The nature of product development is such that you need to invest before you’ve got anything to sell. Financing the design, development, and testing of a new product or service can be one of the biggest hurdles entrepreneur innovators face.
Thankfully there are innovation grants to help.
An innovation grant is a type of funding typically provided by the government or an organisation to support new product development. Unlike a loan, it doesn’t have to be paid back; though if you don’t do what you said you’d do with the money, you may be asked to return it.
Each grant is different, but here are some tips on making a successful application that apply across the board.
Research what’s available
Make sure you choose the grants that best fit your innovation. When you’re researching, you’ll see that there are many options available, each supporting different sectors, product types, geographical regions, or project sizes. Innovate UK is the main channel for businesses to secure UK innovation funding.
Read through the criteria carefully to check that your project fits with the funder’s priorities. There’s no point wasting time trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Plan your application
Plan your application as a project in its own right. There might be things you need to pull together, such as a business plan or letters of support, which take time. If the project involves partners, get them on board at the beginning. Funds usually have deadlines, so work back from the date and build in plenty of extra time.
Know your audience and sell your idea to them
Your job is to sell your idea to the organisation providing the grant. Get to know them and their goals, so that you can tailor your application to their needs. Make sure you demonstrate how the project you want to fund meets their objectives. Explain the benefits you’ll create and how they relate to the funding criteria. Highlight the positive impact your innovation will have on wider society.
The reviewers will be reassured by any data you have that demonstrates the potential of your idea. That could include market research findings or performance data from prototypes.
When you’re presenting your data, explain and justify the methods you used to collect it. Make sure it paints a robust picture that inspires confidence.
Don’t shy away from the risks
If there are obvious risks in your project, address them. Ignoring them could make the reviewers think you’re not prepared to deal with them if they do happen, or that you simply haven’t thought of them.
Detail any major risks, specify how you’ll minimise them, and what your contingency plans are if they do come to pass.
Ask for the right amount
The amount of money you ask for is a key part of your application. It’s important you consider it carefully and make sure it’s appropriate for what you’re planning to fund. Asking for £5,000 to fund a year’s product testing might seem too low and indicate to the assessors you’ve not thought your plans through. On the other hand, asking for too much will raise a red flag too.
Follow the rules carefully
Funds often have very specific application criteria, such as a word count fort each section. Ignore these rules at your peril. If you do fall foul of them, you could well rule your application out before it’s even been read by the assessors.
Make the most of support
Our funding search tool is a member benefit that’s kept up to date with the latest clean and green funding opportunities for innovative businesses.
We’re also able to support businesses working with us on product and service development, helping with grant applications, providing data and scientific rigor to proposals. Get in touch with us via our Innovation Accelerator programme to find out more.