How much SMART grant to apply for?21 November 2019
SMART is Innovate UK’s open funding programme that offers R&D grants for game-changing innovations of up to £2 million project cost – but how much grant to apply for? The temptation is to apply for the maximum possible but is that the right strategy for the best outcome?
SMART is massively oversubscribed to applications. A recent Freedom-of-Information (FOI) request to Innovate UK disclosed that there were over 1,259 applicants into the February 2019 SMART competition. If every applicant applied at maximum grant, then the available budget of £25 million for the competition would only support around 17 to 18 projects!
Clearly, it makes sense for Innovate UK to spread risks by investing in several different projects, in different sectors, at different stages of innovation development and at different project costs. So, is there an optimum amount to pitch for?
A recent FOI request to Innovate UK on the Open Funding rounds (see table) gives some insight:
The table indicates that successful scores vary across competitions but are very high – typically in the region of 77% to 85%. The margin between pass or fail can be just a few tenths of a percent difference.
Some scores failing in one competition could easily pass in another round – so there is some luck involved depending on the volume and quality of applications.
An analysis of Innovate UK’s published grant winners gives further insight:
This shows most successful grant winners clustered around a maximum project cost of £500k (average £300k) with a handful of outlier projects in the £1.5m to £2.0m area. Further analysis of the outlier projects indicates these either involve consortia of very big companies with high costs, or are doing something extraordinary at exceptional value for money…
The best strategy, therefore, is to apply for the minimum money to get you to the next level. It is far better to fragment your project into smaller chunks and do multiple applications over time than to do everything in one go.
Finally, achieving scores of 77 to 85% is very difficult, even for experienced applicants – so, get expert help!