What makes an outstanding R&D grant application?
R&D grants support business innovation but competition is fierce. Make sure your clients stand the best chance of success.
The skill is in knowing what and when grants are available, and how to apply
A research and development (R&D) grant can go a long way towards financing business innovation. Scientific and/or technological exploration can be expensive, and government-backed funding is likely to make all the difference.
Various R&D grants are available locally, nationally and internationally. To achieve the right funding for their company and their project, your clients will need to understand what different R&D grant programmes are available, what they offer and how they apply. This is where partnering with us is so beneficial.
What work can be funded by research and development grants?
R&D grants typically support the creation of something new (be it a product, process or service) as well as its commercial development. The innovation doesn't have to be brand new, although routine improvements (like small product updates and maintenance) are unlikely to attract the support.
Some industries like manufacturing, engineering, construction and pharmaceuticals tend to lend themselves to R&D grants more than others. But grants are offered to support most types of innovation - it’s just a case of finding one that suits and putting together a winning application.
Feasibility studies, collaboration with other organisations and prototype development are all activities that grants can support. However, usually grants will only be awarded to time-specific projects (rather than ongoing work). Projects usually must last between six months and 3 years.
R&D grants also usually only cover 20% to 50% of the project’s costs - not the whole thing. This means that businesses need to stump up the rest themselves via other sources.
A substantial amount of government R&D grant support in the UK is provided through Innovate UK. New funding competitions are launched regularly, with many aiming at projects which:
- Tackle a key challenge as laid out in the government's industrial strategy. This would be something around new technologies like VR and AR or better battery technologies
- Support government organisations with their own innovative plans
Innovate UK also funds schemes including the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, helping businesses more closely collaborate with academic institutions.
The winning formula
So what exactly goes in to creating the highest quality R&D grant application that’s successful first time? This is some of the advice we give our clients - we’ve put it together as ten tips:
1. Check eligibility
R&D grants are usually only offered to smaller businesses - that is, those with under 250 employees and €50 million turnover. However, the rules around eligibility vary between each type of grant and each funding round. There are often additional rules around investors and stakeholders too - again we can advise on this.
2. Do your homework
R&D grants are often structured in such a way as to support technical and commercial feasibility first and innovation development second. Applicants that go straight for high value development funding without showing market viability are much less likely to be successful.
3. Prepare detailed project plans and costs
Applications will only be given credibility if they are based on real data, timelines and figures. Detail is crucial - vagueness or waffle simply won’t cut it.
4. Devise a clear commercial strategy
Commercial issues seem like a long way away at the start of an innovative project. But unless there’s a clearly defined path to market, and a plan for the innovation to make money, then again a grant is unlikely. After all, R&D grants represent an investment of public money in a company’s idea. Just like any other investor, a healthy return will need to be planned for and demonstrated.
5. Carry out a PEST analysis
Any innovative project will come with financial risks attached. Applicants must therefore prove they have researched and understood them, as well as how such risks will be overcome.
Possessing a thorough knowledge of the wider Political, Economic, Social and Technological (PEST) benefits an R&D project will bring is an excellent way of structuring an argument.
6. Have the right people in place
The project will only happen if a business has the right people with the right skillsets in place. Many times this will involve taking on additional staff, including contractors and freelancers to fill any knowledge gaps. Details of this nature should be included in an R&D grant application to demonstrate consideration.
7. Build evidence
Evidence brings with it significance and substance. Where possible, it’s excellent practice to get endorsement for an R&D project from other experts in the field, or from potential clients. This not only builds confidence in the innovation, but also strengthens the case for needing it in the first place.
8. Match up
R&D grants require that businesses match the remaining funding they need themselves. This means they must have sourced the required funds already, and ensured that the business has the cash flow required to move the project forward. Applicants should therefore be able to show where these funds will come from once the R&D project has begun.
9. Allow ample time
As R&D grants are often extremely popular, competition is fierce. Naturally your clients will want to make their application the very best it can be, but leaving it until just before the deadline is something we see far too often.
Confidently conveying what the project is about - and what the commercial results of it will be - takes time, planning and preparation. R&D grants can be worth many thousands of pounds of essential funding so applications should be given the time they deserve.
10. Approach an experienced R&D funding consultancy for advice
The technical and creative skills of a professional grant writing consultancy can be the difference between your client winning a grant and not. It’s a highly specialised area and the array of grants on offer can be baffling.
At Myriad Associates we’ve worked solely in the area of R&D tax and funding for two decades so we know exactly to include (and what to avoid). If any of your clients wish to apply for R&D grant funding, why not partner with us to work on their application.
Speak to the Myriad team today
If you’re interested in understanding more about research and development grants, get in touch today to speak to one of our specialist advisors. All our consultations are held by video call, phone and email for maximum convenience.
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