Funding competition UK – Germany Bilateral: Collaborative R&D

UK registered organisations, collaborating with at least one German SME applying under the equivalent German ZIM programme, can apply for a share of up to £4 million for collaborative research projects resulting in innovative solutions.

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Competition sections

Description

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will work with The Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz (BMWK), (The Federal Ministry For Economic Affairs And Climate Action), to invest up to £4 million in innovation projects.

The aim of this competition is to support UK and German business-led collaboration in innovation with grant funding. Innovate UK will support UK businesses to collaborate successfully with German counterparts and build your global growth prospects.

Your proposal must contribute to the development of commercial products, processes or technical services.

Your project must have an obvious advantage and added value as a result of the cooperation between the participants from the two countries. Examples of these could be increased innovation capability, commercial leads, access to R&D infrastructure or new fields of application.

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 UK partners grant funding request must not exceed £400,000 in total.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have a maximum grant funding request of £400,000 for all UK partners
  • start by 1 December 2023
  • end by 30 November 2026
  • last between 12 months and 36 months

UK project partners must carry out the majority of their project work in the UK and intend to exploit the results from or in the UK.

UK participants must submit an application to Innovate UK and German partners must submit an application to the German ZIM programme. Both UK and German applications must be successful to receive grant funding.

All businesses in a consortium must be separate legal and non-linked entities. This is to ensure that projects encourage genuine international collaboration, not internal company research. Linked companies are considered a single entity under the parent company.

Your project must have a balanced contribution of the total eligible project costs among the partners from the participating partner countries. No more than 60% of the total project costs can be claimed by any single partner or by all partners from a single participating country.

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.

If your project’s grant funding request or 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 from the UK side your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size
  • collaborate with at least one German registered SME applying to the ZIM programme, which must be a separate legal entity, not linked to the UK partners
  • be or involve at least one UK micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)

More information on the different types of organisation can be found in our Funding rules.

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

Project team

To collaborate with the UK lead and request grant funding from Innovate UK, 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 UK 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.

Non-funded partners

Your project can include partners, including overseas partners, that do not receive any of this competition’s funding. Their costs will count towards the total project costs. This does not include your German partner who must apply to German ZIM programme.

Subcontractors

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

You can use subcontractors from the UK, Germany and other countries but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the countries providing grant funding for the project. All subcontractors must be selected through your usual procurement process.

You must provide a detailed rationale and evidence of the potential UK or German contractors you approached, with the reasons why they were unable to work with you. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use a subcontractor from a third country. All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate for the project.

Number of applications

An eligible UK business can lead on one application and collaborate on one further application.

If an organisation is not leading any application, it can collaborate in up to two 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 Subsidy Control Act 2022. Further information about the Subsidy requirements can be found within the Subsidy Control Act 2022 (legislation.gov.uk)

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 Subsidy Control Act 2022 or the State aid rules, you should take independent legal advice. We are unable to advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.

You must always 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.

Funding

Up to £4 million from Innovate UK, and up to €4 million from the German BMWK has been allocated to fund innovation projects in this competition.

Funding from Innovate UK for UK partners will be in the form of a grant.

For UK partners, 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 but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

For feasibility studies and industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 60% 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 for UK organisations

The UK research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 50% of the total grant request. 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

German organisations

Each German project partner must submit a separate, individual ZIM application to BMWK.

Every German SME, in accordance with the relevant EU regulations, as well as medium-sized companies with less than 500 employees (or full-time equivalents), which carry out R&D for the development of innovative products, processes or technical services, are eligible to apply.

Other medium-sized companies with less than 1,000 employees are eligible to apply for funding if they cooperate with at least one SME (EU definition) whose project is being funded.

Research and technology organisations (RTOs) are eligible to apply as cooperation partners of eligible companies. Detailed criteria for submitting applications and the ZIM application form are available on the ZIM website You can also contact BMWK directly.

The ZIM application must comply with the ZIM regulations and be written in German. If you do not have previous experience of ZIM applications, we recommend you contact BMWK at least 6 weeks prior to the deadline for guidance.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to support UK and German business-led collaboration in innovation with grant funding. Innovate UK will support UK businesses to collaborate successfully with German counterparts and build your global growth prospects.

Your project must:

  • be collaborative
  • last between 12 and 36 months

Your collaborative R&D proposal must demonstrate:

  • a clear game-changing or disruptive innovative idea leading to new products, processes or services
  • a strong and deliverable business proposal within your application that addresses and documents, market potential and needs
  • sound, practical financial plans and timelines
  • good value for money
  • how you intend to deliver significant economic impact, return on investment (ROI) and growth through commercialisation, within 2 to 3 years of project completion
  • clear potential to significantly benefit the UK economy or national productivity
  • the benefit of participants from the countries working together and how this adds value
  • a clear definition of where intellectual property (IP) can be used and shared between the participants and countries
  • a clear route to market within 2 to 3 years of project completion

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:

  • once successful do not provide a collaboration agreement with a German SME who has been successful in the ZIM programme
  • do not meet Innovate UK’s eligibility criteria

We cannot fund projects that are:

  • dependent on export performance
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage
7 February 2023
Competition opens
8 February 2023
Online briefing event: register to attend
7 June 2023 11:00am
Competition closes
1 September 2023
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

Before submitting, it is the lead applicant’s responsibility to make sure:

  • that all the information provided in the application is correct
  • your proposal meets the eligibility and scope criteria
  • all sections of the application are marked as complete
  • if collaborative, that all partners have completed all assigned sections and accepted the terms and conditions (T&Cs)

You can reopen your application once submitted, up until the competition deadline. You must resubmit the application before the competition deadline.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

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

Accessibility and inclusion

We welcome and encourage applications from people of all backgrounds and are committed to making our application process accessible to everyone. This includes providing support, in the form of reasonable adjustments, for people who have a disability or a long-term condition and face barriers applying to us. Read more on how we are making our application process more accessible and inclusive for everyone.

You must contact us as early as possible in the application process. We recommend contacting us at least 15 working days before the competition closing date to ensure we can provide you with the most suitable support possible.

You can contact us by emailing support@iuk.ukri.org or calling 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

1. Project details

This section provides background for your application and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you on your project and invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

Application details

Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

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 not be eligible for funding.

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. 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 and all UK and German project partners.

We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all participants of your project and to confirm the involvement of an eligible German registered partner.

Question 2. Need or challenge

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

Explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • whether you have identified any similar innovation and its current limitations, including those close to market or in development
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project focuses on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations, using our Horizons tool if appropriate

Question 3. Approach and innovation

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

Explain:

  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how you will improve on any similar innovation that you have identified
  • whether the innovation will focus on 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 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
  • your justification for using any subcontractors based outside of the UK or Germany, including evidence of the potential UK or German contractors you approached and why they were unable to work with you
  • the current relationships between the UK and German project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • any roles you will need to recruit for

You can submit one appendix with a short summary of the main people working on your 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. Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

Describe:

  • the target markets for the project outcomes and 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
  • 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 be
  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential

Question 6. Outcomes and route to market

How are you going to grow your business and increase long term productivity 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
  • your route to market
  • 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

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 7. Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Describe and, where possible, measure the economic benefits from the project such as productivity increases and import substitution, to:

  • external parties
  • customers
  • others in the supply chain
  • broader industry
  • the UK and German economies

Describe and, where possible, measure:

  • 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 8. 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

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 9. Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

Describe:

  • 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 10. 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 you have 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 11. 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:

  • the allocation of total eligible project costs for all UK and German project partners
  • the grant you are requesting
  • 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

For the conversion of your German partners costs from Euros to pounds, you must use the exchange rate for June as listed in the HMRC exchange rates for 2023: monthly.

You must attach the ‘Common Proposal Form’. Your German partners will need to submit this to the ZIM application process and then provide you with a PDF copy which you must upload as an appendix. This must be in PDF format.

3. Finances

Each UK 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.

German applicants must enter their costs via their own application platform.

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

Background and further information

The UK and Germany are collaborating to deliver bilateral funding through Innovate UK grant support and the Central Innovation Programme (ZIM) grant funding from The Federal Ministry For Economic Affairs And Climate Action (BMWK).

The ZIM programme in Germany, is designed to enhance companies' capacity to innovate and to strengthen their long-term competitiveness. Under ZIM, German companies and the research institutes they work with can be awarded grants for ambitious R&D projects.

With ZIM, funding is not restricted to any particular field of technology, nor to specific fields of application. Whether or not an application for a grant is approved depends on how innovative the R&D project is and how marketable the results are likely to be.

Data sharing

This competition is jointly operated by Innovate UK, and The Federal Ministry For Economic Affairs And Climate Action ( (BMWK) (each an “agency”).

Any relevant information submitted and 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 BMWK and vice versa. This would include, but is not restricted to:

  • the information stated on the application, including the personal details of all applicants
  • scoring and feedback on the application
  • information received during the management and administration of the grant, such as Monitoring Officer reports and Independent Accountant Reports

Innovate UK and BMWK 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 BMWK will be data controllers for personal data submitted during the application. Innovate UK’s Privacy Policy is accessible here.

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.

Next steps

If you are successful with this application, you will be asked to set up your project.

You must follow the unique link embedded in your email notification. This takes you to your IFS Set Up portal, the tool that Innovate UK uses to gather necessary information before we can allow your project to begin.

You will need to provide:

  • the name and contact details of your project manager and project finance lead
  • a redacted copy of your bank details
  • a collaboration agreement signed by all UK and German participants to BMWK
  • an exploitation plan

In order to process your claims, we need to make sure that the bank details you give to us relate to a UK high street bank that is regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA). The account must have a BACS clearing facility and be in the same company name as your application.

If you have any doubts that your bank account will not meet Innovate UK's funding criteria, you can use the sort code checker. If you input the sort code and find a tick next to the ‘BACS Direct Credit payments can be sent to this sort code’, this will give you an indication that the bank account you hold is acceptable.

Finance checks

We will carry out checks to make sure you are an established company with access to the funds necessary to complete the project.

You must check your IFS portal regularly and respond to any requests we have sent for additional information to avoid any delays.

Failure to complete project setup may result in your grant offer being withdrawn.

Your Grant offer letter (GOL)

Once you have successfully completed project setup, we will issue your GOL.

The GOL will be made available on your IFS portal. You will need to sign and upload this before you start your project.

Your GOL will show the start date for your project, do not start your project before this date. Any costs incurred before your start date cannot be claimed as part of your grant.

If your application is unsuccessful

If you are unsuccessful with your application this time, you can view feedback from the Innovate UK assessors. This will be available to you on your IFS portal following notification.

Sometimes your application will have scored well, and you will receive positive comments from the assessors. You may be unsuccessful as your average score was not above the funding threshold or your project has not been selected under the portfolio approach if this is applied for this competition.

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).

Need help with this service? Contact us