“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.


“I’m applying for grant funding – what are my chances of success?”

"I'm applying for grant funding - what are my chances of success?"

Grant funding competitions are extremely competitive. In recent years, it has become more and more difficult to secure funding; since we founded RedKnight in 2015, we have seen a sharp uprise in the points an application needs to score to be successful. Success rates are a useful metric for understanding your chances of success before you start an application. In addition, many prospective applicants are eligible for more than one competition – thus, average success rates can be a useful means of differentiation.

You can find up-to-date statistics for some of the most popular innovation funding competitions below:

Innovate UK Smart Grants

Innovate UK’s Smart Grants competition typically takes place every quarter. The competition 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 cost more than £500k and exceed 18 months in duration.

The most recent available statistics are for the January 2020 competition, with the information released by Innovate UK following a Freedom of Information request. You can find this information through whatdotheyknow.com. Stream 1 had a 16.2% success rate; Innovate UK assessed 2089 applications, of which 129 were funded. In stream 2, they assessed 351 applications. Of these, 23 projects received funding – equating to a slightly lower success rate of 15.3%. The average score of funded projects across both streams was 85%.

Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 was the EU framework for research and innovation from 2014-2020. Overall, the UK performed well in this programme, with a success rate of 14.77%. The UK’s success rate is much higher than the EU average of 11.9%.

EIC Accelerator

According to a 2020 impact report, the EIC Accelerator received 9700 applications from 2019-20. Overall, the programme reports a 2-3% success rate, meaning somewhere between 194 and 291 projects received funding.

Eureka Eurostars

Eureka Eurostars has an overall success rate of 29%. The programme has made €1.75 billion of public/private investment since 2014.

The statistics show how competitive grant funding competitions are today. There is wide variation between different programmes; for example, Eureka Eurostars is much less competitive than the EIC Accelerator. However, you should never decide which competition to apply to based on success rates alone. Other factors, including scope and eligibility, are much more important; if you cannot fulfil these criteria, you have no chance of success to begin with. For help creating a high-quality application to increase your chances, please contact us today.

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The Future of Grant Funding: What to Expect in 2021

It's time to look towards the future of grant funding, considering what we can expect in 2021. As the end of the year draws closer, so too does the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. We are currently unsure of what exactly this means for European funding. However, we are hopeful that the UK will continue to be eligible for EU funding streams, including the EU’s new research and innovation framework – Horizon Europe. Keep an eye on our blog and social media channels for updates in the coming weeks.

National Funding

Government investment in R&D funding has increased, with the Chancellor announcing a £15 billion boost in the 2020 Spending Review. This aligns with the Government’s goal to increase public R&D investment to £22 billion per year by 2024 to 2025. There will continue to be opportunities to apply to national funding schemes in the UK, including Innovate UK. Innovate UK runs regular competitions covering the following sectors: emerging and enabling technologies, infrastructure systems, health and life sciences, and manufacturing and materials. There are also regional funding opportunities, from bodies including SMART Cymru (for Wales-based organisations).

International Opportunities

Additionally, there will also be opportunities for international collaboration on R&D projects. We expect that the UK will remain a Eureka member nation, meaning that UK organisations will still be able to apply to Eureka Eurostars. Eureka Eurostars provides funding for transnational innovation projects conducted by research-performing small and medium enterprises. You can find more information here. It is also likely that there will be further opportunities to collaborate with countries outside the EU, including the US and Canada.

If you have any questions, please contact us. For more information on the future of grant funding, as well as current opportunities, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter.


Eureka Eurostars: Grant Funding Available for Transnational Innovation Projects

toy airplane on colourful world mapEureka Eurostars is the largest international funding programme for SMEs wishing to collaborate on transnational innovation projects. It supports research-performing SMEs with research and development to help them gain a competitive advantage; their project results are then rapidly commercialised. Funding for UK SMEs is through Innovate UK. They will cover up to 60% of project costs through grant funding, with a maximum of €360,000 allowed per project

Eurostars in Numbers

According to the Eureka website, 29% of applications receive funding. Significantly, 45% of participants have been successful in reaching new markets, while 84% of project partners form long-term relationships.

Eligibility Criteria

The main eligibility criteria are as follows:

  • Firstly, research institutes, universities and large enterprises can participate. However, the project lead must be an R&D-performing SME from a Eurostars country.
  • Projects must have a civilian purpose.
  • The consortium must include at least two partners independent from each other and established in at least two different Eurostars countries.
  • Lastly, you must complete the project in less than 36 months. The Eurostars project market introduction of the project results should be within 24 months of the completion of the project.
How Can RedKnight Help?

RedKnight has an excellent track record with supporting applications to Eureka Eurostars. Most recently, we won €578,684 on behalf of Thermetrix Ltd and €345,566 for the REDEEMA consortia. You can read more about each of these on our projects page. For further information on the Eureka Eurostars programme, please visit their website. If you would like our support with an application, contact us today to arrange a free consultation.

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The ATI Programme: What Funding is Available?

The Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Programme is a £3.9 billion partnership between the ATI, Innovate UK, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The programme aims to grow the UK’s competitive position in civil aerospace, in order to meet the objectives of the UK Aerospace Technology Strategy, ‘Accelerating Ambition.’

Therefore, the ATI Programme offers grant funding opportunities through the following four strands:

1) The Strategic Programme

This strand comprises of 2 phases and is most suited to larger organisations who wish to access grants over £1 million. Phase 1 is an Expression of Interest competition; it opens monthly and the ATI reviews all applications. Then, if successful, the ATI invites applicants to complete a full stage Phase 2 application.

The next round of the Strategic Programme will open between the 7th December and the 23rd December. Find more information, including how to apply, here.

2) R&D Funding for Smaller Businesses

This funding stream will invest up to £8 million in research and technology projects to deliver world-leading aerospace technologies in the UK. An Expression of Interest competition opened on 9th November and will close on 6th January.

3) The National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme (NATEP)

In contrast to the Strategic Programme, the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme (NATEP) is ideal for smaller businesses. This is because it offers a maximum £150k grant for projects. Additionally, the programme provides a high calibre technical and management resource to help companies accelerate technology development towards market readiness.

Interested SMEs should keep an eye on the NATEP website, in addition to the UKRI Funding finder, for suitable opportunities through this funding strand.

4) International Programme

Finally, the International Programme issues funding calls for joint R&D projects between the UK and other countries. The last advertised call was between the UK and Sweden in April 2020.

More Information

You can find more information on the entire ATI Programme here. Alternatively, please contact us today if you'd like to discuss an innovative aerospace project with one of our advisers.

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What is the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA)?

Back of man's head as he look at designs and papers

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is a cross-government organisation, set up in 2016. The organisation “finds and funds exploitable innovation to support UK defence and security quickly and effectively, and support UK prosperity.”

Open Call for Innovation

DASA runs a regular open funding competition to find proposals that address challenges in defence and security. Ideas should be either a concept, technology, or service; if your proposal is a product, then you should instead speak to the Defence Suppliers Service.

There are two main categories within DASA’s Open Call for Innovation:

1. Emerging Innovations

  • Firstly, this category is for less mature innovations. Typical projects will deliver a proof of concept at around TRL 3 or 4. Read our introduction to TRLs to determine where your project sits on this scale.
  • There is no funding limit, however, DASA typically expects to award between £50k and £100k for projects that last between 3 and 10 months.
  • Additionally, click here for examples of projects that DASA has funded.

2) Rapid Impact

  • In contrast to 'Emerging Innovations', this strand is for more developed innovations. In more detail, eligible proposals will deliver a technology model or prototype demonstration at around TRL 6 or 7.
  • Rapid impact proposals must have a realistic prospect of achieving an impact within a 3-year time frame.
  • There should also be a strong customer requirement and capability need for the idea.
  • DASA expects to fund bids between £100k and £300k but there is again no specified funding limit.
Innovation Focus Areas

DASA’s Open Call for Innovation welcomes a wide range of innovative ideas in order to solve problems linked to defence and security. However, there are several key topics of interest, as listed below:

  • Reducing Reliance on Global Navigation Satellite Systems Quantum Augmented Position, Navigation and Timing Sensing Capability
  • Integrate Information and Physical Activity Across all Domains
  • Delivering Agile Command and Control
  • Operate and Deliver Effects in Contested Domains
  • Defence People – Skills, Knowledge and Experience
  • Stimulating Future Battlespace Complexity

The next deadlines for DASA's Open Call for Innovation are 28th January 2021 and 31st March 2021 respectively. You can find more information, including how to apply, here. Alternatively, please contact us today if you’d like to discuss an innovative idea with one of our expert advisers.

The UK’s future participation in European funding schemes remains uncertain. Sign up to our newsletter for free monthly updates, as well as more information on alternative grant funding opportunities.


Categories of Research and Development: understanding where your project sits within the Innovate UK framework

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, supports innovative ideas and business growth through grant funding competitions. UK-based business and research organisations can apply for funding for research and development purposes, or to test their innovative ideas. Projects typically fall within four main research and development categories, each of which is explored below:

Fundamental Research

Fundamental research is the earliest stage of research and development and is usually undertaken by a research organisation. It involves the use of experimental or theoretical work to gain new knowledge of “underlying phenomena and visible facts.” Fundamental research does not involve any direct practical application or usage.

Feasibility Studies

A feasibility study involves analysis and evaluation of a project’s potential, uncovering its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and potential threats. Such studies will support the process of decision making. This can help businesses to decide whether to work individually or collaboratively before conducting a subsequent larger project.

Industrial Research

Projects that sit within the industrial research category involve planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills. This is useful when the project aims to develop a new product, process or service to improve its existing counterpart. According to Innovate UK, it can include the creation of component parts to complex systems, as well as prototypes in a laboratory or environment with simulated interfaces.

Experimental Development

Experimental development involves the use of existing knowledge and skills in order to develop a new or improved product. Projects in this category should aim to make further technical improvements. To achieve this, projects may involve prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation in environments representative of real-life operating conditions.

Within Innovate UK competition summaries, the competition scope specifies the desired category of R&D activity for that funding opportunity. For example, the ISCF Future Plastic Packaging Solutions competition intends to support feasibility studies and industrial research. You can find more information on each of the categories of research and development here, or contact us if you have any further questions.


How to write a winning Innovate UK Smart Grant proposal

The latest round of Innovate UK’s open grant funding programme launched last month. It has £25 million available to invest in the best game-changing and commercially viable innovative or disruptive ideas. Smart grant applications can come from any area of technology and be applied to any part of the economy.

However, applying for grant funding is complex, time-consuming, stressful, and highly competitive. While there is no magic formulae to winning grants, we’ve found that the following self-assessment process can increase your chances of success:

1. Idea

Before you begin writing your Smart Grant application, it is crucial that you have a clear understanding of exactly what it is you want to do. You should identify your aims and objectives and the tasks you need to undertake to achieve these. Clarity is key to writing a successful application - Innovate UK use the word “clear” three times in the competition scope alone!

2. Funding

The next step requires you to read and understand exactly what the funding call is looking to fund. By doing this, you can ensure your project fits within its scope. Remember, square pegs do not fit round holes!

It is important to note that Innovate UK will not fund proposals that do not:

  • Meet the competition eligibility or scope
  • Address the size, potential and access to market for the innovation
  • Evidence the potential for their idea or concept to lead to significant return on investment (ROI), positive economic impact, growth and scale-up of the business.

You can find the full scope for this competition here.

3. Capacity

Do you have the in-house skills to achieve what you are setting out to do? It is important that you are honest with yourself here. If you don’t have the in-house skills to convince Innovate UK of your capability to complete the project, it is unlikely that they will award you any funding. In this case, you may wish to consider working with a collaborative partner.

4. Track record

Are you able to convince the evaluators that you can deliver the project? Innovate UK requires proposals to demonstrate “a team, business arrangement or working structure with the necessary skills and experience to run and complete the project successfully and on time.” If you do not have the necessary skills and experience to do this, we would again recommend teaming up with a more experienced partner.

5. Partners

Lastly, applicants should consider whether they need project partners. For this competition, projects with durations between 6 and 18 months can be single or collaborative. In contrast, projects lasting between 19 and 36 months must be collaborative. If you answered ‘no’ to points 3 or 4, you will likely need the support of a project partner to secure an Innovate UK Smart Grant, regardless of project length. Through our extensive global network, RedKnight can help you in the search for a suitable project partner with the expertise and resources to complement your own.

These 5 steps will help to ensure that the funding you bid for is right for your organisation, thereby helping you to put forward the most competitive proposal possible.

If you're looking for further help, you can download our free application guide today! Alternatively, please get in touch if you'd like to set up a consultation with one of our innovation funding advisers.


How to make the most of a remote internship

RedKnight's Marketing and Business Development Intern, Hannah, shares her top tips for making the most of a remote internship opportunity.

Birds eye view of woman working remotely at desk. Using laptop with notebook beside her.This week marks my 12th week with RedKnight Consultancy as a Marketing and Business Development Intern. When I first interviewed for the position in April, I never imagined that the internship would start on a remote basis. Let alone that now, in August, I’d still be working from home. I have never met RedKnight’s directors in person, nor have I stepped foot into their office. However, I have learned a lot over the course of the last three months and gained valuable experience. Here are some of my top tips to succeed in a remote internship:

1. Communicate often

With everyone working from their respective homes or workspaces, it is important to keep in touch regularly. Please don’t be afraid to reach out to a colleague if you need help with something! You can send them an email or a simple WhatsApp message in a matter of seconds. If something needs to be tackled in more depth, then a video call (at a time that works for everyone) can also be a great way to maintain productivity. At RedKnight Consultancy, we start each week with a team meeting held via Zoom. This is something that I’ve found really useful – it’s a great way to catch up and set goals for the week ahead.

2. Be proactive

Remote working provides great opportunities to be proactive – a moment of inspiration can be developed into a fully-fledged idea and put into practice. As there are no colleagues in the immediate vicinity to provide constant support throughout the day, it is essential that you use your initiative and have belief in your own ability. I’ve found that as a remote intern, you’re likely to have more responsibility and independence than you would if you were office-based. This isn’t something you should fear – rather, the challenge should be embraced. This kind of experience will help prepare you for your future career.

3. Get yourself into a routine

Without the regularity of a commute, routines can be a little harder to achieve and pin down. I try to wake up at the same time each day and then I get myself ready as if I am heading to the office. This prepares me for the working day ahead. When you have a routine in place, you can also be sure of the times you’re available for social and recreational activities. This is an important way of breaking up the day when your home becomes your office. I try to make time each day to go for a walk and get some fresh air. For me, this has been key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

4. Be organised

Organisation is the key to success when it comes to remote internships. I’ve found that carefully planning my time at the start of each week works well for me. It has introduced structure into my working week, subsequently increasing my motivation and productivity levels. Additionally, make sure your laptop is charged at the start of each day, have a pen and paper handy for meetings, and check your emails regularly; these small steps will all help you to have a productive working day.

5. Enjoy the benefits of home working

Remote internships have numerous advantages – home comforts can be a real treat when you’re working hard! The lack of a commute that could take up around two hours of your day can be replaced with a slightly later wake up time: a good night’s sleep will stand you in good stead to feel refreshed and motivated for the day ahead. In addition, remote internships are great in that there are no longer any geographical limitations. You can work from anywhere with an internet connection! I think that it would be great for remote internships to remain a long-term option. This would make work experience opportunities more accessible to those who live outside London and other major cities.

I hope that these tips are useful for anyone else who finds themselves in this unusual position. Working from home for the entirety of my internship was unexpected, but it hasn’t affected my overall experience. I am pleased to say that I will be continuing in my role with RedKnight, again on a remote basis – a clear sign that remote internships can work well for both interns and businesses alike! If you have any questions about remote internships or remote onboarding, please feel free to get in touch.