The UK Governments Innovate UK Grant offers business founders with game changing and ambitious ideas the opportunity to develop and pitch a business case to secure the resources to make those ideas a reality. In order to successfully secure the grant, applicants must demonstrate that not only is their idea original and innovative but also a thorough understanding of the impact on industry and people, the competitive landscape, the macro-environmental factors that will influence the business and a clear technology strategy and roadmap that shows a clear understanding of feasibility, risks and implementation approach.
This initiative focuses on investment in cutting edge technology and research, with 69% of grants between 2011 & 2019 being awarded to businesses who had tech focused propositions. Applicants that have been able to secure the grant have been able to launch new businesses, or otherwise transform their existing business. Some high-profile examples of the beneficiaries of the “innovate” scheme include Gridserve, an organisation that offers solar energy solutions, this business received a grant of near £5 million in 2019, the largest grant awarded by the scheme to date. This was for a project aiming to improve the accessibility of electric car charging stations across the UK. Since the grant this GridServe has boomed, showcased through a partnership with Hitachi who invested over £20 million in Gridserve projects in 2020 and a further £10 million so far in 2021. While most contracts are not this large, this example displays the growth opportunity this scheme presents for UK SME’s and why these government contracts are coveted.
The grant schemes on offer attract plenty of interest and there is fierce competitions, with large organisations such as Toshiba - who successfully won a grant worth £1 million in 2020 - competing for investment alongside SME’s. The detail of the proposition is as important as the innovative potential of the idea.
How much is the grant?
The value for the smart grant ranges from £25,000 to £10 million. However, it is important to note the Smart Innovation grant is not a complete handout: applicants must demonstrate their confidence and commitment by having available funds to co-contribute. In order to satisfy the financial requirements for the Smart Innovation grant, applicants must demonstrate they have 30% of the required investment already available and the grant will compensate the remaining 70% If applicants don’t have 30% of the investment required already available, they won’t issue the funds.
Thus, the grant size will depend on your specific project requirements and highlights the importance of effectively scoping the development requirements and having an informed cost assessment to support the application.
What’s required from applicants:
Pitching for government funding is a highly complex process, they set high standards for applicants to ensure taxpayer money is being used responsibly. The Bidding process is competitive, requiring great ideas to be backed up with well thought out and robust commercial and technology strategies.
Applicants will be challenged to show a holistic understanding of their new business idea, communicating a well-defined target audience, route-to-market strategy, consumer benefit and unique selling point, USP and business model that makes clear how you plan to monetise your business and forecasted growth over-time. Detailed market research must be carried out which considers where your organisation fits in the market and who are the competitors in the industry. Applicants are required to anticipate risks and roadblocks and propose risk mitigation strategies. A clear understanding of how macroeconomic factors (i.e., PESTEL) influence your strategy is also required.
Common challenges and obstacles to securing an Innovate UK grant
The commercial aspect of the proposal is only one part of the applications. Applicants must also address the technology requirements of the projects, demonstrating they have a clear and detailed understanding of how to translate their idea into reality – and the expertise and resources to make it happen. This is an area where many applications fall short, as the well ideated commercial side is let down by a technology strategy, roadmap and risk charter that is vague, poorly thought out or unaddressed completely. Common technical challenges and obstacles when attempting to secure an Innovate UK grant are:
· A detailed technology strategy for achieving the commercial goals
· A detail project plan and roadmap outlining key stages and deliverables
· Cost forecast for development
· Talent (human resources) to deliver on the project requirements
· Risk identification and mitigation tactics
· Addressing ethical considerations relating to data privacy, use of artificial intelligence, ensuring use of non-bias data and reinforcing biases that reinforce social inequality.
Especially for a commercial applicant without a technical background or team, understanding and addressing the scope of technology considerations can reduce the probability of grant success. In cases such as this, a partner such as Brainpool that can translate commercial goals into technology strategy can be the difference between success and failure.
How Brainpool can support your application:
Brainpool is the network of Artificial Intelligence experts, helping turn business ideas into AI-powered reality. We apply a proven best practice approach to developing custom Artificial Intelligence solutions that is lean, efficient, cost-effective and reduces risk. We support our clients and partners across all stages of the innovation journey toa fully-fledged AI solution: from strategy and planning to development and maintaining solutions on their behalf.
Brainpool has partnered with several organisations to develop innovative solutions to business problems. Most notably our joint venture with Staircraft led to DAISY AI, a timber floor design automation solution. Our construction industry partners identified a key bottleneck that resulted in inflated costs, material wastage and impeded scalability. Now, DAISY can take the 2-hour process of developing one design, to a cost and material optimised floor plan in under 10 minutes.
Many organisations struggle with a lack of understanding and expertise AI and the problems it can addressed. Brainpool is a community of over 500 AI and Machine Learning experts across all disciplines of the technology to ensure no project is ever impossible and was founded to overcome the accessibility issue to data science knowledge and resources. By partnering with Brainpool your business acquires access to our community and can tap into the expertise needed to make your idea a reality. A partnership with us can ensure your business avoids the common pitfalls that lead to failed AI and innovation projects - and put you in the best possible position to secure an Innovate UK Grant.
Written by Clayton Black, Dominic Richmond and Joe Duszynski Lewis