Funding competition ISCF Digital Security by Design – business led demonstrators phase 1 EOI

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £6 million to collaborate on market demonstrator projects showcasing the use and adoption of digital security by design technologies. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


ISCF will work with Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, to invest £6 million in innovation projects.

The aim of this competition is to develop demonstrators of a product or service in which capability enabled hardware will be used to provide a more secure solution.

‘Capability enabled hardware’ includes security features or safeguards that are built in the processor architecture and hardware system so that it becomes more secure in the face of a range of security vulnerabilities.

The objectives of the competition are to:

  • develop market demonstrators showcasing the new security capability in a vertical industry segment(s) or in applications that may cut across several vertical industry segments
  • enable innovators developing secure products or services to work alongside early technology providers
  • widen the pool of technology and research providers in order to expand the impact of capability enabled hardware

Your project must use the DSbD technology platform prototype and specify the quantity of prototype hardware boards that are needed in your demonstrator.

This is phase 1 of a 2-phase competition. Phase 1 is an expression of interest (EoI) for which no funding will be allocated.

The success of phase 1 applications will be subject to the outcome of a scope check, and an interview process involving a panel of experts. Successful applicants in phase 1 will be invited to proceed to phase 2 and apply for funding.

In phase 2 short-listed consortia will be invited to prepare and submit a full project proposal. Phase 2 will involve a portfolio approach for the selection of demonstrator projects.

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


Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £1.5 million and £4 million.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £1.5 million and £4 million
  • start on or after 1 February 2022
  • end by 31 January 2025
  • last between 24 and 36 months

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

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will not count towards the total eligible project costs. You can include their additional costs and related activities in an appendix to question 4.

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

Research organisations cannot lead or work alone.

The lead organisation must show one of the following:

  • that they operate in an industry sector requiring secure products or services
  • evidence of a credible and recognisable influence that they have on the target market or markets
  • that they can lead on a new market or sector

Project team

The project team must consist of at least 2 partners, including the lead organisation.

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must:

  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • be invited to take part by the lead applicant

A typical consortium may be constructed with the involvement of:

  • one or more partners responsible for the new product or service
  • the partner responsible for the adoption or use of the product or service

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


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in question 4 for why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

We expect all subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

Number of applications

A UK registered business of any size can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in one further application.

A named individual at any academic institution, RTO, public sector organisation or charity cannot collaborate on more than 2 applications.

Any organisation taking part in 2 applications, as a lead and collaborator or as a collaborator, must show that they are working on different topics.

Previous applications

You cannot use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

We will not award you funding if you have:

Subsidy control (and State aid where applicable)

This competition provides funding in line with the UK's obligations and commitments to Subsidy Control. Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent guidance from the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. We will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.

European Commission State aid

You must apply under European Commission State aid rules if you are an applicant who is conducting activities that will affect trade of goods and/or electricity between Northern Ireland and the EU as envisaged by Article 10 of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

In certain limited circumstances, the European Commission State aid rules may also apply if you are an organisation located in England, Wales, or Scotland and conduct activities that affect the trade of goods and electricity between Northern Ireland and the EU. For further information, please see section 7 of the BEIS technical guidance.

For further information see our general guidance on state aid and BEIS guidance on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

For applicants subject to the European Commission State aid rules, applicants will be required to prove that they were not an “Undertaking in Difficulty” 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.

Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, please take independent legal advice.

You must make sure at all times that the funding awarded to you is compliant with all current Subsidy Control legislation applicable in the United Kingdom.
This aims to regulate any advantage granted by a public sector body which threatens to or actually distorts competition in the United Kingdom or any other country or countries.

If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean we need to change the terms of this competition, we will tell you as soon as possible.


We have allocated up to £6 million to fund 2-3 demonstrator projects at the end of this two-phase competition. There is no funding available for this EOI phase.

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

For industrial research projects, 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

We may be in a position to offer higher intervention rates at phase 2.

The research organisations in your consortium undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 50% 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.

The consortium must be appropriately balanced to justify that the objectives and eligibility conditions of the competition are fully met and do not breach subsidy control rules.

Your proposal

Your proposal

The ISCF Digital Security by Design (DSbD) challenge aims to update the digital computing infrastructure by creating a new, more secure hardware and software ‘ecosystem’. These new security capabilities will underpin future digital products and services.

The aim of this competition is to develop demonstrators of a product or service in which DSbD technologies will be used to provide a more secure solution. These demonstrators must showcase DSbD’s new security approach in a vertical industry segment(s) or in applications that may cut across several vertical industry segments.

This approach is expected to increase the breadth of use-cases against which DSbD technologies can be proven and ultimately increase pathways to market adoption and to economic impact.

Industry segments can include:

  • those that require secure system operation with safety and resiliency business requirements
  • those that include high-value data assets the compromise of which may cause serious economic or personal harm
Your proposal must describe:
  • the use case or use cases and why and how it will benefit from the proposed demonstrator
  • how you will justify the social and economic benefits realised by the demonstrator
  • how you will assess potential productivity increase using the demonstrator
  • how you expect the results of the demonstrator to affect future products or services

You should explain how the consortium will engage with the DSbD’s ‘Discribe’ Social Science Hub+ activities, including a bi-annual event

Research categories

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

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding:

  • projects that do not construct a physical demonstrator using the technology platform prototype
  • project deliverables that are not demonstrated in the context of capability enabled hardware as specified in the DSbD challenge
  • projects that do not demonstrate the need for more secure products or services
  • subsidies dependent on export performance – for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • subsidies dependent on domestic inputs usage- for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that they use 50% UK flour in their product
1 March 2021
Competition opens
9 March 2021
Online briefing event 12:30pm - watch the recording
26 May 2021 11:00am
Competition closes
2 June 2021
Invite to interview
21 June 2021
Interview panel
2 July 2021 8:43am
Applicants notified

Before you start

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

Phase 1 expression of interest applications will be checked against the competition’s scope and then assessed through an interview process.

What we ask you

The application is split into 2 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.


If your written application is deemed to be within the scope of the competition, you will be invited to attend an online interview, where you must give a presentation before an interview panel of experts.

Before the interview, by the deadline stated in the invitation email, you:

  • must send a list of who will attend the interview
  • must send your interview presentation slides

List of attendees

Agree the list with your consortium. Up to 3 people can attend, of whom one must be from the lead organisation and one from the consortium member responsible for the adoption or use of a product or service. They must all be available on all published interview dates. We are unable to reschedule slots once allocated.

Presentation slides

Your interview presentation must:

  • use Microsoft PowerPoint
  • be no longer than 20 minutes
  • have no more than 20 slides
  • cover all the application questions
  • not include any video or embedded web links

Additional information such as charts or diagrams can be included in your presentation, subject to the maximum allowable slides.

You cannot change the presentation after you submit it.


After your presentation, the panel will spend 30 minutes asking questions. You will be expected to answer based on the content of your application form.


Following the interview, you will receive feedback from Innovate UK on the published notification date. The notification will also state whether you will be invited to phase 2 in order to prepare and submit a full project proposal.

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.

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.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.


Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope, it will be immediately rejected. We will give you feedback on why.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Question 1. Project partners (not scored)

Please state the name of each organisation along with its full registered address. If you are working with an academic institution this does not need to be included.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 2. Project outline

What is the need for your proposed demonstrator and how you will assess your demonstrator?

Describe or explain:

  • the use case or use cases
  • why and how it will benefit from the proposed demonstrator
  • how you will justify the social and economic benefits realised by the demonstrator
  • how you will assess potential productivity increase through the use of the demonstrator
  • how you expect the results of the demonstrator to affect future products or services

Describe how the consortium will engage with the DSbD’s ‘Discribe’ Social Science Hub+ activities, including a bi-annual event

Question 3. Project team

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

Describe or explain the profile, responsibilities, skills and experience of all members of the project team including any subcontractor activities pertinent to the competition’s scope and the application’s objectives.

You can submit one appendix describing the skills and experience of the main people working on the project to support your answer.

It must be a PDF and can be up to 4 A4 pages long and up to 10 MB file size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4. Project resources

What is the size of your project, the total eligible costs and the anticipated grant request? How will you use the technology platform prototype?

Describe or explain:

  • a high-level breakdown and partner allocation for the required resources and associated costs
  • the size of your project, the total eligible costs and the anticipated grant request
  • a justification of your use of the technology platform prototype for the development of the demonstrator
  • how you specify and justify the required quantity of prototype hardware boards as part of your integration plan for the identified use case or use cases.

You can submit one appendix to describe the activities and associated self-financing costs from partners that are not claiming funding from this competition. It must be a PDF and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Background and further information

The Digital Security by Design (DSbD) Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) challenge aims to radically update the foundation of the UK’s insecure digital computing infrastructure. The challenge will:

  • increase cyber security for businesses, government and the wider public and economy
  • increase productivity for the UK through reduction of days lost to cyber-attacks
  • make the UK a market leader through new capabilities fostering the trust that is necessary for successful adoption of future digital services in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT)

The challenge is being delivered through a £70 million programme funded by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund that is matched by industry funding of over £117 million.

About DSbD technologies

The Digital Security by Design (DSbD) programme produces technologies that have the potential to create a step-change in addressing security from the central hardware up through the software stack of digital systems.

DSbD technologies enable fine grained memory protection and software compartmentalisation on top of a memory-managed processor. For example, a processor that uses a Memory Management Unit (MMU).

They offer an approach to containerise and protect access of data in digital systems with a potential to greatly increase robustness and resilience against cyber-attacks.

The DSbD technology platform prototype uses an Arm 64-bit processor that incorporates the DSbD technologies and the concepts of the Capability Hardware Enhanced Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) Instructions (CHERI) protection model.

CHERI comprised security features and safeguards that are built into the processor architecture so that the hardware system and associated software become more resilient and therefore more secure, against a range of software vulnerabilities.

DSbD workshops – video recordings

We encourage you to familiarise with DSbD technologies by accessing a range of video recordings from previously held DSbD workshops. This will help your chances of submitting a relevant and quality application.

Contact us

If you need more information about how to apply email 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).

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.

Finding a project partner

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

Support for SMEs from Innovate UK EDGE If you receive an award, you will be contacted about working with an innovation and growth specialist at Innovate UK EDGE. This service forms part of our funded offer to you.

These specialists focus on growing innovative businesses and ensuring that projects contribute to their growth. Working one-to-one, they can help you to identify your best strategy and harness world-class resources to grow and achieve scale.

We encourage you to engage with EDGE, delivered by a knowledgeable and objective specialist near you.

Need help with this service? Contact us