How important is Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in grant funding applications?

About EDI

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) ensures fair treatment and opportunity for all. It is enshrined in law through the Equality Act 2010, which makes it illegal to discriminate against someone because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. These are known as “protected characteristics.”

Research has revealed that the business case for equality, diversity and inclusion is stronger than ever (McKinsey 2020). A diverse team is often more creative, as people with different backgrounds and experiences view problems differently. This can lead to better, more innovative solutions (Innovation Caucus 2020).

It is no surprise that grant funding bodies are trying to build a more inclusive innovation ecosystem. Read on to find out more about the steps they are taking to tackle underrepresentation and promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

Innovate UK

Innovate UK supports diversity and inclusion through a range of targeted interventions, including the Women in Innovation and Young Innovators Awards. They plan to scale up this support over the next three years, according to a set of new measures set out in the Strategic Delivery Plan 2022-2025.

In addition, Innovate UK has recently launched the Inclusive Innovation Awards, which will invest up to £2.5 million per year in inclusive innovations. All winners will receive a £50,000 grant for scale up or development work. More information on the 2022-2023 Awards is available here.

EDI is also an important part of all Innovate UK grant applications, with applicants required to complete an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion survey. Not only this, but applicants must consider EDI in the design of their project. For example, Innovate UK Smart Grants applicants must explain i) any challenges relating to EDI arising from the project, ii) how they have considered EDI in the development and design of the innovation and iii) how they will promote EDI if they need to recruit as part of their project.

Horizon Europe

Perhaps most apparent are the steps the European Commission are taking to promote gender equality in research and innovation. Firstly, all public bodies, higher education institutions and research organisations from EU Member States and associated countries must have a Gender Equality Plan in place to participate in Horizon Europe. You can find more information on Gender Equality Plans here.

Additionally, the EU Prize for Women Innovators provides three prizes of €100,000 each year to the most talented women innovators from across the EU and Associated Countries. They also award three prizes of €50,000 to the most promising young innovators under 35.

Get in touch

EDI is a clear priority for innovation funding bodies, and it is vital that you consider it within your own grant applications. If you are looking for support, please contact us to arrange a free consultation.

Innovate UK: How to complete the project setup process

Have you recently submitted a successful application to Innovate UK? Congratulations! This blog post provides an overview of the project setup process to prepare you for what happens next.

Successful applicants will be instructed to start the project setup process in their notification email. It is accessible via the Innovation Funding Service portal and has eight steps:

Step 1 – Project details

Firstly, you need to provide the proposed start date and location of the project.

Step 2 – Project team

In step two, you need to supply Innovate UK with contact details for your assigned project manager and the assigned finance contact for your organisation. The finance contact is responsible for providing bank details for your organisation and responding to any financial queries from Innovate UK.

Please note that you will need a finance contact for each partner organisation if the project is collaborative.

Step 3 – Documents

In Step 3, you will need to provide the following documents:

  • A signed collaboration agreement if you are working on a collaborative project
  • A completed spend profile
  • An exploitation plan
  • Any other documents that may be required specific to the competition
Step 4 – Monitoring officer

Once the first three steps are complete, Innovate UK will assign a monitoring officer to your project. They will be your point of contact throughout the project. The Monitoring Office will help you make sure that the project complies with the terms and conditions of the award and report on your progress to Innovate UK.

Step 5 – Bank details

Step 5 requires you to fill in your bank details if you have not received grant payments from Innovate UK before. You will also need to upload a redacted business bank statement for Innovate UK to verify and approve that you have a suitable clearing bank account.

Step 6 – Finance checks

Next, Innovate UK will review your financial information. They may have some queries in areas such as matched funding, subcontracting, and labour costs.

Step 7 – Spend profile

Once Innovate UK have approved your project finances, you can change your project spend profile. This should detail your costs across the duration of the project.

Step 8 – Grant offer letter

And finally, project setup is complete! You will receive a grant offer letter from Innovate UK that you need to sign and return, giving you the green light to start your project.

More Information

You can find more information on the project setup process here. If you have just been successful in securing an Innovate UK grant and are looking for project management support, we’d love to hear from you! Please get in touch to arrange a free consultation.

Beginner’s Guide: How to build an effective consortium in Horizon Europe

International cooperation is at the heart of Horizon Europe; for most calls for proposals, you will need to apply as a team of at least three partner organisations from different Member States or Associated Countries. However, building a winning consortium is no easy task! Here are five tips to keep in mind if you’re just getting started:

1. Start early

It’s important that you give yourself plenty of time to build a consortium. This will allow you to speak with numerous organisations to ensure you get the very best people on board for your project.

Where possible, we recommend starting the consortium-building process before calls are even announced. It is worth familiarising yourself with the Horizon Europe strategic plan, which sets the strategic orientations for research and innovation investments in the programme's first four years. In addition, work programmes set out funding opportunities under Horizon Europe and can help you anticipate upcoming calls. From here, you can start building out a network of relevant organisations.

Tip: Think about the time needed to prepare the bid. The more partners, the longer this will take!

2. Use your network

Your network is the best place to start looking for potential project partners! Firstly, consider whether you have existing collaborators who can help you deliver the project. Not only this, but do your existing collaborators have contacts who can help?

Tip: Previous (successful) collaborations indicate your consortium work well together, therefore mitigating some of the risks associated with the project.

… But don’t be afraid to look beyond it!

While your network is a great place to start, it’s important that you don’t just work with your friends. If they have the necessary skills and experience – great! If not, you should look outside of your network to find organisations that better fit the project.

One way to find new partners is through the built-in Partner Search tool on the European Funding and Tenders Portal. Organisations can search for potential partners for collaborative projects through the partner search page (link this) and through specific topic pages.

Other places to find partners online include Crowdhelix, an Open Innovation network for organisations seeking Horizon Europe funding, and LinkedIn groups. We would also recommend participating in Info Days and brokerage events where possible, as they are a great way to network and form new collaborations.

Tip: Short on time? You can publish your own Partner Search request on the EU Funding and Tenders Portal with details of what you are looking for.

3. Keep the budget in mind

The size of the consortium will be impacted by the size of the grant available. You need to ensure that you have a sufficient budget to fund the number of partners involved in the project. All partners will also need to be aware of the grant amount ceiling so they can construct their work plans in line with the money available.

Tip: If the budget is stretched, you may need to consider scaling back the number of partners involved in the project.

4. Keep your end objectives in mind

Before you approach potential partners, you should have a clear understanding of what it is you want to do. This way, you will know exactly who to approach and can ensure that the consortium brings together the necessary expertise to fulfil the project’s end objectives.

Tip: Consider the evaluation criteria - in what way does each of the partners contribute to the project? Do they each have a valid role, and adequate resources in the project to fulfil that role?

5. Manage expectations from the very start

As the project coordinator, your role is to manage the expectations of all partners. We recommend:

  • Discussing roles and responsibilities, in terms of both writing the proposal and delivering the project.
  • Ensuring all partners agree on the budget. As the project coordinator, you should have the final say.
  • Discussing the likelihood of success. All partners should recognise that EU funding calls are extremely competitive and even excellent teams aren’t guaranteed to succeed.
  • Ensuring all partners have access to a project management and delivery handbook.

Tip: Organise a face-to-face meetup if you can! It’s important that all partners get to know each other to ensure the project runs smoothly.

How can RedKnight help?

RedKnight can help you identify potential project partners as part of our retained consultancy package. You can find more information here. Or, if you’ve already formed a consortium and are looking for bid writing support, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact us to arrange a free consultation.

What happens after you submit an Innovate UK application?

You’ve just submitted your Innovate UK application and breathed a sigh of relief that weeks of hard work are finally complete. But what happens next? Here is everything you need to know, including details of the assessment process and how Innovate UK selects applications for funding.

The assessment process

After the deadline, applications that meet the competition scope and eligibility criteria will be assessed by up to five assessors. They will score each section of your application and provide written feedback based on their interpretation of your project idea.

Innovate UK assessors are experts from both business and academia. They base their assessment solely on the information provided and remain anonymous throughout the entire process. Learn more about the assessment process here.

The moderation process

Innovate UK carries out three steps to moderate the assessors’ scores:

  • Firstly, they check for any outliers in the scoring. They may remove any scores that seem unjustified or unsupported by the assessors’ comments.
  • Then, Innovate UK will look at the assessors’ answers to the final recommendation questions to determine whether an application is in scope and worthy of funding. Successful applications must receive a majority vote from the assessors on both questions.
  • Finally, Innovate UK checks the minimum quality threshold to ensure that only the most innovative applications receive funding. This is typically a score of 70% or above.

Once the moderation process is complete, Innovate UK will rank applications in a list from highest to lowest.

Allocation of funds

Innovate UK takes two approaches to allocate funding:

  1. Top Down – funds are allocated from the top down until the competition budget is reached.
  2. Portfolio – they select applications to suit a specific spend profile for a competition.

Then, Innovate UK's funders panel will receive the list of successful applications for approval. They will review the recommendations in line with the competition scope. Learn more about how applications are selected for funding here.

What happens next?

Innovate UK will notify applicants of the outcome of their application. All applicants will also receive assessor feedback. It may contain conflicting comments as it is based on the assessors’ individual interpretations. However, there is no right of appeal against the feedback provided and you cannot address this with Innovate UK or the individual assessors.

How can RedKnight help?

If you don’t get the news you are hoping for, RedKnight can help you prepare a competitive resubmission ahead of the next deadline. Please contact us in order to arrange a free consultation.

Grant funding success rates: chances of success in 2022

This blog post provides up-to-date success rates for popular innovation grant funding competitions, including Innovate UK Smart Grants and the EIC Accelerator.

Innovate UK

Innovate UK Smart Grants has two streams: in stream 1, projects should have total costs under £500k and take no longer than 18 months to complete. In stream 2, projects must be collaborative, cost between £100,000 and £2 million, and last between 19 and 36 months. The competition, which typically takes place every quarter, had the following success rates in 2021:

August 2021

  • Stream 1 – 10.17%
  • Stream 2 – 12.99%

May 2021

  • Stream 1 – 6.98%
  • Stream 2 – 7.24%

January 2021

  • Stream 1 – 3.13%
  • Stream 2 – 3.47%

From this, we can see that Innovate UK Smart Grants had an average success rate of 6.76% for Stream 1 and 7.9% for Stream 2 in 2021.

EIC Accelerator

The EIC Accelerator is extremely competitive - by the end of Horizon 2020, it had a success rate of just 2-3%! This led to the introduction of a new three-stage application process under Horizon Europe: 1) Short application > 2) Full application > 3) Face-to-face interview. Short applications can be completed at any time and, if successful, the applicant can proceed to the full application stage.

It is unclear how many short applications were submitted in 2021 as these can be completed at any time. However, we know that there were a total of 1910 full applications (801 in June and 1109 in October). 164 companies received funding, meaning 8.5% of companies who made it to the full application stage were successful.

Eureka Eurostars

Eureka Eurostars has an overall success rate of 29%, with the programme making €1.75 billion of public/private investment since 2014.


RedKnight’s success rate stands at 38.3% - far above the average success rates for Innovate UK and European Commission grants! If you would like to discuss working together, please contact us to arrange a free consultation.

How to find the right grant funding opportunities for your innovation

In today’s blog, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about how to find grant funding opportunities for innovation projects. This includes where to look and how to decide if a grant funding opportunity is the right fit for your organisation.

“Where can I find grant funding opportunities?”
  1. Unfortunately, there is no single list of innovation funding opportunities. The main places to look include:
  • UKRI Funding Finder – this contains funding opportunities from across UKRI, including Innovate UK. You can filter the results by funding council, funding type, and submission status.
  • European Funding and Tenders Portal – the Portal contains all funding programmes and tenders managed by the European Commission, including Horizon Europe. However, you can quickly find relevant opportunities by searching for keywords relating to your field of interest or using the portal’s built-in filters to narrow your search.
  • Eureka Network – a list of open calls for transnational research and innovation projects is available on Eureka’s website.
  • You may also want to consider regional funding bodies, such as SMART Cymru for businesses based in Wales.

2. We recommend signing up for newsletters and funding bulletins to ensure you receive the latest opportunities direct to your inbox. Our favourites include UKRI and KTN. We also share the latest opportunities in our free monthly newsletter.

3. It is worth following innovation funding bodies such as Innovate UK and Horizon Europe on social media. This is another place where they tend to promote open or forthcoming funding calls. We also highlight the latest funding opportunities on our Twitter and LinkedIn.

4. If you have a specific project in mind, you should consider speaking to an innovation funding expert. They will be able to talk you through available funding opportunities and point you in the right direction.

“How do I know if a grant funding opportunity is the right fit?”
  • Check the eligibility criteria – this is essential as if you don’t meet the eligibility criteria, your application will be rejected and may not even be read. Typically, there may be rules relating to project costs, duration, start and end dates, and whether a project is single or collaborative.
  • Check the project scope – It’s important that you read and understand exactly what a funding call is looking to fund. For example, Innovate UK often highlights specific themes that a project should focus on, as well as projects that they will not fund. Remember, square pegs don’t fit round holes!
  • You should also consider whether it is the right time to apply for grant funding. Is your project at the right stage of development and can you provide the required level of match funding? If not, it may be worth holding off and revisiting an application further down the line.
“I’m interested in more than one opportunity – how do I choose?”

You may not have to choose, as you can generally apply to multiple competitions at the same time. Some of the information from a grant application will be transferable to other applications, and by casting a wider net, you also increase your chances of success. However, if you are successful with more than one application for the same project, you will need to decide which fund to progress with.

More Information

We hope this information helps in your search for grant funding opportunities. If you are short on time and would like our support, please contact us to arrange a free consultation.

Overview of eligible costs for Innovate UK applicants

What does Innovate UK mean by “eligible costs”?

Prospective grant applicants often ask what Innovate UK means by eligible costs, as this phrase features in most, if not all, Innovate UK competition descriptions. For example, they state that a Smart Grant project that lasts 6 to 18 months “must have total eligible project costs between £100,000 and £500,000.”

Eligible project costs relate to direct research and development expenditure. For non-academic organisations, there are seven types of cost:

1. Labour costs

In this section, you should provide details of all employed staff working directly on the project. They should be on your payroll and subject to PAYE. Innovate UK then needs to establish the day rate for your staff; this is calculated by the number of working days per year minus bank holidays and your organisation’s annual leave entitlement. They will also need to know the length of time your organisation will be working on the project.

If you do not have a company PAYE scheme, you can still include your labour as an eligible cost. Please see UKRI for more information.

2. Overheads

Innovate UK offers three options for calculating overhead costs:

  • No overheads
  • 20% of labour costs – this is the standard option and allows you to claim 20% of your labour costs as overhead
  • Calculate overheads – you will need to complete calculations for claiming direct and indirect overheads. Please note that Innovate UK will review this claim if your application is successful
3. Materials costs

You can claim the costs of materials for your project that you have purchased from third parties.

4. Capital usage

This section covers the usage costs of capital assets. They will need to meet the following criteria:

  • Have a useful life of at least one year
  • Be stand alone, clearly definable, and moveable
  • Conform to your organisation’s capitalisation policy
5. Subcontract costs

You can claim costs relating to work conducted by third party organisations.

6. Travel and subsistence costs

You can also claim reasonable travel and subsistence costs for staff working on the project (i.e., those identified in the labour section).

7. Other costs

Lastly, this category is for any direct project costs that have not been covered in the other categories. For example, this may include workshop or laboratory usage charge-outs, training costs, preparation of technical reports, market assessment, licensing in new technologies, patent filing costs for new intellectual property, and regulatory compliance costs (if necessary to carry out your project).

More Information

You can find a full breakdown of eligible costs and the information you need to provide in UKRI’s costs guidance for non-academic organisations.

If you are looking for further support with an Innovate UK application, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact us to arrange a free consultation.

How to approach a grant application: our step-by-step bid writing process

We’re often asked how we approach grant applications. What does the bid writing process look like from start to finish? In this post, we’ll talk you through each step of the process. From the first point of contact through to submission, here is what you can expect from working with RedKnight:

1. Introductory call

Once you have contacted RedKnight, we will set up an introductory call as soon as possible. In this call, we will discuss your project idea and available funding opportunities. If you have a specific competition in mind, we can also help to confirm your eligibility.

2. Sign NDA

Next, we will sign an NDA to assure you that all information you share is confidential. This will allow you to talk more freely and share technical information about your innovation. At this stage, we aim to collate all the information we need to draft the proposal.

3. Scoping session

Before the bid writing begins, we will set up a project scoping meeting to go through the application and agree on key messages.

4. Bid writing begins

Our bid-development process consists of three phases: a first draft, an optimised draft and a final version. At each stage, we will improve the application in line with your feedback. We keep the process as streamlined as possible to limit the amount of time you spend reviewing drafts, while also ensuring you have sufficient input throughout the process.

In parallel with the bid writing process, we will collate all necessary information to create supplementary documents e.g., appendices and financials.

5. Submission

This is the final stage of the bid writing process. We can provide you with a fully formatted application to submit to the funding body yourselves, or we can submit it on your behalf.

If you would like to work with RedKnight on a grant application, please contact us today.

Proofreading tips for your next grant application

When you’re applying for grant funding, you have just one chance to make a good first impression. Therefore, it is essential that you set time aside after drafting your proposal to proofread your answers. This is when you will refine your writing – for example, by correcting spelling and punctuation errors, identifying unclear passages of text, and improving sentence structure. Here are our top proofreading tips to ensure your application is clear and error-free:

  • Take a break

Give yourself time away from the application before you start the proofreading process. This will allow you to approach it refreshed, increasing the likelihood that you will pick up on any mistakes.

  • Check your writing passes the ‘so what?’ test

Break the proposal down into individual sentences and ask, “so what?” This will help you to check that every sentence is clear, relevant and adds value to your proposal, therefore ensuring you use the word count to its full potential.

  • Use proofreading tricks

For example, some people choose to read the text aloud, whereas others read their work backwards (from the last sentence to the first). Ultimately, there are many ways to proofread a proposal, and it’s a case of finding what works best for you.

  • Ask a colleague to read through the application

Ideally, this should be somebody who has had limited involvement in writing the proposal, as their distance will allow for a fresh perspective. Their role will be to check that the argument makes sense and spot any remaining mistakes.

  • Consider hiring a professional

If you’re too close to the proposal, short on time or simply not confident writing in English, a professional proofreader will be able to help. RedKnight can proofread grant applications for many innovation funding streams, including Eureka Eurostars, Horizon Europe and Innovate UK. Please click here if you'd like more information on our proofreading service or contact us to arrange a free consultation.

Did you find the proofreading tips listed in this blog helpful? If you have a tip of your own, share it with us in the comments section below.

Applying for grant funding? Here’s why you should hire a professional bid writer

In the UK, there is over £10 billion allocated for research and innovation funding each year. However, applying for grant funding is complex and extremely competitive, with prospective applicants required to write a bid to enter most competitions. As a result, many businesses invest in the services of a professional bid writer to help them secure funding.

Why should I hire a professional bid writer? 
  • Saves your business time and resources

Grant applications take an average of 6-10 weeks to complete in-house. During this time, business owners, entrepreneurs and management teams will have to focus on developing the grant application, rather than running their business. Businesses must therefore think carefully about their internal capacity: i.e., can you afford for your team to be working on the application for an extended period of time?

  • You benefit from their experience

There is no substitute for experience. A professional bid writer will have worked on hundreds of applications throughout their career. This experience will mean they know the process inside out, and exactly what it takes to develop a successful application.

  • They’ll let you know if you’re barking up the wrong tree

A good bid writer will steer you away from a competition that they don’t think is right for you. For example, this may be the case if they have concerns about your eligibility or stage of development. While disappointing, this will save your business time and resources in the long run. They may even be able to recommend a competition that better suits your business.

  • Increases your chances of success

Innovation funding is extremely competitive. However, a professional bid writer’s expertise and experience is likely to translate into a higher-than-average success rate. For example, RedKnight’s success rate stands at 42%. This is far above the average success rates of many popular innovation funding competitions, including the EIC Accelerator and Innovate UK Smart Grants. Read more about success rates here.

How do I decide who to hire? 

As a starting point, we recommend asking the following questions:

  • What is your business model?
  • What is your success rate?
  • Can you give me an example of a recent successful project you have supported?
  • Can I have the contact details of those case studies, please?
  • What is your capacity leading up to the deadline?
  • What is your bid writing process?

Their answers to these questions should help you reach an informed decision. For more information, check out 'The Good, the bad and the ugly: How to select the right bid writer.'

Work with RedKnight 

RedKnight Consultancy logoRedKnight supports tech-based start-ups and SMEs with innovation funding applications. Since 2015, we have secured over £10 million and achieved a success rate of 42%. If you are looking for bid writing support, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact us to arrange a free consultation.