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Smart Grants – The Next Step for Fast Start Winners

If your company received a Fast Start: Innovation grant, you stand a good chance of winning a far more lucrative Innovate UK Smart grant. Here’s what you need to know. 

Winning an innovation grant can help companies propel nascent projects and technologies towards the holy grail of commercialisation.

However, as companies approach the end of their grant-winning projects, many wonder where their next tranche of funding will come from, so they can continue the development work kick-started by their previous windfall.

Helpfully, recipients of an Innovate UK Fast Start: Innovation grant – whose projects are required to finish by the end of April – have a clear route to further funding: through Innovate UK’s popular Smart grant competition

Smart supports projects with £100,000 to £2,000,000 in qualifying costs and offers grants of up to £1.4 million. The January 2023 round of Smart is currently open and doesn’t close until 14 June.

What are Innovate UK Smart grants?

Smart is an Innovate UK competition that supports innovation at cutting-edge small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMEs), as well as consortia of companies and organisations that include at least one business of that size. 

Open to UK-registered businesses and organisations, Smart is open roughly three times a year. Each round distributes up to £25 million in funding.  

Smart grants are extremely popular among innovative UK businesses and are also, therefore, highly competitive. On average, only one in 20 applications are accepted by Innovate UK’s inspectors.

Read more: GrantTree Secures £3 Million in Innovate UK Smart Grants for Clients

Fast Start - your gateway to Smart

Smart may be competitive, but Fast Start winners have a real advantage over other applicants.  

Innovate UK sees Fast Start as the gateway to Smart funding. Successful Fast Start-funded projects will have reached various technical milestones that makes them more likely to reach market and generate a return. Ultimately, a successful Fast Start-funded project is less likely to fail – a key consideration for Innovate UK.

Both competitions also have similar stipulations for the quality and suitability of innovation offered by qualifying projects. 

According to Innovate UK, “winning Fast Start projects must demonstrate that they can lead to new products, processes or services that are significantly ahead of others currently available, or propose an innovative use of existing products, processes or services.” Meanwhile, Smart grants are designed to support “game-changing and commercially viable R&D innovations that can significantly impact the UK economy”.

The similarities between the two scopes are unmistakable.

Finally, your Fast Start victory will give you a track record with Innovate UK, indicating to your assessors that your innovation is suitable for Smart and that your team is capable of successfully delivering a grant-funded project.

Get a no-hassle assessment of your chances

All that said, acquiring a Fast Start grant is by no means a guarantee that your Smart grant application will be successful.

As preparing a Smart grant application takes a great deal of time, it’s helpful to get a more accurate sense of your chances of winning a Smart grant before you start compiling and completing the various paperwork required by Innovate UK.

If you’re considering an application to the January 2023 round of Smart, GrantTree’s experts can give you a free, no-hassle assessment of your chances. They can also provide a range of useful advice which you can use to strengthen your application.

To get a hassle-free success assessment, just get in touch.