Innovate UK Smart Awards: What are They, and How do I Apply?

Innovate UK is the UK's innovation agency, a non-departmental public body responsible for funding, supporting and connecting innovative British businesses to accelerate sustainable economic growth. The organisation manages funding programmes throughout the year in the form of 'Smart Awards', designed to help realise projects that are considered 'too risky' to receive private sector investment.

Innovate UK operates in the space between fundamental research – often involving a university or other research organisation – and commercialisation projects that are capable of attracting private sector funding from banks or investors. As a general rule, the further away from market a project is, the more funding it can receive from Innovate UK.

What Makes an Ideal Project?

Innovate UK projects need to be innovative, commercially viable, and of wider benefit to society or the UK. They should also have an obvious need for funding and support, and illustrate a realistic opportunity to open up or exploit a significant growth market. An ideal project is one that presents a technical challenge which may be solved through research and development.

The types of project most suited to Innovate UK’s support include:

  •          Feasibility studies to test the viability of a new product or service
  •          Collaborative R&D projects involving the creation of a consortium led by a business partner
  •          Early-stage product prototyping
  •          Innovative products that are close to market and need to access investment or venture capital

How do I Apply?

The Innovate UK website outlines the current priority sectors and industries that the body is keen to support. The projects that they fund have one common goal: they have the scope to boost productivity in the UK through innovation. For advice, eligibility criteria and more information on the latest funding competitions, email or call the customer hotline on 0300 321 4357.