Evaluation of SMART (R&D Grants): Impact and Process Evaluation

Client: Innovate UK

Innovate UK took responsibility for delivering the Smart programme from the Regional Development Agencies in 2011. It provided small and medium sized businesses the opportunity to access grants of up to £250,000 to develop innovative R&D projects which could lead to the commercialisation of new products and services. Over the first four years, the Smart programme funded around 1,600 projects, amounting to a total value of £160m.

In 2014, SQW was commissioned by Innovate UK, in partnership with Cambridge Econometrics and BMG Research, to evaluate the impact and process of the Smart programme. SQW’s evaluation had two phases. The first phase examined funding rounds between 2011/12 and 2012/13 and assessed the impact of the Smart programme to date by drawing on a large-scale survey of over 450 businesses that had successfully or unsuccessfully applied for Smart grants, alongside in-depth case studies of Smart-supported businesses.  This first phase also involved an assessment of the effectiveness of the process as experienced by businesses, assessors and monitoring officers. Innovate UK published SQW’s Impact and Process Evaluation in 2015.

The second phase of the evaluation focussed on impact. It was undertaken between 2015 and 2018, and involved two waves of large-scale surveys with successful and unsuccessful applicants to Smart, drawn from funding rounds between 2013/14 and 2014/15, and the use of firm-level datasets from Office for National Statistics.  The second phase also included an exploratory qualitative study on the nature and scope of spillover benefits resulting from Smart projects.