Funding competition ATF: moving the UK automotive sector to zero emissions

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £7 million for economic or technical feasibility studies to support scale up of the UK’s high-value electrified automotive supply chain.

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Competition sections

Description

The Automotive Transformation Fund, delivered by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) and partners, Innovate UK, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department for International Trade (DIT), will support the industrialisation at scale of a high-value electrified automotive supply chain in the UK. APC is seeking proposals from single organisations or consortiums for feasibility studies up to the value of £1 million.

APC is looking for projects that are one of the following:

  1. Economic feasibility studies focusing on economic feasibility of developing large-scale manufacturing facilities in the UK.
  2. Technical feasibility studies focusing on the technical feasibility of developing advanced manufacturing processes or scaling up product manufacturing.

Projects must support the UK automotive industry in:

  • making it easier for investment to happen in large scale manufacturing
  • building electrified vehicle supply chains

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

Funding type

Grant

Project size

Your project’s total eligible project costs can be up to £1 million.

Who can apply

Your project


Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs up to £1 million
  • start on or after the 1 April 2021
  • be either an economic or technical feasibility studies project

If your project’s total eligible costs or duration fall outside of the above criteria, you must contact the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) directly on +44(0)24 7652 8700 at least 10 days before the competition closes. APC will decide whether to approve your request.

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

Non-UK registered companies and research organisations are eligible to apply for funding as a lead or part of a project team if they:

  • set up an active UK registered business before they start their project
  • start their project on 1 April 2021
  • carry out all funded work in the UK
  • meet all other criteria stated above

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business, academic institution, charity, not-for-profit, public sector organisation, research and technology organisation (RTO) or a non-UK registered company or research organisation
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

If collaborative, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on the project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

Non-UK partners receiving funding must set up and provide evidence of an active UK registered business before they start work on the project.

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.

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 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.

Number of applications

There are no restrictions on the number of applications an eligible organisation can lead or partner on. Should you be successful, we will ask you to confirm you have the capacity to run multiple projects simultaneously.

Previous applications

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

We will not award you funding if you have:

State aid

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.

Innovate UK is unable to award grant funding to organisations meeting the condition known as undertakings in difficulty (UiD). 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. If you are unsure, please take legal advice. For further information see our general guidance on state aid.

Funding

As part of the Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF), The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) has allocated up to £7 million to fund feasibility studies in this competition.

You must request the minimum amount of funding needed for your project.

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

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

Of that 30%, research organisations in the consortium could get funding for their eligible project costs of up to:

  • 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if they are an academic institution
  • 100% of their eligible project costs if they are an RTO

A 3% levy is payable to the APC by all partners on grant received.

Your proposal

The Automotive Transformation Fund will support the industrialisation at scale of a high-value electrified automotive supply chain in the UK. More information on Automotive Transformation Fund can be found on the APC website.

The aim of this competition is to support commercially led research and development in the design of elements of the electric automotive supply chain.

Projects must:

  • support the UK’s long-term growth aspirations for the supply chain and associated capabilities of the automotive market
  • support the overall aim of the Automotive Transformation Fund to establish a competitive and sustainable UK supply chain

Your project must meet at least one of the following objectives specifically for the automotive sector:

  1. The economic feasibility of developing large-scale manufacturing facilities in the UK. These must take up to 6 months to complete.
  2. The technical feasibility of developing advanced manufacturing processes or scaling up product manufacturing. These must take up to 12 months complete.

Your project must also fulfil at least one of these requirements:

  1. De-risk scaling up innovative technologies across the electric supply chain.
  2. Remove the technical or commercial barriers to manufacture in the UK.

Your project must prioritise the automotive sector, but this does not exclude subsequent secondary use in other sectors.

At the end of the feasibility study, your project must meet one of the following:

  • be ready to continue in future research and development or capital competitions
  • able to raise private sector investment to take the project outcome to market

Your project can address technological improvements or developing new business models. APC encourages projects that bring new investment into the sector in the UK.

APC want to fund a portfolio of projects, across the technologies listed in the specific themes section.

Specific themes

You can either focus on one or more of the products below or on the materials and components that go into the product:
  • batteries
  • motors and drives
  • power electronics
  • fuel cell
  • recycling of any of the above

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 which do not benefit the automotive sector as a primary focus
  • dedicated internal combustion engine projects
  • business-as-usual projects which maintain the status quo or do not demonstrate innovation
  • projects focusing primarily on use of digital or data technologies such as simulation or mapping
  • projects centring on pre-demonstration activities which would leave the technology far from being in a position to achieve product, process or facility scale up in the short – medium term
  • zero carbon fuels
  • vehicle charging
  • projects which do not meet the aim of the Automotive Transformation Fund
7 December 2020
Competition opens
15 December 2020
Online briefing event: view recording here
27 January 2021 11:00am
Competition closes
26 February 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 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.

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 this 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. List any organisations you have named as collaborators.

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 for questions 1 to 10, question 11 is not scored. You will receive feedback from them for each scored question.

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, supply chain, technological challenge, and market opportunity behind your innovation? You must answer this question in the context of the Automotive Transformation Fund.

Describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • the business need, supply chain and/or technological challenge and 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
You can submit one appendix to support your answer. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10 MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

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, your consortium and the UK 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 10 MB 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
  • if your project is collaborative, how it is suited to de-risking the scale up of your technology
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access
  • 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 can submit one appendix to support your answer. This can include a short summary of the main people working on the project. 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? You must answer this question if you applying as a single or collaborating applicant.

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 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 to
external parties, including:

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

Economic benefits may be described as productivity increases, re-shoring of manufacturing and import substitution.

If your project is collaborative, your answer should be specific to your consortium and not to generic global opportunities for electric vehicle supply chain production.

Describe, and where possible measure, any expected positive or negative impacts on:

  • government priorities
  • the environment
  • the region you operate in

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

  • jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
  • education and skills development related to electric vehicle technologies
  • wider supply chain development outside the project itself
  • broader industry
  • 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 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 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 if appropriate
  • how you will mitigate these risks
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise or 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

Text update: 13 Jan 2021. We have added an additional question to capture project partners locations

Question 11: Project partners location (not scored)

Where are the organisations within your project team registered?

What should you include?

Please name each organisation along with its full registered address. If you are working with an academic institution this doesn’t need to be included.

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisation details and funding details in the application. Academic institutions must complete and upload a Je-S form.

For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

Formed in 2013 the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) accelerates the industrialisation of technologies which help to realise net-zero emission vehicles. It is at the heart of the UK government’s commitment to end the country’s contribution to global warming by 2050.

Intended to support industrialisation at scale of a high-value electrified automotive supply chain in the UK, the Automotive Transformation Fund is a new programme delivered by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC). Its aim is to establish a competitive and sustainable UK supply chain.

This Automotive Transformation Fund competition is formally delivered in partnership between APC, Innovate UK, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Department for International Trade (DIT).

APC will:

  • work with consortia to support bid development
  • support the competition process
  • act as advocates for consortia to improve future competitions.
  • support project delivery once contracts are awarded, through APC staff
  • act as a source of guidance for consortia during the critical project start-up phase, and while projects are running, through APC-appointed project delivery leads
  • monitor the impact of the project portfolio

Innovate UK will:

  • deliver the competition process and technical assessment framework
  • support and manage applicant queries about the competition process
  • issue and manage grant contracts
  • provide formal assurance that projects are meeting their commitments once they are running (known as project monitoring)
  • approve financial claims and issue funds

BEIS will assess the benefit that the proposed project will deliver to the UK economy.

Where a project is linked to overseas investment in the UK, or export of goods from the UK, DIT will:

  • provide a way for overseas businesses to contact DIT staff in their country, via knowledgeable staff at UK embassies and consulates
  • support potential investors with sector-specific information and facts about the UK economy
  • provide support for investors looking for a UK location and data benchmarking to demonstrate the competitive position of the UK
  • provide introductions to other government departments and partner organisations for businesses setting up in the UK for the first time or expanding their existing UK investments
  • support business wishing to export through trade missions and customer connections, supported by UK embassies and consulates
  • offer export finance support to businesses wishing to trade overseas, through DIT’s UKEF organisation
  • provide ongoing after care customer support through a dedicated relationship manager

APC can help by:

  • providing general guidance regarding interpretation of competition rules and guidelines on an informal basis
  • helping your consortium to structure the bid development process
  • explaining common pitfalls
  • answering questions about whether or not your project is within scope

In securing funding from this programme, each participant receiving a grant will pay an industrial contribution to the APC operating budget. This is set at 3% and is proportional to the grant awarded.

Any information received by Innovate UK for this competition may be shared with APC, BEIS and DIT. Innovate UK has a data sharing agreement in place with these bodies which safeguards both personal and commercial data in accordance with data protection legislation.

Note that the APC role is to provide indicative guidance rather than formal advice. To contact APC email info@apcuk.co.uk or call +44 (0)24 7652 8700.

Contact us

If you need assistance using the Innovation Funding Service, email support@innovateuk.ukri.org or call 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9 am to 11:30 am and 2 pm to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Christmas and new year closing dates: please note that Innovate UK will be closed for the Christmas break from 24 December to 3 January inclusive. We will reopen on Monday 4 January.


Innovate UK is committed to making support for applicants accessible to everyone.

We can provide help for applicants who face barriers when making an application. This might be as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or anything else that makes it difficult to use our services. We can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful.

If you think you need more support, it is important that you contact our Customer Support Service as early as possible during your application process. You should aim to contact us no later than 10 working days before the competition closing date.

Help for SMEs from the 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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