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Funding competition March 2018 sector competition: Open

UK businesses can apply for a share of £19 million for game-changing innovations with strong commercial potential that will significantly impact the UK economy.

This competition is now closed.

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Summary

Description

Innovate UK as part of UK Research and Innovation will invest up to £19 million in highly innovative projects with the best game changing and/or disruptive ideas or concepts. This should be with a view to commercialisation and economic impact.

Projects should aim to lead to new products, processes or services (or novel use of existing ones) believed to be significantly ahead of anything similar available in the field. You can view Innovate UK videos and success stories to help in your application.

Your proposals can come from any technology (including arts, design, media or creative industries) and any part of the economy.

Projects must focus on commercialisation, growth or scale up as soon as possible following completion. Priority is given to proposals likely to lead to growth, gains in productivity and/or access to new overseas markets through export.

You may also be interested in Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs), a completely separate competition with a separate application process.

Funding type

Grant

Project size

Your project’s total costs should be between £25,000 and £1 million depending on the type of research and development (R&D) to be undertaken. Project duration should be a minimum of 6 months, and a maximum of 3 years.

Eligibility

Who can apply

To be eligible for funding you must:

  • be a UK based business of any size
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results in or from the UK
  • work alone or in collaboration with others (businesses, research base or third sector)

The lead organisation must claim funding through this competition. If the project is collaborative, at least one other organisation in the consortium must also claim funding.

Any one business may lead on one application and partner in a further 2 applications in this competition round. A business may in addition lead on Knowledge Transfer Partnership applications through the separate competition.

Academics and RTOs cannot lead on an application but can be a collaborator in any number of applications subject to resource capacity.

Total involvement by all research organisations added together on any one project must not exceed the maximum permitted amount. This is 30% of total eligible project costs in any capacity, whether as collaborators or subcontractors.

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole company and were awarded funding by Innovate UK, but did not make a substantial effort to exploit that award, we will award no more funding to you, in this or any other competition. You will not be able to contest our decision. We will:

  • assess your efforts in the previous competition against your exploitation plan for that project
  • review the monitoring officers’ reports and any other relevant sources for evidence
  • document our decision, which will be made by 3 team members
  • communicate our decision to you in writing

Resubmissions

An applicant can only submit one application per Open competition round. If more than one application per round is submitted, only the first application will be considered for assessment.

If Innovate UK judges that your proposal is not materially different from your previous proposal, it will be classed as a resubmission.
If your application is unsuccessful, you may reapply with the same proposal once more, taking into account the feedback received from the assessors. This can be into another round of this competition or another competition. In other words, you can make a maximum of 2 applications in total with any proposal.

Funding

We have allocated up to £19 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

Successful applicants can apply for grant funding as a proportion of their eligible project costs.

The percentage of costs that we pay through a grant varies. It depends on the type of research being carried out and size and type of organisation involved. Value for money will also be a consideration.

Projects can focus on:

  • feasibility studies (which can include market research)
  • industrial research
  • experimental development, depending on the challenge identified and proposed solution

A further £10 million is available to fund Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) which is a completely separate programme. Further details can be found on the KTP website.

This funding is part of the government’s commitment to investing in innovative businesses. The aims are to make the UK the world’s most innovative nation by 2030 and raise UK research and development spend to 2.4% of GDP.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

There is the opportunity to apply separately for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs). KTP applications should follow the specific guidance for KTPs.

KTP applications have the same competition deadlines.

Scope

Your proposal

To be in scope, a proposal must demonstrate:

  • a clear game-changing and/or disruptive innovative idea
  • that your idea can lead to novel new products, processes or services that are significantly ahead of others in the field
  • a strong and deliverable business plan that addresses (and documents) market potential and needs
  • a team, business arrangement or working structure with the necessary skills and experience to run and complete the project successfully and on time
  • awareness of all the main risks the project will face with realistic management, mitigation and impact minimisation plans for each
  • sound, practical financial plans and timelines that represent good value for money
  • a clear, evidence based plan to deliver significant economic impact, return on investment (ROI) and growth through commercialisation, as soon as possible following project completion

Priority will be given to proposals most likely to lead to sustainable productivity gains or access to new overseas markets through export led business growth.

This competition aims to help businesses overcome barriers to the best cutting edge, game changing innovations becoming a successful commercial reality. This includes making a considerable economic impact and/or resulting in significant, sustainable business growth. This is to be consistent with the government’s industrial strategy.

Competition demand is likely to be very high. You will be competing against proposals for some of the most advanced, cutting edge innovations in the UK and beyond. You need to be certain that this is the right competition for your business, and that your proposal is in scope. Proposals most likely to be funded are those which clearly match the scope of this competition.

We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets and technological maturities. These can be feasibility studies (which may include market research), industrial research projects or experimental development projects.

Specific themes

Successful proposals must:

  • demonstrate a clear, considerable potential to make a significant and positive impact on the UK economy and/or productivity
  • demonstrate realistic, significant potential for global markets

We particularly welcome proposals from innovation-based businesses with significant ambition and potential for growth or scale up.

Project types

For feasibility studies (which may include market research) and industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

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

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a small business
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 25% if you are a large business

Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund proposals that:

  • do not meet the competition scope, project costs or duration
  • do not address the size, potential for, and access to the market for the innovation
  • cannot present evidence that their idea or concept has the potential to lead to significant return on investment (ROI), positive economic impact, growth and scale-up of the business
  • have a current project funded through the Smart programme that will not have its project completion meeting before the close date for this competition

Dates

1 March 2018
Competition opens
20 March 2018
Applicant briefing recording.
9 May 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
27 July 2018
Applicants notified

How to apply

Before you start

Please read the general guidance for applicants. It will help your chances of submitting a quality application.

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. You will need an account to track the progress of your application.

As the lead applicant you will be 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 to contribute to the application
  • other organisations to participate in the project as collaborators if your application is successful
Partner organisations can be other businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities.

Research organisations

Research organisations may participate in applications as collaborators.

There are specific rules for research partners which limit the amount of involvement research organisations may have in your project. This is limited to a maximum of 30% of total eligible project costs, as collaborator or subcontractor.

The participation rule will be set out in the eligibility criteria for the competition.

Your application will not be funded if the total research participation in your project, in whatever capacity, is over 30% of total eligible project costs.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details
  2. Application questions
  3. Finances

1. Project details

Explain your project. This section is not scored, but we will use it to decide whether the project fits with the scope of the competition. If it doesn’t, it will be immediately rejected.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and length. List any partner organisations you have named as collaborators.

Project summary

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

Public description

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

Project scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will not be eligible for funding.

2. Application questions

In this section, answers to these questions are scored by the assessors. Following assessment, you will receive feedback from the assessors for each question.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long.

Question 1: Need or challenge

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

You should describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • the nearest current state-of-the-art, including those near market or in development, and its limitations
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project is focused on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural and/or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations. Our Horizons tool can help with this.

Question 2: Approach and innovation

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

You should describe or explain:

  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • whether the innovation will focus on the application of 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, demonstrator, know-how, new process, product or service design) and how these will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified

You may submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages in size to support your answer.

Question 3: Team and resources

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

You should describe or explain:

  • 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
  • the details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, 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 gaps in the team that will need to be filled

You may submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 1MB and up to 4 pages long to support your answer.

Question 4: Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

You should describe or explain:

  • the markets (domestic, international or both) you will be targeting in the project and any other potential markets
  • 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 to be
  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential

Question 5: Outcomes and route to market

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

You should describe or explain:

  • 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 and/or end users, and the value to them, for example, why would they use or buy it?
  • your route to market
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation (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 6: Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

You should describe, and where possible measure:

  • the economic benefits from the project to external parties, including customers, others in the supply chain, broader industry and the UK economy, such as productivity increases and import substitution
  • 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 7: Project management

You should describe or explain:

  • the main work packages of the project, indicating the relevant research category, the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms that will be used for 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

You may upload a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages long.

Question 8: Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

You should describe or explain:

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

You may upload a risk register as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages long.

Question 9: Additionality

Describe the impact that an injection of public funding would have on this project.

You should describe or explain:

  • if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as faster to market, more partners and reduced risk
  • the likely impact of the project on the business of the partners involved
  • why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding, and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful
  • how this project would change the nature of R&D activity the partners would undertake, and the related spend

Question 10: 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?

You should describe or explain:

  • the total project cost and the grant being requested in terms of the project goals
  • how the partners will finance their contributions to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer and how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise?
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

3. Finances

The finances section asks each organisation in your project to complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academics will need to complete and upload a Je-S form. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Supporting information

Background and further information

We know that true innovation disrupts. It will create new products, services and industries that we don’t even know about yet.

It’s our vision to help the UK economy grow over and above other nations by inspiring and supporting pioneering UK businesses to create the industries of the future.

The Open competition provides support for businesses to undertake an innovative project and is designed to:

  • help businesses overcome barriers to innovation
  • reduce the risk financially and technically in developing an innovative idea or concept for commercialisation and scale up
  • enable businesses to address high-growth opportunities if their concept doesn’t fit one of the Innovate UK sectors or has multiple themes with differing scopes
  • speed up the journey from an idea to commercialisation where timing can make all the difference to prospects
  • position businesses to be able to access private investment to support their innovative ideas
  • provide crucial support for businesses with significant ambition and potential for growth, to develop highly innovative products, processes or services that demonstrate considerable opportunity for commercialisation and scale up, preferably with access to global markets

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

If you need more information, contact the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at support@innovateuk.gov.uk.

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