Funding competition UK-Guangdong urban innovation challenge 2017

UK businesses can apply for a share of £3 million to work with Chinese partners on innovative urban solutions in Guangdong province.

This competition is now closed.

Register and apply online

Competition sections


The aim of this competition is to encourage innovative partnerships between the UK and Guangdong province. Innovate UK and Guangdong Department of Science and Technology (GDST) are funding this competition as part of the Newton Fund.

Projects should address one or more of the following urban challenges:

  • smart mobility
  • affordable healthcare through big data solutions
  • smart platforms for sustainable urban environments

We expect projects to range in size from total project costs of £350,000 to £500,000 in the UK. The total UK grant size should not exceed £350,000 per project.

Projects should last up to 2 years.

If you are a UK business, you can carry out the project as the only UK partner or you can work with others. You will need to partner with at least one Chinese business that has been registered in Guangdong for more than one year.

A business must lead the project in the UK. A business or a research organisation registered in Guangdong is able to lead the project in Guangdong.

Funding type


Project size

Total project costs of £350,000 to £500,000 in the UK.

Find out if you are eligible to apply

To apply to this competition, your project must include at least:

  • one UK-based business of any size
  • one Chinese business that has been registered in Guangdong province for over one year

You can also invite other types of organisations to join your project in the UK and in China.

On the Chinese side, the Guangdong-registered lead partner can work with businesses and academics based in other Chinese provinces, as long as their solution will address challenges in Guangdong. Please see the guidance for applicants for further information.

Projects that we won't fund

In this competition we are not funding projects that:

  • involve capital expenditure (such as building physical infrastructure)
  • do not meet official development assistance (ODA) eligibility requirements
  • do not target at least one of the 3 challenges in Guangdong province
  • have negative environmental and social impacts

Funding and project details

This competition is part of the UK-China Newton Fund.

In China, this competition is funded by GDST.

In the UK, Innovate UK has allocated up to £3 million to fund innovation projects through this competition. Innovate UK will fund the UK project partners and GDST will fund project partners in Guangdong and wider China.

Project types

Projects must focus on industrial research. Work packages that include elements of experimental development will be considered within projects that predominantly target industrial research. Those work packages that are primarily experimental development will receive the appropriate grant percentage.

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 that 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 a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME).

Full details of the funding rules for universities and other research organisations are in the Innovate UK funding rules.

We expect projects to last up to 2 years. We expect them to range in size from total project costs of £350,000 to £500,000 on the UK side. Total UK grant size should not exceed £350,000 per project.

Information on funding for project partners in Guangdong and wider China can be found on the GDST website.

The competition scope

The aim of this competition is to fund collaborative technological solutions that solve one or more of Guangdong’s urban challenges.

We are looking to fund projects that address one or more of the following:

  • smart mobility
  • affordable healthcare through big data solutions
  • smart platforms for sustainable urban environments

Guangdong province is China’s largest provincial economy and the principle driver of the national economy over the last 30 years. As this competition’s challenge areas are specific to Guangdong province, solutions should include adapted responses at provincial level.

Projects and their outcomes must fit with the official development assistance (ODA) criteria. This aims to boost economic development, and have a positive social or environmental effect on the wider Guangdong society.

Challenge 1: smart mobility

China has 16 of the world’s 50 most-congested cities (TomTom Traffic Index, 2017). Two of these cities fall within Guangdong: Guangzhou and Shenzhen, which are placed 14th and 15th in the global ranking. The rapid urbanisation in the province has increased traffic, with negative effects to the environment, health and the safety of residents.

The solutions we are calling for should fit one or more of the following scope areas:

  • addressing the increase in CO2 emissions
  • responding to inefficiencies in the current transport system
  • urban responses to an increase in demand for public mobility
  • multimodal urban mobility and inter-mode connectivity
  • enhancing the user experience through public service integration

Examples of projects may include, but are not limited to:

  • internet-of-things smart devices and applications for city mobility
  • innovative vehicle energy storage systems and related technology, including testing and validation
  • vehicle energy recovery technologies
  • low-emission mobility solutions, including autonomous driving technology

Challenge 2: affordable healthcare through big data solutions

It is estimated that the number of individuals over the age of 60 in China will reach 440 million by 2050; that is more than double the current figure (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs). In Guangdong province alone, the number of older adults is set to reach 15 million by 2020. In the 2010 national census, 56% of older adult respondents identified themselves as not healthy, and 17% needed assistance for daily tasks.

Due to the rapid urbanisation and industrialisation of the Guangdong province, chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease have become commonplace. Most of the province’s medical resources are dedicated to this area. A large number of elderly people need support. This is increasing pressure on families and care staff. These rising numbers are having an adverse effect on Guangdong’s healthcare system and economy. There is a great opportunity to use big data to provide affordable and smart healthcare services to the province’s ageing population.

The solutions we are calling for should fit one or more of the following scope areas:

  • patient-centric, affordable healthcare solutions
  • integrated healthcare platforms
  • high-performance computing services for medical data
  • remote data cloud platforms for health management

Examples of projects may include, but are not limited to:

  • smart healthcare devices and applications
  • predictive analytics and data visualisation to prevent re-admissions to hospital
  • wearable devices enabling low-cost diagnostics
  • devices to allow for effective care at home

Challenge 3: smart platforms for sustainable urban environments

In recent decades China’s rapid urbanisation and industrialisation have contributed to significant environmental issues, exacerbated by the lack of regulated discharges into air, water and soil. For example, the country’s per capita CO2 emissions have more than doubled in the past decade. The share of renewables in the total energy consumed has also dropped from over 30% to around 17% since 2000 (World Bank).

Environmental pollution and ecological issues are affecting residents’ health, quality of life and productivity in Guangdong’s urban areas.While a recent report (The China Urban Sustainability Index 2013, McKinsey Global Institute) identifies Guangdong’s largest cities of Zhuhai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou as some of the top environmental performers in China, the region’s booming urban environments are under growing pressure. This limits their ability to provide further improvements in a context of ever-expanding populations and industries.

Eligible consortia are invited to develop innovative solutions that would allow cities in Guangdong to use their resources in a more efficient and sustainable way.

The solutions we are calling for should fit one or more of the following scope areas:

  • integrated platforms to monitor and forecast sources of industrial and domestic pollution, featuring an emergency warning system
  • energy-optimising solutions in urban areas
  • platforms that encourage the use of energy-efficient solutions in urban areas
  • applications using big data to reduce emissions and pollutants
  • brownfield management data platforms to identify and monitor areas for environmental restoration
  • integrated platforms for urban waste classification and subsequent disposal and value recovery

Examples of projects may include, but are not limited to:

  • integrated platforms for urban sustainable management
  • sustainable urban water management systems
  • big data applications for urban environmental management
  • smart solutions for increasing energy efficiency in the built environment
3 July 2017
Competition opens
21 July 2017
Briefing webinar - watch the recording.
11 August 2017
Brokerage webinar.
27 September 2017
Registration deadline.
27 September 2017 12:00pm
Registration closes
4 October 2017 12:00pm
Competition closes
2 March 2018
Applicants notified

How to apply

To apply in the UK:

  • the UK lead applicant must register online once the competition opens
  • read the guidance for applicants for this competition
  • attend the briefing event for potential applicants on Monday 10 July 2017 (by webinar)
  • complete and upload your online application on our secure server

We will not accept late submissions. Your application to Innovate UK is confidential.

A panel of independent experts from the UK and Guangdong will assess your proposal. We will choose the best proposals from those that meet the aims of this competition. We will then select the projects that we fund, to build a portfolio of projects as described in the general guidance for applicants.

Please read this general guidance carefully before you apply. It will help your chances of submitting a high-quality application.

Background and further information

Innovate UK helps translate the UK’s innovation expertise into business solutions in emerging economies. We enable collaborative solutions to overseas socio-economic challenges. We do this by supporting companies and research organisations from the UK to establish global partnerships and exchange knowledge with organisations in some of the most dynamic markets in the world. The size, diversity and potential of China’s markets present significant opportunities for innovative UK businesses and research organisations.

For this reason, Innovate UK and GDST are jointly funding this competition. We are running it as part of the UK–China Newton Fund. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy leads the Newton Fund in the UK.

About the Newton Fund

The Newton Fund was established in 2014 and will operate until at least 2021. The fund forms part of the UK government’s ODA commitment. It uses science and innovation partnerships to improve the economic development and social welfare of 16 partner countries, including China. There is a total of £735 million available from the UK government for the fund’s duration to 2021. Partner countries contribute extra matched funding.

Further help and information

To find suitable domestic and overseas partners, please consider the following opportunities:

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

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

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