Funding competition Innovation in time resilience, dissemination and application - feasibility

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £4.7 million for business led innovation in resilient time, frequency and synchronisation.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is working with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) to invest up to £4.7 million in innovation projects that contribute to resilient time, frequency and synchronisation (TFS) and its dissemination and application.

The key areas for development are:

  • resilience
  • distribution
  • trust, assurance and security
  • integration and processing of signals

The aims of this competition are to:

  • support and enable business led innovation across the UK supply chain in resilient TFS for the development of products, services and end user applications
  • develop a TFS ecosystem and capability for relevant industries and critical national infrastructure
  • disrupt and create new markets, both in the UK and globally, to improve the provision of TFS

The innovation in time resilience, dissemination and application competition has two strands:

Strand 1: demonstrator - for projects undertaking late stage industrial research or experimental developmental projects.

Strand 2: feasibility (this strand) - for projects undertaking early stage feasibility studies.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total costs must be between £50,000 and £250,000.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total costs between £50,000 and £250,000
  • start by 1 November 2022
  • end by 31 October 2023
  • last between 6 and 12 months
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian source.

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

Academic institutions and research organisations cannot lead or work alone.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • academic institution
  • public sector organisation
  • charity
  • not for profit

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total project costs.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

Number of applications

A business can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in one further application across both strands of the competition.

If a business is not leading an application, they can collaborate in up to two applications across both competition strands.

Research organisations can collaborate on any number of applications across both competition strands.

Previous applications

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

We will not award you funding if you have:

Subsidy control (and State aid where applicable)

This competition provides funding in line with the UK's obligations and commitments to Subsidy Control. Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent guidance from the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. We will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.

EU State aid rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see our general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.

Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, you should take independent legal advice. We are unable to advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.

You must make sure at all times that the funding awarded to you is compliant with all current Subsidy Control legislation applicable in the United Kingdom.
This aims to regulate any advantage granted by a public sector body which threatens to or actually distorts competition in the United Kingdom or any other country or countries.

If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean we need to change the terms of this competition, we will tell you as soon as possible.

Eligibility overview

Here is a diagram showing a summary of eligibility.

This is a new way of showing you eligibility. Your feedback will help us to improve it.


We have allocated up to £4.7 million to fund innovation projects across both strands for this competition.

If the majority of your organisation’s work on the project is commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.

For feasibility study projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized organisation
  • up to 50% if you are a large organisation

For more information on company sizes, please refer to the company accounts guidance. This is a change from the EU definition unless you are applying under State aid.

If you are applying for an award funded under State aid Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.

Research participation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

Of that 30% you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-s registered institution such as an academic
  • 100% of your eligible project costs if you are an RTO, charity, not for profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation

Your proposal

The aims of this competition are to:

  • support and enable business led innovation across the UK supply chain in resilient time, frequency, and synchronisation (TFS), for the development of products, services and end user applications
  • develop a TFS ecosystem and capability for relevant industries and critical national infrastructure
  • disrupt and create new markets, both in the UK and globally, to improve the provision of TFS

Your project must deliver feasibility study for an innovative development and show a route to market.

Your project must be focused on one or more of these development areas relating to the dissemination of TFS:

  • products
  • services
  • protocols and algorithms
  • standards

We are looking for your projects to be scalable, geographically or across applications. Interoperability for international use is of particular interest.

Your project should lead to the following types of impact for the UK:

  • economic, including new revenue, cost savings, other economic impacts
  • national capability in TFS

During the project, NPL can provide up to 12 hours of free consultancy and free access to highly accurate and traceable time and frequency signals. The access will come from four sites in the South East of England and one site in Scotland.

Each site has different types of signals and support facilities available. This will allow a variety of different projects with individual requirements to access facilities which can support their innovation.

The sites are in two broad categories:

Innovation nodes

The innovation nodes are sites that combine signal access with laboratory space and where traceable signals are available for R&D, testing and validation of applications. Three innovation nodes are being set up in partnership between NPL and respective host organisations and are available to successful applicants during their project:

1. The University of Surrey 5G/6G Innovation Centre provides access to a shared lab and is particularly suitable for telecommunications and network timing projects.

2. Cranfield University provides access to a shared lab and is particularly suitable for autonomy and transport related projects (to be available by March 2023).

3. University of Strathclyde provides access to a dedicated lab and is particularly suitable for developments related to photonics, smart grids and fintech (to be available by March 2023).

Data centres

Two data centres in London and Reading allow signal connections via a cross-connect in a real-world delivery environment.

If you require access to consultancy or test facilities, you must:

  1. Download, complete and submit the form at the end of the NPL technical annex by e-mail to at least 10 working days before the submission deadline. This is to ensure NPL can accommodate your request and provide feedback if necessary.
  2. Upload the finalised NPL technical annex as part of your application.

Projects that include one or more industry sectors are of interest.

Example sectors include but are not limited to:

  • telecommunications
  • energy
  • autonomy
  • finance
  • smart factories
  • sensors
  • the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • broadcast
  • health
  • space
  • transport including rail, road, aviation, maritime

Projects involving cross-sector technologies such as those contributing to telecommunication technologies or timing over digital networks are of particular interest.

We reserve the right to apply a portfolio approach to funding projects across the competition strands, research categories, technologies, technological maturities, locations, markets, themes and project sizes.

Specific themes

Your project must focus on one or more of the following themes:


Your project must contribute to the resilience of time dissemination in one or more of the following:

  • availability (continuity of signal)
  • redundancy and holdover
  • alerting and monitoring

This could include, for example, developments relating to signal processing for time or frequency.


Your project must enable end users to have improved access to time or frequency signals.

You must include one or more of the following:

  • dissemination to multiple users
  • scalability
  • accessibility (geography)
  • ubiquity and availability, including locations where Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals are not available

For example, developments could include scalability to users at the edge of networks or to those currently without access.

There is also interest in developments relating to the application or extension of existing infrastructures such as that for communication.

Trust, assurance and security

Your project must contribute to the trust, assurance and security of time or frequency signals from the source to the end user, or a defined subset of this path.

You must include one or more of the following:

  • integrity
  • accuracy: absolute time value at the end user compared to the traceable source
  • confidence in end-to-end transmission
  • validation

This could, for example, relate to audit and certification of time signals at various levels of accuracy or signal integrity when transferring time signals over distances and mediums. Algorithms and protocols, especially those that increase the integrity of timing signals, are also in scope.

Integration and processing of signals

Your project must contribute to one or more of the following:

  • integration of multiple time or frequency sources
  • innovation in processing hardware or software relating to time or frequency signals

Research categories

We will fund feasibility study projects, as defined in the guidance on categories of research.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that are:

  • exclusively related to atomic clock development
  • exclusively related to Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS)
  • dependent on export performance, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example if they insisted that a baker use 50% UK flour in their product

Projects which involve the integration of atomic clocks or GNSS into timing systems would be in scope.
14 March 2022
Competition opens
25 March 2022
Online briefing event: watch the recording

1 June 2022 11:00am
Competition closes
15 July 2022 4:52pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

1. Project details.

2. Application questions.

3. Finances.

1. Project details

This section provides background for the assessors and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you on the project. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

Subsidy Basis

Will the project, including any related activities, you want Innovate UK to fund, affect trade between Northern Ireland and the EU?

You and all your project partners must respond and mark this question as complete, before you can submit your application.

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We collect and report on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) data to address under-representation in business innovation and ensure equality, diversity and inclusion across all our activities.

All participants must complete this EDI survey and the lead applicant must then select yes in the application question. The survey will ask you questions on your gender, age, ethnicity and disability status. You will always have the option to ‘prefer not to say’ if you do not feel comfortable sharing this information.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign the right experts to assess your application.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.


Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment. We will tell you the reason why.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score all your answers apart from question 1. You will receive feedback for each scored question.

You must answer all questions. Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Question 1. Applicant location (not scored)

You must state the name and full registered address of your organisation and any partners working on the project.

We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all applicants.

Question 2. Need or challenge

What is the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity behind your innovation?


  • the main motivation for the project
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • whether you have identified any similar innovation and its current limitations, including those close to market or in development
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project focuses on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • how this project supports the aims of the competition
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations, using our Horizons tool if appropriate

Question 3. Approach and innovation

What approach will you take and where will the focus of the innovation be?


  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how will you improve on the similar innovation that you have identified
  • whether the innovation will focus on existing technologies in new areas, the development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
  • how it will make you more competitive
  • the nature of the outputs you expect from the project (for example report, know-how, new process, product or service design) and how these will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified

You can submit one appendix. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF, up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4. Team and resources

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?


  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them, particularly in the light of any continuing COVID-19 restrictions
  • the details of any vital external parties, including subcontractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • if your project is collaborative, the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • any roles you will need to recruit for, taking into account the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the team structure
  • whether or not access to NPL test facilities or consultancy is required

There are two appendix options for this question.

Appendix option 1

You can submit an appendix containing a short summary of the main people working on the project, including any subcontractors, to support your answer. It must be a PDF, up to 4 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Appendix option 2

If you require access to consultancy or test facilities, you must:

  1. Download, complete and submit the form at the end of the NPL technical annex by e-mail to at least 10 working days before the submission deadline. This is to ensure NPL can accommodate your request and provide feedback if necessary.
  2. Upload the finalised NPL technical annex as an appendix to this question. It must be a PDF and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 5. Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?


  • the target markets for the project outcomes, any other potential markets (domestic, international or both)
  • the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by references where available
  • the structure and dynamics of the target markets, including customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
  • the target markets’ main supply or value chains and business models, and any barriers to entry that exist
  • the current UK position in targeting these markets
  • the size and main features of any other markets not already listed
If your project is highly innovative, where the market may be unexplored, describe or explain:
  • what the market’s size might be
  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential

Question 6. Outcomes and route to market

How are you going to grow your business and increase long term productivity as a result of the project?


  • your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • your target customers or end users, and the value to them, for example why they would use or buy your product
  • your route to market, particularly if COVID-19 has changed market dynamics
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation, including increased revenues or cost reduction
  • how the innovation will affect your productivity and growth, in both the short and the long term
  • how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, patenting, designs or changes to your business model
  • your strategy for targeting the other markets you have identified during or after the project
If there is any research organisation activity in the project, describe:
  • your plans to spread the project’s research outputs over a reasonable timescale
  • how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities

Question 7. Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Describe and, where possible, measure the economic benefits from the project such as productivity increases and import substitution, to:

  • external parties
  • customers
  • others in the supply chain
  • broader industry
  • the UK economy
Describe and, where possible, measure:
  • any expected impact on government priorities
  • any expected environmental impacts, either positive or negative
  • any expected regional impacts of the project
Describe any expected social impacts, either positive or negative on, for example:
  • quality of life
  • social inclusion or exclusion
  • jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
  • education
  • public empowerment
  • health and safety
  • regulations
  • diversity

Question 8. Project management

How will you manage your project effectively?


  • the main work packages of your project, indicating the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms you will use to get a successful and innovative project outcome
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones, taking into account the possible impact of further COVID-19 restrictions

You must submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF, up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9. Risks

What are the main risks for this project?


  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks
  • how you will mitigate these risks
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise, and data sets
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how you will manage this

You must submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF, up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 10. Added value

How will this public funding help you to accelerate or enhance your approach to developing your project towards commercialisation?

What impact would this award have on the organisations involved?


  • what advantages would public funding offer your project, for example, appeal to investors, more partners, reduced risk or a faster route to market (this list is not exhaustive)
  • the likely impact of the project outcomes on the organisations involved
  • what other routes of investment have you already approached
  • what your project would look like without public funding
  • how this project would change the R&D activities of all the organisations involved

Question 11. Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?

In terms of your project goals, explain:

  • your total project costs
  • the grant you are requesting
  • how each partner will finance their contributions to your project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any subcontractor costs and why they are critical to your project

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisation details and funding details in the application. Academic institutions must complete and upload a Je-S form.

For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

This is the second of two associated competitions funded from the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) as part of the National Timing Centre programme, led by NPL. The total programme budget for funding business led innovation is £6.7 million.

Accurate, ubiquitous, and trusted sources of time and frequency underpin technology advances such as digital transformation, telecommunications, automation and autonomy.

A key resource in resilient time capability in the UK is the national time scale based on a realisation of Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). This is managed by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the national measurement institute.

The National Timing Centre (NTC) was launched in 2019 as a five-year programme, to deliver a resilient, accurate and scalable UK time infrastructure through an atomic clock network and innovation. The programme is being led by NPL and offers opportunities for UK organisations to develop an associated value chain in TFS.

It is also intended to help address the reliance on the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and align, as a scaled-up architecture, with a national Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) strategy.

NPL are currently developing plans relating to the terms and extent of the core network and facilities for access. The ambition is to scale delivery over time with a range of services accessible to industry. The current and planned future signal access levels being developed are:

  • free services, comprising as a minimum the MSF radio signal and network time protocol (NTP) servers
  • low-cost signal access hand-off points for onward use and distribution by service providers where cost, scale and assurance level will be based on industry demand and requirements
  • high-end, integrated capability at a higher cost

Future business models will give the opportunity for industry to scale to meet market needs.

Further information about the NTC can be found on the NPL website. NPL welcomes ongoing information about industry requirements for using and accessing signals and facilities.

Due to their leadership of the NTC programme, NPL are not eligible as a project partner in this competition.

Data sharing

This competition is jointly operated by Innovate UK, and NTC (each an “agency”).

Your submitted application and any other information you provide at the application stage can be submitted to each agency on an individual basis for its storage, processing and use. Any relevant information produced during the application process concerning your application can be shared by one agency with the other, for its individual storage, processing and use.

This means that any information given to or generated by Innovate UK in respect of your application may be passed on to NTC and vice versa.

Innovate UK is directly accountable to you for its holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information. It is held in accordance with its Information Management Policy.

Innovate UK and NTC are directly accountable to you for their holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information. Data is held in accordance with their own policies. Accordingly, Innovate UK, and NTC will be data controllers for personal data submitted during the application.

Innovate UK complies with the requirements of GDPR, and is committed to upholding the data protection principles, and protecting your information. The Information Commissioner’s Office also has a useful guide for organisations, which outlines the data protection principles.

Find a project partner

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Innovate UK KTN

Support for SMEs from Innovate UK EDGE

If you receive an award, you will be contacted about working with an innovation and growth specialist at Innovate UK EDGE. This service forms part of our funded offer to you.

These specialists focus on growing innovative businesses and ensuring that projects contribute to their growth. Working one-to-one, they can help you to identify your best strategy and harness world-class resources to grow and achieve scale.

We encourage you to engage with Innovate UK EDGE, delivered by a knowledgeable and objective specialist near you.

Contact us

If you need more information about how to apply or you want to submit your application in Welsh, email or call 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Innovate UK is committed to making support for applicants accessible to everyone.

We can provide help for applicants who face barriers when making an application. This might be as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or anything else that makes it difficult to use our services. We can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful.

If you think you need more support, it is important that you contact our Customer Support Service as early as possible during your application process. You should aim to contact us no later than 10 working days before the competition closing date.

Need help with this service? Contact us