Funding competition Future flight challenge: discovery workshop, phase 1

A 2 day discovery workshop for successful applicants to refine, validate and collaborate on the challenge of Future Flight against 6 problem statements.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Future Flight Challenge (FFC) is a 4 year, £125 million Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) programme. Individuals and consortia can apply responding to 6 ‘problem statements’ challenging the aviation industry of the future.

The aim of the programme is to:

  • demonstrate innovative ways to enable greener flight in a publicly acceptable manner leading to reduced carbon footprint for aviation
  • investigate and create new services and ways to travel
  • increase mobility
  • improve connectivity
  • alleviate congestion

This is the first of 3 phases. Individuals can apply to attend a 2 day discovery workshop and work with other people and organisations from both within and outside of the aviation sector. No grant funding is available in this phase, but we will cover the costs to attend the event. Grant funding for projects will be available for future phases, when we will ask you to apply with a detailed project proposal.

You can apply for future phases of this competition even if you do not attend the discovery workshop.

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

Funding type


Project size

There is no funding for the discovery workshop. We expect each project in future phases to have total eligible costs between £5 million and £20 million.

Who can apply

State aid

Any UK business claiming funding in future phases of this competition 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.

Discovery workshop participants

You must:

  • be willing to engage in collaborative activities
  • be available to attend the discovery workshop on 4 to 5 Feb 2020 in Birmingham (venue to be announced in the next few weeks)
  • have an open, engaging, flexible, imaginative and creative outlook
  • be able to develop new and highly original innovative ideas
  • be able to work constructively with people of diverse disciplines

We are looking for people from a broad range of disciplines and backgrounds. We want to introduce people who may not normally work together and ensure there is a range of expertise to cover the scope of the challenge. We will also be considering equality, inclusion and the diversity of participants.

The discovery workshop is especially suited to individuals and organisations who:

  • can step outside their own area of expertise or interest
  • are driven
  • enjoy creative activity
  • can think innovatively

The 2 day event is an intensive setting where you will be expected to develop potentially new approaches with individuals and organisations that you may not have worked with previously.

Your organisation:

In this phase, we invite submissions from individuals from existing consortia or from organisations who believe they can play a role in addressing the Future Flight problem statements. Each application (whether single applicant or already part of a consortium) can send up to 2 people to this event.

In phases 2 and 3, you :

  • must be a UK registered business to lead a project
  • must work in collaboration with other UK businesses, RTOs, public sector organisations, research organisations or charities
  • must plan to carry out your project work in the UK
  • must intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • can include non-UK businesses in your consortium, however they will not be able to claim any grant funding in future phases.

RTOs, charities and public sector organisations cannot lead a project in future phases of FFC.

Multiple applications

In phase 1, any eligible organisation can lead on up to 3 applications and can collaborate in up to 5 applications in total.

Any one business can lead on or collaborate in up to 3 applications in phases 2 and 3. If you are not a business, there is no restriction on the number of applications you can collaborate in.


Up to £125 million is available to fund collaborative innovation projects in future phases.

Innovate UK will pay your residential and subsistence costs for the discovery workshop, excluding alcohol. You will pay your travel costs to and from the event.

You will not be paid for attending the discovery workshop or for the development of your proposal.

Any research organisations collaborating as part of a consortium in phases 2 and 3, may 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.

The future phases of this competition provides state aid funding under article 25 ‘Aid for R&D projects’, 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 Future Flight Challenge will develop and demonstrate integrated aviation systems enabling the introduction of new classes of electric and/or autonomous air vehicles. These could include drones, urban air mobility vehicles or electric regional aircraft.

Your submission must briefly describe your plans and ideas for all 3 phases of the competition.

This phase is for the selection of individuals to attend the discovery workshop, at which the participants will explore the challenges and form collaborations for the future phases.

In phase 2, approximately over a 12-month period, we expect your consortium to develop their projects further in detail.

In phase 3, approximately over a 2-year period, we expect your consortium to demonstrate real-life representative examples to address the problem statements and to be delivered by collaborating businesses including regulation, air traffic management, example customers, infrastructure, and societal engagement.

Specific themes

Your proposal must respond to one or more of the following problem statements suggested by the Future Flight Challenge:

Problem statement 1

The full range of drone applications is stifled by the absence of the physical and data infrastructures needed to exploit the potential of the global market.

Problem statement 2

Current air traffic management systems are not scalable. They will not cope with the change in volume of traffic, growing density, increasing diversity of airspace users and the demand for fully integrated, non-segregated airspace.

Problem statement 3

There are no clear technology, regulatory or operational paths between piloted and remotely piloted with visual line of sight (VLOS), and remotely piloted Beyond VLOS (BVLOS) and fully autonomous air vehicle operation. There is a need to develop the technologies to create these integrated systems while maintaining high levels of safety.

Problem statement 4

There is a need to move towards more electric flight by creating pathways between urban, sub-regional class vehicles, and larger aircraft, based on market driven technology.

Problem statement 5

There is a need to develop use cases and operational frameworks to enable public engagement and create market demand for the adoption of autonomous air vehicles.

Problem statement 6

There is no aviation innovation or development environment that will allow real-life demonstration and evaluation of the issues presented in the first 5 problem statements.

Your application should also cover one or more of the following specific areas:

  • digital and physical infrastructure
  • certification
  • hybrid electric and advance propulsion concept
  • societal impact especially public perception
  • AI, autonomy and situational awareness
  • modelling and simulation

Research categories

We expect to fund collaborative industrial research projects in future phases of this competition, as defined in the general guidance

Projects we will not fund

In future phases of Future Flight Challenge, we will not fund projects that only focus on:

  • aircraft technology development, such as ones with consortia made up entirely of aerospace manufacturers
  • are defence or space applications of autonomous and/or electric flight

30 September 2019
Competition opens
7 October 2019
Birmingham briefing event
13 November 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
17 December 2019 12:27pm
Applicants notified
4 February 2020
Workshop day 1
5 February 2020
Workshop day 2

Before you start

To find out more about this programme you can read

What we will ask you

The application is split into 2 sections:

1. Project details.

2. Application questions.

1. Project details

You must complete this section. In the project title field, write ‘Discovery workshop’. In the start date enter 4 Feb 2020. In the duration enter 1 month.


Describe your idea 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.


Describe how your idea fits the scope of the competition. If your idea 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. You will receive feedback from them for each one.

Do not include any links to other websites in your answers.

Question 1. Your response to the challenge

Please provide a compelling but concise, response to address one or more of the problem statements.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 2. Market, benefits and impact

Please provide a summary of the size and sector of the potential market, and how realistic it will be to work within it.

Describe the main benefits you expect your idea to generate, both inside and outside of the consortium, and say when these might be achieved.

What economic, social and environmental benefits do you expect your response to deliver, and when?

Your answer can be up to 250 words long.

Question 3. Costs and duration

How much will it cost and how long will it take to deliver what you have outlined in your response? Relate this to the expected costs if you were to apply for phases 2 and 3.

Include an estimate of the amount of funding needed for your proposal and why.

Your answer can be up to 200 words long.

Question 4. Expertise and interests

Give an overview of each organisations’ main activities.

How do you expect your organisations’ expertise and interests (and those of your consortium) to contribute to achieving the objectives of your response and the goals of FFC?

Your answer can be up to 200 words long.

Question 5. Collaboration

If you are already collaborating or are hoping to collaborate with others, which of the 6 problem statements would you like to work on and why?

You cannot work alone in future phases.

Your answer can be up to 200 words long

Question 6. Benefits to you and your organisation

What do you hope to gain from taking part in the discovery workshop?

Please tell us:

  • why you want your organisation or consortium to take part and what benefit you expect for it
  • how you will get the necessary authority to commit your organisation collaborate

Your answer can be up to 200 words long.

Question 7. Discovery workshop

Explain how you are suitable for the discovery workshop, showing that you:

  • can step outside your own area of expertise or interest
  • are driven
  • enjoy creative activity
  • can think innovatively

Explain how you will develop approaches with potentially new individuals and organisations that you may not know.

Your answer can be up to 200 words long.

Background and further information

Future Flight Challenge is a £125 million programme, part of Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Wave 3, announced in December 2018 as part of the Aerospace Sector Deal.

This programme will invest in developing demonstrators of:

  • new aircraft (such as drones and other electric aircraft)
  • new models of airspace management
  • new approaches to ground support infrastructure
  • new markets for aircraft in local areas

The programme will have 3 phases

  1. Discovery workshop.
  2. Project development.
  3. System demonstration.

Phases 2 and 3 will be open competitions for business-lead collaborations.

Discovery workshop

Taking part will be:

  • up to 2 people per application whether applying alone or in a consortium
  • up to 150 participants, who are expected to contribute fully and constructively
  • facilitators to help the participants achieve the objectives
  • facilitators to design the activities and schedule sessions
The discovery workshop objectives are to:

  • validate the scope of Future Flight Challenge
  • help participants to form a consortium to apply into future phases of this competition

If you want help to find partners, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network ,the Enterprise Europe Network or the Aerospace Technology Institute.

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.

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