Funding competition SSPP Future Plastic Packaging Solutions Round 2

UK registered businesses and organisations can apply for a share of up to £2.5 million for early-stage and mid-stage projects in smart and sustainable plastic packaging.

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Competition sections

Description

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £2.5 million from the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Programme for early-stage and mid- stage projects.

This funding is from the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) Challenge which aims to establish the UK as a leading innovator in smart and sustainable plastic packaging for consumer products. Its goals are to deliver cleaner growth across the supply chain, with a dramatic reduction in plastic waste entering the environment by 2025.

Your project must aim to:

  • help make the plastics packaging supply chain more circular
  • deliver the objectives of the UK Plastics Pact, creating a circular economy for plastics, keeping them in the economy and out of the natural environment
  • embed life cycle thinking and end of life in packaging design and decisions

Your project must:

  • demonstrate how it supports the objectives of the plastics pact and delivers systemic change
  • clearly explain how you will reduce the UK plastic packaging system’s overall environmental impact

Your project must contribute to meeting the SSPP Challenge objectives, but we will fund projects that do not seek direct commercial output or financial value. Beneficial information and outputs delivered by such projects must be made freely available to UK stakeholders.

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

Funding type

Grant

Project size

Your project’s total grant funding request must be between £30,000 and £250,000.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have a grant funding request between £30,000 and £250,000
  • start by 1 April 2023
  • end by 31 March 2025
  • last up to 24 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 or Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

If your grant funding request or project duration falls outside of our eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to support@iuk.ukri.org at least 10 working days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request. If you have not requested approval or your application has not been approved by us, you will be made ineligible. Your application will then not be sent for assessment.

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:

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

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.

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, research and technology organisation (RTO), charity, not for profit or public sector organisation 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 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 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 £2.5 million has been allocated to fund innovation projects in this competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

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 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 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 micro or small organisation
  • up to 35% if you are a medium sized organisation
  • up to 25% 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

If your application has a business lead, research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 50% of the total eligible project costs. Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

Of that 50% 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

If your application is not business led there is no restriction on research participation.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to support feasibility studies, industrial research and experimental development, that addresses widely known problems in relation to plastic packaging for consumer products.

You must explain how you are innovating to address one or more of the UK Plastics Pact targets or overall objective of keeping plastic packaging out of the natural environment. The benefits of your new approach must be quantified in terms of the UK Plastic Pact targets where possible. Any environmental impacts must be described and justified.

Innovate UK will fund projects with either direct or indirect commercial outcomes for the partners.

For example, a project to improve understanding where the outputs would be made freely available would be in scope.

Your project must deliver a more circular plastic packaging value chain, with reduced environmental impacts, such as:

  • carbon emissions
  • improved recyclability

You must consider the likely environmental impacts to:

  • humans
  • wildlife and
  • the broader environment

This competition is funded by the ISCF Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Fund (SSPP), the Challenge Director reserves the right to make the final decision regarding all project funding.

We want to fund a variety of projects across different technologies, markets, technological maturities and research categories. We call this a portfolio approach.

Specific themes

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

  • the prevention, mitigation or measurement of plastic packaging litter polluting the environment
  • facilitating and scaling the adoption of reuse, refill and prefill packaging systems
  • chemical recycling approaches for PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) packaging

Research categories

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

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that:

  • encourage or facilitate the export of plastic packaging whilst still classified as waste
  • are primarily concerned with the production of any kind of fuel or direct energy generation from plastic waste
  • develop materials or packaging which will not have commercially available and viable UK recycling or biodegradation infrastructure in place by 2025
  • relate to the recycling of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polystyrene, including expanded polystyrene (EPS) and high impact polystyrene (HIPS)
  • do not focus on packaging for consumer products
  • 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

6 September 2022
Briefing event - Wales
7 September 2022
Online & in person Scotland briefing event: watch the recording
12 September 2022
Competition opens
9 November 2022 11:00am
Competition closes
16 December 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 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. Find out more about how our assessors assess.

If your project will:

  • result in direct commercial outputs or financial value, answer question 8 and type ‘not applicable’ as your answer to question 9
  • not result in direct commercial output or financial value, answer question 9 and type ‘not applicable’ as your answer to question 8

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 subcontractors working on the project.

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

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 2. Project motivation and objectives

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

Explain:

  • the motivation and aims for the project
  • the societal or 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
  • any wider economic, social, cultural or political challenges and opportunities you are aware of, or wish to explore further through this project, such as incoming regulations, using our Horizons tool if appropriate

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 3. Your idea

How will the project achieve it’s aims and where will the focus of the innovation be?

Explain:

  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • whether the innovation will focus on the application of existing products, services or technologies in new areas, the development of new products, services or 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
  • 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

If there is a research organisation in the project team, describe how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

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

Question 4. System change and UK Plastics Pact targets

Explain how this project delivers a more circular plastic packaging system and supports delivery of the UK Plastics Pact targets. You must also explain your overall objective of keeping plastic packaging out of the natural environment relative to the current state of the art.

Explain:

  • the elements of the supply chain to be considered
  • the ways your project would deliver a more circular and sustainable plastic packaging system, for example a change in consumer behaviour, an increase in recycling rate or reduction in the use of virgin plastic
  • how this project would contribute to delivering against one or more of the 4 targets adopted by the UK Plastics Pact if it is delivered at scale

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 5. Environmental impacts

Explain how your project will change the environmental impact (positively or negatively) of the components of the plastic packaging system your project is intended to improve or replace.

Are there any trade-offs in terms of environmental benefits and impacts?

You must take a lifecycle approach and consider any additives and other chemicals (such as glues or inks) or materials that are used in the manufacture of a finished product, as well as process wastes.

Describe how you will prevent:

  • the release of plastic packaging into the environment, explain what controls you will put in place
  • the releases from production processes and management of by-products
  • the waste reduction and releases from retail and other business activities
  • the release from post-consumption kerbside, on-the-go and dedicated waste collection systems
  • the process releases and waste from plastics recycling, recovery and transformation processes
  • littering
  • entry into sewerage systems and watercourses

Describe the carbon impact of your project:

  • versus the current state of the art, considering both direct and indirect impact across the entire system, including logistics
  • within the UK and outside

Describe the likely consequences of exposure to humans and species in the natural environment (such as fish, marine mammals and birds) to any plastics your project could release to the environment.

If you are creating a new plastic packaging material describe the hazardous properties of the material. If you are substituting a different plastic type to perform an existing packaging function, describe this relative to the material being replaced.

Consider any additives and other chemicals (such as glues or inks) or materials that constitute the finished product, as well as process wastes. Explain what evidence you have about human toxicity and ecotoxicity in soil, freshwater and marine systems if you have it.

Explain what evidence you have of any other environmental impacts your project will deliver, should there be a release of the proposed plastic type to the environment.

If your material is of biological origin describe the impact on land use (for example, displacement of food crops).

You must provide evidence to show you understand the importance of meeting the Challenge’s aims and objectives, and to allow for a meaningful appraisal of the environmental impact of your project and its component parts.

Your answer can be up to 600 words long.

You can submit a lifecycle assessment (LCA) or carbon footprint mode, as an appendix, as part of your evidence.

Clearly state all assumptions you have made. Present your interpretation of LCA and carbon footprint outputs in a way that lets the assessors find the data supporting the stated conclusions.

The appendix must be a PDF no larger than 10MB and up to 4 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.


Question 6. Team and resources

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

Explain:

  • the roles, skills and relevant experience of the project team
  • the specific experience, expertise and capabilities of the team
  • any resources, equipment and facilities required for the project and how you will access them
  • any gaps in the team that will need to be filled
  • any important external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to execute the project successfully

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

You can submit one appendix to support your answer, with a short summary of the main people working on the project. 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 7. Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

Describe:

  • 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
  • as part of the potential and case for UK economic benefits include any specifically local economic benefits

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

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 8. Outcomes for projects with commercial outputs for partners

If your project will not result in direct commercial output or financial value for partners type ‘not applicable’ and proceed to question 9.

For projects seeking commercial outputs, explain how you are going to grow your business and increase your productivity into the long term as a result of the project.

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 or end users, and the value to them, for example why they would use or buy your product
  • 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

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 9. Outcomes of projects which do not result in direct commercial output or financial value for partners

If your project will result in direct commercial output or financial value for partners type ‘not applicable’ and complete question 8.

If you do not seek direct commercial output or financial value for partners, explain how beneficial information and outputs delivered will be disseminated.

Explain:

  • your target audiences or end users, and the value to them, such as why they would use the outcomes or information from your project
  • how you are going to benefit from the information, outcomes and innovation
  • how the outcomes will increase knowledge relevant to the supply chain and affect innovation, in both the short and the long term
  • how you will exploit and disseminate the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, stakeholder engagement or changes to your organisational approach

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 10. Project management

How will you manage the project to achieve the aims you have set out? You should outline a concise, step-by-step project plan, broken down into individual phases of work. Describe your plans to ensure best practice is delivered.

For each phase Explain:

  • the main work packages of the 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
  • how those outputs will help towards fulfilling the overall project objectives
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

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

Question 11. Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

Explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, regulatory, commercial, managerial and environmental risks
  • how you will mitigate these risks
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise or data sets
  • the steps you will take to make sure that new discoveries and ideas will be recognised, supported and have lasting impact within your business

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

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

Question 12. Added value

What impact would an injection of public funding have on the businesses involved?

Explain:

  • if you have already received UKRI or Innovate UK funding for previous work
  • if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as a faster route to market, more partners or reduced risk
  • the likely impact of the project on the businesses 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

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

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, specifically related to productivity, quality and performance improvements of the UK plastic packaging sector
  • productivity increases and import substitution
  • any expected impact on government or regional priorities or regulation

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 13. 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?

Explain:

  • the total eligible project costs and the grant you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how each partner will finance their contributions to the 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, the procurement process you used and why they are critical to the project

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

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 Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) Challenge

The SSPP Challenge aims to establish the UK as a leading innovator in smart and sustainable plastic packaging for consumer products. Its goals are to deliver cleaner growth across the supply chain, with a dramatic reduction in plastic waste entering the environment by 2025.

A systems perspective

A ‘system’ in the context of the SSPP Challenge is a set of supply chain activities or components that interact with at least one other. They combine to serve the common objective of the challenge.

A ‘systems perspective’ means considering the functions of a system's parts based on their relations with one another and within the system's larger context.

It would typically address the following components along the supply chain:

  1. The selection methods supporting a new packaging material, including how it incorporates a lifecycle approach and uses the minimum material necessary to maintain functionality.
  2. Whether a new packaging material meets the requirements of EN 13428 or ISO 18602 and other relevant standards on heavy metals and dangerous substances, including for contact with food substances.
  3. The impact of your project on the consumer, the change in consumer behaviour needed to deliver the project benefits, and how this will be achieved, for example through labelling.
  4. Whether the packaging can be captured in existing post-consumption collection systems in a form suitable for reuse or recycling.
  5. How the material will be differentiated or separated in a post-collection recycling or conversion processes.
  6. Whether there is an off take market for recycled material.

Depending on the focus of your project, only some of these items might be relevant. You might also identify other components or activities inside and outside the plastic packaging supply chain, such as an external energy source that supplies power into a manufacturing or treatment process.

An example of a systems perspective would be a project delivering systems change with a reduction in plastic waste entering the environment relative to the current state-of-the-art.

This can be achieved adding value at each stage, for example:

  • eliciting a change in consumer behaviour with smart labelling
  • a change in kerbside collection capture rates of the packaging under consideration
  • a change in recycling and recovery rates
  • a change in uptake as a recycled product
  • a measured reduction in material released to the environment

A lifecycle approach

All plastic packaging materials have a lifecycle. They are produced from raw materials or from recycled materials, transported to the shops, bought and used by consumers, and eventually discarded. At that point they are either captured and recycled, captured and disposed of in a controlled manner, or are released into the environment through littering and other behaviours.

At each phase in its lifecycle, packaging potentially affects the environment, economic and social systems.

A ‘lifecycle approach’ considers the environmental impact of each component or activity of the project and integrates these to create an assessment of the environmental impact of the whole project. A lifecycle approach avoids shifting a problem from one lifecycle stage to another, from one geographic area to another and from one environmental medium to another.

Environmental impacts

Positive or negative environmental impacts affect emissions to air, water and/or land, resulting in human and biotic exposure. There may be trade-offs in terms of environmental benefits and impacts.

The first consideration in reducing environmental impact is preventing emissions of by-products, waste and litter to the environment.

The second consideration in reducing environmental impact is the carbon footprint in terms of emissions of greenhouse gases.

The third consideration of environmental impact is the likely consequences of exposure of humans and species in the natural environment (such as fish, marine mammals and birds) to plastics your project will release (post-controls) compared to the system it is intended to replace or improve.

There may be other environmental impacts, such as:

  • persistence in soil, freshwater and marine environments
  • degradation and/or biodegradation in soil, freshwater and marine environments and the impact of consequential breakdown products

Data sharing

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 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 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