Smart is Innovate UK’s ‘open grant funding’ programme.

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £25 million in the best game-changing and commercially viable innovative or disruptive ideas. All proposals must be business focused.

Applications can come from any area of technology and be applied to any part of the economy, such as, but not exclusively:

  • the arts, design and media
  • creative industries
  • science or engineering

Whilst we welcome projects that overlap with the grand challenge areas this is not a requirement, as we are also keen to support projects in other areas.

Your project must:

  • include at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) as the lead or a collaborative grant claiming partner
  • start by 1 April 2022
  • end by 31 March 2025
  • follow specific rules dependent on its duration

If your project’s duration is 6 to 18 months:

  • it must have total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £500,000
  • it can be single (SMEs only) or collaborative

If your project’s duration is 19 to 36 months:

  • it must have total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £2 million
  • it must be collaborative

If you want to submit a collaborative project from 19 months to 36 months duration with total eligible project costs of up to £3 million as a permitted exception, you must email support@innovateuk.ukri.org. You must provide full justification at least 10 working days before the competition closes. Innovate UK will decide whether to approve your request.

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:

  • business
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not-for-profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

Businesses or RTOs can only lead on one application. Any subsequent applications submitted with the same lead will not be forwarded for assessment.

All partners can collaborate on any number of applications.

Your proposal must demonstrate:

  • a clear game-changing, innovative, disruptive, and ambitious idea leading to new products, processes or services
  • an idea that is significantly ahead of others in the field, set for rapid commercialisation
  • a strong and deliverable business plan that addresses (and documents) market potential and needs
  • a clear, evidence based plan to deliver significant economic impact, return on investment (ROI) and growth through commercialisation, as soon as possible after project completion
  • a team, business arrangement or working structure with the necessary skills and experience to run and complete the project successfully and on time
  • awareness of all the main risks the project will face (including contractor or equipment failure, recruitment delays, etc) with realistic management, mitigation and impact minimisation plans for each risk
  • clear, considerable potential to significantly impact either or both, the UK economy and productivity in a positive way
  • sound, practical financial plans and timelines that represent good value for money, which will always be a consideration in Innovate UK funding decisions

Specific themes

Your project should:

  • demonstrate realistic, significant potential for global markets
  • take customer and user needs into account to deliver more desirable and useful solutions

Proposals from innovation-based businesses with significant ambition and potential for growth or scale up are welcome.

Research categories

We will fund innovative research and development (R&D) projects across a variety of technologies, markets and research categories, including:

  • feasibility projects
  • industrial research projects
  • experimental development projects

as defined in the guidance on categories of research.

An online briefing event will be held at 12 noon on Friday 3rd September 2021: the joining link can be found here.