Design Foundations Round 2: Net Zero Living
UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £4 million for people-centred and system-aware design projects across a range of themes and innovation areas to influence their future R&D activity.
- Competition opens: Wednesday 31 May 2023
- Competition closes: Wednesday 26 July 2023 11:00am
This competition has not yet opened.
Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £4 million in innovation projects that use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to transform where we live and work into net zero places. This funding is from Innovate UK.
The aim of this competition is to help businesses use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to lay the foundations for innovative ideas with the potential to deliver significant benefits. The purpose of this will be to support the transformation of our homes and places of work into net zero environments. These can be ideas for new or significantly improved products, services, places or business models.
Eligible organisations can apply for funding to use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to:
- improve existing innovative ideas
- generate new ideas in response to a known need or opportunity
- identify new opportunities to innovate and plan how to respond to them
Your proposal must look at the need or opportunity from the perspective of the people involved. You must make sure that proposed solutions are more desirable and beneficial and, as such, are more likely to be adopted or to result in net zero-supportive behaviour change.
Applications are encouraged from organisations that have not previously used people-centred and planet-centred design processes or expertise. We encourage you to work with design experts to get the best results and to develop your own understanding and capabilities.
This competition is split into 2 strands:
- Design Foundations Round 2, strand 1: Responsive. Projects that use people-centred and system-aware approaches to develop new or significantly improved services, products, places or business models
- Design Foundations Round 2, strand 2 (this strand): Net Zero Living. Projects that use planet-centred or system-aware approaches to consider nature as a stakeholder, to design beneficial solutions within the limits of planetary resources and ecosystems (this strand)
It is your responsibility to ensure you submit your application to the correct strand for your project. You will not be able to transfer your application and it will not be sent for assessment if it is out of scope.
In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process.This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.
Your project’s grant funding request must be equal to your project costs. Your grant funding request must be between £40,000 and £80,000.
Who can apply
Your project must:
- have a total grant funding request between £40,000 and £80,000
- start by 1 December 2023
- end by 31 May 2024
- last between 3 months and 6 months
- carry out its project work in the UK, however user research in international target markets can be undertaken
- intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
Lead organisations must agree to contribute up to two days in support of Innovate UK activities to promote the use of people-centred and planet-centred design, or to help us improve our products and services. This activity could include, for example, taking part in interviews, supporting the creation of case studies or contributing to seminars or showcases. You will not be required to share confidential information or intellectual property.
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.
You will be made ineligible if you exceed the Minimal Financial Assistance limit. You must submit a complete declaration as part of your application.
To lead a project your organisation must:
- be a UK registered business of any size, charity, not-for-profit or public sector organisation
- collaborate with other UK registered organisations
More information on the different types of organisation can be found in our Funding rules.
To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be a UK registered:
- business of any size
- academic institution
- public sector organisation
- research and technology organisation (RTO)
Your project team must include appropriate expertise in people-centred and planet-centred design. Lead organisations without this capability are encouraged to work with designers as project partners or subcontractors.
Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service (IFS) by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account, enter their own project costs and complete their own Project Impact questions into IFS.
To be an eligible collaboration, the lead and at least one other organisation must apply for funding when entering their costs into the application.
Subcontractors are allowed in this competition. The costs associated with sub-contracting must not exceed 75% of the total project cost.
You can work with multiple subcontractors on a single project. Each subcontractor must be named on the application form, and each must have a unique and clearly defined role within the project.
A subcontractor can be a business of any size, academic institution, charity, not for profit organisation, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO).
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 also provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you.
We expect all subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.
Number of applications
A business, 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.Subcontractors can contribute to any number of applications. Lead organisations are advised to be mindful of their chosen subcontractors’ capacity to deliver should they be involved in more than one successful application.
You cannot use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.
We will not award you funding if you have:
- failed to exploit a previously funded project
- an overdue independent accountant’s report
- failed to comply with grant terms and conditions
Minimal Financial Assistance (and De minimis where applicable)
Grant funding in this competition is awarded as Minimal Financial assistance (MFA). This allows public bodies to award up to £315,000 to an enterprise in a 3-year rolling financial period.
In your application, you will be asked to declare previous funding received by you. This will form part of the financial checks ahead of Innovate UK making a formal grant offer.
To establish your eligibility, we need to check that our support added to the amount you have previously received does not exceed the limit of £315,000 in the ‘applicable period’.
The applicable period is made up of:
(a) the elapsed part of the current financial year, and
(b) the two financial years immediately preceding the current financial year.
You must include any funding which you have received during the applicable period under:
- Minimal Financial Assistance (previously referred to as Special Drawing Rights)
- De Minimis Regulation
You do not need to include aid or subsidies which have been granted on a different basis, for example, an aid award granted under the General Block Exemption Regulation.
Further information about the Subsidy Control Act 2022 requirements can be found in the Subsidy Control Act 2022 (legislation.gov.uk).
EU Commission rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see our general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.
If you are unsure about your obligations under the Subsidy Control Act 2022, you should take independent legal advice. We cannot advise on individual eligibility or your legal obligations.
We have allocated up to £4 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.
You can request 100% funding for your eligible project costs from £40,000 up to a maximum of £80,000. Your project’s grant funding request must not exceed this maximum.
If your grant funding request does exceed this maximum, then your application will be made ineligible.
You can make reference to any additional voluntary contribution in your application answers. It must not be detailed in the finance section.
For more information on company sizes, please refer to the Company accounts guidance.
If you are applying for an award funded under European Commission Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.
The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 100% 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.
The aim of this competition is to help businesses use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to lay the foundations for innovative ideas with the potential to deliver significant benefits. These can be ideas for new or significantly improved products, services, places or business models.
To be within scope for the net zero round of this competition, your proposal must fall within one or more of the following 3 categories:
- Defining innovation opportunities: You will use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to identify, understand and prioritise needs and innovation opportunities that are relevant and valuable to your business. You will plan innovation activity to respond to them, including by generating, testing and improving new ideas as described above.
- Generating new ideas: You recognise a specific need or opportunity to innovate and will use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to verify and respond to it by generating new or improved ideas.
- Testing and improving ideas: You have an innovative idea and will use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to simulate, test and improve the quality of the experience and benefits that it offers at every stage of its lifecycle.
To be within scope for this competition, your proposal must also meet the following criterion:
- Net Zero Living: You must use people-centred and planet-centred design methods to identify, understand and prioritise needs and innovation opportunities which have the potential to transform where we live and work into net zero places.
Your project must explore opportunities and ideas from the perspective of the people and socio-technical systems who will be involved with, or affected by them, in the context of the transition to a net zero economy. Their experiences, motivations and behaviour must be allowed to shape the challenge and ideas. This is to make sure that:
- the most important, urgent and valuable problems and opportunities are being addressed
- proposed solutions are more desirable, equitable, beneficial and supportive of net zero living
- new ideas are more likely to be adopted and promote positive changes in behaviour
You must include activities to identify and involve relevant stakeholders sufficiently early and at appropriate points throughout the project. Your project team should reflect the characteristics, culture and lived experiences of the people they are designing for, or take steps to bring those perspectives into the project in a meaningful and relevant way.
Projects that use planet-centred or system-aware approaches to consider nature as a stakeholder, and to design beneficial solutions within the limits of planetary resources and ecosystems are particularly encouraged. These projects must also take account of people’s motivations and behaviour, so that ideas have the best chance of being adopted and realising their potential.
Any prototyping activity within your project must:
- focus primarily on making discoveries about the quality of experience, the likelihood of the idea being adopted or its potential to promote positive changes in behaviour which support the net zero agenda
- be as quick and low-cost as possible, and aim for the lowest level of fidelity or functionality necessary to get the required feedback
- be used to share ideas and make discoveries early in the design process, so they can be acted on before it becomes prohibitively expensive or time consuming to do so
Once the project has started successful applicants are encouraged to respond to findings emerging from the project and new discoveries made during the research and design process. This might include abandoning or rethinking your original ideas and changing the focus of planned R&D activity. Innovate UK will consider well-justified project change requests submitted via a project’s allocated monitoring service provider.
Applications are encouraged from organisations that have not previously used people-centred and planet-centred design processes or expertise. We encourage applicants to work with design experts as partners or subcontractors to get the best results and to develop their own understanding and design capabilities.
We want to fund a variety of projects that:
- represent a range of strands, themes, research categories and markets which are relevant to the net zero agenda
- are located throughout the UK
- represent a range of company sizes
We call this a portfolio approach.
Your project must focus on net zero living, but may also cut across one or more of the following:
- health and wellbeing
- food and agriculture, except in primary production
- application of advanced digital and other technologies
Projects we will not fund
We are not funding projects that:
- are the design of experiments, policies or research methodologies,
- don’t follow best practice people-centred and planet-centred design methods as described in the competition scope
- focus on the final finish or specification of an idea where fundamental design decisions have already been made, for example where new customer feedback or discoveries will have little influence on the design outcome
- seek only to validate technical feasibility or progress the technology readiness level of an idea, rather than improving the quality of the experience or its benefits for people or the planet
- are likely to be harmful to people or the planet
We are not funding projects that are proposals to create prototypes or demonstrators in cases where the prototype:
- requires a majority of the project cost or time to build
- are to be made fully functional at considerable effort or cost when partial or simulated functionality would suffice
- are intended primarily to test technical feasibility or performance rather than the customer experience and benefits
- will only be shared with stakeholders late to the project for example with no time allowed to make changes in response to feedback
We cannot fund projects that:
- involve primary production in fishery and aquaculture
- involve primary production in agriculture
- have activities relating to the purchase of road freight transport
- are not allowed under De minimis regulation restrictions
- are not eligible to receive Minimal Financial Assistance
- are dependent on export performance, for example giving an award to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country
- are dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example if we give an award to a baker on the condition that they use 50% UK flour in their product
- 31 May 2023
- Competition opens
- 26 July 2023 11:00am
- Competition closes
- 8 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
- 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 4 sections:
1. Project details.
2. Application questions.
4. Project Impact
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 email@example.com 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.
Decide which organisations will work with you on your project and invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.
Give your project’s title, start date and duration.
Describe your project briefly and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.
Your answer can be up to 400 words long.
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.
Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it 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 questions 1 and 2. You will receive feedback for each scored question. Find out more about how our assessors assess and how we select applications for funding.
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 any partners or subcontractors working on your project.
We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all applicants.
Question 2. Minimal Financial Assistance declaration (not scored)
Each partner must download a declaration template. The template must be completed, declaring any funding received under Minimal Financial Assistance, previously referred to as Special Drawing Rights, or De minimis awards, (from any source of public funding) in the applicable period.
You must complete all the fields on your form before uploading.
You must write “declaration attached” in the question text box.
Each completed declaration must be uploaded as a separate appendix. It must be a PDF and the font must be legible at 100% zoom.
You must keep all documentation relating to Minimal Financial Assistance, previously referred to as Special Drawing Rights and other De minimis awards for a period of 6 years and be prepared to release it to any public funding body which requests it.
Question 3. Need or challenge
What is the business need, technological challenge, or market opportunity behind your innovation?
- 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 4. Approach and innovation
What approach will you take and where will the focus of the innovation be?
- how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
- how you will improve on existing products or services and their limitations
- whether the innovation will focus on the application of existing technologies in new areas, the development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach
- the freedom you have to operate
- how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
- how it will make you more competitive
- the nature of the outputs you expect from the project,(for example report, demonstrator, know-how, new process, product or service design, and how these will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified
You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 5. Team and resources
Who is in the project team and what are their roles?
- the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
- the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
- the details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
- the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
- any roles you will need to recruit
You can submit one appendix with a short summary of the main people working on the project to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 6. Market awareness
What does the market you are targeting look like?
- 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
- what the market’s size might be
- how your project will try to explore the market’s potential
Question 7. Outcomes and route to market
How are you going to grow your business and increase your productivity in the long term as a result of the project?
- 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 8. 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
- others in the supply chain
- broader industry
- the UK economy
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
- public empowerment
- health and safety
Question 9. Project management
How will you manage the project effectively?
- 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
- 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 and can be up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 10. Risks
What are the main risks for this project?
- 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, 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 and can be up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 11. 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?
- what advantages public funding would offer your project, for example, appeal to investors, more partners, reduced risk or a faster route to market
- the likely impact of the project outcomes on the organisations involved
- what other routes of investment or means of support you have already approached and why they were not suitable
- how any existing or potential investment or support will be used in conjunction with the grant funding
- what your project would look like without public funding
- how this project would change the R&D activities of all the organisations involved
Question 12. 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 the project goals, explain:
- the total eligible project costs
- the grant you are requesting
- 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 and why they are critical to the project
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.
Your project’s grant funding request must be equal to 100% of your project costs. Your total costs must not exceed the maximum of £80,000. If your grant funding request does exceed this maximum, then your application will be made ineligible.
You can make reference to any additional voluntary contribution in your application question answers but these must not be detailed in this finance section.
For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance. You can also view our Application Finances video.
4. Project Impact
This section is not scored but will provide background to your project.
Each partner must complete the Project Impact questions before being able to submit the application.
More information can be found in our Project Impact guidance and by viewing our Impact Management Framework video.
Background and further information
This strand of Design Foundations has been developed with the explicit aim of embedding design activity in business communities relevant to Innovate UK’s Net Zero domain, outlined in its Plan for Action.
Learn more about people-centred and planet-centred design:
This competition is operated by Innovate UK.
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 EDGE, delivered by a knowledgeable and objective specialist near you.
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 Innovation Funding Service (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
- an exploitation plan
In order for us to process your claims, you must make sure you have a valid UK bank account. It is possible that it can take several weeks for a new account to be created. We would recommend starting this process as early as possible to avoid any delays to you project start date.
The bank details you give to us must 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.
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 assessors. This will be available to you on your IFS portal following notification.
Your application may score well and receive positive feedback from the assessors but be unsuccessful. This can be because your average score has not reached the funding threshold for this competition or your project has not been selected under the portfolio approach if applied to this competition.
Need help with this service? Contact us