What is the new Innovate UK Smart Grant?

May 23, 2022

In April 2022, Innovate UK launched a new Smart Grant competition that offers between £50,000 and £2million to innovative SMEs based in the UK.

The Innovate UK Smart Grant has gone through a few changes in the last 10 years and this latest iteration for 2022 has a few changes that we will cover in this blog, as well as a link to the Smart Grant Briefing Event hosted by Innovate UK in May.

Here we tell you what are the main changes to the Innovate UK Smart Grant in 2022.

Swift and significant commercialisation (and exports)

The Innovate UK Smart Grant has evolved. The scope of the fund remains in support of ‘game-changing and disruptive innovations’ with a particular focus on innovations that will produce significant economic benefit to the UK. This is the first key change – the focus right from the outset – is on how an innovation-led SME will generate a return-on-investment for both their business and the UK tax-payer.

Is Innovate UK Smart Grant the only funding option?

There is added emphasis on the need for public funding – by this, Innovate UK needs to be convinced that grant funding is the only viable source of funding for your business. Can you rule out other Innovate UK grants for example – are you targeting the Smart Grant because it has a convenient deadline or is it really the only viable Innovate UK Grant Fund suited to your project? Have you exhausted other funding optionsequity, crowd, loan, etc?

Delivering your Smart Grant project

For those companies who have won previous Innovate UK Smart Grants, be aware that the rules for delivering your innovation project have been tightened. That means once you are successful, there is less flexibility on time frames, reporting, budget changes, project change requests and general administration of the project. Rules are laid out in the scope of the call.

Game Changing innovations and Smart Grants

Innovate UK really hammered home the message that proposals must be game-changing. It seems like this criteria – which is ambiguous and relative – will be used to make final decisions on which applications should be approved for grant funding.

Lean Projects are more likely to secure Smart Grants

Value for money is important to the Smart Grant evaluators so it is going to be important to keep projects lean. Even to the extent that businesses should consider if every role in the project is required – could you bundle project management into a technical role perhaps to demonstrate value for money?

The UK is the most important country in the world

Innovate UK seem to be under some pressure to back the post-Brexit messages that the UK is world leading. The assessors are looking for proposals that improve the position of the UK in the world market – improving the UK reputation and economic advantage.

The Innovation UK Smart Grant Application has changed

This might be more one for the grant writers or companies that have experience of Smart Grants – the application has changed (slightly). Have a look at the questions online – some have been combined, some shortened / lengthened, some appendices have gone. Overall, it is very similar in our view and there is nothing to be afraid of here.

So, these were the main changes and updates. If you have 2 hours to spare, there is a briefing session hosted by Innovate UK here.

Further reading:



Alex has over 15 years experience in founding and running businesses, the most recent company having raised over £50m in funding for businesses based across the globe. He has a thorough knowledge of business funding options and can draw on many successful consultancy engagements to bring impetus to venturing. Alex has now set his focus to working with entrepreneurial teams looking to make a positive impact on the climate crisis and the broader UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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