Funding competition Future flight challenge phase 2: strand 2, development

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £30 million to develop integrated aviation systems and vehicle technologies that enable new classes of electric or autonomous air vehicles. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK will invest up to £30 million in innovation projects in phase 2 of the Future Flight Challenge. We will fund projects that develop integrated aviation systems and/or vehicle technologies that enable new classes of electric or autonomous air vehicles. Solutions should be able to be integrated into a mature operational environment, ensuring safe and reliable operation in flight and on the ground.

This is phase 2 of a 3-phase programme. In this phase, we are funding projects of between 6 months and up to 18 months duration.

This competition phase has 2 strands, this is strand 2.

Strand 2 encourages applications from larger consortia who wish to undertake significant and ambitious projects that strive to integrate technologies and systems.

Strand 1, the “fast track” strand encourages applications from smaller businesses and organisations who may not work within the aerospace / aviation sector.

We plan to open phase 3 of this programme in winter 2021 when we will invite projects, including those who are not part of phase 2, to demonstrate an integrated 'system of systems' approach to the operation of new air vehicles in non-segregated airspace.

For this competition, phase 2, strand 2, your proposal should describe routes into phase 3 and how you would work with other consortia.

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 £500,000 and £10 million

Who can apply

State aid

Any UK registered business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time we confirm you will be awarded grant funding. It is not possible to award grant funding to organisations meeting the condition known as undertakings in difficulty. If you are unsure please take legal advice. For further information see our general guidance on state aid.

Your project

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £500,000 and £10 million.

In addition to the match funding, projects must also state in their application:

  • how much follow-on investment is expected in the 24 months after project completion
  • and how this will be reported to Innovate UK.

All projects must end by 30 March 2022. Projects can last between 6 months and 18 months.

If your project’s total eligible costs or duration falls outside of our eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to at least 10 working days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request.

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

The lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must:

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. They must be entered into an appendix to question 10 and not into the finance summary in your application.

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition. Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the European Economic Area (EEA). We would expect subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs.

Multiple applications

Any one business can lead on up to 2 applications and collaborate in up to 3 further applications across the 2 strands.

If a business is not leading an application, they can collaborate in up to 5 applications across the 2 strands.

Research organisations can collaborate on any number of applications.

Previous applications


You can 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

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 £30 million across the 2 strands to fund innovation projects in this phase 2 competition.

If your organisation is primarily engaged in commercial or economic activity (known as selective advantage) as part of the project you must ensure your request for funding does not exceed the limits defined below. This includes organisations that typically act non-economically but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

For industrial research and feasibility projects you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • 60% if you are a medium-sized organisation
  • 50% if you are a large organisation

The research organisations in your consortium undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can claim up to 100% of their total eligible project costs and share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs.

Research organisations undertaking economic activity follow the rules for businesses above.

If you are in a collaboration, total project grant funding must not exceed 50% of your total eligible project costs. This is regardless of the individual partners’ grant claims.

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘Aid for research and development 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 aim of the competition is to 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.

A ‘system of systems’ approach is required to address the interdependencies between vehicles, the airspace and the broader infrastructure of aviation, including operators, service providers and end users. Projects are expected to address the integration challenges of new air vehicles, and by default their innovative capabilities, for example, autonomy into the aviation system. The aviation system is the operational framework into which air vehicles fly in and out of airports, airspace, rural and urban environments.

Projects are sought in the following areas:

  1. Development. The development of a system of capabilities which will lead to a specific use case demonstration. This demonstration can be within the timescales of phase 2 or could require further activity to develop and demonstrate in phase 3. In either case, we will require a roadmap for your proposed activities in both phases.
  2. Enabling. Development of enabling systems of capabilities that could be used nationally, aiding UK registered businesses collectively to accelerate commercialisation whilst influencing international regulatory developments. We are particularly interested in the development of national capabilities in

  • networks of test facilities
  • data infrastructure
  • aviation system simulations or “digital twins”

We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, technological maturities and research categories. Priorities would be given to:

  • projects with multiple partners across multiple sectors and disciplines
  • micro and small SMEs, especially first-time applicants and from businesses outside the aerospace sector

Knowledge sharing

You must participate in a biannual knowledge transfer workshop (organised by Innovate UK). There you will openly share insights and progress with other projects funded by this competition, in the interests of UK industry. You should not disclose any commercial sensitive information or any material that would put your intellectual property (IP) at risk.

Specific themes

For development projects, you can focus one or more of the following but will ideally take a system of systems approach covering several of:

  • air traffic management (ATM) and unmanned traffic management (UTM) systems
  • both physical and digital infrastructure to support future flight objectives
  • autonomy
  • digital and communications systems
  • new business models
  • public acceptance
  • transport integration
  • vehicle technologies enabling integration to the new aviation systems
  • simulation
  • non-aerospace regulation
  • viable, challenging, use cases
  • total security systems

This is not an exhaustive list. Projects not on this list but which can address the Future Flight Challenge objectives may also be considered in scope.

Research categories

We will fund collaborative feasibility studies and industrial research projects, as defined in the general guidance.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding:

  • projects which only focus on aircraft technology development, such as ones with consortia made up entirely of aerospace manufacturers
  • applications solely focused on defence or space applications of autonomous and/or electric flight
  • fundamental research or experimental development projects

11 May 2020
Competition opens
19 May 2020
Online briefing event: View Recording
1 July 2020 12:00pm
Competition closes
3 August 2020
Invite to interview
11 August 2020
Interview panel
12 August 2020

Interview panel

13 August 2020
Interview panel
14 August 2020
Interview panel
28 August 2020 3:31pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

You may also want to familiarise yourself with the ISCF programme.


If your online application is successful and your total eligible project costs are over £5 million, you will be invited to attend an interview. If your application is successful and your funding request is below £5 million, we may still invite you to attend an interview.

See the dates section for potential interview dates. If you decline or fail to attend the interview without valid reasons, it will impact our decision to award funding to you.

Interviews will take place in a location to be determined closer to the time. You are expected to attend in person and will not be able to attend via webinar If we are still being affected by COVID-19 they will be conducted using video link if deemed appropriate at the time.

Preparing for the interview

You will be asked to give a presentation during your interview.

Before the interview, by the deadline stated in the invitation email (typically one week before the stated interview dates), you:

  • must send a list of who will attend the interview
  • must send your interview presentation slides
  • can send a written response to the assessors’ feedback

After your presentation, the panel will ask you questions. You will be expected to answer based on your application form and the assessor feedback from the written stage. You cannot provide additional material at the interview.

List of attendees

Agree the list with your consortium. Up to 6 people from your project can attend, ideally one person from each organisation. They must all be available on all published interview dates. We are unable to reschedule slots once allocated.

Presentation slides

Your interview presentation must:

  • use Microsoft PowerPoint
  • be no more than 20 slides or 20 minutes in length
  • not include any video or embedded web links

You will be notified of the interview format with your invitation. You cannot change the presentation after you submit it.

Written response to assessor feedback

This is optional and is an opportunity to answer the assessors’ concerns. It can:

  • be up to 5 A4 pages in a single PDF or Word document
  • include charts or diagrams


After your presentation the panel will spend up to 30 minutes asking questions. You will be expected to answer based on the information you provided in your application form, presentation and the response to feedback.

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. Is the application a resubmission?

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

Project summary

Describe your project 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.

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. If we don’t award your project funding, we may still share this with relevant third parties.

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

Your answer to questions 1 to 10 can be up to 600 words long. Do not include any website links in your answers.

Question 1. Need or challenge

What is the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity behind your innovation?

Describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • the nearest current state-of-the-art, including those near market or in development, and its limitations
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project focuses on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations, using our Horizons tool if appropriate.

Question 2. Approach and innovation

What approach will you take and where will the focus of the innovation be?

Describe or explain:

  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • whether the innovation will focus on the application of existing technologies in new areas, the development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
  • how it will make you more competitive
  • the nature of the outputs you expect from the project (for example report, demonstrator, know-how, new process, product or service design) and how these will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified

You must submit one appendix to support your answer. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF and can be up to 5 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 3. Team and resources

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?

Describe or explain:

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

You must submit one appendix describing the skills and experience of the main people working on the project to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 5 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4. Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

Describe or explain:

  • the markets (domestic, international or both) you will be targeting in the project and any other potential markets
  • the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by references where available
  • the structure and dynamics of the target markets, including customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
  • the target markets’ main supply or value chains and business models, and any barriers to entry that exist
  • the current UK position in targeting these markets
  • the size and main features of any other markets not already listed

If your project is highly innovative, where the market may be unexplored, describe or explain:

  • what the market’s size might to be
  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential

Question 5. Outcomes and route to market

How are you going to grow your business and increase your productivity into the long term as a result of the project?

Describe or explain:

  • your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • your target customers or end users, and the value to them, for example why they would use or buy your product
  • your route to market
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation, including increased revenues or cost reduction
  • how the innovation will affect your productivity and growth, in both the short and the long term
  • how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, patenting, designs or changes to your business model
  • your strategy for targeting the other markets you have identified during or after the project

If there is any research organisation activity in the project, describe:

  • your plans to spread the project’s research outputs over a reasonable timescale
  • how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities

Question 6. Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Describe, and where possible measure the economic benefits from the project such as productivity increases and import substitution, to::

  • external parties
  • customers
  • others in the supply chain
  • broader industry
  • the UK economy

Describe and where possible, measure:

  • any expected impact on government priorities
  • any expected environmental impacts, either positive or negative
  • any expected regional impacts of the project

Describe any expected social impacts, either positive or negative on, for example:

  • quality of life
  • social inclusion or exclusion
  • jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
  • education
  • public empowerment
  • health and safety
  • regulations
  • diversity

Question 7. Project management

How will you manage the project effectively?

Describe or explain:

  • 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 and innovative project outcome
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones

You must submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 5 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 8. Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

Describe or explain:

  • 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, data sets
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how you will manage this

You must submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 5 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9. Added value

What impact would an injection of public funding have on the businesses involved?

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 R&D activity the partners would undertake, and the 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?

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
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project
  • any costs from non-UK partners

You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 5 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

3. Finances

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

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

Extra help

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.

Enterprise Europe Network

If you are a UK SME and successful in receiving an award, you will be contacted by your local Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) Innovation Advisor. They act on behalf of Innovate UK to discuss the growth opportunities for your business.

They offer bespoke business support services to help you maximise your project and business potential. This service forms part of your Innovate UK offer under our commitment to help UK SMEs grow and scale.

Please engage positively with your EEN contact so that, working together, you can determine the most appropriate form of growth support for your business.

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