Funding competition November 2017 sector competition: strand 2 Infrastructure Systems

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £19 million for innovation projects in manufacturing and materials or infrastructure systems. A further £16 million is available for KTPs.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK is to invest up to £19 million in innovation projects to encourage UK business growth in manufacturing and materials or infrastructure systems. We want businesses to collaborate on new integrated solutions and business models.

There will be:

  • up to £5 million for projects up to 12 months
  • up to £14 million for projects between 13 and 36 months

A further £16 million is available to fund Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs).

This competition has 2 strands; this is the Infrastructure Systems strand. The other strand is Manufacturing and Materials.

An eligible project, in infrastructure systems must show significant innovation in one or more of our priority areas, which are:

  • smart infrastructure
  • energy
  • connected transport
  • urban living

Proposals must improve business growth and productivity or create export opportunities for at least one UK SME involved in the project.

Funding type


Project size

Projects should range in size from total costs of £25,000 to £3 million. Projects must last between 3 months and 3 years.

Find out if you are eligible to apply

To be eligible for funding you must:

  • be a UK-based business, university or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out your project work, and intend to exploit the results, in the UK

All projects must involve an SME. SMEs can be the sole applicant on a project lasting less than a year and with costs below £100,000. In all other cases projects must involve at least 2 collaboration partners.

Any one business or RTO may lead on one application and partner in a further 2 applications.

If an RTO is:

  • the lead on an application they must have 2 business collaborators (one SME, and one other business of any size)
  • not the lead on any application, they can be a partner in any number of applications

Academics cannot lead on an application but can be a collaborator in any number of applications.

If an application is unsuccessful, you can use the feedback received to apply once more to have the same project funded (in other words, you can make a maximum of 2 applications in total for any project).

If Innovate UK judges that your project is not materially different from a project you have submitted before, it will be classed as a resubmission.

When Innovate UK assesses whether a project is in scope, we will use the terms and definitions laid out in the ‘Scope’ section.

The research organisations in your consortium may share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs.

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole company and were awarded funding by Innovate UK, 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
  • communicate our decision to you in writing

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.

We will accept applications for KTPs in all disciplines and applications that can be considered to be within infrastructure systems. That includes applications beyond the defined scope of this specific competition.

KTP applicants are subject to the same application deadline. However, KTP applicants should follow the specific guidance for KTPs. It is recommended that interested parties contact the relevant KTP Adviser in the first instance.

Projects that we won't fund

In this competition we will not fund:

  • connected transport innovations that can only be applied to propulsion and onboard vehicle systems in a single mode of transport, such as only automotive, rail, air or marine vehicles or vessels
  • connected transport applications proposing new physical infrastructure, unless they clearly encourage change across complex transport systems
  • fossil fuels, including exploration, appraisal, production, processing and transport
  • incremental innovations unlikely to significantly improve UK economic and SME growth

The initial activity can focus on a single mode of transport but there must be potential to connect infrastructure, people and goods with additional modes of transport.

Smartphone apps are in scope for this competition, but we will fund only a limited number of applications focusing on this technology.

Funding and project details

We have allocated up to £19 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

Infrastructure systems projects between 3 months to 1 year may be single or collaborative but must be led by an SME.

For projects with total costs between £100,000 and £3 million they must last between 1 to 3 years. These projects must be collaborative and involve an SME.

We will give priority to projects focusing on:

  • improving productivity within a business, a value chain or the economy as a whole
  • supporting the commercialisation of our world class research base
  • enabling a significant change in competitiveness in domestic or global markets
  • advancing business growth across the UK that will create more high-value jobs

Project types

We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects. Your project can focus on technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development. This will depend on the challenge.

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

  • up to 70% of your eligible project costs if you are a 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 which are nearer to market, you could get:

  • up to 45% of your eligible project costs if you are a 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 Infrastructure Systems strand is to encourage innovation in infrastructure systems that provide critical services for our economy, environment and society.

The UK has the potential to lead the world in the priority areas described in ‘Specific competition themes’. Your proposal must show significant innovation in one of those themes.

Your proposal must improve business growth and productivity or create export opportunities for at least one UK SME involved in the project. We expect you to describe how the proposed innovation project fits into your partners’ overall international strategies.

Please consider the security implications of your solution.

Specific strand 2 competition themes

We welcome innovative projects in our 4 priority areas of infrastructure systems.

1. Smart infrastructure

Smart infrastructure solutions will bring the digital and physical worlds together. They must add intelligence to physical infrastructure, or the design process, to improve:

  • whole-life cost or performance
  • resilience, security or sustainability

2. Urban living

An urban living solution must address challenges citizens face in urban areas. It must cover more than one urban infrastructure system and provide significant improvements in costs and user experience. Urban infrastructure systems include:

  • ‘hard’ systems, such as energy, transport, waste, water and communication
  • ‘soft’ systems, such as security, law and justice (for example, public order and safety), health, wellbeing, social care and education
  • ‘environmental’ systems, such as green spaces and waterways

You must demonstrate that your solution is:

  • citizen-centred, solving problems that are important to cities and deliver tangible benefits to all citizens
  • resilient and sustainable, by being designed and integrated in a way that makes it able to adapt to changes or reduce their negative effects

3. Energy supply and systems

We are looking for innovations that improve value proposition, energy affordability and security, and reduce emissions in one of the following areas:

1. Energy supply. Solutions should either:

  • lead to major cost reductions, improved asset integrity and supply chain development for nuclear fission. This will be for current and future UK and global civil nuclear markets, including decommissioning, or
  • result in substantial reductions in the cost of energy from offshore wind

2. Energy systems. Solutions should flexibly match energy supply and demand profiles. Applications must either:

  • create or demonstrate smart system solutions that integrate energy generation and demand at local, regional or national scale, or
  • improve the ease and cost of integration of distributed generation

Solutions might include:

  • methods to shift peak energy use
  • advanced system management
  • the optimisation of distributed generation or the flexible management of multiple energy supply or demand sources

We encourage energy systems solutions that increase performance across different energy vectors, such as electricity and heat. We would also like to see solutions that address intermittency, power quality and provision of ancillary services from offshore wind.

4. Connected transport

We are looking for solutions that move people and goods more efficiently, and make transport more secure, user-centric and accessible. The project must show clear capability to connect infrastructure, people and goods with additional modes of transport.

Your application must address one of these 3 areas:

1. Capacity and congestion across different modes of transport. This includes freight and logistics (including ports), aviation (customer experience and connection services) and multi-modal passenger transport. We encourage solutions in smart asset management, mobility as a service, and the end-to-end journey, such as parking or better connections between modes of transport.

2. Accessible and safe transport for all sectors of society. We welcome projects that encourage innovation in accessible transport and a change in people’s travel behaviour.

3. Sustainability, including improving air quality, reducing carbon emissions and future-proofing connected transport.

28 November 2017
Competition opens
12 December 2017
London briefing event. Watch the recording: part 1 and part 2.
12 December 2017
14 December 2017
Glasgow briefing event.
19 December 2017
Cardiff briefing event.
31 January 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
20 April 2018 10:30am
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 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, but our assessors will use it to decide whether the project fits with the scope of the competition. If it doesn’t fit the scope then it will be immediately rejected. 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 size to 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 timeframes
  • 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: Additionally

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. Academics 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

Infrastructure systems are the backbone of economic stability, growth, competitiveness and productivity in modern society. They are vital for social wellbeing and environmental sustainability.

Market opportunity

There is £425 billion of planned public and private infrastructure investment in the UK, according to the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan 2016–2021.

Transport and energy account for £390 billion of this total. The market is expanding for systems that ensure smart and resilient infrastructure.

New infrastructure solutions can be capital-intensive. Public investment can prompt disruptive ideas and unlock private investment.

UK capability

The UK has a world-leading capability to provide infrastructure solutions in planning, engineering, architecture, energy, intelligent mobility of people, freight and communications. This also includes legal, insurance, security and finance services.

In the digital economy, the UK has a strong base of creative startups providing new, disruptive solutions and technologies that promote change. These are in high-growth areas, including open data, the Internet of Things (everyday objects with network and data connectivity), robotics and autonomous systems. These capabilities are well supported by excellent academic research across the UK.

Timeliness and impact

The world’s urban population is growing by almost 60 million every year. Environmental and societal change are prompting more adaptable infrastructure that is better integrated with social systems.

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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