Funding competition Infrastructure systems round 3

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £15 million to develop innovative solutions to challenges in infrastructure systems.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK is to invest up to £15 million in projects in this competition. This is to stimulate innovation that creates UK business growth in infrastructure systems. We want businesses to collaborate to develop new integrated solutions and business models.

Projects will range in size from total project costs of £25,000 to £5 million and must last between 3 months and 3 years.

Projects must show significant innovation in one of our priority areas:

  • smart infrastructure
  • energy
  • connected transport
  • urban living

Proposals must improve business growth, productivity and/or create export opportunities for at least one UK small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) involved in the project.

There is up to £5 million for projects that last from 3 months to 1 year.

There is up to £10 million for projects lasting from 1 year to 3 years, with costs between £100,000 and £5 million inclusive.

We are also accepting applications for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships in infrastructure systems at this time.

Funding type


Project size

Projects will range in size from total project costs of £25,000 to £5 million.

Find out if you are eligible to apply

To be eligible for funding you must:

  • be a UK-based business or research and technology organisation
  • carry out your project work and intend to exploit the results in the UK

To lead a project you must:

  • be an SME if you wish to work alone on a project no longer than 12 months and with costs of less than £100,000
  • work in collaboration, including at least one SME, if your project has costs over £100,000 and/or is longer than 12 months

Number of applications:

  • any one business may be involved in up to 3 applications to this competition, but may only be the lead partner in one application
  • any one research and technology organisation may only be the lead partner in one application. They can be involved as a partner in up to 2 further applications
  • if a research and technology organisation is not the lead on any application, they can be a partner in any number of applications
  • ·if an application is unsuccessful, you may use the feedback received to re-apply for the same project once more into either another round of this competition or another competition

For all research organisations, the total level of project participation is set at a maximum of 30% of total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum will be shared between them.

If the Innovation Leads judge that your project is not materially different from your previous project, it will be classed as a re-submission.

Projects that we won't fund

In this competition we will not fund:

  • connected transport innovations that can only be applied to propulsion and onboard vehicle systems in single transport modes (for example, automotive, rail, air or marine vehicles or vessels only). Although the initial activity may focus on a single mode of transport, there must be potential to connect infrastructure, people and goods with additional transport modes
  • connected transport applications proposing new physical infrastructure, unless they clearly encourage change across complex transport systems
  • fossil fuels (exploration, appraisal, production, processing, transport)
  • incremental innovations unlikely to significantly improve UK economic and SME growth

While not excluded, the development of smartphone apps is not a primary interest for this competition. As part of the portfolio selection process only a limited number of such applications may be funded.

Funding and project details

We have allocated up to £15 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

Project costs of up to £100,000 and less than 12 months

If you are an SME and expect your eligible project costs to be up to £100,000 and less than 12 months duration, you can run the project on your own. You can also work with other businesses or research organisations.

Project costs of £100,000 or above and/or over 12 months

If you expect your eligible project costs to be more than £100,000 and/or 12 months duration you must work with other organisations who are claiming grant as part of the project. At least one member of the consortium must be an SME.

Project types

Your project can focus on technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development. This will depend on the challenge.

For technical feasibility studies and industrial research, you could get:

  • up to 70% of your eligible project costs if you are a small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get:

  • up to 45% of your eligible project costs if you are a small business
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 25% if you are a large business

Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

Competition scope

The aim of this competition is to stimulate innovation in infrastructure systems that provide critical services for our economy, environment and society.

The UK has the potential to lead the world in our 4 priority areas:

  • smart infrastructure
  • urban living
  • energy (comprising energy systems, nuclear fission and offshore wind)
  • connected transport

We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects. These may include technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development. Projects must show significant innovation in one of our priority areas (described further in the next section). Proposals must also improve business growth, productivity and/or create export opportunities for at least one UK SME involved in the project. We expect businesses to describe how the proposed innovation project fits into partners’ overall international strategies.

Where applicable please consider the security implications of your solution.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

As part of this competition, we also welcome applications for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs). For further information on the benefit of KTPs and how they work please see the guidance.

For KTPs we are accepting applications across all disciplines and applications within infrastructure systems. This includes applications beyond the scope of this competition.

KTP applicants are subject to the same application deadline. However, KTP applicants will need to follow a different application process. Interested parties should contact the relevant KTP adviser for more details and how to apply.

Specific competition themes

You must decide on the priority area for your innovation. Where proposals are judged out of scope for the chosen area but in scope for another, you will be contacted to agree to assessment in the alternative area.

There are 4 specific themes for this competition:

1. Smart infrastructure

Smart infrastructure solutions that bring the digital and physical worlds together. Solutions must add intelligence to physical infrastructure, or the design process, to improve:

  • whole-life cost and/or performance
  • resilience, security and/or sustainability

2. Urban living

An urban living solution must address the challenges citizens face in cities and urban areas. Solutions must solve problems that span more than one of the following urban system types:

  • ‘hard’ systems, such as energy, transport, waste, water and communication
  • ‘soft’ systems, such as security, law and justice (for example, public order and safety). health, wellbeing, social care and education
  • infrastructure delivering environmental systems, such as parks and green spaces, rivers and canals

You must demonstrate that your solution is:

  • citizen-centered: systems need to solve problems that are important to cities and which deliver benefits to citizens
  • resilient and sustainable: systems need to be designed and integrated in a way that allows adaptation in the face of change

We encourage the inclusion of end-users and problem-owners in the consortia. Where appropriate, we would also like to see those responsible for delivering citizen services (such as local authorities, community groups, infrastructure providers) involved.

3. Energy

Energy systems:

We are looking for innovations with the ability to flexibly match changing energy supply and demand profiles of the future. These must create or demonstrate smart system solutions that integrate energy generation and demand at local, regional or national scale.

They might include methods to shift peak energy use. This can include storage or advanced management and optimisation of multiple energy supply and/or demand sources to encourage flexible energy use and efficiency.

Solutions that optimise across energy vectors (such as electricity and heat) are encouraged. The outcome must be significant improvements in all of the following:

  • value proposition
  • energy affordability
  • security
  • reduced emissions

Nuclear fission:

Innovations that lead to major cost reductions, improved asset integrity and supply chain development. This will be for the current and future UK and global civil nuclear markets, including decommissioning.

Offshore wind:

Innovations that, when in use, will result in substantial reductions in the cost of energy from offshore wind.

4. Connected transport

We are looking for solutions that encourage more efficient transport of people and goods. Although the initial activity may focus on a single mode of transport, there must be potential within the life of the project to connect infrastructure, people and goods with additional transport modes. We encourage projects that work with local authorities and national bodies to make transport more secure, user-centric and accessible.

Applications must address one of the following strategic areas:

  • innovations related to capacity and congestion across transport modes. This includes freight/logistics (including ports), aviation (with regards to customer experience and connection services) and multi-modal passenger transport. We encourage solutions relating to smart asset management, mobility as a service, and innovations relating to the end-to-end journey (such as parking solutions and increased connectivity between transport modes)
  • delivering accessible and safe transport for all sectors of society. We welcome projects that encourage greater levels of innovation in accessible transport and which will consider behavioural change to influence social transformation in connected transport
  • sustainability including improving air quality, reducing carbon emissions and future-proofing connected transport
4 July 2017
Briefing event in Glasgow
6 July 2017
Briefing event in Portstewart
10 July 2017
Competition opens
11 July 2017
Briefing event in London
11 July 2017
Briefing event (by webcast) - watch the recording
13 July 2017
Briefing event in Leeds
18 July 2017
Briefing event in Cardiff
20 July 2017
Briefing event in Exeter
13 September 2017 12:00pm
Competition closes
15 December 2017 1:59pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

To start an application you must create an account as the lead applicant, or sign in as a representative of your organisation. Once you have an account you can track the progress of your application.

As a lead applicant:

  • you are responsible for collecting the information for your funding application
  • you can invite other organisations who will participate in the project as collaborators if your application is successful
  • you can invite colleagues to contribute to the application
  • your organisation will lead the project if your application is successful

Partner organisations can be other businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities.

Please read the general guidance for applicants it will help your chances of submitting a quality application.

Research organisations

Research organisations may participate in applications as collaborators. In this competition research and technology organisations may also lead a collaborative project subject to the eligibility criteria and rules contained in the general guidance for applicants.

There are specific rules for research partners which limit the amount of involvement a research organisation may have in your project. The participation rule will be set out in the eligibility criteria for the competition.

You will not be able to submit your application if your research participation is over the stated percentage for the competition.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

1. Project details

2. Application questions

3. Finances

1. Project details

In this section you will provide the details of your project. This section is not scored, but our assessors will use it to decide whether the project fits with the scope of the competition. If it doesn’t fit the scope then it will be immediately rejected. Within project details you will need to complete:

Application details

The title of your project, the start date and project length. This section will also list you as the lead organisation and any partner organisations you have named as collaborators. The lead applicant must complete this section.

Project summary

Describe your project and what is innovative about it. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application so we need a summary of the innovation in your project.

Public description

Describe your project in a way that you are happy to see published. Please do not include any commercially sensitive information. If your project is successful and awarded funding, Innovate UK will publish this description.

Project 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 and will not be sent for assessment. Innovate UK will provide feedback if we decide that your project is not in scope.

2. Application questions

In this section, answers are scored by the assessors. Following the assessment, you will receive feedback from the assessors for each question.

Question 1: Need or challenge

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

  • describe the main motivation for the project; the business need, the citizen-centric challenge (for urban living proposals), technological challenge or market opportunity
  • describe the nearest current state-of-the-art (including those near-market or in development) and its limitations
  • describe any work you have already done to respond to this need. For example, is the project focused on developing an existing capability or building a new one?
  • identify the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural and/or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, for example, incoming regulations. Our Horizons tool can help here

Question 2: Approach and innovation

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

  • explain how you propose to respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • explain how it will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • indicate where the focus of the innovation will be in the project (application of existing technologies in new areas, development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach) and the freedom you have to operate
  • explain how this project fits with your current product/service lines/offerings
  • explain how it will make you more competitive
  • describe the nature of the outputs you expect from the project for example, report, demonstrator, know-how, new process, product or service design. How will these will take you closer to targeting the need, challenge or opportunity identified?

You may submit a single appendix as a PDF no more than 1MB in size to support your answer.

Question 3: Team and resources

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

  • describe the roles, skills and relevant experience of all members of the project team in relation to the approach you will be taking
  • describe the resources, equipment and facilities required for the project and how you will access them
  • provide details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • (if collaborative) describe the current relationships between the project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • highlight any gaps in the team that will need to be filled

You may submit a single appendix as a PDF no more than 1MB in size to support your answer.

Question 4: Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

Specify the markets (domestic and/or international) you will be targeting in the project and any other potential markets.

For the target markets, describe:

  • the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by appropriate references where available
  • the structure and dynamics of the market such as customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
  • the main supply/value chains and business models in operation and any barriers to entry
  • the current UK position in targeting this market

For highly innovative projects where the market may be unexplored, explain:

  • what the route to market could or might be
  • what its size might be
  • how the project will seek to explore the market potential

For other markets, briefly describe the size and main features.

Question 5: Outcomes and route to market

How do you propose to grow your business and increase your productivity into the long term as a result of the project?

  • describe your current position in the markets and supply/value chains outlined, for example, if you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • describe your target customers and/or end-users, and the value proposition to them (why would they use/buy it?)
  • describe your route to market
  • tell us how you are going to profit from the innovation (increased revenues or cost reduction)
  • explain how the innovation will impact your productivity and growth in the short and long-term
  • describe how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project, for example, through know-how, patenting, designs, changes to business model
  • outline your strategy for targeting the other markets identified during or after the project
  • for any research organisation activity in the project, outline your plans to disseminate project research outputs over a reasonable timescale
  • if you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities, describe how you will do this

Question 6: Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Identify, and where possible measure, the economic benefits from the project to those outside the project (customers, others in the supply chain, broader industry and the UK economy) such as productivity increases and import substitution.

Identify, and where possible measure, any expected social impacts, either positive or negative, for example:

  • quality of life
  • social inclusion/exclusion
  • jobs (safeguarded, created, changed, displaced)
  • education
  • public empowerment
  • health and safety
  • regulations
  • diversity
  • any expected impact on government priorities

Identify, and where possible measure, any expected environmental impacts, either positive or negative.

Identify any expected regional impacts of the project.

Question 7: Project management

How will you manage the project effectively?

  • outline the main work packages of the project, indicating the relevant research category and lead partner assigned to each, and the total cost of each one
  • describe your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms that will be used to ensure a successful project outcome. Highlight your approach to managing the most innovative aspects of the project
  • outline the management reporting lines
  • outline your project plan in sufficient detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones

You may upload a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no more than 1MB in size.

Question 8: Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

  • identify the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks. Highlight the most significant ones, providing a risk register if appropriate
  • explain how these risks will be mitigated
  • list any project inputs on the critical route to completion such as resources, expertise or data sets
  • is the output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical or other similar issues? If so how will you manage this?

You may upload a risk register as an appendix in PDF format no more than 1MB in size.

Question 9: Additionality

Describe the impact that an injection of public funding would have on this project.

  • tell us if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make such as faster to market, more partners, reduced risk
  • describe the likely impact of the project on the business of the partners involved
  • tell us why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding (what would happen if the application is unsuccessful)
  • explain how this project would change the nature of research and development activity the partners would undertake, and related spend

Question 10: 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?

  • justify the total project cost and the grant being requested in terms of the project goals
  • explain how the partners will finance their contributions to the project
  • explain how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer. How does it compare to what you would spend your money on otherwise?
  • justify the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • justify any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project


The finances section asks each organisation to complete project costs, organisational details and funding details for each organisation in your project. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

Infrastructure systems are the backbone of economic stability, growth, competitiveness and productivity in modern society. They are vital for social wellbeing and environmental sustainability.

Market opportunity

There is £425 billion of planned public and private infrastructure investment in the UK, according to the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan 2016–2021.

Transport and energy account for £390 billion of this total. The market is expanding for systems ensuring smart and resilient infrastructure.

New infrastructure solutions can be capital-intensive. Public investment can prompt disruptive ideas and unlock private investment.

UK capability

The UK has a world-leading capability to provide infrastructure solutions in planning, engineering, architecture, energy, intelligent mobility of people, freight and communications. This also includes legal, insurance, security and finance services.

In the digital economy, the UK has a strong base of creative start-ups providing new, disruptive solutions and technologies that promote change. These are in high-growth areas, including open data, the internet of things (everyday objects with network and data connectivity), robotics and autonomous systems. These capabilities are well supported by excellent academic research across the UK.

Timeliness and impact

The number of global urban residents is growing by almost 60 million every year. Environmental and societal change are prompting more adaptable infrastructure that is better integrated with social systems.

For further background, see Innovate UK’s Delivery Plan 2016/17.

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

If you need more information, contact the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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