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.

How does the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) framework apply to grant funding?

TRL concept - green plants shown growing at different levelsWhen you are applying for grant funding, it is important that you have a clear idea of your project’s technical maturity, which can be categorised through use of the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) framework.

NASA introduced the framework in the 1970s to assess whether its emerging technology was ready for space exploration. It is based on a scale from 1-9, with 9 representing the most mature technology. The 9 levels are:

TRL 1 – Basic principles observed

The lowest level of technology readiness, where scientific research commences its journey to research and development. Activities include paper studies of the technology's basic properties.

TRL 2 – Technology concept formulated

Once you've observed the basic principles, research and development can begin. At this stage, all applications will be speculative.

TRL 3 – Experimental proof of concept

Then, analytical and laboratory studies should take place to validate the technology’s feasibility and achieve proof of concept.

TRL 4 – Technology validated in lab

Once the technology has achieved proof of concept, its components should be tested together.

TRL 5 – Technology validated in relevant environment

Next, the components should be integrated with realistic supporting elements and tested in a simulated environment.

TRL 6 – Technology demonstrated in relevant environment

At TRL 6, you should develop and test a model or prototype in a relevant environment.

TRL 7 – System prototype demonstration in operation at environment

The prototype should be operated in its operational environment to demonstrate performance.

TRL 8 – System complete and qualified

At this stage, the technology has been tested and proven to work in its intended operational environment.

TRL 9 – Actual system proven in operational environment

Lastly, the technology should be applied in its final form and under mission conditions.

How do TRLs apply to grant funding?

Today, many of the main innovation funding programmes use the Technology Readiness Level framework, including both Innovate UK and Horizon Europe. Check out our list of how TRLs apply to some of the most popular competitions below:

European Innovation Council
  • EIC Pathfinder

The EIC Pathfinder focuses on progression from TRL 1-4. It provides grants of up to €3 million to achieve proof of principle and validate the scientific basis of the breakthrough technology.

  • EIC Transition

Bridging the gap between the Pathfinder and Accelerator, the EIC Transition funds activities from TRL 4-5/6. Grants are available to validate and demonstrate technology in a relevant environment, as well as develop market readiness.

  • EIC Accelerator

The EIC Accelerator provides blended finance, comprising both investment and grant components, to support progression from TRL 5-8.

Innovate UK

Innovate UK supports the following research categories:

  • Feasibility Studies - TRL 1-3

Analysis and evaluation of a project’s potential to uncover its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential threats.

  • Industrial Research - TRL 4-6

Planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills. According to Innovate UK, projects can include the creation of component parts to complex systems, as well as prototypes in a laboratory or environment with simulated interfaces.

  • Experimental Development - TRL 6-8

The use of existing knowledge and skills to develop a new or improved product, process or service. This includes activities such as prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation in environments representative of real-life operating conditions.

More grant support is available for projects at early technology readiness levels. For example, grants may cover up to 70% of the costs involved in feasibility studies and industrial research. But as the technology gets closer to market, it will involve less risk and hence less funding will be available. As a result, the maximum grant amount available for an experimental development project is 45%.

Eureka Eurostars

Eureka Eurostars supports early-stage R&D projects to transition from TRL 3 until TRL 5. As a decentralised programme, each Eureka country administrates its own participation, meaning every country has its own rules, regulations, and grant rate. For example, the UK provides grant funding of up to €360,000 (or 60% of eligible costs) for SMEs.

If you are struggling to identify your technology's stage of development and eligibility for funding, please contact us to arrange a free consultation.

“My Innovate UK application was unsuccessful – what should I do next?”

You invested significant time in preparing an Innovate UK grant application, only to receive a rejection. If you've found yourself in this situation, you might be wondering, what next?

This is a question that we have begun to hear more and more often, with grant funding competitions now more competitive than ever before. From our experience, we would recommend taking the following steps:

1. Put it into perspective

Even excellent proposals can be rejected. RedKnight has supported a number of applications that have passed the competition threshold but haven’t received funding. Remember that rejection is not always because of your proposal; the competition's budget may not be large enough to fund every worthy application.

2. Work through the feedback

The assessors that read your application will score your answers to questions 2 to 11. You will receive feedback for each of these questions which will help you to understand why your application was unsuccessful.

We recommend taking some time to digest the feedback that you’ve received. Make sure that you understand all the points that the assessors have made and start to identify the areas of your application that need work. If numerous assessors were critical of a particular section, this is a good place to start.

3. Consider a resubmission

You can make a maximum of 2 applications to Innovate UK with any given proposal. If your first attempt was unsuccessful but scored quite well, this might be a good option for you. Use the feedback that you received from the assessors to improve your application, thereby increasing your chances of success.

4. Consider alternative innovation funding competitions

Are your chances of success better elsewhere? For instance, if you applied for an Innovate UK Smart Grant, you would have been in competition with applications from many different areas of technology. Instead, you could look into sector-specific competitions, as they tend to receive fewer applications. For example, the Biomedical Catalyst is a good option for companies developing innovative healthcare products, technologies, and processes.

If you have already received two rejections from Innovate UK, you could also consider alternative funding streams. Some European funding competitions may be suitable, such as the EIC Accelerator.

5. Ask for help

If you lack the time or expertise to make the improvements needed to your application, a grant funding specialist will be able to help. This takes the stress out of your hands, while also increasing your chances of success. They can also recommend alternative competitions that better suit your project.

Contact us

Our team of grant funding specialists has over 50 years of experience, working with over 150 organisations and accessing more than £50m of grant funding. They would be pleased to help you prepare a resubmission, increasing your chances of securing funding next time. If you’ve recently been rejected for Innovate UK funding and would like our help, please contact the team to arrange a free consultation.

Working on an Innovate UK resubmission? Sign up for RedKnight's monthly newsletter to receive a free copy of our application guide.

Mistakes to avoid in your innovation funding applications

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.