Research and development competition for RAI in extreme and challenging environments
UK businesses can apply for grant funding to work on robotics and artificial intelligence (RAI) technologies for extreme and challenging environments.
- Competition opens: Tuesday 13 June 2017
- Competition closes: Wednesday 2 August 2017 12:00pm
This competition is now closed.
Innovate UK is to invest up to £10 million in innovative projects. Competition funding is subject to business case approval by BEIS. This is to encourage and stimulate the development of robotics and artificial intelligence (RAI) technologies for application in extreme and challenging environments.
The aim of this competition is to speed up the development of RAI technologies that would be used across the off-shore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining applications and other extreme and challenging environments.
Proposals should clearly identify the operational scenarios for the extreme and challenging environments in which the RAI technologies would be used. Cross-cutting solutions are particularly welcomed.This programme is one of 3 separate elements (use-inspired research hubs, collaborative R&D and demonstrator programmes) which will be delivered under the RAI Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund activity.
Projects should range in size from total costs of £50,000 to £2 million.
Find out if you are eligible to apply
To lead a project you must:
- be a UK-based business
- be a business of any size
- carry out your project in the UK
- work alone or in collaboration with others (businesses, research base and third sector)
Projects that we won't fund
In this competition we are not funding projects that:
- are not in the competition's scope
- do not clearly identify the operational scenario for extreme and challenging environments in which the technologies, techniques or system engineering developments would be used
Funding and project details
We have allocated up to £10 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.
- all projects must be led by a business
- all projects should involve at least one SME
- your project should last between 6 and 36 months
Project costs of up to £100,000
Any project with eligible costs below £100,000 must be led by an SME.
You can run the project on your own or you can work with other businesses or research organisations.
Project costs of £100,000 or above
If you expect your eligible project costs to be more than £100,000 you must work with other organisations. At least one of these must be an SME.
The activities/work in your project could focus on technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development.
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.
The aim of this competition is to encourage and stimulate the development of robotics and artificial intelligence (RAI) technologies for extreme and challenging environments.
The resulting developments should demonstrate a potential step change in system capabilities, primarily across the off-shore energy, nuclear energy, space, and deep mining sectors. Other extreme and challenging environments may also be in scope; please check with Innovate UK for other application areas.
Proposals should clearly identify the operational scenarios for extreme and challenging environments in which the RAI technologies or sub/systems would be used.
We are looking to fund projects which combine complementary disciplines, to achieve the step changes in cross-cutting system capabilities. Examples include:
- new materials, for example, lightweight with improved mechanical capabilities and long life in extreme environments
- improved robotic structural capabilities
- novel telecommunication systems such as, long-range high throughput underwater operation
- new sensor devices, for example, for low-light operation, or force and tactile sensors
- miniaturised sensors, components and integrated sub-systems
- improved machine vision systems
- in-situ materials characterisation and inspection
- novel energy-efficient and miniaturised actuators
- power-energy efficient devices and systems
- radiation-tolerant electronics
- AI/situational awareness
- mission planning and risk management
- accurate navigation, localisation and mapping
- systems engineering including verification and validation tools and methodologies
The involvement of end-users is encouraged.
Specific competition themes
We are particularly encouraging applications that can clearly:
- identify the operational scenario in which the technological developments would be used
- identify the technical risks and potential operational benefits
- articulate the reusability of the technological developments in different RAI systems for extreme and challenging environments, and the corresponding market sizes
- Innovate UK reserves the right to adopt a balanced portfolio approach across the challenge areas
- 13 June 2017
- Competition opens
- 21 June 2017
- Watch the webinar briefing event.
- 2 August 2017 12:00pm
- Competition closes
- 15 September 2017
- 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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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 scopeDescribe 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 to these questions are scored by the assessors. Following 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)
- public empowerment
- health and safety
- 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 or 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
Background and further information
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 email@example.com.
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