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How to Write a Successful Funding Application

It’s no surprise that securing funding from Innovate UK - the UK's innovation agency can be a competitive, yet incredibly rewarding process. To help, here are some key tips and considerations to enhance your chances of successful funding.

How to Write a Successful Funding Application

In our recent Greentech Accelerator Programme, we heard from Dr Louise Jones, Regional Manager Wales who shed light on the impactful work of Innovate UK and the funding opportunities available for businesses in Wales, through our Greentech Accelerator Programme.

Innovate UK plays a pivotal role in fostering the growth of UK businesses by supporting the development and commercialisation of new products, processes, and services. The organisation's commitment to building an agile, inclusive, and accessible innovation ecosystem has made it a cornerstone for businesses aiming to make a mark in their respective industries.

Innovate UK Current Funding Opportunities

There are several different types of Funding Opportunities that Innovate UK offers, here are some they recommend - 


  • Environmental Monitoring Innovation - UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £5 million for collaborative projects to develop innovative solutions in environmental monitoring. 




  • SBRI: Decarbonizing Concrete - Organisations can apply for a share of £3 million, inclusive of VAT, in developing solutions to accelerate decarbonising concrete.


  • Innovate UK Net Zero Living Digital - UK registered small and micro businesses can apply for a share of up to £2 million to develop data driven digital applications solving challenges in delivering net zero.


  • Innovate UK Smart Grants: January 2024 - UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £25 million for game-changing and commercially viable R&D innovations that can significantly impact the UK economy.


how to write a successful funding applicationInnovate UK help UK businesses to grow through the development and commercialisation of new products, processes and services.


Key Tips and Considerations for a Successful Funding Application

It’s no surprise that securing funding from Innovate UK - the UK's innovation agency can be a competitive, yet incredibly rewarding process. 

To help you through the process, here are some key tips and considerations to enhance your chances of successful funding:


1. Check Your Alignment With the Competition Scope

First things first, familiarise yourself with the various funding competitions offered - you want to check you have selected the right call. 

Carefully review all guidance documents provided for the specific funding competition you are interested in, and pay close attention to the scope, objectives, eligibility criteria, and assessment criteria outlined in the competition brief. 

It’s really important that before proceeding, you meet the eligibility criteria of the call - do not force it to fit! This might include criteria related to project size, duration, consortium composition, and funding limits.

If you’re in any doubt and want a bit of help, check with the competition help desk to make sure you are in scope before you start.

You can then clearly demonstrate the alignment of your project with the competition scope throughout your funding application. Provide specific examples, evidence, and arguments to support your claims and strengthen your case for funding.


2. Highlight the Innovative Aspects of Your Project

When applying for funding, you’re going to need to demonstrate what truly sets your project apart from others in terms of uniqueness, differentiation and novelty. Showcase any proprietary technology, intellectual property, or creative solutions that contribute to the innovation of your project.

There should be a huge emphasis on articulating the innovative aspect of your project, therefore you’ll need to describe how your innovation differs from existing solutions and how it beats the competition.

This is your opportunity to boast how incredible your innovation is and how your innovation has the potential to create significant impact or value. These might be, for example, improved efficiency, cost savings, environmental sustainability, or societal benefits.


3. Ensure You Have a Strong Business Case

Above all, the assessor is looking to understand the need and customer demand, which is why crafting a strong business case that clearly articulates the problem, solution, market opportunity, and commercialisation strategy, is essential when seeking funding.

Begin by clearly defining the problem or challenge that your innovation is addressing. Provide context and hard evidence to demonstrate the importance and urgency of the issue at hand, highlighting the market need or societal impact. 

How to Write a Successful Funding ApplicationRemember, poor responses explain too much about the solution without describing the issue in the first place, so discuss what’s driving the market need and what is required to meet it before describing how it will be addressed.


The assessor is looking to see whether you understand the potential market for your innovation, so conduct thorough market research and use current market data references.

The dynamics of the market are also super important. Identify key market trends, customer needs, growth, competition and barriers to entry.

Once this has been made clear, you can describe your innovative solution and how it effectively addresses the identified problem, as well as outline your strategy to access the market.


4. Convincing Value Proposition

A convincing value proposition should include benefits for all the project partners as well as stakeholders outside the project. Given that these are public funds, it is important to demonstrate that the project will be helping more than just the proposer. 

You must provide benefits in all categories and explain how these can be achieved by your business strategy. These include economic benefits, social benefits, environmental benefits and regional benefits. 

  • Economic benefits - Benefits to your customers, your supply chains and the broader sector – perhaps through exports, raised visibility of the sector or competitiveness of the UK.


  • Social benefits - These can include regional benefits, in terms of local employment and cluster growth; customer benefits in terms of quality of life, education, empowerment etc; employee benefits such as a safer working environment, skill development etc.


  • Environmental benefits - This can cover emissions (to air, water and ground), raw material consumption (including water), energy efficiency, biodiversity, waste avoidance, recycling, or more sustainable business models or consumer behaviour.


  • Regional benefits - These may include some of the economic, social and environmental benefits where these have a regional bias. Will your project help raise the profile of your region for a particular sector and deliver other, knock-on benefits? Think big as well as small– from local to global impacts.

While it is easy to focus on the positive impacts, don’t ignore the potential negative impacts. These must be detailed and their mitigation/minimisation described or justified. If the assessor judges that your project is potentially damaging, and that you haven’t considered this, it will negatively impact your score and likelihood of successful funding.

How to Write a Successful Funding ApplicationInnovate UK has developed a practical tool that can help develop your thinking around the different impacts and benefits of your proposed product/service.


5. Showcase a Credible Research & Development Plan 

Within your funding application, it’s important to explain what you will do in the innovation project – i.e. how you will address the critical success factors described in your business opportunity. 

The assessor wants to understand your technical approach and although they tend to be knowledgeable in your sector, you should not assume familiarity with all the technical aspects. So, be sure to avoid any jargon and acronyms and break down the project into key work packages and milestones.

The assessor is looking to see if the plan will achieve the project objectives and will have considerable project management experience so make sure it is clear and all adds up!

6. The Right Consortium

Whether you are applying as a single company or a large consortium, it’s about showcasing how the project will proceed as described and how it'll be likely to deliver the intended outcomes after the project has come to an end.

Remember that the route to market and exploitation are as important as the product/service development aspects. Many projects fall on the route-to-market aspect and don’t demonstrate that they have engaged likely customers or manufacturers.

The funding assessor wants to understand if the project partners have the skills, experience, resources and facilities to carry out the project AND exploit the results themselves.

Many people wonder what the perfect consortium looks like, but there is no magic formula for the ideal number of partners in a successful project. It is all about what is right for the particular project you are proposing. If you need 15 partners or 1 it doesn’t matter as long as you can justify it.

If you need help finding collaborators, KTN can help you identify and connect with the most appropriate partners for your project. 


7. Justify Your Clear Need for Support

This funding application is your opportunity to explain why public money should be used on your project.

Ideally by now, you will have showcased such a compelling and exciting project that you will start to wonder why it even needs public funding! So, now you need to justify why you can’t afford it, and then explain why commercial finance isn’t available. 

Assessors are typically looking for justifications that relate to risk, ie. it is too risky for commercial investors, hence Innovate UK funds could help to get through this stage of development, for example. 

And there we have it! 7 steps to help you create a fantastic funding application for a good chance of being successful. Remember, submit your application early to avoid missing the deadline.


For business tips and advice, check out our tech startup blog.


We are Tramshed Tech: a startup ecosystem home to 50+ companies ranging from pre-revenue start-ups to scaling businesses with 600+ registered members from the digital, creative and tech communities.


Written by Kate for Tramshed Tech.  


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