Funding competition Materials and manufacturing round 3

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £15 million to work on innovation projects in manufacturing and/or materials

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK is to invest up to £15 million in innovation projects in manufacturing and/or materials. We will look to fund projects that focus on identified technical or commercial challenges. These should lead to increased productivity, competitiveness and growth for UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

We expect projects to range in size from total project costs of £50,000 to £2 million. Projects should last between 6 months and 3 years.

Projects must involve at least one SME, working alone or in collaboration with other organisations. Projects longer than 12 months or with costs of £100,000 or more, must be collaborative with other grant claiming partners.

Funding type


Project size

£50,000 to £2 million

Project costs of up to £100,000

If you are an SME and expect your eligible project costs to be up to £100,000 and the project to last no longer than 12 months, you may run the project on your own. You may also work with other businesses or research organisations.

Project costs of £100,000 or above

If you expect your eligible project costs to be more than £100,000 or the project to last longer than 12 months, you must work with other organisations. At least one of these must be an SME.

We expect projects to last 6 months to 3 years. We expect them to range in size from total costs of £50,000 to £2 million. This will depend on the type of research activity you are carrying out. Please contact us at least 10 days before the submission deadline to discuss further, if your project falls outside this range.


To be eligible you must:

  • be a UK-based business or research and technology organisation (RTO) working within the limits provided in the general guidance for applicants.
  • carry out your project work, and intend to exploit the results, in the UK
  • be an SME if you wish to work alone on a project no longer than 12 months and with costs of less than £100,000
  • work in collaboration with other grant claiming partners (businesses, research base and/or third sector), if your project has costs over £100,000 and/or is longer than 12 months
For all research organisations, the total level of project participation is set at a maximum of 30% of total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum will be shared between them.

Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs)

RTOs may lead a project providing:

  • they are able to articulate clearly why the RTO and not one of the business participants, should lead the project
  • they collaborate in the project with at least 2 or more businesses (one must be an SME)
  • their involvement is no greater than 30% of the total eligible project costs
  • the project shows a compelling route to market, most likely through the non-lead partners

Non grant partners

Projects may include non-grant-receiving partners (for example, non-UK businesses), but they will not count as collaborators for projects with costs over £100,000. There have to be 2 grant-claiming partners.

Multiple applications and resubmissions

In addition, businesses can only:

  • lead 1 project per competition
  • be involved in up to 3 applications to this competition but may only be the lead in 1
  • apply twice with the same project to any competition, that means 1 re-submission only
If an RTO is not the lead on any application, they can be a partner in any number of applications.
Research organisations can be partners in as many applications as they wish. This includes academics.

Projects that we won't fund

In this competition, we are not funding:

  • product or prototype development where the main innovation, challenge or risk is not in the manufacturing process or materials
  • projects that apply existing and well-known manufacturing processes to develop a new product, without significant innovation challenges in the processes themselves
  • projects that involve choosing a suitable material for a product from a library of known materials, where there is no further significant technical development of the material or innovation in the manufacturing process

For example, the following projects would be in scope:

  • a project focused on developing new material properties for a sensor or probe to allow it to operate in a harsh environment
  • a project using sensor data to optimise a manufacturing process (for example, in a factory or refinery)

But a project developing a new sensor or probe, without a focus on manufacturing or materials challenges, would not be in scope.

Funding and project details

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

This is divided up as:

  • up to £5 million for projects lasting up to 1 year
  • up to £5 million for projects lasting up to 2 years
  • up to £5 million for projects lasting up to 3 years

All projects must involve at least one SME. A business or RTO must lead the project

Project types

Your project may focus on technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development. This will depend on the challenge.

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

  • up to 70% of your eligible project costs 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

For experimental development projects that are nearer to market, you could receive:

  • up to 45% of your eligible project costs if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 25% if you are a large business

Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

Competition scope

The aim of this competition is to stimulate and broaden innovation in manufacturing and materials. Innovate UK will fund a range of projects that address identified technical or commercial challenges.

Projects should increase productivity, competitiveness and growth for UK businesses, especially SMEs.

A project may focus on technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development. The categorisation will depend on the type of challenge being addressed.

Innovation is required to grow UK manufacturing productivity, increase material efficiency and sustain our competitiveness in the long term.

For example, this may be achieved by:

  • developing more flexible and efficient processes
  • developing processes that enable faster and greater customisation of products to satisfy consumer demands
  • developing materials for ease of manufacture
  • addressing the manufacturing readiness of growing sectors
  • developing materials for targeted performance specifications
  • diversifying product and service lines to address new markets
  • developing novel services and/or business models, that open up new sources of revenue from manufacturing

A project must cover at least one, from either of the following areas:

  • innovation in a manufacturing system, technology, process or business model. For example, in process engineering, additive manufacturing, industrial biotechnology, mechanical conversion processes, coatings, surface engineering, textiles, supply chain management, new product introduction processes or re-manufacture, or application of digital technology to manufacturing approach
  • innovation in materials development, properties, integration or reuse. For example, materials for light-weighting, energy generation and storage (heat and electricity), electronics/sensors, bonding and joining technologies, or operation in demanding environments. Also, the use of digital technologies to reduce time for material development, evaluation and assurance

For this competition, materials include but are not limited to:

  • nano-materials
  • ceramics
  • metals and inter-metallics
  • polymers
  • composites
  • coatings
  • smart materials
  • joining of dissimilar materials

You must show how your proposal will enable a step change in competitiveness and productivity for at least one UK SME involved in the project.

Your project must focus on a manufacturing or materials innovation, rather than a product innovation. This means the main challenge and risk in the project will be in the manufacturing process or materials development.

An element of production innovation could be in scope. For example, a process or materials innovation could depend on a product innovation (such as a tool or piece of equipment). The main purpose of that product innovation would be to enable the manufacturing process or materials innovation.

We encourage projects for manufacturing and/or materials innovations with the potential to impact on more than one application sector.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

As part of this competition, we also welcome applications for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs). For further information please see the guidance for KTPs

For KTPs we are accepting applications across all disciplines and applications within materials and manufacturing which drive productivity and growth.

KTP applicants are subject to the same application deadline. Interested parties should contact the relevant KTP Adviser for more details.

8 May 2017
Watch the recorded briefing event for applicants
8 May 2017
Competition opens
13 July 2017 12:00pm
Competition closes
7 December 2017 9:28am
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, 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 (for Urban Living proposals), 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 time frames
  • 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 for each organisation in your project. There are some types of cost which are not eligible. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance (this link opens in a new window.)

Each organisation participating in your project must enter their own project costs. Detailed costs are confidential to each organisation. All participants will be able to see a summary of all partners costs.

Background and further information

All industrial sectors rely on manufactured products, materials and associated services. The UK ranks as the 9th-largest producer in the world (output of US$247 billion). It accounts for 3% of global manufacturing output. Manufacturing accounts for 11% of UK GVA (gross value added). It represents 50% of exports and 69% of business research and development.

The manufacturing process and the materials used can be sources of competitive advantage. New manufacturing technologies or new materials can enable new types of products or service. This can drive productivity and profitability by increasing output or reducing inputs required. This competition is seeking to support manufacturing and materials as enablers of product innovation.

The High Value Manufacturing Catapult is the catalyst for the growth and success of UK advanced manufacturing. It helps industry speed up the journey from technology concept to commercialisation. The 7 Catapult Centres work with companies of all sizes and sectors. They offer open access to industrial-scale cutting-edge equipment, expertise and collaborative opportunities.

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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