Funding competition SBRI: protecting nuclear decommissioning operators

Organisations can apply for a share of £850,000 to develop solutions for protecting and increasing the productivity of the nuclear decommissioning operator.

This competition is now closed.

Register and apply online

Competition sections


Sellafield Ltd will invest up to £850,000 excluding VAT in innovative projects that will better equip and support nuclear decommissioning operators working in hazardous environments.

The aim of this competition is to enable operators to carry out tasks safer, quicker and cheaper while being more comfortable in their working environment. This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition.

Your proposal should be an integrated solution that solves or alleviates challenges for people operating in radioactive environments.

Regulations must be met for equipment operating on radioactive sites. These are given in the invitation to tender. However, we will consider proposals that could lead to changes in the current regulatory process. Engagement with the regulators will be available for projects selected for phase 1 and phase 2.

This is phase 1 of a 2 phase competition.

If your project’s total costs or duration fall outside of our eligibility criteria, contact us before you apply.

Funding type


Project size

Phase 1 projects should be between £10,000 and £35,000 and last up to 3 months. Phase 2 projects should be between £50,000 and £160,000 and last up to 12 months. If your total costs or duration fall outside these criteria, contact us before you apply.

Who can apply

To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others as subcontractors (businesses, research base and third sector)

The lead applicant is fully responsible for managing any subcontractors and for the delivery of the project.

You can only make one application as a lead organisation.

You can be a subcontractor in as many applications as you wish, whether you have applied as a lead organisation or not.


Sellafield Ltd have allocated a total of up to £850,000 excluding VAT over the 2 phases to fund innovative projects in this competition.

  1. Phase 1: £350,000 for technical feasibility studies. You must complete and report by January 2019.
  2. Phase 2: £500,000 for development and demonstration in a non-radioactive environment. You must complete by May 2020.

Projects will be funded at 100% of their eligible project costs.

At least 50% of the contract value should be exclusively and directly assigned for research and development (R&D) services. R&D can cover the exploration and design of your solution. It can also include prototyping and field-testing of the product or service.

Your proposal

For this competition we are looking for integrated solutions that protect, monitor and assist the decommissioning operator working in a nuclear environment. To be in scope your innovation needs to achieve more than one of the following objectives that will lead to safer, faster, and cheaper solutions:

1. Optimise activities to reduce the time and complexity of tasks before entering a radioactive area such as hazard identification and location and task scheduling.

2. Protect the operator from the radiological and conventional hazards present, like exposure to radiation and contamination, physical injury and heat stress (for more detail, see the tender document).

3. Improve the working experience and productivity of the operator by providing such things as:

  • enhancement of senses like hearing, touch and vision
  • improved communications
  • more comfortable operating conditions such as temperature and humidity
  • greater capability (strength, dexterity, flexibility)
  • reduced risk to environmental hazards, both nuclear and conventional
  • better real-time information to the operator and supervisor such as environment, task progress and operator health

4. Provide a solution that reduces waste through either better disposal, packaging, reuse or recycling.

5. Minimise the amount of time and effort required from support teams.

Project types

We are particularly encouraging applications that:

  • bring together organisations from outside the nuclear sector that can create unique solutions to the challenge
  • are multi-disciplinary and involve technology transfer
  • adopt a systems based approach to solving the challenge
  • provide solutions that are adaptable, scalable and useable in a range of facilities and environments

Phase 1: technical feasibility

Phase 1 projects will carry out a study into the technical feasibility of innovative solutions to the challenge. This will include producing:

  • a detailed report describing your proposed innovation
  • a detailed, fully costed project plan to deliver phase 2

Your phase 1 report will form the basis of your application into phase 2

Phase 2: prototype development and evaluation

Phase 2 will use the outputs of phase 1 to develop and demonstrate the technology.

This will include:

  • developing and manufacturing the prototype
  • testing in a non-radioactive environment
  • working with stakeholders, including the regulator
  • evaluation and acceptability of the proposed solution

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that cover:

  • solutions that do not alleviate the challenges associated with human operation in nuclear decommissioning environments
  • solutions that only tackle a single element of the scope
  • activities that completely remove the need for an operator such as fully robotic solutions (this has been the subject of a separate competition)

23 April 2018
Competition opens
24 April 2018
Briefing event recording.
24 April 2018
Webcast online briefing event.
2 May 2018
Penrith briefing event.
10 May 2018
Birmingham briefing event.
13 June 2018 12:00pm
Registration closes
20 June 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
24 August 2018
Applicants notified

Before you start

To apply:

  • the lead applicant must register online (the link will be available once the competition has opened)
  • read the invitation to tender which will be available for you to download from our secure site after registration
  • read the guidance for applicants for this competition
  • consider attending one of the briefing events, which will be listed in ‘Dates’ when they are available
  • complete and upload your online application to our secure server

We will not accept late submissions. Your application is confidential.

Up to 5 experts will assess the quality of your application. We will then select the projects to fund, building a portfolio of projects that:

  • are high quality
  • address the challenges described in the scope
  • represent the potential for return on investment for the organisation and the UK

Subject to meeting the quality threshold, we reserve the right to manage the portfolio to achieve the correct balance of projects and funding.

Please use Microsoft Word. If you use Google Docs or any other open source software your application will be ineligible.

Background and further information

Over the next 5 years, the Sellafield Limited business will undergo a major shift in focus as decommissioning, waste management and site remediation assume increased priority. The estimated cost for decommissioning the site is in the region of £85 billion and there are many opportunities to do things in a safer, faster and more cost-effective way.

Although automated and robotic systems are being introduced, the vast majority of decommissioning activities need significant human intervention.

The current methods of protecting the operator are more than 60 years old and primarily involve the use of personal protection equipment.

Sellafield is keen to work with new and existing suppliers to trial highly innovative and integrated solutions to protect their operators carrying out high hazard radiological tasks.

About SBRI competitions

SBRI provides innovative solutions to challenges faced by the public sector. This can lead to better public services and improved efficiency and effectiveness. SBRI supports economic growth and enables the development of innovative products and services. It does this through the public procurement of research and development (R&D). SBRI generates new business opportunities for companies and provides a route to market for their ideas. It also bridges the seed funding gap experienced by many early-stage companies.

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

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