SME Programme FAQs

SME Programme FAQs

Who can apply to the SME Programme?

To apply to the SME Programme, you must be a UK registered SME or, a business of any size with at least one SME in the consortium. To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be either, a business of any size, an academic institution, charity, not for profit, public-sector organisation, research and technology organisation (RTO).

Please see the competition brief on the SME Programme page for detailed guidance about eligibility and project consortiums.

How many stages does this competition have?

This is a two stage-competition. The Outline Stage opens three times per calendar year and is assessed by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) only. ATI will make recommendations to Department for Business and Trade (DBT). Based on ATI’s recommendation the DBT decides which projects proceed to the Full Stage Application. There is no funding in Stage One. All funding will be awarded in Stage Two.

Only successful applicants from the Outline Stage will be invited to proceed to the Full Stage Application, which is assessed separately by Innovate UK (IUK), the ATI, and DBT. More details can be found on the SME Programme page and the Programme Guidance.

What is the funding intensity for the SME Programme? Is there a project-level funding cap?

The project level funding cap (60% of the total overall eligible costs of the project) applied to the ATI Strategic Programme will not apply to the ATI SME Programme. This is to incentivise smaller businesses to lead and participate in collaborative R&D.

The maximum funding rates individual organisations can claim will depend on the size and type of your organisation as defined by the UK government here.

  • A large company can claim up to 50% of their eligible costs
  • A medium sized company can claim up to 60% of their eligible costs
  • A small company can claim up to 70% of their eligible costs
  • A research institution can claim up 100% of their eligible costs

UK registered large businesses in the consortium can share up to 30% of the total project costs. If your consortium contains more than one large business, this maximum will be shared between them.

Detailed guidance can be found in the competition brief for the programme.
Please note the funding rates are a maximum rate, the funding the projects request should be the minimum amount to make the project viable. This is something DBT will review as part of their value for money assessment.

When can I apply to the SME Programme?

Published competition dates can be found on the SME Programme page.

What is the budget for the SME Programme?

The planning assumption is that the ATI SME Programme will have a budget of up to £10 million a year. However, this will depend on the number and the quality of applications received.

Where is the funding for the SME Programme from?

Funding will come from the existing allocation of £685 million for the ATI Programme from the government for the years 2022/23 – 2024/25.

What support can I access to help with my application?

Support for applicants is available from the ATI Hub, through sessions such as technology clinics, SME Programme Clinics and briefing opportunities. Applicants also have the opportunity to submit a draft Outline Stage and draft Full Stage Application (if successful at Outline Stage) to receive feedback from the ATI technologists.

How can I check the eligibility of my proposed project costs?

All enquiries on subsidy control and the eligibility of enterprises and their proposed costs should be directed to Innovate UK Customer Support Services


Telephone: 0300 321 4357 to speak to an advisor.

What other support is available to SMEs?

SMEs will have the opportunity to discuss the feedback to their application, with the ATI assessor(s) following the outcome notification for the Outline Stage. Details of how this can be arranged will be available in the outcome notification document. Applicants who submit a Full Stage Application will be provided with feedback from the ATI assessor, Innovate UK and DBT following the outcome notification.

Is the NATEP programme still open?

The NATEP 3 contract has now been delivered and the last funding round closed to applicants in Spring 2023. Aerospace supply chain organisations are invited to apply to the ATI SME Programme for funding to deliver aerospace R&D technology.

Will the ATI be continuing the Smaller Business Competition it has ran previously?

No – the SME Programme replaces the previous Smaller Business Competition, bringing additional funding and a simplified application process

Will I need to sign the ATI SME Programme Agreement if I have signed the ATI Framework Agreement?

No. If you have already signed the ATI Framework Agreement as part of a project in the Strategic Programme, you are not required to sign the ATI SME Programme Agreement.

Will my project be subject to 2.5% industrial contribution to the ATI?

No. The ATI SME Programme is exempt from paying industrial contributions.

How can I submit to Full Stage Application (FSA) if I am successful at the Outline Stage?

FSA submissions are by invitation only. You will receive a submission link from IUK prior to the opening date of the upcoming FSA competition, following notification of a successful Outline Stage application from ATI.

Will there be a briefing for the applicants about the SME Programme?

Yes. The first briefing will take place on Tuesday 5th December 2023. Details of how you can register can be found here.


There will also be a competition briefing for the Full Stage Application by Innovate UK. Applicants successful at the Outline Stage will be invited to register for the briefing event after they have been provided the link for Full Stage Application.