Funding competition Robotics for a more resilient future feasibility strand

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £6 million in grant funding for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

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Competition sections

Description

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £6 million to support R&D projects to advance or develop solutions in service robotics for a more resilient future.

The aim is to encourage R&D investment in service robotics capabilities made in the UK.

The vision for the ISCF Robotics & Artificial Intelligence Challenge is to:

  • develop robotic solutions to make UK industries more resilient to future disruptions
  • increase productivity
  • open up new cross-disciplinary opportunities

We are looking for robotic solutions that exploit business opportunities in areas such as, but not exclusively:

  • healthcare
  • logistics, warehousing and transportation
  • agriculture and food production
  • construction
  • ‘general-purpose’ remote working
  • robotics that can contribute towards the UK’s Net-Zero greenhouse gas commitment.

This competition is part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (RAI) for Safer World Challenge.

We are running 2 strands to this competition at the same time:

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type

Grant

Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £25,000 and £100,000.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £25,000 and £100,000
  • start on or after 1 April 2021
  • end by 31 March 2022
  • last between 3 and 12 months

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

Single applicants must:

  • be a UK registered SME
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

Subcontractors

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition and must be selected through a participant’s normal procurement process. Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK. If an overseas subcontractor is selected, a case must be made as to why no UK-based subcontractor can be used including a detailed rationale, evidence of UK companies that have been approached and reasons why they were unable to do so.

We would expect subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. A cheaper cost is not deemed as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

Any subcontracting costs must not exceed 20% of total costs. If subcontracting is expected to exceed 20% of any partner’s total costs and no alternatives are available, you must provide justification by email to support@innovateuk.ukri.org at least 10 days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request.

Number of applications

There is no limit to the number of applications an applicant can submit.

Previous applications

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

We will not award you funding if you have:

State aid

Innovate UK is unable to award grant funding to organisations meeting the condition known as undertakings in difficulty (UID). If you are unsure, please take legal advice. However, as per the amendment on 2 July 2020 to the General Block Exemption regulation, we will provide funding to organisations that can prove they were not a UID on the date of 31 December 2019 but became a UID between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2021. We will ask for evidence of this.

Any UK registered business claiming grant funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time we confirm you will be awarded 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.

Funding

We have allocated up to £6 million to fund innovation projects across the feasibility studies and R&D strands in the robotics for a more resilient future competition.

If your organisation’s work on the project is mostly commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.

For feasibility studies, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

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

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 your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Your proposal

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £6 million to support R&D projects to advance or develop solutions in service robotics for a more resilient future.

We are looking for robotic solutions that exploit business opportunities in areas such as, but not exclusively:

  • healthcare
  • logistics, warehousing and transportation
  • agriculture and food production
  • construction
  • ‘general-purpose’ remote working robotics
  • robotics that can contribute towards the UK’s net-zero greenhouse gas commitment.

Your proposal must:

  • clearly identify the operational needs and the market segments and sizes that the proposed Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (RAI) technology or system will be addressing
  • identify the precise operational scenario or scenarios that the RAI system is expected to operate if successful
  • quantify the system’s performance objectives and targets and explain the technological maturity at the start and end of the project
  • be based around a service robotics sector
  • articulate what is innovative about the proposed project
  • clearly identify how proposed solutions will improve productivity or improve the resilience of the UK’s workforce to future disruptions to economic activity, supply chains and productivity.
  • demonstrate what market needs are being addressed
  • clearly demonstrate understanding of the market and provide a commercialisation plan for the solution developed

We strongly encourage participation and engagement of end-user organisations as either funded or non-funded partners.


Your solution should be designed and developed to operate within the constraints of any relevant regulatory environment impacting robotic operations in your chosen sector.


We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of:

  • technologies,
  • markets
  • technological maturities
  • research categories

Specific themes

Your project can focus on one or more of the following:

  • healthcare
  • logistics, warehousing and transportation
  • agriculture and food production
  • construction
  • ‘general-purpose’ remote working robotics
  • robotics that can contribute towards the UK’s net-zero greenhouse gas commitment.

Research categories

We will fund feasibility projects, as defined in the guidance on categories of research.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that:

  • do not identify the commercial benefits arising from your innovation
  • do not demonstrate awareness of the addressable market
  • do not provide sufficient detail on the path to commercialisation
  • are based around the use of robotic systems in assembly-line manufacturing roles
  • are focused solely on ‘Robotic Process Automation’ or other forms of software automation of business IT processes: there must be a moving, physical (robotic) component of the system being proposed.
12 October 2020
Competition opens
20 October 2020
Online briefing event: register to attend
20 November 2020 11:00am
Competition closes
8 January 2021
Applicants notified

Before you start

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

Innovate UK is unable to award grant funding to organisations meeting the condition known as undertakings in difficulty.

What we ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

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

1. Project details

This section provides background for the assessors and is not scored.

Application team

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

Application details

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

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We collect and report on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) data to address under-representation in business innovation and ensure equality, diversity and inclusion across all our activities.

You must complete the EDI Survey and then select yes in the application question. The survey will ask you questions on your gender, age, ethnicity and disability status. You will always have the option to ‘prefer not to say’ if you do not feel comfortable sharing this information.

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.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Scope

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 website addresses (URLs) 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 and societal need and how it delivers resilience to emerging pressures
  • 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 can submit one appendix. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. 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 subcontractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • 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 taking into account the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the team structure

You can submit one appendix. This can include a short summary of the main people working on the project to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. 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
  • the impact COVID-19 has had on businesses or sectors that are a focus of your project

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, particularly if COVID-19 has changed market dynamics
  • 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, taking into account the possible impact of further COVID-19 restrictions

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 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. 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
  • 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 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. 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:

  • whether 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?

In terms of the project goals, describe or explain:

  • the total eligible project costs
  • the grant you are requesting
  • 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 subcontractor costs and why they are critical to the project

3. Finances

For full details on what costs you can claim 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.

If you need more information about how to apply email support@innovateuk.ukri.org or call 0300 321 4357.

Our phone lines are open from 9am to 11:30am and 2pm to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

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.

Need help with this service? Contact us