Key changes to Innovate UK Smart Grants

This blog post provides an overview of the recent changes to Innovate UK’s Smart Grants competition.

What is Innovate UK Smart Grants?

Smart is Innovate UK’s open grant funding programme. It provides funding for game-changing and commercially viable R&D innovation that can significantly impact the UK economy. The competition typically runs quarterly, with up to £25 million available per round. The next deadline is 27th July 2022.

What are the changes?

According to Innovate UK, the changes reflect how important it is that the project has economic benefits and potential for successful commercialisation, growth and exports. The key takeaways are as follows:

  • There will be an increased focus on ‘game-changing’ innovation, as shown in Question 2.
  • Projects will not be funded if the technology is available or used in another sector.
  • There is a greater requirement to show how the proposal will lead to a significant return on investment for the UK taxpayer.
  • Applicants must explain why they need Smart funding to succeed (over other routes of investment).
  • Projects will not be funded if other Innovate UK funding support is available and deemed more appropriate.
  • Applicants must demonstrate their capability to deliver the project in the required timeframe.

Innovate UK has updated the application form in line with these points. There are now seven questions to answer, which you can find on the competition page.

What next?

Before starting an application, you should carefully read the competition scope, eligibility criteria, and application questions. You may also find it useful to watch the competition briefing event.

In addition, Innovate UK recently revealed that around 50% of all Smart Grant applications aren’t right for funding! As a result, they have released a five-question checklist for prospective applicants to consider.

How can RedKnight help?

RedKnight can help you prepare a competitive application. Not only will this save you time, with grant applications taking an average of 6-10 weeks to complete in-house, but it will also increase your chances of success! You can view a selection of our case studies here. In addition, we can provide application reviews and support with resubmissions.

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

UK Shared Prosperity Fund allocates £585 million to Wales

Wales will receive £585 million from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) launched earlier this month. Here, we provide a short summary of the new Fund and what it means for Wales.

What is the UKSPF?

The UKSPF is a government-allocated fund set up to help spread opportunity and level up the country. The Fund aims to build pride in place and increase life chances across the UK. To achieve this, it has three investment priorities: communities and place; supporting local business; and people and skills.

The UKSPF will provide £2.6 billion of funding between 2022 and 2025, with this figure reaching £1.5 billion per year by March 2025. This includes £1.58 billion for England, £212 million for Scotland, £585 million for Wales and £127 million for Northern Ireland.

Why is the UKSPF being introduced?

The UKSPF is part of the Levelling Up agenda and replaces money previously allocated to communities through EU Structural Funds. According to the UK Government, it will be less bureaucratic and give more control to locally elected leaders. There will also be no requirement for match funding.

How will the UKSPF be delivered?

In England, Scotland and Wales, local governments will be responsible for developing an investment plan for approval by the UK government, and for delivery of the Fund’s interventions thereafter. However, the UK government will retain oversight of the Fund in Northern Ireland.

Welsh Government reaction

The UK Government say that the scheme fulfils a promise to match previous EU funding. But according to Welsh Government estimates, Wales would have received EU Structural funding worth at least £375 million per year had the UK remained in the EU. Instead, Wales will receive a total of £585 million from the Shared Prosperity Fund over the next three years – around £195 million a year. This has led First Minister Mark Drakeford to accuse the UK Government of ‘levelling down’ Wales through the new Fund.

You can read more about the UK Shared Prosperity Fund here.

2021: Year in review

As 2021 draws to a close, we look back on what has been another busy year for RedKnight Consultancy. Here are some of our highlights:

2020 Year in Review infographic
RedKnight in Numbers

We are particularly proud to have reached the £10 million milestone this year – meaning we have secured over £10 million of innovation grant funding for our clients! Not only this, but we have now submitted almost 200 proposals (between September 2015 and September 2021). Our average application score stands at 77.88%, with a success rate of over 38%.


This year, we’ve supported projects from a range of sectors, from medtech to advanced materials. This includes a successful application to Eureka Eurostars, securing €674,160 for the Free Space Optical Links for 5G networks (FrOLik) project. Impressively, FrOLik ranked 16th out of all 500 eligible applications to this call!

In more good news, RedKnight has been accepted onto the SETSquared framework, a collaboration between six universities that aims to engage more start-ups and SMEs with funding programmes. We look forward to starting in 2022.

We have also won several awards this year, including 'Most Outstanding Grants and Funding Specialists 2021' in the Global Business Insight Awards and “Start-Up Support Consultancy of the Year” in the Corporate LiveWire Global Awards.

Client Feedback

Above all, we are proud to have received lots of great feedback again this year - there is no better feeling than a happy client! Read some of our most recent testimonials below:

  • “The RedKnight team is a pleasure to work with. Throughout the grant application process, we felt very supported, and really appreciated the extra thought and attention to detail provided by the bid writer.”
  • “A professional and efficient team with an in-depth understanding of the Innovate UK application process.”
  • “Dayne and Hannah were excellent - they were responsive, clear, and really focused on us as clients. It was a great experience, and we’ll definitely use RedKnight again.”

We would like to say a huge thank you to all our clients for your support this year. We look forward to following your projects in 2022 and working with you again in the future!

Are you planning to apply for grant funding in 2022? We’d love to hear from you – please contact us to arrange a free consultation.

i4i Challenge Awards open for applications

The NIHR i4i Challenge Awards are open for applications! This competition provides funding to support the assessment of MedTech innovations in real-world healthcare settings. It aims to shorten the gap between the clinical evaluation of technologies and their adoption, therefore leading to a disruptive medical device or in vitro diagnostic test that can offer improved outcomes for NHS patients.

Am I eligible for funding?
  • The lead applicant must be an SME, NHS provider, or higher education institution. They must also be based in England.
  • Projects should involve a minimum of two organisations, with at least one of the collaborators being from an NHS provider.
  • Technologies must have demonstrated safety and efficacy and must have obtained or be in the process of obtaining CE marking.
  • Projects can last up to 3 years, but a duration of up to 5 years will be considered if a strong case is made.
What funding is available?

i4i Challenge funding supports the following research and development activities:

  • Activities associated with the design and delivery of evaluations for innovations in healthcare settings
  • Collection of effectiveness data if this is part of a clinical utility study
  • Health economic analysis
  • Work around market analysis and development of a business case for adoption
  • Project management and stakeholder engagement activities
  • Activities associated with data analysis, management, and governance
  • Small changes to the technology that might be needed for its optimisation during the lifetime of the project
  • Training associated with the implementation of the new technology
  • Implementation research costs
  • Activities associated with the dissemination of outputs

You can access the full scope for the i4i Challenge Awards here.

What is the application process?

All competitions under the i4i programme have a two-stage application process – only those successful at Stage 1 will receive an invite to proceed to Stage 2. Stage 1 is open from 4th November until 12th January, with applicants set to receive the results of their submission on 23rd March. Then, Stage 2 will follow with a deadline of 11th May.

How can RedKnight help?

RedKnight’s team of grant funding consultants has over 50 years combined experience, accessing more than £50 million. If you’d like our help applying to the i4i Challenge Awards, please get in touch today.

Autumn Budget 2021: key takeaways for innovative businesses

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has presented his Autumn Budget in the House of Commons, setting out a range of new spending measures for the year ahead. From an increase in Innovate UK’s budget to new regional funding opportunities, there are several key takeaways for businesses involved in research and innovation:

Public investment in R&D

The government will maintain its target of increasing R&D investment to £22bn. However, the government has pushed this target back by two years; they will instead aim to reach £20bn by 2024/25 and £22bn by 2026/27. The Chancellor confirmed that this £20bn investment is in addition to the cost of R&D tax reliefs. Overall, total public investment in R&D will increase from 0.7% of GDP in 2018 to 1.1% of GDP by the end of this parliament.

There are further notable spending measures for research and innovation, including:

  • Fully funding the UK’s association to Horizon Europe
  • Increasing Innovate UK’s annual core budget to £1bn (up from £907m in 2021-22)
  • Establishing the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency with £800m by 2025-26
Regional funding

There will be more funding for the British Business Bank's regional financing programmes. They will receive £1.6bn to deliver an expanded programme of activity, therefore enabling more innovative businesses to secure the funding they need to grow.

Significantly, this investment will pave the way for a £130 million fund to support SMEs in Wales. A £150m fund will be available for Scottish businesses, while £70m will expand the funding available for businesses in Northern Ireland.

R&D Tax Credits

The Chancellor announced two key areas of reform for R&D tax relief:

  • Firstly, the scheme will be modernised; its scope will expand to include cloud computing and data costs.
  • In addition, the government will introduce changes to refocus R&D tax relief on domestic activity from April 2023.

RedKnight's Co-Director, Dayne Hodgson, has summarised his view on the Autumn Budget:

“While disappointing that public investment in R&D will not reach £22bn until 2026/27, the Autumn Budget contains plenty of good news for UK innovators. It is great to see that Innovate UK’s budget will increase to £1bn, and we welcome the announcement of a new fund to support SMEs in Wales. Now, we hope that the UK will quickly finalise its Association to Horizon Europe to avoid further delay and disruption for UK applicants.”

You can access all Autumn Budget documents here.

i4i Product Development Awards open for applications

The NIHR i4i Product Development Awards are open for applications! Funding is available to support translational research and development of medical devices, in vitro diagnostics and high-impact patient-focused digital health technologies for NHS use.

Eligibility Criteria

Firstly, the lead applicant must be i) registered in England and ii) an SME, NHS provider or higher education institution. Projects should be collaborative and include at least two types of organisation from this list.

In addition, projects must have demonstrated proof of concept and have a clear pathway towards adoption and commercialisation. There is no upper funding limit but all costs must be fully justified.

How to apply

All competitions under the i4i programme have a two-stage application process - only those successful at Stage 1 will receive an invite to proceed to Stage 2. Stage 1 opened on 20th October and will close on 8th December, with applicants set to receive the results of their submission by 17th February 2022. Then, Stage 2 will follow with a deadline of 13th April 2022.

The following activities are eligible for funding:
  • Research and development of medical devices, in vitro diagnostic devices across all areas of existing or emerging healthcare need.
  • Digital health technologies that fall under Tier 3 of the NICE Evidence Framework for Digital Health Technologies (.PDF), and that are focused on patient outcomes and intended for ultimate NHS use.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies including Augmented or Ambient Intelligence, applied in areas of health and social care including health promotion and prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
  • Product development required to enable a technology for clinical use
  • Research and development of techniques or technologies from a different industry sector, which could have a potential impact if applied in a healthcare setting.
  • Feasibility studies if a technology from a sector other than health
  • Studies to provide data relating to safety and effectiveness of a device
  • Clinical utility studies
  • CE/UKCA marking and other regulatory requirements
  • Activities associated with the technology’s market access strategy
  • Training associated with the implementation of new technology

Further information is available on the NIHR website.

How RedKnight can help

RedKnight’s team of grant funding consultants has over 50 years’ combined experience, accessing more than £50 million. If you’d like our help applying to the i4i Product Development Awards, please get in touch today.

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New £375 million Future Fund: Breakthrough scheme open for applications

Future Fund: Breakthrough is open for applications. The new UK-wide scheme is encouraging private investors to co-invest with the Government in high-growth, innovative companies. It will deliver £375 million of government funding via British Patient Capital, a subsidiary of the British Business Bank.

This funding is for businesses that are looking to raise at least £30 million of investment. The Government will provide up to 30% of the required investment and the remaining 70% should come from private investors.

The scheme is targeting innovators in a range of breakthrough technology sectors, including life sciences, quantum computing and clean technology. It will enable businesses to scale up and bring their transformational technologies to market, helping secure the UK’s position as a scientific superpower.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for the scheme, a company must:

  • Be a UK-registered business with significant UK operations i.e., at least half of the company’s employment base and half of its research employees should be based in the UK.
  • Have secured at least £5 million of equity investment in previous funding rounds in the last five years.
  • Be raising a minimum investment round size of £30 million.
  • Be carrying out R&D activity in the UK by meeting all three of the following criteria:
    1. Your R&D spending must have been i) at least 10% of your total operational cost base on average over the last 3 years or ii) at least 15% in one of the past 3 years.
    2. Your company must be developing defensible intellectual property in the UK, which will become the company’s main revenue source.
    3. You intend for at least 20% of your team to be carrying out research for at least 3 years from the date of investment, in roles that require a relevant master’s degree or higher.
How to Apply

Companies cannot apply directly for Future Fund: Breakthrough funding. Rather, applications must be made by a lead investor, who should meet the criteria listed by British Patient Capital.

Firstly, the lead investor must complete an online application form to prove that they meet the eligibility criteria. Following this, they will share an investment paper with British Patient Capital which explains why they are making the investment.

The lead investor will then need to pass reputation and customer due diligence checks, and share any legal and financial due diligence reports that they have prepared on the benefitting company.

More Information

More information is available on the British Patient Capital's website. If this isn't the right opportunity for you, and you would like to explore alternative funding options, please contact us to arrange a free consultation.

UK Government Announces New Innovation Strategy

The UK Government has announced a new Innovation Strategy, setting a long-term plan for delivering innovation-led growth. It aims to secure the UK’s position as a world leader in science, research and innovation by boosting private sector investment in R&D and creating the right conditions for all businesses to innovate.

But what does that mean in practice?

Firstly, the government will identify a series of ‘innovation missions’ to set clear direction, urgency and pace on some of the largest challenges facing the world today. These will be determined by the new National Science and Technology Council and supported by the Office for Science and Technology Strategy.

The strategy also identifies seven strategic technologies to prioritise and build on existing R&D strength: Advanced Materials and Manufacturing; AI, Digital and Advanced Computing; Bioinformatics and Genomics; Engineering Biology; Electronics, Photonics and Quantum; Energy and Environment Technologies; Robotics and Smart Machines.

Significantly, the strategy outlines four main areas of support for innovative businesses and institutions:

  1. Unleashing Business
  2. People
  3. Institutions and Places
  4. Missions and Technologies
They include the following measures:
  • Increase annual public investment in R&D to a record £22 billion
  • Ensure government procurement is both proactive and supportive, providing a route to market for innovative new products and services
  • Consult on how regulation can ensure that the UK is well-placed to extract the best value from innovation
  • Commission the Regulatory Horizons Council to consider how best to support innovation through regulation
  • Introduce new High Potential Individual and Scale-up visa routes, as well as revitalise the Innovator route, to attract and retain high-skilled, globally mobile innovation talent
  • Undertake an independent review to assess the landscape of UK organisations undertaking all forms of research, development and innovation
  • Reduce complexity for innovative companies by developing an online finance and innovation hub between Innovate UK and the British Business Bank
  • Expand IP education programme for researchers and launch International IP Services
  • Publish a new action plan on ‘Standards for the Fourth Industrial Revolution', therefore promoting standards that enable innovation to flourish
  • Invest £200 million through the British Business Bank’s Life Sciences Investment Programme in order to target the growth-stage funding gap
  • Support 30,000 senior managers of small and medium-sized businesses through Help to Grow: Management to boost their business’s performance, resilience, and long-term growth

We look forward to seeing the impact of the Innovation Strategy in the coming months. Where grant funding opportunities arise, we will of course highlight them on our blog and in our monthly newsletter.

Source: UK Government

i4i Connect: Funding Available for SMEs Developing MedTech Projects

The NIHR Invention for Innovation (i4i) programme will launch the fifth round of its Connect Awards on 17th August 2021. This round will have two funding streams: 1) Connect awards and 2) Children and Young People’s Mental Health Awards.

i4i Connect provides funding for SMEs developing medical devices, in vitro diagnostics and digital health technologies which have a clear patient benefit and are intended for NHS use. The funding is to help companies reach the next stage in the development pathway. This will enable them to apply for further funding, such as the i4i Product Development Award.

Eligibility Criteria
  • Projects must be led by an SME
  • The lead applicant must be based in England
  • The project value must be between £50,000 and £150,000
  • Projects must last 6-12 months
  • Applicants need to demonstrate evidence of proof-of-concept
  • Projects should address a clearly defined unmet clinical need
  • The project must start between 1st January 2021 and 1st March 2021

Application Process

i4i Connect has a two-stage application process:

  • Stage 1 – Expression of Interest
  • Stage 2 – Business Plan and video pitch

Firstly, applicants must submit an Expression of Interest form by 14th September 2021. Applicants will be notified of their submission outcome in October and, if successful, they can proceed to Stage 2.

Stage 2 requires applicants to submit a business plan with a maximum of 15 pages and a 3-minute video pitch by 2nd November. This will be reviewed by the i4i Connect Selection Committee, and applicants will be notified of their submission outcome later in November.

More Information

You can find more information in the competition document. If you are looking for bid writing support and would like to arrange a free consultation with a member of our team, get in touch today.

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DASA Launches £2 Million ‘Space to Innovate’ Campaign

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has launched a ‘Space to Innovate’ campaign in collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) Space Programme.

Shot of Earth from space

The campaign aims to promote space resilience and operational effectiveness. Therefore, it seeks proposals for the development of new space technologies that will enhance and protect space military and civil potential. In contrast to other DASA competitions, the ‘Space to Innovate’ campaign comprises space-related challenges that will be released in “drops” throughout 2021 and 2022.

Alpha Challenge Drop

The first challenge drop is open until 4th August 2021. It focuses on two challenges:

Challenge 1: Visualisation tools to enable space operators to exploit information gathered from multiple data sources

Firstly, DASA is looking for novel solutions that could help to address the following issues:

  • enhancing the situational awareness around an object
  • understanding and monitoring manoeuvres and changes of objects in orbit
  • streamlining ingestion issues with multiple data sources and different naming conventions
  • using machine learning to enhance our understanding and interrogation of the data presented & make sense of results
  • visualising uncertainty in data

Contracts of up to £125,000 are available for projects that last no longer than six months. By the end of the contract, projects should reach TRL 3-6.

Challenge 2: Novel methods for characterising objects in space and their intent

Secondly, DASA is interested in proposals that help to characterise objects in space and their intent, including:

  • detecting changes of state (e.g. translational manoeuvres, transmissions, attitude changes, form factors, spawned objects, ‘active / inactive’) and predicting future changes
  • exploiting non-traditional sensor configurations including bi- or multi-static configurations and the repurposing of existing facilities
  • technologies that allow resolution of individual features on an observed satellite, inferring information regarding payloads
  • observing the interaction and cooperation between satellites in formation in LEO or geostationary Earth orbit (GEO)
  • satellite overflight warning of Earth observation missions (featuring electro-optical, synthetic aperture radar, electronic intelligence or other technologies) primarily in LEO
  • asset protection for high-value satellites operating in GEO

Funded projects should again reach TRL 3-6. Contracts of up to £125,000, £200,000 and £400,000 are available for this challenge, depending on project length.

For more information on both of the challenges, please see the competition document. If you’re thinking of applying but need bid writing support, contact us to arrange a free consultation.

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