Funding competition Innovation in time dissemination and application

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £2 million for business-led innovation in resilient time, frequency and synchronisation. This funding is from the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF).

This competition has not yet opened.

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Competition sections

Description

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is working with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) to invest up to £2 million in feasibility studies for innovation in the dissemination and application of resilient time, frequency and synchronisation (TFS).

The key areas for development are:

  • distribution
  • trust, assurance and security
  • resilience

The aim of this competition is to:

  • support and enable business-led innovation across the UK supply chain in resilient TFS for the development of products, services and end user applications
  • develop a TFS ecosystem and capability for relevant industries and critical national infrastructure
  • disrupt and create new markets to improve the provision of TFS

Your proposal must deliver a feasibility study for an innovative development and demonstrate a route to market.

This is the first of two associated competitions funded from the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) as part of the National Timing Centre programme, led by NPL. The total programme budget for funding business-led innovation is £6.7 million. The second competition will offer the opportunity for demonstration 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

Grant

Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £250,000.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £50,000 and £250,000
  • end by 31 May 2022
  • last between 4 and 6 months

Projects can start from 1 October 2021.

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

Academic institutions and research organisations cannot lead or work alone.

For more information on company sizes, please refer to the company accounts guidance. This is a change from the EU definition unless you are applying under State aid.


Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business, research organisation, research and technology organisation (RTO), academic institution, public sector organisation or charity
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

If collaborating, 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 a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to log in or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

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. 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.

You must also provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you.

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 business can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in a further 2 applications.

If a business is not leading an application, they can collaborate in up to 3 applications.

Research organisations can collaborate on any number of applications.

Previous applications

You can 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 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.

Eligibility overview

Here is a diagram showing a summary of eligibility.

This is a new way of showing you eligibility. Your feedback will help us to improve it.

Funding

We have allocated up to £2 million to fund innovation projects in this 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

The research organisations 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.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to:

  • support and enable industry-led innovation across the UK supply chain in resilient time, frequency, and synchronisation (TFS), for the development of products, services, and end user applications
  • develop a TFS ecosystem and capability for relevant industries and critical national infrastructure
  • disrupt and create new markets to improve the provision of TFS

Your project must deliver a feasibility study for an innovative development and demonstrate a route to market.

Projects must be focused on one or more of these development areas relating to the dissemination of TFS:

  • products
  • services
  • protocols and algorithms
  • standards

We are looking for your projects to be scalable, geographically or across applications.

Your project should lead to the following types of impact for the UK:

  • economic, including new revenue, cost savings, other economic impacts
  • national capability in TFS

During the project, NPL can provide up to 12 hours of free consultancy and free access to highly accurate and traceable time and frequency signals from four locations in the south-east of England. These include an experimental test facility and validation and characterisation capabilities.

If you require access to consultancy or test facilities, you must:

  1. Make a request by e-mail to the Innovate UK Customer Support Service at least 10 working days before the submission deadline.
  2. Download, complete and upload the NPL technical annex as part of your answer in question 4.

Projects that include one or more industry sectors are of interest.

Example sectors include but are not limited to, telecommunications, energy, autonomy, finance, smart factories, sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT), broadcast, health, space, and transport including rail, road, aviation, maritime.

Projects involving cross-sector technologies such as those contributing to telecommunication technologies or timing over digital networks are of particular interest.

We reserve the right to apply a portfolio approach to funding projects across the themes.

Specific themes

Your project must focus on one or more of the following themes:

Distribution

Your project must enable end users to have access to improved time or frequency signals.

You must include one or more of the following:

  • dissemination to multiple users
  • scalability
  • accessibility (geography)
  • ubiquity and availability, including rural and GNSS denied locations

For example, developments could include scalability to users at the edge of networks or to those currently without access.

Trust, assurance and security

Your project must contribute to the trust, assurance and security of time or frequency signals from the source to the end user (or a defined subset of this path).

You must include one or more of the following:

  • integrity
  • accuracy (absolute time value at the end user compared to the traceable source)
  • confidence in end-to-end transmission
  • validation

This could, for example, relate to audit and certification of time signals at various levels of accuracy or signal integrity when transferring time signals over distances and mediums. Algorithms and protocols, especially those that increase the integrity of timing signals, are also in scope.

Resilience

Your project must contribute to the resilience of the time dissemination supply chain in one or more of the following:

  • availability (continuity of signal)
  • redundancy and holdover
  • alerting and monitoring

Research categories

We will fund feasibility projects, as defined in the guidance on categories of research. You can include some market research in your project but not exclusively.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that are:

  • exclusively related to atomic clock development
  • exclusively related to the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS)
  • 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
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage - for example if they insisted that a baker use 50% UK flour in their product

Projects which involve the integration of atomic clocks or GNSS into timing systems would be in scope.

19 April 2021
Competition opens
20 April 2021
Online briefing event: register to attend
9 June 2021 11:00am
Competition closes
30 July 2021
Applicants notified

Before you start

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

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.

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.

Please state the ‘specific theme’ which the majority of your project relates to.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The Innovate UK assessors will score your answers for questions 2 to 11, question 1 is not scored. You will receive feedback in IFS 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. Project partners location (not scored)

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

Question 2. 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 need, technological challenge or 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
  • how this project supports the aims of the call
  • 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 3. 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 4. 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, particularly in the light of any continuing COVID-19 restrictions
  • the details of any vital external parties, including subcontractors, 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 taking into account the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the team structure
  • whether or not access to NPL test facilities or consultancy is required


You can submit an appendix containing a short summary of the main people working on the project, including any subcontractors, to support your answer.

It must be a PDF, and can be up to 4 A4 pages long and can be no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

If you require access to consultancy or test facilities, you must:

  1. Make a request by e-mail to the Innovate UK Customer Support Service at least 10 working days before the submission deadline.
  2. Download, complete and upload the NPL technical annex as an appendix.

It must be a PDF and can be no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 5. 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

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 6. 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 7. 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 8. 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, 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. 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 10. 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 11. 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

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

Accurate, ubiquitous, and trusted sources of time and frequency underpin technology advances such as digital transformation, telecommunications, automation and autonomy.

A key resource in resilient time capability in the UK is the national time scale based on a realisation of Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). This is managed by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the national measurement institute.

The National Timing Centre (NTC) was launched in 2019 as a five-year programme, to deliver a resilient, accurate and scalable UK time infrastructure through an atomic clock network and innovation. The programme is being led by NPL and offers opportunities for UK organisations to develop an associated value chain in TFS.

It is also intended to help address the reliance on the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and align, as a scaled-up architecture, with a national Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) strategy.

NPL are currently developing plans relating to the terms and extent of the core network and facilities for access. The ambition is to scale delivery over time with a range of services accessible to industry. The current and planned future signal access levels being developed are:

  • free services, comprising as a minimum the MSF radio signal and network time protocol (NTP) servers
  • low-cost signal access hand-off points for onward use and distribution by service providers where cost, scale and assurance level will be based on industry demand and requirements
  • high-end, integrated capability at a higher cost

Future business models will give the opportunity for industry to scale to meet market needs.

Due to their leadership of the NTC programme, NPL are not eligible as a project partner in this competition.

Contact us

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).

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