART grant application, drop a line to Grant Starter. We have experience dealing with previous rounds of SMART grants and various Innovate UK competitions. We offer various services, from detailed reviews and application co-development to full authoring of applications for those of our clients that are short on time. Get in touch!