Funding competition Improving Observation Capabilities of Biodiversity in UK Waters

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £750,000 for innovation projects that can improve the observation and assessment capabilities of biodiversity in the UK’s waters. This funding is from DEFRA.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections

Description

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to invest up to £1.5 million across 3 years in grant funding for innovation projects that can improve the observation capabilities of the UK’s waters, towards improved assessment and evaluation of the status and risks to natural capital assets. These can include the data acquisition, communication, storage, analysis and modelling systems.

This will be a two stage competition.

This first stage competition is for the development of key technologies and capabilities, that can be used for more effective and efficient observation of biodiversity in natural capital assets.

The later stage 2 competition will be for the development of complete end-to-end marine monitoring systems and their verification and validation. These must include on-site testing in an operational environment, or data curation, validation, analysis or visualisation.

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

Grant

Project size

Your project’s total costs must be up to £75,000 for single applicants or between £75,000 and £200,000 for collaborations

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total project costs up to £75,000 for single applicants
  • have total project costs between £75,000 and £200,000 for collaborations
  • start by 1 February 2023
  • end by 31 July 2023
  • last up to 6 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 and Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian and Belarusian source.

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

If the lead organisation is an RTO it must collaborate with 2 businesses (one SME and one business of any size).

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

Project team

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

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.

If collaborating, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application

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

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 or research and technology organisation (RTO) can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in a further 2 applications.

If an organisation is not leading any application, it can collaborate in any number of applications.

Previous applications

You cannot 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 at all times make sure 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.

Funding

Up to £750,000 has been allocated to fund the development of innovation projects in this competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

If 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 studies and industrial research 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 project costs if you are an RTO, charity, not for profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to develop key technologies and capabilities or proof of concept systems that can be used for more effective and efficient observation of biodiversity in natural capital assets.

We are looking for technologies and systems that can operate in depths up to 100m and significantly improve the current ocean monitoring data acquisition and analysis methods and systems. Improvements can be in areas such as, but not limited to:

  • in situ sensors or samplers
  • sensor or sampler carrying platforms
  • accuracy, reliability, endurance and ease of use of coastal and marine monitoring systems
  • data analysis and visualisation systems

Your proposal must clearly:

  • explain which part of the end-to-end marine monitoring system you will be focusing on
  • explain the concept of operation and the marine environment that the targeted or final marine monitoring system will be operating in
  • describe the improvements sought, providing the measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to determine the degree of improvement
  • describe what is innovative about your project and explain the technological maturity at the start and end of the project
  • demonstrate an understanding of what the development and testing of a complete marine monitoring system will entail
  • identify other market needs that could be met by your project’s deliverables and objectives
  • demonstrate the project’s output in the appropriate relevant environment, either the sea or laboratory


Portfolio approach

We want to fund a variety of projects across different technologies, marine monitoring systems, technological maturities and specific themes. We call this a portfolio approach.

Specific themes

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

  • improvements on the spatiotemporal density, quality or costs of samples or sensing data acquisition
  • provision of calibrated water column assessment sensors capabilities, enhancements, or operational aspects
  • presence, quantity, and quality of ecosystem assets, for example, quantitative eDNA to monitor marine species
  • seabed surveys, including the collection of physical samples, or in situ measurements, as well as further laboratory or ship-based evaluation
  • acoustic surveys, including enhancing existing survey methods, or increasing sensitivity to detect changes
  • measuring levels of carbon storage or sequestration rates in a given marine environment
  • sensor or sampler carrying platforms used for in situ data or sample acquisitions; for example floats, un-crewed vehicles, moorings, tide gauges, gliders and surface drifters
  • post-acquisition samples or data analysis
  • visualisation and interpretive systems
  • ways and means for human pressure monitoring

Your project can include other themes relevant to the scope of this competition but must include at least one from the list of specific themes.

Research categories

We will fund feasibility projects and industrial research projects as defined in the guidance on categories of research.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that:

  • cannot sufficiently demonstrate that, if successful, they will be able to perform testing, verification and validation in a stage 2 proposal
  • have not described the improvements sought and the corresponding measurable KPIs
  • are dependent on export performance, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it exports a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • are dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it uses 50% UK flour in their product

31 August 2022
Online briefing event: watch the recording
31 August 2022
Competition opens
5 October 2022 11:00am
Competition closes
4 November 2022
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.

Team members must each complete an Equality Diversity and Inclusion survey. The lead applicant must complete their survey to submit 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.

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.

Scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition.

If your project is not deemed to be in scope it will be rejected for funding. 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. Find out more about how our assessors assess.

You must answer all questions. Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long, except for Question 5. 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, any partners and any subcontractors working on the project.

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

Question 2. Proposed idea, technology, or system

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

What are the features or areas of the marine monitoring system that you are seeking to improve, and the corresponding technological challenges?

Explain:

  • the areas or parts of the end-to-end (either in-situ or in-the-lab or office) marine monitoring system that you will be focusing on
  • the concept of operation of the end-to-end marine monitoring system your work is focusing on
  • the current state-of-the-art of the areas or parts that you are seeking to improve upon
  • any assumptions or forecasts that you are making for the future marine monitoring systems
  • any challenges you have identified, including technological, operational, market
  • whether you have identified any similar innovation and its current limitations, including those on or close to market, or in development
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. 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 3. Approach and innovation

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

Explain:

  • how you will improve on any similar or competing innovation that you have identified
  • the measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) you will use throughout your project to determine the beyond state-of-the-art improvements you are targeting
  • whether the innovation will focus on existing technologies in new areas, the development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach
  • how you plan to test the complete end-to-end marine monitoring system in stage 2
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • how this project fits with your current technology, product, service lines or offerings
  • how your project’s output will make you more competitive
  • the nature or type of the outputs you expect from the project (sensor, sub-system, system, hardware, software or other product or service design) and how these will help you to target the identified need

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. 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?

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 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

You can submit one appendix. This can include a short summary of the main people working on the project 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.

Question 5. Commercial potential

How are you going to grow your business as a result of the project?

What are the markets that you can address with your work in this project?

Describe:

  • the targeted performance objectives for your project’s proposed idea, technology or system
  • your project’s outputs and deliverables’ commercial potential for a marketable product, process, or service
  • what complimentary parts, roles or capabilities are needed for a complete end-to-end marine monitoring system that includes the project’s outputs
  • other market needs that could be met by your project’s outputs, deliverables or objectives
  • the structure and dynamics of any other addressable market, including customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
  • your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • what will be needed for minimum viable product or service after the completion of the project
  • your route to market, particularly if COVID-19 has changed market dynamics
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation
  • your strategy for targeting any 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

Your answer to this question can be up to 600 words long.

Question 6. Project management

How will you manage your project effectively?

Explain:

  • 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
  • the main technical outputs and deliverables of your project
  • how you will be testing your project’s outputs in the appropriate relevant environment (either sea or laboratory)

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 7. Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

Explain:

  • 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 8. 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?

Explain:

  • what advantages public funding would 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 9. 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
  • if collaborative 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

The UK Government has committed to leave the environment in a better state for future generations and reach net zero by 2050 while boosting the economy. We will achieve this through the Environment Act, the Agriculture and Fisheries Acts, new environmental land management schemes and biodiversity net gain. This transformation in policymaking requires up-to-date evidence that is accessible to a wide range of decision makers.

Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment (NCEA) is a science innovation and transformation programme, which spans across land and water environments. It has been set up to collect data on the extent, condition and change over time of England’s ecosystems and natural capital, and the benefits to society. The current competition is part of the activities of this programme

Data sharing

This competition is jointly operated by Innovate UK, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) (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 Defra and vice versa.

Innovate UK and Defra 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 Defra 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 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 support@iuk.ukri.org 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