Funding competition Emerging and enabling round 3

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £25 million to develop innovative solutions to challenges in emerging and enabling technologies.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK will invest up to £25 million in innovation projects that inspire new products and services.

The aim of this competition is to help UK businesses broaden their innovation activities, disrupt existing markets and find new revenue sources.

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

  • emerging technologies
  • digital
  • enabling capabilities
  • space applications

Projects will range in size from total project costs of £35,000 to £2 million. Projects must last between 3 months and 3 years.

There is funding available of up to:

  • £5 million for projects that have eligible costs of up to £100,000 and last between 3 and 12 months
  • £10 million for projects that have eligible costs of up to £2 million and last between 1 and 3 years
  • £10 million for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs)

Funding type


Project size

Projects’ total costs should be between £35,000 and £2 million.

Find out if you are eligible to apply

To be eligible for funding you must:

  • be a UK based business, academic or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from the UK

All projects must involve an SME, and only an SME can lead projects below £100,000.

Any one business or RTO may lead on one application and partner in a further 2 applications.

If an RTO is:

  • the lead on an application they must have 2 business collaborators (one SME, and one other business of any size)
  • not the lead on any application, they can be a partner in any number of applications

Academics cannot lead on an application but can be a collaborator in any number of applications.

If an application is unsuccessful, you can use the feedback received to apply once more to have the same project funded (in other words, you can make a maximum of 2 applications in total for any project). This can be into another round of this competition or another competition.

If Innovate UK judges that your project is not materially different from a project you have submitted before, it will be classed as a resubmission.

When Innovate UK assesses whether a project is in scope, we will use the terms and definitions laid out in the ‘Scope’ section.

The research organisations in your consortium may share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

Funding is also available for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs). We particularly welcome KTPs that cover the specific competition themes.

Projects that we won’t fund

We will not fund:

Funding and project details

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

All projects in this competition must involve an SME.

Projects with costs:

  • under £100,000 can be single or collaborative but must be led by an SME
  • over £100,000 must be collaborative and involve an SME

We have also allocated up to £10 million for KTPs.

Project types

Your project may focus on technical feasibility (including human centred design studies), industrial research or experimental development.

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

  • 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 receive:

  • 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 whether your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

For more information on the research categories and eligibility, read the general guidance for applicants.

Competition scope

Our emerging and enabling technologies programme has 4 priority areas, which are:

  1. Emerging technologies.
  2. Digital.
  3. Enabling capabilities, including electronics, sensors and photonics (ESP), robotics and autonomous systems (RAS), creative economy and design.
  4. Space applications.

The aim of this competition is to help businesses to innovate in order to find sources of revenue from new products, processes or services.

To be considered, proposals must:

  • show significant innovation in one of our priority areas (described further in the ‘Specific competition themes’ section)
  • have outputs that can be applied in more than one industry, sector or market
  • improve business growth or productivity, or create export opportunities for at least one UK SME involved in the project

Where possible, all projects should take customer or user needs into account. Projects costing more than £500,000 and lasting two years or longer: if these projects do not demonstrate an understanding of the customer or user needs, they must include this as a human-centred design element within the first six months of the project.

To carry out human-centred design you should:

  • investigate the needs of important stakeholders (such as potential customers, end users, investors or delivery partners)
  • use that research to agree on the criteria for measuring success
  • explore and test possible solutions to the needs of the stakeholders, and agree on the best investment-ready idea

Where applicable, please consider the cybersecurity implications in your proposal.

We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across different technologies, different markets and different technology maturities. These may include technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

As part of this competition, we welcome applications for KTPs. Read our guidance to understand the benefit of KTPs and how they work.

We will accept applications for KTPs in all disciplines and applications that can be considered to be emerging or enabling technologies. That includes applications beyond the defined scope of this specific competition.

If you are applying for a KTP, you are subject to the same deadline but must follow a different process. Contact your local KTP adviser to learn more and find out how to apply.

Specific competition themes

Choose one priority area for your innovation. There are 4 themes for this competition.

1. Emerging technologies

An emerging technology is one that is still developing from, or has only recently developed from, the research base. It allows you to do something that was impossible or only theoretical before. That means it disrupts existing markets and gives us new ways to improve our lives and generate wealth.

Your project must lead to a significant change in business performance and bring a totally new technology to market. We are particularly eager to fund projects in:

  • biofilms: advancing the understanding of biofilm management, control or exploitation, or applying biofilm to novel industrial applications
  • energy harvesting: scavenging energy from external sources for small portable devices. (We will not fund energy efficient products, applications that use harvested energy or utility scale energy production in this competition)
  • graphene: seeking to develop and exploit the principal properties of graphene and its utility (not simply screening graphene against numerous other materials)
  • cutting-edge imaging: technologies not in commercial use (not new applications of existing technology)

2. Digital

You must demonstrate a significant development in, or use of, one or more of the following technologies:

  • machine learning and AI
  • cybersecurity
  • data analytics or ‘big data’
  • distributed ledger technology, such as blockchain
  • the internet of things
  • immersive media, such as virtual or augmented reality
  • 5G: innovative applications and services using enhanced mobile broadband, ultra-reliability, low latency or massive machine type communications

3. Enabling capabilities

Electronics, sensors and photonics (ESP)

You must propose an innovative project from across the range of ESP technologies, including:

  • electronic systems
  • large area electronics
  • power electronics
  • sensor and sensor systems
  • photonics
  • compound semiconductors

Robotics and autonomous systems

We are looking for proposals that provide significant improvements on system abilities in:

  • robotics for professional or personal service applications
  • robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) for inspection and maintenance
  • health and social care, including assistive technologies, patient care and robotic surgery
  • next generation farming
  • next generation and SME manufacturing
  • autonomous transport, including automotive, aerospace and rail applications
  • AI technologies for autonomous systems

Creative economy

We are looking for innovative projects that provide a significant improvement in efficiency or user experience in the creative industries.

4. Space applications

We are looking for innovations in commercially exploitable applications of satellite data or signals. We welcome applicants from all specialisms. Innovations must involve, or relate to, the use of one or more of the following technologies:

  • satellite communications. These must be new services or applications that use satellite communications infrastructure or innovations related to the ground segment and user terminals. One area of interest is in innovations that will strengthen satellite industry links with other telecommunications sectors, including 5G
  • satellite positioning, navigation and timing. These must be new services or applications that use GNSS (global navigation satellite system). We are also interested in innovations that address the challenges of a disruption to GNSS (technologies that protect systems using GNSS against its loss are regarded as eligible)
  • earth observation. These must be new services or applications using existing satellite infrastructure or technology that directly links to the provision of new commercial services
Projects that include development of new satellite instruments or hardware are eligible so long as they have a clear path to exploitation as part of a service or application that uses satellite data or signals.

Eligible technology definitions

Where applicable you must follow Innovate UK’s definitions for the following technologies:

Emerging technologies

For the purposes of this competition an emerging technology project should not be a new application of a widely adopted technology. It should be in a relatively undeveloped area of technology, but where the technology has the potential to create whole new categories of products or service sectors with significant potential for the growth of the UK economy.

Novel single-layer (2D) materials Single sheets of one or fewer atomic layers thick, or stacks of such sheets, which have properties that are different from the bulk.

Energy harvesting A means of providing a small amount of power for low-energy electronics. This can be by scavenging low-grade, ambient energy sources such as environmental vibrations, human power, thermal and solar energy, and converting them into useable electrical energy. Energy harvesting devices have the potential to replace primary batteries in low-power electronic systems or to charge rechargeable batteries.

Internet of Things (IoT) Where connected online objects share their data and information in order to help make smarter decisions for the benefit of humans. IoT technologies may include sensors, networks, software platforms, analytics and apps. However, they must:

  • focus on a primary sector or industry
  • solve a current problem in one market or technology

Distributed ledger technology (DLT)

A shared and decentralised database that has data mutually agreed upon through consensus. One application of this is blockchain, where a time-stamped and integrity-checked record is added sequentially and linked to previous transactions.

Cyber security The protection of data, programs, computers and networks from attacks, damage to hardware and software, or unauthorised access.

5G projects

These can be feasibility studies or industrial research projects. They should focus on 5G use cases and the user experience of 5G applications and services. This will involve considering the utility, usability and desirability of such applications and services, as well as issues such as security and privacy.

Projects may be related to the Internet of Things, the tactile internet, mission-critical applications, new handset services, new mobile applications, connected media or broadcast services, immersive content, or content distribution. However, the scope of this competition is deliberately broad to capture your imagination, and this list should not be considered exhaustive.

If a feasibility study, your project must include the analysis and evaluation of the potential of these applications and services. You must objectively assess their prospects for success under various configurations and conditions, as well as identifying the resources required to carry them through to market.

Industrial research projects may be underpinned by a 5G test network, an augmented 4G or other wireless network, or a simulated environment.

Projects may combine a feasibility study and industrial research. Mobile device investigations are allowed, provided that they are related to the application or the service.

Robotics systems

These are machines (or cyber-physical systems) that are capable of carrying out actions or tasks (usually dull, dirty or dangerous) on behalf of humans. They can be remotely controlled, automated or autonomous.

Autonomous systems

These are systems that are capable of achieving goals or objectives by conforming to a set of rules or laws. These laws define or constrain their behaviour, without explicit execution rules. This means they have “decisional” autonomy and demonstrate emergent behaviour employing AI technologies. They may be either cyber or cyber-physical.

Creative industries

The nine sectors in the creative industries are:

  • advertising and marketing
  • architecture
  • crafts
  • design: product, graphic and fashion
  • film, TV, video, radio and photography
  • computer games and services
  • publishing
  • museums, galleries and libraries
  • music, performing and visual arts
5 September 2017
Competition opens
12 September 2017
Briefing event in London. Watch the recording
13 September 2017
Brokerage event in Cardiff
14 September 2017
Venturefest: brokerage event in Manchester
19 September 2017
Brokerage event in Belfast
19 September 2017
Brokerage event in Sheffield
21 September 2017
Brokerage event in Glasgow
21 September 2017
Brokerage event in Exeter
28 September 2017
Funding webinar.
8 November 2017 12:00pm
Competition closes
26 January 2018 3:10pm
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 (RTOs) may also lead a collaborative project subject to the eligibility criteria and rules.

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 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, 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 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

3. Finances

The finances section asks each organisation to complete 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 government’s emerging technologies and industries strategy aims to provide investment to help companies explore the potential of transformative early-stage technologies in their particular markets. The strategy aims to disrupt markets and bring the potential for significant commercial results. This includes where small early investments are followed by increased financial and wider support.

Enabling technologies or capabilities have the potential to make a difference in many sectors. Yet they can be slow to spread through target industries. They need support and tailoring to realise that potential. The emerging and enabling technologies programme brings together technology and end users to enhance productivity and efficiency across the UK economy. The programme provides opportunities for innovative companies to develop and use multiple technologies. Applications include disrupting markets and finding new sales routes. This could be through well-established systems integrators and manufacturers.

The emerging and enabling technologies sector group supports the Digital Catapult and Satellite Application and is establishing a new Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult in Wales. Companies wishing to access the available equipment and expertise are invited to partner with the Catapults in this competition.

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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