Innovative companies or individuals that have a bright idea for a new product or process may be able to get assistance of up to £45,000 through Invest Northern Ireland’s SMART awards scheme.

The scheme aims to help companies carry out technical and commercial feasibility studies and develop low cost prototypes of products and processes involving technical advances.

The scheme, open to both individuals and companies with fewer than 50 employees, operates on the basis of a competition for financial awards. Invest NI is currently inviting applications for its next SMART awards competition.

A new Micro SMART scheme has also been established specifically to help individuals and micro firms, those employing fewer than 10 people, by providing grant assistance of up to £10,000 for smaller projects.

Recent winners of SMART awards include Giltspur Scientific Ltd. The Ballyclare company received a grant to help it develop flexible plastic horseshoes that will expand when the horse’s hoof hits the ground, which reduces the impact.

Since receiving the award in October this year the company has made significant progress with the project and management are keen to point to the key role played by the SMART funding.

Dr Ernest Logan, managing director of Giltspur Scientific comments: "Smart awards are particularly important to small companies who have limited research budgets. This award has enabled me to employ a person dedicated solely to the project, and I believe that will ensure its success."

Tracy Meharg, Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development Services in Invest NI explains that the idea of the awards is to encourage innovation, which will lead to an increase in competitiveness.

“One of Invest NI’s key objectives is to stimulate innovation, helping companies to become more competitive by increasing their capability. The SMART awards do this through supporting small businesses in developing new products and processes in both high tech and traditional industries.

“The package of assistance available through the SMART award scheme has enabled many companies and individuals to take practical steps to integrate the concept of innovation within their manufacturing and business processes. We’re hoping that many more companies will come forward with innovative projects that can benefit from the support on offer.”

In making the awards Invest NI takes account of the quality and novelty of the project’s potential commercial application and the methods proposed for turning the idea into a commercially successful product or service.

The closing date for applications for this round of SMART awards is 20th December. More information can be obtained from Invest NI’s Innovation and Capability Development Services division, telephone: 028 9262 3262, or visit