21.10.21 Funding Preparation

How to develop a grant-fundable innovation project

Research & development (R&D) grant funding involves a competitive and often time-consuming application process. A successful approach involves having a defined R&D project before commencing your bid writing process.

This will ensure that your project is aligned with the scope of any given competition, improving the quality of your proposition whilst keeping a consistent narrative and alignment to your wider company strategy, catching the attention of funding bodies.

This blog focuses on 6 key areas to help guide the development of a grant-fundable project, think of it as a pre-bid sanity check!

Identify your Opportunity: Which fund?

The grant funding landscape can be complex and occasionally quite niche. Funding bodies decide well in advance the areas they wish to focus awards. Some funding bodies cover a wide range of industries (e.g., Innovate UK), while others focus on a particular field (e.g., SBRI, NIHR: MedTech/Healthcare).

Before you embark on your grant funding journey, it’s important to find funds most applicable to your business, innovation, and funding/R&D timeline. When a competition is released, the funding body will outline the scope of their competition; the rules in which applicants need to operate to successfully achieve an award.

These typically include:

  • A clear outline of the industry and technical focus of the competition
  • Project consortium and business size requirements, including specific requirements to involve the likes of academia or research organisations
  • Dates on which you will be required to conduct your project
  • Regional requirements: some funds focus on specific geographic areas
  • Total funding amounts, project cost limitations and ‘intervention rates’ (the percentage split between grant and match funding).

Funding bodies will expect you to evidence your fit to the scope of the competition, failure to do so will result in your application being rejected before they assess the more interesting elements of your proposal.

Outcomes and Objectives

For your project to be considered an investable, credible business opportunity worthy of grant funding, you need to clearly define your project outcomes and objectives. The first thing assessors evaluate is whether there is a clear and researched business opportunity and a consistent link between the problem you are looking to solve and the solution you are proposing to address.

Conduct and include up-to-date market research that outlines your strategy for market entry: What does the current market look like? What are the current market dynamics (is it growing? How fast? What trends affect it? What is the competition? What are the barriers to entry?).

Also, consider how your innovation project will generate commercial returns. Include details of realistic, quantified project outputs, and explain how you’ll execute market exploitation strategies, including your sales/service model and growth plans. Funding bodies expect to see a link between grant investment and company growth, market disruption, and a marked step change over current and existing approaches.

Project plan

Now that you have defined the market need for your innovation, clearly outlined your project deliverables and established your market exploitation strategy, how will you achieve and execute your project?

Funding bodies expect a fully detailed project plan, one that includes Work Packages with designated leads, and clear reporting lines. Typically, two types of project management methodology are used, Agile (an incremental, iterative approach that separates a project into sprints ) and/or Waterfall (a linear and sequential approach that divides a project into phases).

Funding bodies typically request a GANTT chart (or a similar visualisation in a specified format) that confidently presents your desired approach. Your visualisation should highlight incremental tasks, milestones and deliverables that are linked to your overall project objectives.

Top tips for developing outcomes and objectives:

  • Develop a well-defined project plan before developing your R&D grant funding application, helping to maintain a narrative in line with your outcomes and deliverables.
  • Make your business opportunity crystal clear: What is your product or service need? How is your approach better than the current state of the art?
  • Complete your market research thoroughly: consider your local, regional, and global market potential. What are the market dynamics, and how will you overcome current market constraints and barriers to entry?
  • Additionality: Explain the impact your innovation will have on your business and future growth plans. How will it affect your route to market? Realistically describe the revenue potential and the new financing opportunities the project will generate.
  • A small percentage of a big market always delivers a big commercial return! Validate your statements and ensure your commercial resourcing and approaches fit with identified growth aims.
  • Timing is everything: consider how much time you need to execute your project, ensuring that the timeline for completion is in line with the scope of the competition.

Team and resources

Funding bodies want to know who is on your team and that they have the expertise to execute your proposed innovation project.

A common misconception when resourcing is that all company staff need to be working on the project 100% of the time. It’s more likely that your project will form a lesser percentage of their day-to-day duties and other commitments. Be sure to align the skills and abilities of your team with each area of your project, highlighting to funding bodies they have the skills to deliver the proposed outcomes. Funding assessors want you to evidence that you can efficiently achieve your project.

Don’t go it alone: collaboration partners can add value to your project and instil further confidence in the success of your objectives. Consortiums benefit from a wide range of skills, experiences, and practical tools that you may not contain in-house, but outside of the proposed project would not be required otherwise. Collaboration partners can provide new or different perspectives on your innovation and can potentially offer more time, expert resources (skills and literature) and expensive, specialist equipment and facilities otherwise reasonably unobtainable.

The key to finding the right partner for your project is:

  • Review your in-house talent and consider the gaps in your skills, experience and facilities helping you to identify the potential partner(s) you require.
  • Take the time to examine and evaluate multiple opportunities; consider the benefits of going it alone and consider potential consortium partners that could help tackle various elements of your project.
  • Use your outcomes and objectives to be clear on the support you need. Is it help with the technology you’re looking for? Or with design? Or with exploitation?
  • Establish collaboration agreements that identify who is responsible for what, how the intellectual property will be shared, and how each collaborator will benefit, and be sure to clearly define the additionality the partners bring to the project.
  • Network! On rare occasions collaborating partners may need to withdraw, so be sure to warm up any backup options to fall back on.


Project costs and finances will be under scrutiny and you will be required to evidence that your project provides suitable value for money.

Project costs need to align with the size and complexity of your project. You can be marked down for costs considered too low as well as too high. Revise the competition/funding body’s cost categories and establish benchmark budgets to work towards. Be realistic and prepared to evidence and quantify your costs in terms of value for money.

Different funds have different requirements and thresholds for funding amounts available and the proportion of costs that can be claimed (known as the ‘intervention rate’). For example, Innovate UK typically defines its funding levels based on both project maturity (Feasibility Study, Industrial Research or Experimental Development) and organisation size (micro/small, medium and large). The amount of grant funding you can claim will depend on how you fit into these criteria.

As it is the defined project that is funded, applicants need to work out the specific project costs required, rather than, for example, all costs that the organisation is incurring. A good example is staff salaries (through PAYE). A project’s technical lead may be costing the company £60k p/a, but may only spend half their time on the ring-fenced project. Their cost to the project would be £30k. However, a technician or developer may be involved in the project for 80% of their time, as it is the main project they are currently engaging with.

You must be careful that the anticipated costs are as realistic as possible as they will define your project; you will be required to fully justify all costs to funding bodies. If successful, you will have to provide a spend profile that takes the overarching costs and defines them by quarter and month.

Top tips for costs:

  • Work from the ground up, how much funding do you need to achieve the deliverables of your ambitious idea, rather than “How do we create a project that is at the maximum threshold of the funding allowed”
  • Ensure costs are appropriate, justifiable and be careful not to undersell the overall value of the grant contribution
  • Check the eligibility and nuanced rules around costs (e.g. amortisation rules) to avoid falling foul of ineligible costs.

Intellectual property

The keystone to commercialisation is the protection of your idea. Clearly define how project outputs will be protected, ensuring that intellectual property (IP) will not be lost, and therefore potential commercial returns greatly reduced or even eliminated entirely.

Top tips for IP:

  • If unsure, seek professional guidance from IP specialists
  • Explore all forms of IP protection, not just patents
  • Consider what project outputs would need to be protected to facilitate commercial exploitation
  • Review existing registered IP to ensure no infringements
  • Establish IP agreements in collaboration projects, ensuring that it is clear who will retain rights to project outputs.

Project Reporting

Once you’ve been notified of your project’s success, made it through the due diligence stage, and begun project activities, you will need to remain compliant with the funder’s reporting requirements.

During the project, there are set reporting intervals with required documentation and milestones such as:

  • Progress Reporting: Provision of an updated document set, GANTT chart, and progress report relating to the activities of the previous quarter.
  • Financial Reporting: Identification of incurred project costs to date and updated forecasts for the remainder of the project.
  • Independent Accountant’s Report (IAR): Submission of an IAR to confirm project expenditure, aligning with costs in the financial report (an IAR is typically not required for every reporting period).
  • Project Change Request: Should you require a change in the project cost profile or the scope of work, a formal Project Change Request needs to be completed. This needs to be supported by a suitably updated document set.

Accurate reporting is critical to the cash flow of a grant-funded project. Seeking the advice of a professional grant project manager will free up your time and allow you to focus on delivering the project outcomes stated in your successful application.

Top tips for project management:

  • Work with the funding body to pass their due diligence processes, and set up your project according to the remits explained in your initial proposal
  • Project Change Requests: notify the funding body of any changes to your project. Materially the project needs to stay the same, but minor elements can be adapted (e.g. changing a team member)
  • Comply with reporting requirements
  • Make a good impression on your Monitoring Officer
  • Seek advice from a professional in grant project management if you feel overwhelmed by the reporting requirements

We can help

Granted Consultancy has operated in the non-dilutive funding space for over 11 years. Over this time, we have seen R&D grant funding scoring thresholds continue to increase and the quality of projects dramatically advance.

To step up to the competition you need to have a robust project plan for your innovation – use our blog to guide you!


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