Funding competition Newton-Ungku Omar Fund Grand Challenge 2019: phase 1

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £1 million and Malaysian businesses a share of RM 5.5 million to collaborate on innovative solutions to large societal challenges.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, and the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) are working collaboratively under the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund. Together we will invest up to £2 million (RM 11 million) for innovative projects that provide collaborative solutions to the challenges of urban mobility and waste to wealth in Malaysia.

Innovate UK will fund the UK partners only and MIGHT will fund the Malaysian partners.

The overall programme will be delivered in 2 phases. This application process is for phase 1. Only successful applications from phase 1 will be able to take part in phase 2. Phase 2 will open 15 June 2020.

Phase 1 is for collaborative feasibility studies only. This is to help UK and Malaysian businesses investigate:

  • the interaction between their innovations
  • how feasible a joint demonstration project would be in responding to Malaysia’s mobility and waste to wealth challenges

During phase 2, your project must provide economical and sustainable solutions to be demonstrated in environments that represent real life operating conditions.

The competition closes at midday 12pm UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

In this phase, total eligible project costs for the UK part of the consortium can be up to £30,000 and total eligible project costs for the Malaysian part of the consortium can be up to RM 165,000.

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

Projects must start by 1 March 2020, end by 31 June 2020 and last no more than 3 months.

In this phase, total eligible project costs for the UK part of the consortium can be up to £30,000 and total eligible project costs for the Malaysian part of the consortium can be up to RM 165,000 (Text edit 9 July 2019: corrected Malaysian figure from RM 160,000 to RM 165,000).

Projects must contain at least one business from Malaysia and at least one business from the UK.

Because projects are bilateral, they must demonstrate equivalence in effort from the Malaysian and UK partners. Your project must have one common work plan with both the Malaysian and UK partners having main roles and responsibilities, equating to the equivalent time and costs accrued in both countries.

UK lead organisation

To lead the project in the UK your organisation must be a UK based business of any size and must comply with Official Development Assistance requirements throughout the lifetime of the project.

Malaysian lead organisation

To lead the project in Malaysia your organisation must be a Malaysia based business of any size that is registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia.

Project team

You can collaborate with the lead organisation if you are a UK or Malaysia based:

  • academic institution
  • charity
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

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 collaborate in up to 3 applications.

An academic institution, charity, public sector organisation or an RTO can collaborate on any number of applications.

Previous applications

Resubmissions (UK organisations)

You cannot use a resubmission to apply for this competition. A resubmission is a proposal Innovate UK judges as not materially different from one you have submitted before. It can be updated based on the assessors' feedback.

If you submit a new proposal this time you will be able to use it in no more than one future competition that allows resubmissions.

Failure to exploit (UK organisations)

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole organisation and were awarded funding by Innovate UK or UK Research and Innovation, but did not make a substantial effort to exploit that award, we will award no more funding to you, in this or any other competition. You will not be able to contest our decision. We will:

  • assess your efforts in the previous competition against your exploitation plan for that project
  • review the monitoring officers’ reports and any other relevant sources for evidence
  • document our decision, which will be made by 3 team members, and communicate it to you in writing

Previous projects (UK organisations)

Under the terms of Innovate UK funding, you are required to submit an independent accountant’s report (IAR) with your final claim. If you or any organisation in your consortium failed to submit an IAR on a previous project, we will not award funding to you in this or any other competition until we have received the documents.


Phase 1

A total of up to £200,000 in the UK and RM 1.1 million in Malaysia is allocated to fund up to 10 projects in phase 1.

For phase 1 we will only be supporting feasibility studies. In both the UK and Malaysia, 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

Phase 2

Phase 2 will focus on real life demonstrators. A total of up to £800,000 in the UK and RM 4.4 million in Malaysia is allocated to phase 2.

We plan to fund 4 projects of up to £350,000 total eligible costs in the UK and RM 1,165,000 total eligible costs in Malaysia.

In your consortium, each country’s research organisations can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If a country has more than one research organisation, this maximum is shared between them.

UK capital usage: only capital usage on equipment is eligible for funding through this competition. All materials must be directly related and essential to the goals of the project.

For the purposes of this competition, the stated exchange rate UK £ to Malaysian Ringgit is:

1 GBP = 5.5 MYR

This indicative exchange rate must be used in any calculations by applicants at all times during the competition process.

This competition provides state aid funding in the UK falling under article 25, ‘standard CR&D’, 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

We are looking for innovative products, processes and services that are at the stage where a pilot has already been developed in an industrial research setting.

This competition is providing a platform for UK and Malaysian businesses to collaborate on finding solutions to complex societal challenges that exist in Malaysia. They must focus on one of 2 challenges:

  1. Mobility.
  2. Waste to weath.

These challenges are described in more detail in the specific themes section.

Phase 1 provides the funding needed to help project teams understand the interactions between the innovations available in both the UK and Malaysia, and the feasibility of working together during phase 2. To help projects understand their end user requirements and what their demonstration project will look like, MIGHT will connect projects to the relevant demonstration providers.

During phase 2, successful phase 1 applicants will have the opportunity to pilot their solutions in environments that represent real life operating conditions in Malaysia. Those who provided solutions under the Mobility challenge will be able to demonstrate their innovations on a site provided by Prasarana, Malaysia’s leading public transportation company.

Due to the nature of the Waste to Wealth challenge, and the different solutions that can be provided, there will be a range of demonstration sites. Demonstration providers include:

Phase 1 should result in:

  • a clear plan for how the UK and Malaysian innovations could work together to provide a solution for the challenges outlined in this brief
  • a plan for how innovations from the UK and Malaysia will be demonstrated together
  • an understanding of the end user and the consumer needs in Malaysia
  • a results framework for the project on how it will positively affect the social and economic welfare of the Malaysian population, including how it will contribute to poverty reduction in a way which can reduce inequality between different genders within Malaysia
  • a clear idea of what a demonstration would look like for your project
  • definitions of the roles of both the UK and Malaysian partners during the demonstration phase
  • a the route to commercialisation and identification of any market barriers

We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of innovations and challenges.

Specific themes

Your project must focus on one of the following challenges:

Challenge 1: waste to wealth

On average Malaysia generates 42 million metric tonnes of municipal solid waste a year, 60% of which consists of food and plastic waste, a figure which continues to grow. In comparison the UK produces 30 million metric tonnes a year.

According to the Malaysian Housing and Local Government Ministry, in 2018 the waste separation and subsequent recycle rate was at 24% and the remaining 76% went to landfill. It costs the Malaysian government on average RM 2.4 billion (£437 million) annually to manage the waste. The effects of rapid urbanisation and subsequent rise in waste generation has serious implications on citizens’ health in both urban and rural areas as well as environmental degradation.

The challenges Malaysia faces in waste management and recycling include:

  • the huge amount of waste produced
  • lack of separation at source
  • the public’s negative perception of recycled goods

There are also opportunities:

  • introducing community recycling options
  • encouraging separation in households
  • recovering valuable resources in landfill

We are looking for solutions that build on these and create positive social, economic and environmental impact in Malaysia. We are looking for demonstrable innovations which are appropriate and scalable.

Your proposal must fit one or more of the following scope areas:

  1. Improving waste separation: municipal solid waste separation with a focus on plastic and food. This could include, but not be limited to: encouraging waste separation at source (households and industrial sites) and collection centres (such as community-led initiatives) and improving the efficiency of waste separation at source and/or facilities.
  2. Encouraging recycling: solutions that encourage recycling and/or upcycling at source and/or facilities. This could include, but not be limited to: innovative business models targeting citizen uptake and affordable technologies that make recycling more convenient.
  3. Changing public perception: improving the public’s perception of using secondary materials in the manufacture of new products and creating innovative business models and/or technologies that create increased value for recycled content in new products and/or direct by-products from food and plastic waste. This could include, but not be limited to, increasing the affordability of recycled products.
  4. Development of appropriate circular economy approaches for durable goods and products. This could include, but not be limited to, servitisation or ‘pay-per-use’ models.

Challenge 2: mobility

75% of Malaysia’s population now live in cities, which is 20% more than the global average. This is expected to rise to 80% by 2020. Road transportation accounts for about 85% of all transport-related CO2 emissions in Malaysia. Of that, the largest share of 59% comes from cars and 11% comes from motorcycles. This poses a challenge to liveability and quality of life.

Since 2015, the Malaysian government has committed RM 235.4 billion (£42.8 billion) of investment in rail for the next 15 years. However, according to the World Bank, taking into consideration the impact of money spent and committed, urban transportation remains the weakest component of Malaysia’s national transport system, particularly when compared to the connectivity between states and intercity.

Millions of Malaysian urban citizens are affected by daily road congestion, spending more than 250 million hours a year stuck in traffic, or about 20 days a year per person. It is clear that in the next decade, the largest improvements in transportation sustainability have to be made in the urban areas. There needs to be a shift away from personal cars and motorcycles to an increased usage of sustainable methods such as buses and commuter rail services.

We are looking for solutions that increase the use of public transport by improving the efficiency, accessibility and public perceptions of the services provided in Malaysian cities.

We are looking for demonstrable innovations which are appropriate and scalable to meet the needs of Malaysia’s public transport challenges. Proposals should fit one or more of the following scope areas:

  1. Improving service delivery. This could include, but is not limited to: increased ridership as a result of innovative business models, more convenient ticketing solutions and better provision of information to citizens (such as real time forecasting of bus or train arrivals).
  2. First and last-mile connectivity. This could include, but is not limited to: alternative modes of connecting people and communities to transit points and improving the commuter’s journey experience (such as weather-proofing or improved safety).
  3. Multi-modal transport connectivity. This could include, but is not limited to: solutions that bridge gaps between transit points, in particular e-hailing services, and enabling commuters to identify the best routes and transit.

Research categories

We will fund feasibility projects in phase 1, as defined in the general guidance.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding:

  • under the waste to wealth challenge, projects that do not focus on the municipal solid waste stream
  • under the waste to wealth challenge, projects that only focus on waste reduction
  • projects that do not meet Official Development Assistance (ODA) eligibility requirements.
  • projects that have negative environmental and social impacts.
  • projects that increase inequality between persons of different gender in Malaysia
  • projects that do not have an innovation at a live demonstration ready stage
  • projects that do not address one of the challenges outlined in this brief
8 July 2019
Competition opens
16 July 2019
Briefing recording and transcript.
25 July 2019
Urban mobility online brokerage event
26 July 2019
Waste to wealth online brokerage event
16 October 2019 12:00pm
Registration closes
23 October 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
15 June 2020
Phase 2 opens
15 July 2020
Phase 2 closes

Before you start

Before you apply you must read the guidance for applicants for this competition.

Background and further information

About Innovate UK

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is the UK’s innovation funding agency. As well as funding projects in the UK we help translate the UK’s innovation expertise into business solutions in lower and middle income countries.

We enable collaborative solutions to overseas socio-economic challenges. We do this by supporting companies 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 Malaysia’s markets present significant opportunities for innovative UK businesses and research organisations.


The Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department. MIGHT has a main role in developing Malaysia’s high technology for business through its work as a think-tank, building private-public consensus and creating business-nurturing platforms. It is an organisation built on the strength of public-private partnership with more than 80 members, both local and international, from industry, government and academia.

About the Newton Fund

The Newton Fund was established in 2014 to harness the best of the UK’s research and innovation expertise for positive development outcomes in middle income partner countries. It forms part of the UK government’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment.

The UK and partner countries commit matched funding and effort towards collaborative projects between UK businesses, research organisations and others.

As the Newton Fund forms part of the UK government’s Official Development Assistance under the International Development Act 2002, applicants must provide sufficient and clear justification of how their project meets ODA eligibility criteria, and that its impact on reducing gender inequality has been considered.

Newton Fund projects need to:

  • demonstrate that they are aiming to contribute to a reduction in poverty
  • aim to further sustainable development (development that is likely to generate lasting benefits for the population of the country to which it is provided) or improve the welfare of the population of Newton Fund countries

Under the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014, activities must also demonstrate that they are likely to contribute to reducing inequality between persons of different gender.

Extra help

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

If you want help to find a project partner in Malaysia, contact MIGHT at

A series of brokerage webinars will be run throughout July and August. Details and registration links will be provided shortly.

For UK partners, if you need more information, email us at or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 between 9am and 5:30pm, Monday to Friday.

For Malaysian partners, if you need more information, email us at

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