Innovate UK Smart Grants: What are they and can I apply?

20 October 2021


Funding and Asset Finance

For many owner managers across the UK, the pandemic was a catalyst for change. We've seen thousands of businesses adapt, pivot and thrive over the last year, changing the way they work or even expanding into new markets. For those are innovating, Smart Grants could be groundbreaking. 

What are the Smart Grants? 

The open grant funding programme will see Innovate UK investing up to £25m in projects which could have a substantial impact on the economy. And the good news is that the funding isn't limited to any particular industry. 

Is your business eligible? 

As long as you can show that: 

  • Your business isn't facing financial difficulty; 
  • Your project is game-changing or is a disruptive idea in your field; 
  • And is commercially viable 

You will be able to apply for the grant. 

Your project will need to start by July 1st 2022, finish before June 30th 2025, and include at least one SME who will either lead the project or act as a collaborative partner. 

Because the funding has been put in place to help drive economic growth in the UK, all of the work on your project will have to take place in the UK - including any subcontracted work. 

There are different rules to keep in mind depending on the duration of your project, but the Government have compiled a really useful tool to help businesses assess their eligibility, which you can access here

Before you apply... 

It's worth keeping in mind that the grant funding could have a knock-on effect on your other forms of funding and that State aid rules will also need to be considered at all times. 

If you're unsure on where you stand, it's always best to consult a professional on the matter. 

How to apply 

You can apply for the funding through the Government's website here. But before submitting your application, you'll need to read through the guidance on applying for the funding. 

The competition for the funding opened earlier this month and will close at 11am on 5th January. Although this date might seem far off at the moment, the sooner your application is submitted the better, with the competition expected to be rife. 

Other avenues of funding 

If your business misses out because of the competitive nature of the application process, or if you don't qualify for the funding, all is not lost. There are other avenues of funding to consider if your business is innovating. 

One of the most valuable reliefs in the UK tax system is Research and Development (R&D) tax credits, which rewards innovative and forward-thinking business who are looking to create or improve their processes and products with a significant cashflow injection. And even if your project isn't successful, you could be eligible for the relief which stretches up to 33.3% of your company's qualifying R&D expenditure. 

The Net Zero Innovation Portfolio is also worth considering if your project is focusing on sustainability. The programme is a £1bn fund, set up to help fund low carbon technologies and decrease the costs of decarbonisation. 

Applications and competitions for other forms of funding are always opening through local authorities and on the Government's website, so it's worth keeping up to date with the opportunities which are on offer. 

Supporting your business

Whether it's supporting you with your application, assessing the impact that the smart grants could have on your other forms of funding, or exploring funding opportunities for your business, our team of Corporate Finance experts are on hand to help.