BusinessFunding & Grants

Funding for Innovation: What are Smart Grants and How Do I Apply?

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We take a look at the Smart funding scheme, what smart grants are, and how to apply.

There are many different types of grants in the UK available for organisations and businesses.

In this quick guide we will be taking a look at some of the top Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding Smart grants.


You can find a great list of the different Innovate UK funding competitions available, and a basic outline of who is eligible on the site here.

What is a Smart Grant?

The Smart scheme (known previously as the Grant for Research and Development scheme – and also ‘SMART’: Small Firms Merit Award for Research and Technology), is a UK based project that offers funding to organisations to allow them to engage in research and development projects.

Smart grants are targeted at areas deemed to be strategically important, namely in science, engineering and technology.

Who runs the Smart scheme?

The scheme is run by Innovate UK, which is the operating name for the Technology Strategy Board, the United Kingdom’s innovation agency.

Reporting in to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Innovate UK is a non-departmental public body that operates at ‘arms length’ from the government.

You can find out more about Innovate UK here.

What Types of Grant Are Available?

There are three main types of grant under the Smart scheme:

  • Proof of market – assess viability using methods such as market research, market and competitor analysis, and intellectual property rights assessment
  • Proof of concept – explore the project feasibility, looking at technical feasibility, prototyping and testing
  • Development of prototype – provides funds to create a prototype, demonstrate, and instigate testing and trials

Who is eligible? / Which Type of Organisations/Companies Can Apply?

According to the official documentation, the following people/types of organisations can apply for funding under the scheme:

  • early-stage, micro, small or medium-sized UK business, or those thinking of starting a business
  • have both the ‘ambition and potential to achieve high growth’
  • work in science, engineering or technology industries

Any UK based SME working in any sector can apply, and the applications are considered on a rolling basis.

Glasgow Science Centre - Photo by Wojtek Gurak

Glasgow Science Centre – Photo by Wojtek Gurak @ Flickr

Where can I get advice on a Smart Funding application?

Should you wish to get help and advice on applying for a Smart grant, or other types of funding for innovation, MSC R&D are one organisation that can help.

Stated on the MSC website: “although Smart grants are undoubtedly becoming harder to get, the MSC R&D application methodology provides our clients with an ‘excellence’ model which they can use to approach a bid for Smart funding.”

“Since 1990, hundreds of MSC R&D clients have benefited from Smart funding using our proven fast-track, team-based approach which minimises the disruption to a business whilst delivering an extremely high chance of success.”

What other types of innovation grants are available?

In addition to the smart scheme, Innovate UK run numerous other funding competitions, including:

  • Catalysts – from £150k to £10m to test and develop an innovative new idea
  • Collaborative research and development – from £25k to £5m to fund R&D
  • Eurostars – up to €300k to research or develop an innovative product
  • Feasibility studies – up to £400k to test a business idea
  • Horizon 2020 – EU innovation scheme
  • Innovation Vouchers – draw for up to £5k to hire an external expert
  • Knowledge Transfer Partnerships – around £80k towards research and newly-qualified graduates

We hope you have found our quick guide useful. For more information on grants and business funding you should consider speaking to an expert.

Main image adapted from an icon by Paomedia @ Iconfinder

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