Funding competition SBRI: Fusion Industry Challenges - phase 1

Organisations can apply for a share of £2 million, inclusive of VAT, to develop solutions to encourage innovation in the fusion industry, through the use of novel and innovative heating and cooling systems, materials, manufacturing and technologies.

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Competition sections

Description

This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA). The aim of the competition is to develop solutions to fusion energy challenges in two themes for key priority areas.

1. Driving up fusion power plant performance with innovative heating and cooling systems.

2. Improving fusion power plant availability with novel fusion materials, technology, and manufacture.

This is phase 1 of a potential 2 phase competition. The decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1 and assessment of a separate application into a subsequent phase 2 competition.

Only the successful applicants from phase 1 will be invited to apply to take part in phase 2.

In applying to this phase 1 competition you are entering into a competitive process.

Any adoption and implementation of a solution from this competition would be subject to a separate, possibly competitive, procurement exercise. This competition does not cover the purchase of any solution.

This competition closes at 11am UK time on the date of the deadline.

Funding type

Procurement

Project size

Phase 1 projects can range in size with total costs of between £50,000 and £200,000, inclusive of VAT.

Who can apply

Your project

Projects must:

  • end by 31 March 2023
  • last between 3 to 6 months

Your project is expected to start by 1 September 2022

Applicant

To lead a project, you can:

  • be an eligible organisation of any size with a UK registration or registered office
  • work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or the third sector as subcontractors
  • applicants are welcome from all sectors

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

Contracts will be awarded to a single legal entity only.

Subcontracting is encouraged where it will improve the proposal. This work will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.

Funding

A total of up to £2 million, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to phase 1. The funding is provided by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).

The Phase 1 feasibility study R&D contracts will be between £50,000 and £200,000, inclusive of VAT, for each project for up to 6 months. We expect to fund up to 10 projects.

Phase 2 involves up to 5 contracts being awarded to organisations chosen from the successful phase 1 applicants. Up to £1,000,000 inclusive of VAT will be allocated for each contract, to develop a prototype and undertake field testing for up to 18 months.

The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to:

The contract is completed at the end of the competition, and the successful organisation is expected to pursue commercialisation of their solution.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. We will not provide any further advice and suggest you to seek independent advice from HMRC.

VAT registered

If you select you are VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total. Your total project costs must not exceed £200,000.

Not VAT registered

If you select you are not VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT and no VAT will be added. You will not be able to increase total project costs to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered. Your total project costs must not exceed £200,000.

Research and development

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

Subsidy control

SBRI competitions involve procurement of R&D services at a fair market value and are not subject to subsidy control criteria that typically apply to grant funding.

Your project

The aim of this competition is to encourage innovation in the fusion industry through the use of novel and innovative heating and cooling systems, materials, manufacturing and technologies.

Your project must develop solutions to fusion energy challenges in two key priority areas identified by the UK Atomic Energy Authority:

1. Driving up fusion power plant performance with innovative heating and cooling systems

2. Improving fusion power plant availability with novel fusion materials, technology, and manufacture

Your solution must be developed in the UK for use within the UK.

In phase 1 you must demonstrate the feasibility of your project, in line with the specific themes.

We will give preference to applications which:

  • help the innovation be formally accepted for future use in a fusion plant environment, for example by obtaining relevant regulatory certificates or approvals during phase 2
  • offer innovations which consider existing infrastructure and potential interfaces

Your proposal must:

  • reduce the risk involved in the take up of new technologies
  • outline plans to accelerate time to market
  • be pre-commercial
  • explain the rationale for the solution and describe the expected impact
  • define how the proposed solution would enable and support the delivery of sustainable fusion power plants
  • assign at least 2 technical milestones where performance is reviewed in order to release funds
  • demonstrate a clear plan for commercialisation with a route to market for affordable, developed solutions
  • describe how solutions can be tested in a representative or real world setting as part of phase 2
  • explain how any potentially negative outcomes would be managed, such as on the environment or society
  • demonstrate how you will work with at least one potential future customer throughout your project

Your solution must:

  • be based on sound fundamental technical principles
  • be innovative
  • be practical and deliverable
  • take affordability into consideration
  • demonstrate the potential for cost-effectiveness
  • integrate with existing systems where necessary
  • consider user experience throughout the design and development process

At this stage contracts will be given for phase 1 only.

You must define your goals in your application and outline your plan for phase 2. This is part of the full commercial implementation in your phase 1 application.

You must demonstrate a credible and practical route to market, so your application must include a plan to commercialise your results.

In phase 2 we will ask successful applicants from phase 1 to develop and demonstrate a working prototype in a real-world environment.

Specific themes

Your project must focus on one of these 2 themes:

Driving up fusion power plant performance with innovative heating and cooling systems.

Projects can focus on one or more of the following under this theme:

Microwave heating challenges:

  • high power, long pulse microwave sources with high electrical efficiency (greater than or equal to 55%)
  • development of special waveguide components, for example, diamond window assemblies, power monitors, expansion units, vacuum pumping access
  • improvements on the high voltage power supplies (50kV) for reduced voltage ripple in a compact assembly while maintaining high electrical efficiency (greater than or equal to 98%)
  • development of optical mirrors for evacuation of high thermal loads (approximately 5MW/m2)
  • high precision optical alignment assemblies for the free space to waveguide coupling

Neutral particle beam heating challenges:

  • negative ion beam system with high electrical efficiency (greater than 60%)
  • improved beam neutralisation efficiency, for example, Plasma or Laser Neutralisers
  • development of residual ion energy recovery.
  • improved negative ion source efficiency with caesium free operation
  • reduction in scale; improved ion optics, source uniformity and power handling to reduce size of components
  • development of actively cooled high heat flux components (approximately 5-10 MW/m2) with reactor relevant materials
  • development of fault tolerant 1-2MV fast switching power supply systems with high electrical efficiency
  • development of vacuum pumping systems with pumping speeds of millions of litres per second which allow continuous operation

Reactor high heat flux components:

  • jet impingement cooling technology transfer
  • sCO2 as coolant
  • diamond components for heat dispersion
  • novel discrete limiter designs, for example, vaporisation layers, speed of maintenance or increased heat flux performance

Improving fusion power plant availability with novel fusion materials, technology, and manufacture

Projects can focus on one or more of the following under this theme:

  • fusion grade steels, for example, reduced activation Ferritic or Martensitic (RAFM) development, including, Castable Nanostructured Alloys (CNAs), and Oxide Dispersion Strengthened (ODS) steels
  • liquid Metal testing, for example Li, PbLi and Pb
  • scalable or large volume manufacture of tritium breeder materials
  • irradiation resilient joining materials and processes, for example, Tungsten based armour materials, CuCrZr or vacuum vessel ports including fused silica, Mo, MgAl2O4, ZnS, ZnSe
  • novel manufacture of multi-metre complex structures and components for fusion environments testing and evaluation
  • scalable or large volume manufacture of neutron shielding materials
  • manufacture of complex geometry components in refractory metals
  • additive manufacture for non-water coolant components
  • anti-corrosion coatings or novel application methods of corrosion and tritium barrier coatings for complex geometry components
  • development of on-line activation measurements
  • in situ health monitoring of fusion reactor components
  • novel inspection of interfaces in complex multi-material fusion components
  • radiation hard improvements for fusion equipment and plant
  • novel energy conversion technology
  • high temperature superconductors
  • composite materials such as silicon carbide fibre, reinforced silicon carbide
  • novel materials for radiation hard electronic components

Research categories

Phase 1: technical feasibility studies

This means planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills for developing new products, processes or services.

In phase 1 the supplier must work closely with the stakeholders to develop a solution.

Phase 2: prototype development and evaluation

Your phase 2 project will involve prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real-life operating conditions. The primary objective is to make further technical improvements on products, processes or services that are not substantially set.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that:

  • do not engage with potential future customers to understand needs
  • cannot be undertaken within the working restrictions of coronavirus (COVID 19)
  • do not address how any potentially negative outcomes, including the environment or society, would be managed
  • do not address at least one theme within the competition scope
  • are not suitable for use within the UK fusion industry sector
  • duplicates existing innovation
  • are not commercially viable
  • would directly duplicate other UK government or EU funded initiatives you have already been funded to deliver

9 May 2022
Competition opens
23 May 2022
Online briefing event: join at 1.20 pm
22 June 2022 11:00am
Competition closes
1 September 2022
Phase 1 contracts awarded
1 September 2022
Feedback provided

Before you start

By submitting an application, you agree to the terms of the draft contract which is available once you start your application. The terms of the contract are non-negotiable and are included in the draft contract. We reserve the right to change the terms and conditions if necessary.

The final contract will include any milestones you have agreed with the funding authority (UK Atomic Energy Authority) and will be sent to you if your application is successful. The contract is binding once it is returned by you and signed by both parties.

When you start an application you will be prompted to create an account as the lead applicant or sign in as a representative of your organisation. Using your account, you will be able to track your applications progress.

As the applicant you are responsible for:

  • collecting the information for your application
  • representing your organisation in leading the project if your application is successful

You will be able to invite colleagues from your organisation to contribute to the application.

What happens next

A selected panel of assessors will review and score your application and the winners of phase 1 contracts will be selected. All eligible applicants will be provided feedback. The UK Atomic Energy Authority will undertake the assessment of all applications and award contracts to successful applicants.

For phase 2 assessors can also take into account the deliverables within phase 1, including technical reports and phase 1 end-of-phase SBRI report. They may ask a number of finalists to attend an interview or give a demonstration.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.
  3. Finances.

1. Project details

Select a category to state how long has your organisation been established for. You cannot choose more than one.

What is your organisation’s primary area focus?

Select a category to state your organisation’s primary focus area. You cannot choose more than one.

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 and scope summary

Please provide a short summary of your project.

Describe your project briefly. Be clear about what makes it innovative and how it relates to the scope of the competition. How does it tackle different aspects of the challenge and how will it provide an integrated solution?

Give details of the lead organisation. Before you submit, we expect you to have discussed your application within your organisation.

Your answer for this section can be up to 800 words long.

This section is not scored, but we will use it to decide whether the project fits the scope of the competition. If it does not, it may be rejected.

Public description

Please provide a brief description of your project. If your application is successful, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project. This question is mandatory, but we will not assess this content as part of your application.

Describe your project in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. We have the right to amend the description before publication if necessary but will consult you about any changes.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Applicant location

You must state the name of your organisation along with your full registered address.

You must also state the name and full registered address of any potential or confirmed subcontractors.

We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all participants of a project.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score all of your questions except question 1 which is not scored.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.

Question 1. Themes (not scored)

Select one main theme from the specific themes list in the ‘Scope’ section of this competition. You cannot choose more than one.

  • Driving up fusion power plant performance with innovative heating and cooling systems
  • Improving fusion power plant availability with novel fusion materials, technology, and manufacture

Question 2. Proposed idea or technology

How does the project meet the challenges described in the competition scope?

Provide a description of your proposed idea or technology. Explain how you address the requirements described in the competition scope? How does your project progress fusion?

Include a description of the current state of development or readiness of the idea.

You can submit a single appendix as a PDF containing images and diagrams to support your answer. It can be no larger than 10MB and up to 2 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

This question will be scored against this assessment criterion: ‘How well does the proposal meet the challenge?’.

Question 3. Technical project summary

What are the main technical challenges you are addressing?

Explain:

  • how you will address the challenge
  • what the innovation is
  • the main technical deliverables
  • the research and development that will prove the scientific, environmental and commercial merit of the project
  • what might be achieved by deploying the innovation to address the selected challenge

This question will be scored against this assessment criterion: ‘How valid is the technical approach?’.

Question 4. Current state of the art and intellectual property

Are similar products currently available in the market?

How is your proposed project different from them?

You must include details of:

  • any existing intellectual property (IP)
  • its significance to your freedom to operate
  • novel concepts you develop or employ
  • new approaches or technologies you use
  • new tools or technologies

This question will be scored against these assessment criteria: ‘How innovative is this project? How much does the project develop or employ novel concepts, approaches, methodologies, tools or technologies for this area?’.

Question 5. Project plan and methodology

Describe your project plan and identify the main milestones.

The plan for phase 1 must be comprehensive. For phase 2 only an outline is required. The emphasis throughout should be on practicality.

Provide evidence that the technology works, can be made into a viable product and can achieve the proposed benefits.

You must:

  • describe resources that will be needed to deliver the project
  • describe what the main success criteria will be
  • identify the project management processes that will ensure you achieve the milestones
  • provide a clear plan for establishing technical and commercial feasibility
  • describe the main technical, commercial and environmental risks and what you will do to mitigate them
  • provide an outline plan for development of a working prototype in phase 2

You must explain how you would handle any IP issues which might arise during the project.

Include details of how you will maintain freedom to operate and fulfil the IP requirements detailed in the contract if you are working with subcontractors.

You must upload a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 10MB and up to 2 A4 pages. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Your milestones must:

  • be clear
  • be defined using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) criteria
  • be associated with the appropriate deliverables and payments
  • indicate your payment schedule by month

Please note that all payments are made against achievement of agreed technical milestones.

This question will be assessed against these assessment criteria:

  • does the proposal show a clear plan for establishing technical and commercial feasibility and the development of a working prototype
  • is there a clear management plan
  • what are the main technical, commercial, and environmental risks to the project’s success
  • how will these be effectively managed
  • are the milestones and evaluation procedures appropriate

Please note information from the finances section will be used to support the assessment of this question. Proposed milestones and associated payments stated in this section must match those entered in the finance summary on your application.

Question 6. Technical team and expertise

Who is in the technical team? What expertise do they offer?

Provide a brief description of your technical team, including any subcontractors.

Describe:

  • how each organisation has the skills, capabilities, and experience to deliver the intended benefits
  • how much of their time will be spent on the project

This question will be scored against this assessment criterion: Does the applicant have the skills, capabilities and experience to deliver the intended benefits?

Question 7. Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost for phase 1? How does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?

Describe:

  • the total costs inclusive of VAT (If applicable) you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • your expected overall costs for phase 2

Proposed costs stated in this section for phase 1 must match those entered in the finance summary.

You can submit a single appendix as a PDF containing images and diagrams to support your answer. It can be no larger than 10MB and up to 2 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Costs quoted must reflect actual costs at a “fair market value” and not include profit.

VAT registered

If you are VAT registered, you must enter your project costs inclusive of VAT. Your total project costs must not exceed £200,000.

Not VAT registered

If you are not VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. You will not be able to increase total project costs to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered. Your total project costs must not exceed £200,000.

We cannot provide VAT advice and suggest you to seek independent advice for example from HMRC.

You can submit a single appendix as a spreadsheet in PDF format, no larger than 10MB and up to 2 A4 pages long to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Indicate your potential costs for phase 2.

Progression to phase 2 depends on your success in phase 1.

Costs quoted must reflect actual costs at a ‘fair market value’ and not include profit.

Full Economic Cost (FEC) calculations are not relevant for SBRI competitions. SBRI is a competitive process and applications will come from a variety of organisations. Whatever calculation you use to arrive at your total eligible project costs your application will be assessed against applications from other organisations. Bear this in mind when calculating your total eligible project costs. You can include overheads but remember that this is a competitive process.

The assessors are required to judge the application finances in terms of value for money. They will score your finances against this assessment criterion: ‘Are the budget and costs realistic, justified and appropriate for the aims and methods?

Please note information from the finances section will be used to support the assessment of this question. Proposed costs stated in this section must match those entered in the finance summary on your application.

Question 8. Commercial potential

What is the commercial potential of your project? You must focus on your proposed customer’s needs.

Describe your:

  • timescales
  • projects commercial potential for a marketable product, process or service
  • delivery plan
  • expected route to market

Describe the competitive advantage that your project has over existing or alternative technologies that meet market needs.

Describe any existing commercial relationships relevant to the project.

With the focus on your proposed customer’s needs, you can also mention the future commercial potential across the public or private sector and international markets.

This question will be scored against these assessment criteria:

  • is there a clear commercial potential for a marketable product, process or service
  • is there a clear plan to deliver that and a clear route to market
  • how significant is the competitive advantage of this technology over existing technologies that meet the market’s needs

3. Finances

Enter your phase 1 project costs, organisation details and funding details.

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs. We advise you answer the VAT registered question first before entering your costs. Your total project costs must not exceed £200,000.

If you select you are VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total.

If you select you are not VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT and no VAT will be added. You will not be able to increase total project costs to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. We will not provide any further advice and advise you to seek independent advice from HMRC.

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

Background and further information

About Small Business Research Initiative competitions

SBRI provides innovative solutions to challenges faced by the public sector. This can lead to better public services and improved efficiency and effectiveness.

The SBRI programme:

  • supports economic growth and enables the development of innovative products and services through the public procurement of R&D
  • generates new business opportunities for companies
  • provides a route to market for their ideas
  • bridges the seed funding gap experienced by many early-stage companies

SBRI competitions are open to all eligible organisations that can demonstrate a route to market for their solution. Under current regulations, SBRI contracts are open to applications from organisations registered in the UK, European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). The SBRI scheme is particularly suited to small and medium-sized businesses, as the contracts are of relatively small value and operate on short timescales. Developments are 100% funded and focused on specific identified needs, increasing the chance of exploitation.

SBRI is a procurement of R&D services. If successful, you will receive a contract to deliver the proposed activity. You will submit an invoice for the work undertaken. If you are VAT registered, your total costs are expected to include VAT that you would charge as a service provider. VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business, and applications are expected to list total costs inclusive of VAT.

Suppliers for each project will be selected by an open competition process and retain the intellectual property generated from the project, with certain rights of use retained by the contracting authority. This is an excellent opportunity to establish an early customer for a new technology and to fund its development.

UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA)

UKAEA’s mission is to lead the delivery of sustainable fusion energy and maximise the scientific and economic benefit.

The four interconnected strategic goals to deliver on this mission are:

1. Be a world leader in fusion research and development.

2. Enable the delivery of sustainable fusion power plants.

3. Drive economic growth and high-tech jobs in the UK.

4. Create places that accelerate innovation and develop skilled people for industry to thrive.

Fusion, the process that powers the Sun, can play a big part in our low-carbon energy future. UKAEA manages the UK fusion programme. Our scientists and engineers are working with partners around the globe to develop fusion as a new source of sustainable energy for tomorrow’s power stations. UKAEA’s research can be accessed at the UKAEA Scientific Publications site.

UKAEA researches fusion energy and related technologies, with the aim of positioning the UK as a leader in sustainable nuclear energy.

Data sharing

This competition is jointly operated by Innovate UK, and UK Atomic Energy Authority (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 UK Atomic Energy Authority 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 UK Atomic Energy Authority 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 UK Atomic Energy Authority 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.

Further help and guidance

If you want help to find an organisation to work with, contact the Innovate UK KTN.

If you have any questions about the scope requirements of this competition, email FIPProcurement@ukaea.uk.

If you need support with the application process, email us at support@iuk.ukri.org or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 between 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 because 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.

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