Funding competition SBRI: Decarbonising concrete

Organisations can apply for a share of £3 million, inclusive of VAT, in developing solutions to accelerate decarbonising concrete.

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Competition sections

Description

This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by Innovate UK.

The aim of this research, development and demonstration competition is to make the commercial adoption of lower carbon concrete happen faster. The results will enable engagement between innovation projects and end users.

The purpose of this competition is to:

  • demonstrate market demand
  • commercially de-risk innovations
  • encourage investment
  • accelerate adoption

Your project will be supported by Demand Led activities throughout.

The Concrete Commitment Cohort (CCC) was established for the purpose of this competition. The members of CCC helped in the scope development and will stay informed about progress of funded projects.

This competition is also formed within a broader programme of work led by Carbon Limiting Technologies that aims to develop Advance Market Commitments (AMC) for solutions that decarbonise concrete. Your project may be invited to participate in activities developing an AMC.

This is a single-phase competition.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process.

Any adoption and implementation of a solution from this competition would be subject to a separate, possibly competitive, procurement exercise. This competition does not cover the purchase of any solution.

This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated in this Innovate UK competition brief. We cannot guarantee other government or third party sites will always show the correct competition information.

Funding type

Procurement

Project size

Projects can range in size up to total costs of £500,000, inclusive of VAT.

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 making reasonable adjustments, for people who have a disability or a long-term condition and face barriers applying to us.

You can contact us at any time to ask for guidance.

We recommend you contact us at least 15 working days before this competition’s closing date to allow us to put the most suitable support in place. The support we can provide may be limited if you contact us close to the competition deadline.

You can contact Innovate UK by email or call 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm UK time, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Who can apply

Text update 14 February 2024: We have included further guidance around subcontracting in the applicant section.

Your project

Projects must:

  • start by 1 May 2024
  • end by 30 April 2025
  • last between 9 and 12 months

Applicant

To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or the third sector as subcontractors

Projects must always start on the first of the month and this must be stated within your application. Your project start date will be reflected in your grant offer letter if you are successful.

This competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian or Belarusian entity as lead or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

You are responsible for entering your project costs and completing your Project Impact questions in the application.

Contracts will be awarded to a single legal entity only. However, you can justify subcontracting components of the work, taking into consideration the range of subcontractors required to deliver your project outcomes. These outcomes must accelerate the development of solutions for decarbonising concrete.

The project and delivery against the project milestones will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.

Key milestones including demonstration and testing must be carried out within the UK. Where world leading expertise is required to contribute to any research element of the project, research may be sub-contracted and carried out outside of the UK where it can be justified.

Use of animals in research and innovation

Innovate UK expects and supports the provision and safeguarding of welfare standards for animals used in research and innovation, according to best practice and up to date guidance.

Applicants must ensure that all of the proposed work within projects, both that in the UK and internationally, will comply with the UKRI guidance on the use of animals in research and innovation.

Any projects selected for funding which involve animals will be asked to provide additional information on welfare and ethical considerations, as well as compliance with any relevant legislation as part of the project start-up process. This information will be reviewed before an award is made.

Funding

A total of up to £3 million, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to this competition.

Research and Development (R&D) contracts will be up to £500,000, inclusive of VAT, for each project for between 9 and 12 months. We expect to fund a minimum of 6 projects.

The funders have the right to apply a ‘portfolio’ approach.

The contract is completed at the end of the competition and the successful organisation is expected to pursue commercialisation of their solution.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. We will not provide any further advice and suggest you seek independent advice from HMRC.

VAT registered

If you select you are VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total. Your total project costs inclusive of VAT must not exceed £500,000.

Not VAT registered

If you select you are not VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT and no VAT will be added. You will not be able to increase total project costs to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered. Your total project costs must not exceed £500,000.

Research and development (R&D)

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

Subsidy control

SBRI competitions involve procurement of R&D services at a fair market value and are not subject to subsidy control criteria that typically apply to grant funding.

Your project

Text update 20 February 2024: we have changed the guidance for Concrete Commitment Cohort (CCC) to the correct name.

The aim of this research, development and demonstration competition is to make the commercial adoption of lower carbon concrete happen faster. The results will enable engagement between innovation projects and end users.

This may be delivered by producing outcomes that increases the potential for future end users to make Advance Market Commitments (AMC) to buy the product on a commercial basis.

Your project must demonstrate how innovations will decarbonise concrete production and do one or both of the following:

  • address technical uncertainties in the formulation and use of innovative concrete, this can include production and the supply chain
  • address technical uncertainties in innovations within the production, supply chain and use of commercially available concretes

In this competition innovative concretes are defined as types of concrete that are not fully commercially adopted due to technical uncertainties in their production, supply chain or use.

Your project may include but is not limited to:

  • alternatives to Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) as a concrete binder, for example, calcined clay or combinations of calcined clay and limestone
  • improving the efficiency or optimisation of cement or concrete production, for example kiln efficiency or reducing binder content
  • recycling of cement
  • additives that reduce the carbon footprint of new concrete structures
  • new construction techniques that take advantage of the properties of innovative concretes
  • using concrete to sequester carbon
  • investigating different concrete chemistry for reinforced concrete, if it shows clearly, it can decarbonise concrete

We expect you to provide a real world demonstration of your innovation, or an equivalent approach that can be shown to accelerate commercial adoption. You are responsible for ensuring performance data is made public to the extent needed to support commercialisation.

Innovate UK can provide a list of potential demonstration sites offered by the Concrete Commitment Cohort (CCC), but you can use any site which is technically relevant.

Concrete Commitment Cohort (CCC) includes representatives of:

  • Anglian Water
  • Environment Agency
  • Ferrovial
  • HS2
  • JN Bentley
  • Laing O'Rourke
  • National Highways
  • Sellafield Sites
  • Transport for London
  • United Utilities
  • WSP

You can email support@iuk.ukri.org to request contact information for these organisations.

If your project involves concrete remaining in-situ at a demonstration site, you are responsible for:

  • handing over ownership of any concrete to the demonstration site by the end of the project
  • ensuring Innovate UK and partners retain access to the site for at least 2 years after the project has ended, for the purpose of performance monitoring of concrete

If successful, you will be asked to complete a short Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data collection template, as part of your project. This template will be provided to you by Innovate UK. This will support a future project on the data quality of LCA for steel, cement and concrete run by Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ).

You may be invited to undertake further carbon accounting activities as a part of the wider programme to develop an AMC.

You must demonstrate a credible and practical route to market, so your application must include a plan to commercialise your results.

Portfolio approach

We want to fund a variety of projects across markets, technology and technology maturities. We call this a portfolio approach.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that:

  • use fresh fly ash or Ground Granulated Blast furnace Slag (GGBS) as principal Supplementary Cementitious Materials (SCMs), unless the innovation is actively looking to reduce their use
  • develop alternative fuels for cement production
  • develop Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) applied to cement production where this does not involve the captured carbon being sequestered in concrete
  • concern construction techniques that solely minimise the use of concrete that is already commercially available
  • concern the replacement of concrete with other building materials
  • solely focus on additives without considering their use in concrete
  • are not original, in scope or duplicates someone else’s work

8 January 2024
Competition opens
11 January 2024
Online briefing event: watch the recording
4 March 2024 11:00am
Competition closes
29 March 2024
Feedback
29 March 2024
Applicants notified
1 May 2024
Contracts awarded

Before you start

By submitting an application, you agree to the terms of the draft contract which is available once you start your application. The terms of the contract are non-negotiable and are included in the draft contract. We reserve the right to change the terms and conditions if necessary.

The final contract will include any milestones you have agreed with the funding authority and will be sent to you if your application is successful. The contract is binding once it is returned by you and signed by both parties.

When you start an application, you will be prompted to create an account as the lead applicant or sign in as a representative of your organisation. Using your account, you will be able to track your applications progress.

As the applicant you are responsible for:

  • collecting the information for your application
  • representing your organisation in leading the project if your application is successful

You will be able to invite colleagues from your organisation to contribute to the application.

What happens next

A selected panel of assessors will review and score your application. You will be notified of the outcome and feedback will be provided. Contracts for this competition will then be issued to all successful applicants.

What we will ask you

The application is split into four sections:

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

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

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

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 making reasonable adjustments, for people who have a disability or a long-term condition and face barriers applying to us.

You can contact us at any time to ask for guidance.

We recommend you contact us at least 15 working days before this competition’s closing date to allow us to put the most suitable support in place. The support we can provide may be limited if you contact us close to the competition deadline.

You can contact Innovate UK by email or call 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm UK time, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

1. Project details

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

Application details

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

Who made you aware of the competition?

Select a category to state who made you aware of the competition. You cannot choose more than one.

How long has your organisation been established for?

Select a category to state how long has your organisation been established for. You cannot choose more than one.

What is your organisation’s primary area focus?

Select a category to state your organisation’s primary focus area. You cannot choose more than one.

Project and scope summary

Please provide a short summary of your project.

Describe your project briefly. Be clear about what makes it innovative and how it relates to the scope of the competition. How does it tackle different aspects of the challenge and how will it provide an integrated solution?

Give details of the lead organisation. Before you submit, we expect you to have discussed your application within your organisation.

Your answer for this section can be up to 800 words long.

This section is not scored, but we will use it to decide whether the project fits the scope of the competition. If it does not, it may be rejected.

Public description

Please provide a brief description of your project. If your application is successful, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project. This question is mandatory, but we will not assess this content as part of your application.

Describe your project in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. We have the right to amend the description before publication if necessary but will consult you about any changes.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Applicant location

You must state the name of your organisation along with your full registered address.

You must also state the name and full registered address of any potential or confirmed subcontractors.

We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all participants of a project.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score all of your questions except questions 1 and 2 which are not scored. You will receive feedback for each scored question. Find out more about how our assessors assess and how we select applications for funding.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.

Question 1. Animal Testing (not scored)

Will your project involve any trials with animals or animal testing?

You must select one option:

  • Yes
  • No

We will only support innovation projects conducted to the highest standards of animal welfare.

Further information for proposals involving animal testing is available at the UKRI Good Research Hub and NC3R’s animal welfare guidance.

Question 2. Permits and licences (not scored)

Will you have the correct permits and licences in place to carry out your project?

We are unable to fund projects who do not have the correct permits or licences in place by your project start date.

You must select one option:

  • Yes
  • No
  • In process of being applied for
  • Not applicable

Question 3. Proposed idea or technology

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

Provide a description of your proposed idea or technology.

Include a description of the current state of development or readiness of the idea.

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

This question will be scored against this assessment criterion: ‘How well does the proposal meet the challenge?’.

Question 4. Technical project summary

What are the main technical challenges you are addressing?

Explain:

  • how you will address the challenge, describe how the innovation decarbonises concrete
  • what the innovation is
  • the main technical deliverables
  • the research and development that will prove the scientific, environmental and commercial merit of the project, what is needed to reduce the perceived risk of the solution
  • what might be achieved by deploying the innovation to address the selected challenge

This question will be scored against this assessment criterion: ‘How valid is the technical approach?’.

Question 5. Current state of the art and intellectual property

Are similar products currently available in the market?

How is your proposed project differentiated from them?

You must include details of:

  • any existing intellectual property (IP)
  • its significance to your freedom to operate
  • novel concepts you develop or employ
  • new approaches or technologies you use
  • new tools or technologies

This question will be scored against these assessment criteria: ‘How innovative is this project? How much does the project develop or employ novel concepts, approaches, methodologies, tools or technologies for this area?’.

Question 6. Project plan and methodology

Describe your project plan and identify the main milestones.

Your plan must be comprehensive. The emphasis throughout should be on practicality.

Provide evidence that the technology works, can be made into a viable product and can achieve the proposed benefits.

You must:

  • describe resources that will be needed to deliver the project
  • describe what the main success criteria will be
  • identify the project management processes that will ensure you achieve the milestones
  • provide a clear plan for establishing technical and commercial feasibility
  • describe the main technical, commercial and environmental risks and what you will do to mitigate them
  • provide a clear plan for development of a real world demonstration of your innovation or an equivalent approach that can be shown to accelerate commercial adoption

You must explain how you would handle any intellectual property (IP) issues which might arise during the project.

Include details of how you will maintain freedom to operate and fulfil the IP requirements detailed in the contract if you are working with subcontractors.

You must upload a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 10MB and up to 2 A4 pages. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Your milestones must:

  • be clear
  • be defined using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) criteria
  • be associated with the appropriate deliverables and payments
  • indicate your payment schedule by month

This question will be assessed against these assessment criteria:

  • does the proposal show a clear plan for establishing technical and commercial feasibility and the development of real world demonstration of your innovation or an equivalent approach that can be shown to accelerate commercial adoption
  • is there a clear management plan
  • what are the main technical, commercial, and environmental risks to the project’s success
  • how will these be effectively managed
  • are the milestones and evaluation procedures appropriate

Please note information from the finances section will be used to support the assessment of this question. Proposed milestones and associated payments stated in this section must match those entered in the finance summary on your application.

Question 7. Technical team and expertise

Who is in the technical team? What expertise do they offer?

Provide a brief description of your technical team, including any subcontractors.

Describe:

  • how each organisation has the skills, capabilities, and experience to deliver the intended benefits
  • how much of their time will be spent on the project

This question will be scored against this assessment criterion: Does the applicant have the skills, capabilities and experience to deliver the intended benefits?

Question 8. Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost? How does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?

Describe:

  • the total costs inclusive of VAT (If applicable) you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer

Proposed costs stated in this section must match those entered in the finance summary.

All costs quoted must reflect actual costs at a ‘fair market value’ and not include profit.

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

Please note that all payments are made quarterly in arrears on submission of an invoice. The invoice must be submitted within 30 days of the end of each monitoring period for all completed milestones.

Full Economic Cost (FEC) calculations are not relevant for SBRI competitions. SBRI is a competitive process and applications will come from a variety of organisations. Whatever calculation you use to arrive at your total eligible project costs your application will be assessed against applications from other organisations. Bear this in mind when calculating your total eligible project costs. You can include overheads but remember that this is a competitive process.

The assessors are required to judge the application finances in terms of value for money. They will score your finances against this assessment criterion: ‘Are the budget and costs realistic, justified and appropriate for the aims and methods?

Please note information from the finances section will be used to support the assessment of this question. Proposed costs stated in this section must match those entered in the finance summary on your application.

Question 9. Commercial potential

What is the commercial potential of your project? You must focus on your proposed customer’s needs.

Describe:

  • your timescales
  • your projects commercial potential for a marketable product, process or service
  • your delivery plan
  • your expected route to market
  • how you will share the outcomes and improve market knowledge of your solution across the supply chain

Describe the competitive advantage that your project has over existing or alternative technologies that meet market needs.

Describe any existing commercial relationships relevant to the project.

With the focus on your proposed customer’s needs, you can also mention the future commercial potential across the public or private sector and international markets.

This question will be scored against these assessment criteria:

  • is there a clear commercial potential for a marketable product, process or service
  • is there a clear plan to deliver that and a clear route to market
  • how significant is the competitive advantage of this technology over existing technologies that meet the market’s needs

3. Finances

Enter your project costs, organisation details and funding details.

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs. We advise you answer the VAT registered question first before entering your costs. Your total project costs must not exceed £500,000.

If you select you are VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total.

If you select you are not VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT and no VAT will be added. You will not be able to increase total project costs to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. We will not provide any further advice and advise you to seek independent advice from HMRC.

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

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

Text update 20 February 2024: we have changed the guidance for Concrete Commitment Cohort (CCC) to the correct name.

About Small Business Research Initiative competitions

SBRI provides innovative solutions to challenges faced by the public sector. This can lead to better public services and improved efficiency and effectiveness.

The SBRI programme:

  • supports economic growth and enables the development of innovative products and services through the public procurement of R&D
  • generates new business opportunities for companies
  • provides a route to market for their ideas
  • bridges the seed funding gap experienced by many early-stage companies

SBRI competitions are open to all eligible organisations that can demonstrate a route to market for their solution. Under current regulations, SBRI contracts are open to applications from organisations registered in the UK, European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). The SBRI scheme is particularly suited to small and medium-sized businesses, as the contracts are of relatively small value and operate on short timescales. Developments are 100% funded and focused on specific identified needs, increasing the chance of exploitation.

SBRI is a procurement of R&D services. If successful, you will receive a contract to deliver the proposed activity. Costs quoted must reflect actual costs at a ‘fair market value’ and not include profit.

You must submit an invoice for the work undertaken. All payments are made in arrears on submission of an invoice. Invoices must be submitted within 30 days of the end of each monitoring period for all completed milestones.

If you are VAT registered, your total costs are expected to include VAT that you would charge as a service provider. VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business, and applications are expected to list total costs inclusive of VAT.

Suppliers for each project will be selected by an open competition process and retain the intellectual property generated from the project, with certain rights of use retained by the contracting authority. This is an excellent opportunity to establish an early customer for a new technology and to fund its development.

Broader Information

Concrete Commitment Cohort (CCC) includes representatives of:

  • Anglian Water
  • Environment Agency
  • Ferrovial
  • HS2
  • JN Bentley
  • Laing O'Rourke
  • National Highways
  • Sellafield Sites
  • Transport for London
  • United Utilities
  • WSP

Data sharing

This competition is operated by Innovate UK.

Innovate UK is directly accountable to you for its holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information. Data is held in accordance with our own policies. Accordingly, Innovate UK will be data controllers for personal data submitted during the application.

Innovate UK’s Privacy Policy

Innovate UK complies with the requirements of UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, and is committed to upholding data protection legislation, and protecting your information in accordance with data protection principles.

The Information Commissioner’s Office also has a useful guide for organisations, which outlines the data protection principles.

Assessment

Your application will be reviewed by up to 3 independent assessors based on the content of your application and their skills or expertise relevant to your project. All of the scores awarded will count towards the total score used to make the funding decision unless you are notified otherwise.

You can find out more about our assessment process in the General Guidance.

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

You must complete the initial setup process within 7 days of receiving notification that you have been successful.

In order to process your claims, you must make sure you have a valid UK business bank account. It can take several weeks for a new account to be created if required. We recommend starting this process as early as possible to avoid any delays to your project start date.

The bank account which grant is to be paid into must:

  • be a business account in the same name as the organisation listed in IFS
  • be from a UK bank regulated by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA)
  • have a cheque and credit clearing facility

Online accounts are eligible as long as they meet the above criteria.

Innovate UK will accept most banking societies apart from:

  • Viva Wallet
  • Intesa Sanpaolo
  • Equals Money UK Limited

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. We will also review your milestones, which, if not suitable, will need to be amended during project setup.

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

Your Contract

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

The contract will be made available on your IFS portal. You will need to sign and upload this before you start your project, and this must be completed within 30 days of being notified your application was successful.

Your contract 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 contract.

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.

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.

Further help and guidance

If you want help to find an organisation to work with, contact the Innovate UK Business Connect.

If you have any questions about the scope requirements of this competition, email support@iuk.ukri.org.

If you need more information about how to apply, email support@iuk.ukri.org or call 0300 321 4357.

Our phone lines are open from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

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