In the UK, there is over £10 billion allocated for research and innovation funding each year. UK-based organisations can also apply for funding from the EU’s framework programme for research and innovation, Horizon Europe, which has a €95.5 billion budget for 2021-2027.

However, applying for grant funding is complex and stressful, with a typical timeframe of 6 to 10 weeks to develop a strong application. Not only this, but the competition for grants is fierce; for example, the EIC Accelerator reported a success rate of just 2-3% in 2019-2020 (European Commission).

Our mission here at RedKnight is simple; we want to make the innovation funding process easier for tech-based startups and SMEs. As a result, we’ve created a list of the most common mistakes we see in grant applications. We hope that knowing what to avoid will increase your chances of success, making your hard work worth it!

1. The project isn’t within the scope of the funding programme

Ensuring your project is in scope is critical. Before you begin an application, you should always read the competition scope carefully and consider how your project addresses the specific areas of interest. You should ensure that your innovation is at the right stage of development and, if required, that you’re working in collaboration.

Remember that square pegs don’t fit round holes! If your project isn’t quite within the competition scope, it will be ineligible for funding and may not even be assessed. In this scenario, it’s preferable to consider alternative competitions.

2. You haven’t identified a clear challenge that your innovation will solve.

Your application needs to tell a story; what challenge will your innovation solve? In other words, you should explain why it is a necessary solution to a problem and warrants funding. You should support your argument with quantifiable statistics and provide a clear explanation of the nearest state-of-the-art available.

It’s also important that you don’t make your solution too far-reaching. While it might have wider applications, a specific area of focus can make the need for your innovation much clearer.

3. You’re applying alone, but a partner could strengthen your application.

Ask yourself the following questions: i) do you have the in-house skills to achieve what you are setting out to do? and ii) based on your track record, are you able to convince the evaluators that you can deliver the project?

If you answered no to one or both questions, you may want to consider working with a partner whose skillset and experience complements your own. This won’t go against you – in fact, it will strengthen your application! The assessors will have more faith in your ability to deliver the project.

4. You haven’t backed up your claims.

You need to substantiate the statements you make with evidence – the more detail, the better! For example, if you claim that there is a large target market for your innovation, you need to show the assessors how you know this. Therefore, you should include current market data references where possible to support your argument.

We hope this post helps you to avoid the most common mistakes we see in grant funding applications. If you’re applying for an Innovate UK Smart Grant, you can download our free application guide today. Alternatively, if you’re looking for further bid writing support, please get in touch.