Innovate UK routinely publish lists of winners for each competition, but are less forthcoming about the numbers of bids received.  Gauging how much competition you might face and what constitutes a winning score is hard to estimate. Some Freedom of Information releases from 2017 shed light on Innovate UK’s main Sector competitions.

There are four Sector competitions and one “Open” competition that have run on a fairly regular basis since FY16/17. The sector programmes are “Emerging & Enabling Technologies”, “Health & Life Sciences”, “Infrastructure Systems” and “Manufacturing & Materials”.

Here are the data from two sector competitions held in 2017 compared with an Open call:

All proposals are scored out of 100 by independent assessors. Innovate UK then selects the competition winners to provide a portfolio of short, medium and long duration projects, so winners are selected from short (usually solo) projects up to 12 months, those that are 13-24 months (usually collaborative), and longer projects at up to 36 months.

 The Open competition is (unsurprisingly) much more popular, and the headline win rate for 12-24 month projects is 1 in 12 compared to 1 in 8 for the Sector calls.

However, the “lowest score” for the Open call shows that the quality of submissions can be considerably lower. The worst applications to the Sector calls are getting an assessment score of around 50%, while some Open call bids are scoring less than 20%.

Looking at the “lowest score funded” shows that the thresholds are much closer, with a 2-year project proposal needing to score just over 80 for Open and just under 80 for Sector.


It is always better to bid into a competition where your technology best matches the competition’s scope. However

despite the Open call receiving three times as many applications, it is not significantly more competitive – as long as you have a strong proposal.

And this remains the key message: A good assessment score is essential, and getting into the 80’s requires a high quality and well written proposal that correctly addresses all of the assessment criteria.

Grants don’t go to the best ideas – they go to the best proposals.

Various proposal writing services are available. Innovate UK run free seminars on compelling grant proposals.