Funding competition Electronics, sensors and photonics for robotics in extreme environments

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £2 million to develop reliable extreme environment grade electronics, sensors and photonics for robotics and AI systems. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

This competition is now closed.

Start new application

Competition sections

Description

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £2 million to develop electronics, sensors and photonics (ESP) devices, components and/or sub-systems for robotics and AI (RAI) operations. Solutions must be capable of surviving and operating in extreme and challenging environments.

This competition is focused on ESP as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) RAI for Extreme and Challenging Environments Challenge.

The aim is to encourage R&D investment in ESP enabled robotics capabilities made in the UK.

Your proposal must demonstrate a thorough understanding of whole system design requirements for RAI in extreme environments. It must:

  • include mission-specific performance and regulatory targets

  • show an understanding of the challenge in RAI systems in extreme environments, including the market specifically addressed in your proposal

Funding type

Grant

Project size

Feasibility studies projects’ total eligible costs must be between £25,000 and £100,000. Collaborative R&D projects’ total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £250,000.

Who can apply

State aid

Any UK business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time we confirm you will be awarded funding. If you are unsure please take legal advice. For further information see our general guidance.

Your project

Your project must start as soon as your grant offer letter has been returned and accepted and end no later than 31 March 2021.There will be no extensions available beyond this date.

You must carry out your project work in the UK and intend to exploit the results from or in the UK.

For feasibility studies:

  • an SME must lead the project

  • your organisation can work alone or collaborate with other businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities

  • total eligible project costs must be between £25,000 and £100,000

  • your project can last up to 12 months

For collaborative R&D (industrial research and/or experimental development):

  • a business, of any size, must lead the project

  • you must collaborate with other businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities

  • your consortium must include at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)

  • total eligible project costs must be between £50,000 and £250,000

  • your project can last up to 18 months but must finish by 31 March 2021

For collaborative projects the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding.

If your project’s total eligible costs or duration fall outside of our eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to support@innovateuk.ukri.org at least 10 days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request.

Partners with no funding

Projects can include partners that do not receive any funding (for example, non-UK businesses). Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs but they will not count as collaborators.

Multiple applications

Any one business can lead on one application and collaborate in a further 2 applications.

If a business is not leading an application, they can be a collaborator in up to 3 applications.

Funding

We have allocated up to £2 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

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

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small business

  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business

  • up to 50% if you are a large business

For experimental development activities which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small business

  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business

  • up to 25% if you are a large business

The research organisations in your consortium can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum will be shared between them.

Any subcontracting costs must not exceed 20% of total project costs.

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25 of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to support the development of electronics, sensors and photonics (ESP) components in robotic systems. These must improve robotic operations in extreme environments beyond what is currently possible.

Extreme environments can include, but are not limited to, off-shore and nuclear energy, space and deep mining. ESP technologies and innovations include, but are not limited to, sensing and actuation, on-board electronics, radio frequency (RF) electronics, power supplies, control systems and task-oriented payloads.

Your solution must take into account the environmental and physical constraints that are typical of extreme environments. Such extreme and hazardous conditions may include extreme and variable temperature and pressure, lack of oxygen, high levels of radiation, reduced visibility and accessibility.

Your proposal must:

  • allocate the majority of the work to the development, hardening, integration and validation of ESP components, devices and/or sub-systems.

  • identify the precise operational scenario or scenarios for extreme and challenging environments in which the ESP technologies will be used

  • demonstrate awareness of the addressable market the solution is designed for

Your project must demonstrate:

  • a thorough understanding of whole system design requirements for RAI in extreme environments driven by mission-specific performance and regulatory targets (such as certification and testing for explosive environments following the IECEx)

  • technology developments in a laboratory or real environment, including one or more clear use cases and a corresponding integration path for RAI systems operating in extreme environments

The competition aims to fund a balanced portfolio of projects across a variety of ESP technologies, such as sensor and actuator technology, power electronics, RF, integration and packaging.

Your proposal must demonstrate how the project work and associated exploitation will meet the aims and objectives of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund as defined in supporting information.

Specific themes

Your project can focus on one or more of these themes, or on another appropriate area.

Optics and photonics based sensing

This could include the use of light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technologies for high-resolution 3D mapping of the terrain or space to increase navigation and operational awareness.

Compound semiconductor based electronics

This could involve the design and development of components, mixed-signal devices, and integrated circuits that will underpin RAI system capabilities, such as advanced sensing, communication or actuation. Power electronics for reduced size and weight power-supplies is also part of this theme.

Packaging

Hardening-by-design (HBD) techniques for ESP components, circuits and devices. This could include hardening of commercial-off-the-self (COTS) hardware.

Modelling and simulation

This could include investigation of electromagnetic effects, modelling of radiation shielding and other activities that would feed into a system’s engineering process.

Research categories

We will fund feasibility projects, industrial research projects and experimental development projects. Please see our definitions of research categories to help you decide which category your project fits into.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that:

  • do not demonstrate a thorough understanding of system design requirements for RAI systems operations in extreme environments driven by mission-specific performance and regulatory targets

  • do not demonstrate awareness of the addressable market in relation to RAI systems in extreme environments

  • propose to develop ESP components, devices, sub-systems without identifying one or more operational scenarios for extreme and challenging environments in which ESP technologies will be used

  • focus only on ESP developments without directly addressing their dependable and survivable operation in extreme environments

  • are not in the scope for this competition

11 March 2019
Competition opens
19 March 2019
Recording of briefing event.
21 March 2019
Edinburgh briefing event
26 March 2019
Cardiff briefing event
8 May 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
19 July 2019
Applicants notified

Before you start

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

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. You will need an account to track the progress of your application.

As the lead applicant you will be 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 to make contributions

  • other organisations to collaborate with you

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details
  2. Application questions
  3. Finances

1. Project details

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

Application team

Invite colleagues to contribute to your application and other organisations to collaborate on your project.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration. Is the application a resubmission?

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly, and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Project scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment. We will give you feedback on why. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers to these questions. You will receive feedback from them for each question.

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. Need or challenge

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

Describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project

  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity

  • the nearest current state-of-the-art, including those near market or in development, and its limitations

  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project is focused 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 2. Approach and innovation

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

Describe or explain:

  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified

  • how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified

  • 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 must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 3. Team and resources

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

Describe or explain:

  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking

  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them

  • the details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project

  • (if your project is collaborative) the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project

  • any gaps in the team you will need to fill

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4. Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

Describe or explain:

  • the markets (domestic, international or both) you will be targeting in the project and any other potential markets

  • the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by references where available

  • the structure and dynamics of the target markets, including customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes

  • the target markets’ main supply or value chains and business models, and any barriers to entry that exist

  • the current UK position in targeting these markets

  • the size and main features of any other markets not already listed

If your project is highly innovative, where the market may be unexplored, describe or explain:

  • what the market’s size might to be

  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential

Question 5. Outcomes and route to market

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

Describe or explain:

  • your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position

  • your target customers and/or end users, and the value to them, for example, why would they use or buy it?

  • 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 6. Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Describe, and where possible measure:

  • the economic benefits from the project to external parties, including customers, others in the supply chain, broader industry and the UK economy, such as productivity increases and import substitution

  • any expected impact on government priorities

  • any expected environmental impacts, either positive or negative

  • any expected regional impacts of the project

Describe any expected social impacts, either positive or negative on, for example:

  • quality of life

  • social inclusion or exclusion

  • jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them

  • education

  • public empowerment

  • health and safety

  • regulations

  • diversity

Question 7. Project management

How will you manage the project effectively?

Describe or explain:

  • 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 that will be used for 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 can 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 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 8. Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

Describe or explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks, providing a risk register if appropriate

  • 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 will you manage this?

You can submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9. Added value

What impact would an injection of public funding have on the businesses involved?

Describe or explain:

  • 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 and reduced risk

  • the likely impact of the project on the business of the partners involved

  • why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding, and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful

  • how this project would change the nature of R&D activity the partners would undertake, and the 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?

Describe or explain:

  • the total eligible project cost and the grant being requested in terms of the project goals

  • how the partners 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 sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academics will need to complete and upload a Je-S form. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

The award for this competition is supported through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) and must align with one or more of the following top-level objectives of the Industrial Strategy:

  • increased UK business investment in R&D and improved R&D capability and capacity

  • increased multi- and inter-disciplinary research around the challenge areas

  • increased business-academic collaboration on innovation activities relating to the challenge areas

  • increased collaboration between younger, smaller companies and larger, more established companies up the value chain

  • increased overseas investment in R&D in the UK

The vison for the ISCF Robotics and AI for Extreme and Challenging Environments Challenge is to:

  • develop robotic solutions to make a safer working environment in industries such as offshore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining

  • increase productivity

  • open up new cross-disciplinary opportunities

Extra help

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

If you need more information, email us at support@innovateuk.ukri.org or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357.

Need help with this service? Contact us