Funding competition ISCF decarbonisation of industrial clusters: roadmaps

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £1 million to prepare plans for their journey to achieving low carbon and net zero industrial clusters. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, is seeking to invest up to £1 million, split across 2 competition strands, to support collaborative projects to plan their route to cluster decarbonisation as part of the Industrial Decarbonisation challenge of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

This is the first phase of a 2-phase competition.

In phase 1 you must develop a plan setting out your proposed approach to phase 2.

In phase 2 up to £8 million will be awarded for the development of industrial cluster decarbonisation roadmaps for major UK industrial clusters. These must set out how a cluster could be decarbonised to net-zero levels, in line with the Industrial Clusters Mission.

Phase 2 is dependent on the success of phase 1. Only successful applicants from phase 1 will be invited to take part in phase 2.

We are running a separate deployment strand at the same time as this one. It is focused on projects to deliver or support the delivery of significant emissions reductions in industrial clusters.

You can apply for both strands. There will be additional funding for each strand in phase 2.

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

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £40,000 and £120,000.

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’s total eligible costs must be between £40,000 and £120,000.

We encourage you to collaborate with other organisations. Your organisation can apply alone, but must demonstrate how it will collaborate within a cluster.

We want projects to start as soon as possible and can last between 3 and 4 months, however, we require projects to finish no later than 31 July 2020.

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

Project team (where applicable)

To collaborate with the lead organisation your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size, a research organisation, public sector organisation, charity or academic institution
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • be invited to take part by the lead applicant to submit your project costs into the Innovation Funding Service

The lead organisation and one or more other organisations must claim funding.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.

Multiple applications

Any one business or research organisation can lead on one application and collaborate on any number of further applications.

If a business or research organisation is not leading an application, it can collaborate on any number of applications.

You can submit an application to one or both of the strands of this competition.

Previous applications


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've 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

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

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.


We have allocated up to £1 million to fund innovation projects in phase 1 of this competition across both strands.

Organisations that are primarily engaged in commercial/economic activity (i.e. selective advantage) as part of the project must ensure their request for funding does not exceed the limits defined below. This is inclusive of organisations that typically act non-economically but for the purpose of this project with be undertaking commercial/economic activity.

These projects are categorised as feasibility study projects, therefore you could receive 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

The academic, research and public sector organisations in your consortium can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research or public sector organisation, this maximum is shared between them.

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘standard collaborative research and development’, 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

Your proposal must explain how in phase 1 you will develop a plan setting out your proposed approach to phase 2. This phase 1 proposal must:

  • demonstrate how you will develop and apply the systems thinking, capability, tools and evidence required to identify and assess technical, economic, environmental and social needs and impacts in your cluster decarbonisation roadmap
  • demonstrate how you will work with a variety of industries and stakeholders across the cluster
  • demonstrate how you will develop methodologies to assess, and evidence on, the feasibility, costs, benefits, requirements and risks of different 2030 decarbonisation and 2040 net-zero options for UK industrial clusters
  • demonstrate how you will allow for the importance of replicable solutions
  • demonstrate how you will consider wider cross-economy decarbonisation choices and scenarios as part of your roadmap
We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of industrial cluster locations, organisations, and approaches.

Research categories

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

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding solutions that do not align with the ISCF Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge programme objectives or BEIS Industrial Clusters mission.
28 October 2019
Competition opens
29 October 2019
Online briefing event
7 November 2019
Online briefing event: recording
4 December 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
13 January 2020 11:02am
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the general guidance for applicants before you start.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.
  3. Finances.

1. Project details

This section sets the scene for the assessors and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you on the project. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly and how your project will benefit decarbonisation within your industrial cluster?

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.


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. You will receive feedback from them for each one.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers.

Question 1. Project description

Which industrial cluster will you focus on?


  • your cluster’s location, industries and characteristics
  • your cluster’s resources, challenges and strategic needs
  • how you will address these needs through your project

Question 2. Approach to development of an industrial cluster roadmap

What approach will you take to the development of a roadmap for your industrial cluster?


  • your approach, indicating any critical assumptions, methodologies, and expected outputs and outcomes
  • the scenarios and phasing of carbon reductions
  • the baseline data that you would use to assist in evidencing a successful project

Question 3. Project challenges and opportunities

What are the strategic challenges and opportunities that you intend to develop in the roadmap?


  • the opportunities within your cluster
  • the internal and external challenges and risks for your cluster
  • the economic, environmental, social and societal benefits from the project to the UK
  • how will you develop these opportunities through your project
  • how your project aligns with the Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge objectives

Question 4. Outcomes and impacts

What impact will your roadmap have by the early 2020s?


  • how you will maximise the impact of your project.
  • the economic, environmental, social and societal benefits
  • how you plan to support wider decarbonisation in the UK
  • the impact your roadmap will have on UK government and other public priorities
  • any regional impacts
  • any impacts on other clusters

Question 5. Evidence and capabilities

What evidence will you be developing?


  • the evidence, capabilities and plans you will develop through this project
  • how you will monitor and evaluate progress and impact against your described approach and timeframes, including movement from any baseline data

Question 6. Team and resources

What roles, resources and capabilities are needed to deliver this project?


  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • the details of any external parties, including sub-contractors, you will need to work with to carry out the project
  • the resources, datasets, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them

Question 7. Project management

How will you manage the project effectively?


  • 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 you will use to get a successful project outcome
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones
  • how you will close down the project

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 1 A4 page long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 8. Risks and risk management

What are the main risks for this project and how will you mitigate these?


  • 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 or access to external data
  • any output likely to be affected by regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues etc, and how you will 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 1 A4 page long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9. Added value

What impact would an injection of public funding have on the industrial cluster?

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 a faster route to market, more partners or reduced risk
  • the likely impact of the project on the businesses 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 activities the partners would undertake, for example in phase 2 of this competition

Question 10. Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money?

Describe or explain:

  • the total eligible project costs and the grant you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how each partner will finance their contributions to the project
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners and across work packages
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for your team and the taxpayer
  • any additional resources that are not included in the finance table, such as access to data

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academic institutions 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

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network by emailing

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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